While Orioles farm teams at Triple-A Norfolk and Single-A Frederick have struggled this year, four other affiliates went into play last night in first place. Those were clubs at Double-A Bowie (25-7), Single-A Delmarva (21-10), short-season Single-A Aberdeen (23-15) and the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Orioles (16-7).
But no team has had such a remarkable turnaround this year as Bowie. The Baysox were 7-23 on May 5. That was not only the worst record in the Eastern League at that time, it was the worst record in all of minor league baseball.
But the next day, Bowie got shortstop Mason McCoy, who was hitting .379 at Frederick, and before long the Baysox took off.
They are 48-22 (.686) since those first 30 games. They lead their division in the second half at 25-7. They went 20-7 in June and are 16-4 in July. They have won 13 consecutive series.
McCoy, a sixth-round pick in 2017 out of the University of Iowa, is batting .295 for Bowie heading into last night to rank third in the league. Was he the catalyst for this remarkable turnaround?
“Anytime you bring up a guy having that success at a lower level, he brings the confidence here,” Baysox manager Buck Britton said. “He settled in at the top of our lineup and the guy has been getting on base a ton for us. He kind of rejuvenated us a little bit. Brought a winning attitude with him and our guys kind of fed off that.”
Between his time in Frederick and Bowie, McCoy is tied for fourth in all of professional baseball (including the major leagues) with 127 hits.
“I think he’s got a very simple approach and swing,” Britton said. “He’s a little old-school when you talk about launch angle and stuff. This is a guy that is not afraid to hit against the shift to right field. He stays within himself and picks up base hit after base hit. On defense he’s been solid for us at shortstop. He makes the routine play. I tell people you won’t show up at the ballpark one day and have this guy wow you. But if you continue to watch him play, you’ll understand how valuable he is. Making that routine play every time is so big.”
And so are doing basic things like plating a run when its 90 feet away. Britton said that didn’t happen enough during the club’s 7-23 start.
“I think the biggest thing was that we started coming around offensively,” he said. “What I mean by that is we started driving in runners from third base with less than two outs. We really struggled in April getting guys in. Our pitching has been pretty good all season long. Now that the offense is coming around, it makes it easier for those guys to pitch.”
The Baysox have a young skipper in the 33-year-old Britton. He is a second-year manager after leading Delmarva to a 68-66 record last year. He said he’s fortunate to have a veteran hitting coach in Keith Bodie and pitching coach in Kennie Steenstra. They kept things in perspective during the terrible start. Britton admits there were times he would second-guess himself.
“Yeah, there were definitely periods of that,” he said. “But I’ve been fortunate to have experience here with Keith and Kennie. They kept me positive, and it was a learning experience for me, but blessed to have those guys with me.
“It was tough, man. It was real tough. But I think everybody did a great job, a total effort. The coaching staff did a great job keeping the guys motivated and positive. Helping the guys understand that no one here was giving up on them, no matter what the record was. You’ve got to credit our players, who kept working hard. Keith got the hitters going, and Kennie with the pitchers. It’s been a special turnaround.”
A few other notes on the Baysox, courtesy of the club’s public relations staff:
* With Michael Baumann being named Eastern League Pitcher of the Week for last week, the Baysox are the only team in the EL with five weekly award winners (Baumann, Zac Lowther, Alex Wells, Yusniel Diaz and Ryan McKenna).
* Wells (1.83), Bruce Zimmermann (2.58) and Lowther (2.64) have the top three ERAs in the Eastern League. Those three also all rank in the top 24 of full-season minor league baseball in ERA (Wells-3rd, Zimmermann-22nd, Lowther-24th). Not only do the Baysox have those three in the top 24, but they are the only team in all of full-season minor league baseball with even two pitchers in that range.
* Over the last six games, Baysox starters have allowed just six earned runs in 37 2/3 innings, good for a 1.43 ERA. Taking out a rehab start from Nate Karns last Wednesday, Baysox starters have a 1.66 ERA in 76 innings since the All-Star break.
* A Baysox pitcher has not started and lost a game since July 3. Starters are 11-0 since July 4.
* Since June 4, right-handed reliever Cristian Alvarado has a 0.99 ERA in 27 1/3 innings. He has picked up two wins and three saves over that span.
* Since moving to the bullpen after two starts to begin the year, Dillon Tate has a 1.67 ERA in 27 relief innings. He has earned the first five saves of his career.
* McKenna ranks in the top seven in the Eastern League in eight different offensive categories. The 22-year-old is first in runs (59), second in games (96), tied for second in total bases (149), tied for third in extra-base hits (35), tied for fourth in hits (91), tied for fourth in triples (5), tied for sixth in doubles (21) and tied for seventh in stolen bases (18).
* Since returning from injury on June 5, Diaz has hit nine home runs and driven in 41 runs in 41 games. He has multiple RBIs in 11 games over that stretch.
Dr. longball returns for the big club: The Orioles hit three more homers in last night’s 7-2 win over Arizona. They have hit two or more homers in six straight games - their longest run of two-homer games this year. In those games they are 4-2 while scoring 41 runs and hitting 14 homers. The Orioles are 10-10 in the last 20 games and 32-68 at the 100-game mark.