Looking back on the first half and last night’s Futures Game

So the first half has come to an end for the Orioles and they stand with a record of 27-62. They had seven losing streaks of four games or more, with one that lasted seven games and one that was 10 games.

They had just three winning streaks of two games, one of three games and one of four games. That longest streak came at the start of the year, when they went 4-1 in New York and Toronto after losing on opening day.

The Orioles were playing better as the half came to an end, going 5-4 in the last nine games, which included series wins over Cleveland and Toronto.

Despite the record, there were several things to like about the first 89 games

* Trey Mancini: He was consistent pretty much from Day One of this season. He didn’t make the All-Star Game, but he played like one in my opinion and carried himself like one off the field. Sure, the Orioles could entertain trade offers for him, but he also looks like he could be a big part of the future around here for a long time.

* John Means: Wow, who expected this? An All-Star? For a player hardly ever given any prospect love on his way up through the system? Everyone is a fan now. He worked over the winter to gain some velocity and his changeup was a revelation when the season started. Some of the best right-handed hitters the Orioles face - like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Mookie Betts - struggled to hit it in April That was a preview of what was to come for Means.

Martin-Richie-Throws-Gray-at-Twins-Sidebar.jpg * Left side infield defense: While Jonathan Villar has had some good moments when playing at short, Richie Martin has excelled there with the glove. He has plus range, a plus arm and is a big upgrade from the second half of last year. Rio Ruiz has been solid at third base and I really like his hitting approach. I can foresee his offense trending up in the second half.

* Brandon Hyde’s consistency: From the start of spring training, Hyde has said he is more concerned with how the Orioles play than what the record looks like. That was a sound approach for a rebuilding team that might lose 100 games or more. Maybe well over that. He’s been upbeat, energetic, poised, and patient with players and reporters alike. He’s got plenty of experience in the game and maybe that is why he might be a rookie manager but doesn’t act like one.

There are other things to like such as Andrew Cashner’s pitching, Hanser Alberto’s hitting, Renato Núñez’s power, and young catchers emerging in Pedro Severino and Chance Sisco. It will be fun to see how some of these players fare after the break.

On the downside

* The bullpen: O’s relievers should have been better than this. Too many blowups - mid-game, late game, throughout games. It has gotten a little better in recent weeks, but it’s still been one of the poorest bullpens in the game. More was expected of many in this group, including Mychal Givens and Richard Bleier. If the starters begin to provide deeper outings - and it started to happen late in the first half - this group needs to step up starting Friday.

* Too many of the same mistakes: The club has been sloppy at times with its baserunning and outfield play. There have been players picked off base, outfielders missing cutoff men and too many near collisions in the field.

* Too many players not taking advantage of this great opportunity: Some guys have been given chances but struggled. Cedric Mullins had a chance to take over center field, but was sent back to Triple-A. A host of pitchers struggled in Baltimore and in Norfolk, which kept them from getting to Baltimore. Some got there without truly earning promotions.

But the team played crisper, better baseball in the last 10 days or so and we await the season’s resumption on Friday.

The Futures Game: They could be a big part of the Orioles’ future and yesterday, 20-year-old lefty DL Hall and 19-year-old righty Grayson Rodriguez pitched scoreless innings in the All-Star Futures Game in Cleveland. Hall rolled through a 1-2-3 third, touching 97 and 98 mph. And he even continued to pitch after a broken bat struck him on the left leg and knocked him to the ground.

Rodriguez came on with a man on second and no one out in the eighth and got a groundout, flyout and groundout for the American League to hold a 2-2 tie. The game ended with that tied score. It was an impressive day for the O’s young pitching prospects.

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