Fourteen games into season, O’s have plenty to feel good about

Tarp follies or not, the Orioles have plenty to feel good about after a weekend of solid baseball in Washington, D.C. They outscored the Nationals 21-5 and were a few innings away from an 8-7 start to the 60-game season.

During a year when 16 teams will get in the playoffs, a final regular season record of 32-28 will likely be good enough. Now we have to see if the final 77 percent of the season can go as well.

The team has gotten decent pitching from a rotation that had produced eight starts in the last nine games of allowing two earned runs or less heading into Sunday. The bullpen ERA is 1.82 over the last nine games. And since the O’s ‘pen allowed nine runs on opening night, their ERA is 2.58. So quite good.

Since the three-game slump versus the Marlins, the O’s have scored 28 runs in the last four games - and it is not yet four complete games. Sunday’s suspended game will be completed Friday night before the regularly scheduled game between the Nationals and Orioles at Oriole Park.

Their fifth-inning five-run outburst against Washington’s Stephen Strasburg was quite impressive. They had a few hits that inning when behind in the count. With one out, Austin Hays singled on an 0-2 fastball to begin the rally. Bryan Holaday drove in a run on a 1-2 fastball. And Hanser Alberto doubled in two on an 0-2 changeup.

The Orioles look like a club that has seen individual players improve and their team improve as well. While they wait for some of their up-and-coming prospects to get here, the players currently wearing orange and black are presenting themselves rather well. And we are talking about several players discarded or discounted by other clubs.

The offense has had quite a last week. Three games versus the Marlins scoring one run total. And then the last four games that produced 28 runs. The club is leading the American League in several categories on first-pitch swinging. And beyond that, in overall offense, the Orioles are more than holding their own.

This is a very solid performance by an offense missing Trey Mancini and Jonathan Villar from the 2019 lineup. And one that has gone several games this season without Rio Ruiz and José Iglesias.

Alberto has been leading off lately. This is a player that was waived by four teams during the winter leading into last season, including the Orioles. They claimed him once, cut him loose and then got him back when San Francisco designated him for assignment. He wound up eighth in the AL in batting last year and has not slowed down even a little. Nice waiver addition.

Anthony Santander, who hit that huge homer Saturday night, was a Rule 5 pickup by former general manager Dan Duquette in December 2016. Earlier that year, he played in the Carolina League and the manager of Single-A Frederick that season, Keith Bodie, provided a recommendation that the club give this kid a look. They did and it’s working out.

Iglesias-Tags-Turner-at-Second-Sidebar.jpgIglesias has hit third and done it well this year. He was brought here to solidify the infield defense and he is a plus defender at short. But he did bat .288 last year and he’s been hitting well for this club. He was a low-dollar free agent signing by GM Mike Elias that is looking like a bargain to this point. He signed for $3 million this year and the club holds an option for 2021. If they want to keep him beyond this year while other young infielders develop, they can do it easily.

Renato Núñez is a middle or the order power hitter on this club that was claimed on waivers in May 2018 by Duquette from Texas. Núñez won’t even be arbitration-eligible until after the 2020 season. He doesn’t add much on the defensive side, as we know, although he’s looked good at times this year at first base. But he can swing it and you don’t expect to get players that hit 31 homers and drive in 90 runs, as he did last year, on the waiver wire.

Ruiz was another waiver claim. He was added by Elias as one of his first moves for his new club in December 2018. He was Elias’ first addition to the 40-man roster. They knew each other well since Elias drafted him and signed him to an overslot bonus in round four of the 2012 draft with Houston. Now with his third organization, Ruiz is blossoming in his second O’s season. He’s showing an improved bat and a solid glove and arm at third. Another nice pickup off the waiver wire.

Catcher Pedro Severino, a prospect for several years with the Nationals, was cut loose by that club and scooped up by the Orioles on waivers shortly before opening day last year. He brings some needed enthusiasm and energy to the club and has had his moments both at and behind the plate. Another nice addition.

If you look at the current five-man rotation there is just one homegrown pitcher there in John Means. The O’s hope that changes over the next year or two as some of their prospects make their way to Baltimore. In the meantime, to hold the fort, they acquired Asher Wojciechowski for cash considerations from Cleveland on July 1, 2019. This season, they added two veteran minor league free agents in Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone, and they have certainly at least met if not exceeded expectations thus far.

Closer Cole Sulser was claimed off waivers at the end of last season from Tampa Bay. He has been a real nice addition and has three saves. And with some improved holdover pitchers like Miguel Castro and Tanner Scott, the O’s bullpen has been stellar for most of this year.

Props to manager Brandon Hyde and the coaching staff as well for never letting the team get down. Not during 108 losses last year or after a ninth-inning blown lead to the Yankees or the Marlins’ sweep this year. The O’s keep getting off the mat.

Now if they could have just helped the Nationals ground crew get the tarp on the field.

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