We have to find out - and we will in the next few days - whether the Orioles have hit a small bump in the road or if they ran into a pothole.
The club has lost three of its last four. Their record has dropped from 12-8 to 12-10 with back-to-back losses. The lineup has lost outfielder Austin Hays to injury and shortstop José Iglesias did not start Sunday or Monday. The Orioles badly need him out there if his left quad is willing and able.
For the all of the tremendous offensive production of the 2020 Orioles, you get the feeling that keeping that going is going to be hard to do without some of their expected starters on the field. They can’t count on the same guys to produce O’s magic at the plate every night.
You have to wonder why the team is yet to promote prospect Ryan Mountcastle to the big leagues. Maybe they need him now. If he’s not ready to play the outfield - and he may well be - there is always first base or the designated hitter role. And the O’s have had some shaky moments in left field on defense this year already.
If feels strange to say an offense putting up the numbers that the Orioles have this year, could use some help. But it could and now seems like a good time to strongly consider Mountcastle.
A needed deep start: Before last night, the Orioles had just one start on the season in 21 games that went six innings or longer. Lefty Tommy Milone threw six scoreless innings on Aug. 7 at Washington. Last night, right-hander Alex Cobb threw 6 2/3 innings, allowing eight hits and five runs in the 7-2 loss to Toronto.
Three infield hits put him behind 1-0 in the third inning after he needed just 12 pitches to get the first six outs. But Randal Grichuk, who has a career 1.165 OPS against the Orioles, blasted a three-run homer on a splitter to turn that into a four-run inning.
Cobb still got 20 outs and Captain Obvious said the O’s need much more of that moving forward to help their bullpen.
“Well, if we want any chance of staying in this race, we’re going to have to do that as starters,” Cobb said in a postgame Zoom interview. “We have some great arms, some guys that took huge steps from last year. They’ve always had the stuff but they’re putting it over the plate now, they’re being aggressive.
“We owe it to them to give them some breathers. They’ve picked us up so many times earlier on in the season, now that we’re built up as starters, we need to start going deeper. Hopefully keep them here. You don’t want to keep sending guys down to get a fresh arm. For us to have any chance of success this year, we’re going to have to do that.”
The Orioles had gotten only as many as five innings from their starter in 11 of their first 21 games before last night. For the year, starting pitchers have thrown 97 1/3 innings and the bullpen has pitched 96 2/3 innings.
Santander getting it done on defense, too: He’s been one of the top power hitters in the major leagues this year, but there is some initial evidence from advanced data that O’s right fielder Anthony Santander has been a plus defender as well. In the Statcast metric Outs Above Average, Santander rated a minus-3 last year and is a plus-1 now.
Outs Above Average is the cumulative effect of all individual plays a fielder has been credited or debited with, making it a range-based metric of fielding skill that accounts for the number of plays made and the difficulty of them. For example, a fielder who catches a 25 percent out probability play gets plus-.75; one who fails to make the play gets minus-.25.
Among all major league outfielders, Santander ranks in the 80th percentile in Outs Above Average. He is in the 93rd percentile, meaning the top seven percent, in outfielder jump, which ranks first-step quickness and routes to the ball.
Manager Brandon Hyde said Santander has been a solid defender for him for awhile.
“I think that he was a good defender last year, especially in right field and left field,” said Hyde. “Last year, he played three spots and it’s helpful to have him playing (just) that one spot this year. He played a lot of center field last year and never had done that before. We asked him if he could do it and he said yes, but he just wasn’t prepared for that. But we needed a center fielder. And he did a nice job out there, too, to not hurt us out in center. I was impressed.
“But, yeah, kind of settling into right field, he’s done a good job. I thought he was a good defender last year. And as he’s getting more innings and more experience defensively, he’s just going to continue to improve. Always liked the way he threw and his athleticism out there. He’s made some really nice plays in tough right field corners - couple in Boston, couple here. I’ve been impressed with his defense.”
Ripken with props: Monday on MLB Network, former Oriole Bill Ripken hosted a segment where he gave the O’s some national TV props for their improved offense and record.
“These guys are playing well,” Ripken said. “And there are different ways to get there and go about things. Sometimes players click a little bit at different rates and sometimes it takes a little bit longer. So when you look at (Hanser) Alberto, (Renato) Núñez, (Pedro) Severino and Santander, these guys are not your high draft choices, can’t-miss prospects. They bounced around and scuffled a bit. And these four guys, you name the big four for the Dodgers - that’s (Justin) Turner, (Corey) Seager, (Cody) Bellinger and (Mookie) Betts - the four guys on the Orioles have better numbers.
“When you think about that in a 60-game campaign, the Yankees for one can do it with the depth in their organization. Other teams like the Orioles might just ride somebody for 60 games and next thing you know, they’re in the postseason. The one thing about a young team: When they go out there and start winning games, they truly start believing this is what is supposed to happen. There is something about momentum and the chemistry that can go on in a locker room like that, that might benefit them down the road.”