Through a 12-9 start, with 35 percent of the 2020 season in the books, there has been a lot to like in Birdland. The offense has been a real surprise and one of the majors’ best. The bullpen has shown improvement. The Orioles are a playoff contender through 21 games.
But maybe one overlooked aspect of this good start is the steady hand of manager Brandon Hyde. When he was hired by the club on Dec. 17, 2018, he called managing the Orioles a “dream come true.” And while this is just his second season as a major league manager, he’s spent many years in the game. He’s had vast player development experience and he knows what it’s like for a team to take a rebuilding effort all the way to a championship.
He joined the Chicago Cubs as they were trending up and was a coach with that club from 2014-2018. He was there when they won the World Series in 2016 and also coached in two other National League Championship Series where the Cubs came up short.
He’s probably got more experience in the game than he might get credit for. Or some may think he has.
On his watch, the 2019 Orioles, even while losing 108 games, produced a solid team chemistry and created a culture where they competed hard every night and bounced back from tough losses and tough days. Like Sunday. The throwing error in the eighth by Rio Ruiz produced the final run in Washington’s 6-5 win. The Orioles got five runs off three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, including three homers, but still lost. It was their third series loss of 2020 and first since they got swept by the Marlins.
Hyde worked at the side of former Cubs and current Angels manager Joe Maddon.
“I’ve learned a lot from Joe and his style,” Hyde said. “I had never been in the postseason before I was with Joe in ‘15. One thing I got from him is just how consistent he is and how consistent he is through 162 games. And understanding there are waves throughout the season when you’re playing well and you’re not playing well. Doesn’t matter if it’s April or September.
“But just coming in the clubhouse the same way with the same routine. One-day-at-a-time mentality. No game is bigger than the next. We’re not going to try to get up for this series, we’re not facing this guy or we need to get going. It’s just a real consistent mindset. That is how I’m trying to be with these guys. The same way whether we won or lost three in a row. And I think that’s helpful and creates a calm in the clubhouse. A lot of these guys have never been two games out in the middle of August in their careers before, right? I just want them to feel a sense of calm and just go out and play.”
Having that sense of calm and ability to rebound from tough days has allowed the Orioles to win a series in Boston after losing 13-2 on opening night. To blow a lead in the ninth against the Yankees and then sweep Tampa Bay. To lose 15-3 to the Nationals on Friday and then beat Patrick Corbin on Saturday night. To get swept by the Marlins, yet go 7-2 since that series.
While fans can get excited about and media can discuss and analyze the chance for the Orioles making the playoffs with 16 teams getting in this year, they are a playoff team if the season was over after 21 games. But Hyde is not quite ready to talk much about that. He was asked before yesterday’s game when that might change. When does he go from talking about what is a good start to the season to talking about chasing a playoff spot?
“I really don’t want to lose the focus of where our mindset is right now and where it’s been,” he said during his Sunday pregame Zoom media interview. “Which is trying to win every game, trying to win every series. I don’t want to scoreboard watch or think too far ahead. I really just want to focus on trying to win today. We’ve got a tough schedule the rest of the way and we’re facing tough pitching. I want our guys to focus on just today. We have to worry about what is right in front of us.
“Yeah, I think when you get into September and there is a finish line and you can kind of see the finish line. I don’t think we’re seeing the finish line yet. I think we wait until we get into September and see where we are. Right now, we’re still in the middle of August and trying to win every game we can.”
A few more notes from the weekend:
* The Orioles need to start getting more innings from their starting pitchers. They have just one six-inning outing and one quality start for the season. Over the last five games, the rotation has pitched just 18 innings with a 7.00 ERA. They have three outings of four innings or less in that span. For the year, the rotation has thrown 90 2/3 innings and the bullpen 94 1/3 innings.
* Anthony Santander became the 11th player to produce a two-homer game off Scherzer. He hit a solo homer in the first and a game-tying shot to right in the seventh. Santander, who now has two multi-homer games in his career, is 4-for-7 with two homers and three RBIs in his career off Scherzer. During his current 11-game hitting streak, he is batting .326 (15-for-46) with four doubles, a triple, five homers and 15 RBIs.
* The Orioles have scored five runs or more 15 times in 21 games. They are 12-3 in those games.
* The Nats starters in the series at Camden Yards - Stephen Strasburg, Corbin and Scherzer - combined to allow 17 hits and 11 runs in 12 2/3 innings versus Baltimore batters, and they gave up five home runs. That is an ERA of 7.82.
* Of the Orioles’ next 16 games, 13 are against clubs currently with a losing record. That includes seven games with Toronto, three with Boston and two against the New York Mets. They also play three with Tampa Bay in this stretch that runs through Sept. 2.