Jun 29, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles shortstop Ryan Flaherty (3) celebrates with Jonathan Schoop (6) after hitting a three-run home run in the ninth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Rays won 12-7. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles: No Beast in this AL East

It is generally understood that the American League East is, year in and year out, the most difficult division in baseball. This has created some major challenges for the Baltimore Orioles – given the spending habits of the Yankees and Red Sox, and the player development skills of the Rays.

But it is difficult in 2014 to find the beast in the east. Who would have believed you if you said just three months ago that the Orioles would finish the first half of the season with a 42-39 record but be only 1.5 games out of first place?

The combined records of the AL East teams are 9 games under .500. The AL Central is 1 game under, while the AL West is the best in all of MLB with 19 games above .500.

In the National League, there is some consolation in knowing the NL East is even worse at 11 games under .500, the NL Central is 18 games above, while the NL West is the worst in all of baseball with 16 games below .500.

Putting this all together, the combined records of American League teams are a total of nine games better than the National League.

The Baltimore Orioles are on a pace at this moment to end the season actually a game worse than in 2013. This is not what we thought we were going to see in 2014. The good news is that the AL East has been uncharacteristically bad, along with the hopes that the powerful Orioles lineup will simply perform at a much higher level. It is certainly possible, even as the grievous truth is that a great opportunity to run away from the division early in the season has been squandered.

Brief Reflections on Sunday’s Game

It was simply a terrible pitching display for the Baltimore Orioles. There is no doubt that the Tampa Bay Rays lineup is among the poorest-hitting teams in MLB. The O’s pitching staff made them look like the 1927 Yankees in giving up 18 hits, including six doubles and five home runs! Matt Joyce – who was 5-for-6 with two homers, a double, and four RBIs, has to be terribly sad that he is leaving Baltimore.

Over and over the Orioles pitchers allowed balls that were up in the strike zone. Miguel Gonzalez set the pattern by only pitching for 14 outs – his third consecutive poor start since the DL experience. It is difficult to be angry with Gonzalez, who has given about as much bang for the buck as anyone the Orioles have. But I still believe he is a long reliever by talent.

It is also difficult to be too angry with the bullpen staff. They have been stellar in the last week or so in giving up only one run in 30 innings. Something had to break.

At play is the old domino effect. And Buck Showalter hit the nail on the head pretty well by saying in his post-game comments, “You can’t keep running the same people out there night after night, and our starters know that and they take it very personal. It’s just, weren’t able to execute well enough to get done what they wanted to get done. But it’s a domino effect on a lot of different things. Plus, when you’ve played basically three day games in a row and you’ve got teams standing around on the field for that long, it affects a lot of people.”

Monday Night – Game 1 with the Texas Rangers

The Orioles will begin a four-game series with the Texas Rangers at the Yard tonight. Ubaldo Jimenez will throw against the old friend of the O’s – Joe Saunders.

Saunders enters the game with an 0-4 record on the season and 5.19 ERA. This will be his eighth game since joining the Rangers. On June 3rd of this year in Texas, he gave up just two runs on 10 hits over six innings against the Orioles in a no-decision.

A lot of the O’s have good numbers against Saunders. Nelson Cruz is 11-for-35 with a double and two homers, J.J. Hardy is 3-for-11 with a homer, Nick Markakis is 9-for-32, Delmon Young is 4-for-13 with a double and homer, and Adam Jones also has a double and homer on 7-for-22.

On the other hand Chris Davis is 4-for-21 with a homer, Steve Pearce is 1-for-5 (so play Young!) and Manny Machado is 2-for-10 – so maybe this would be a good first day to sit out with suspension time.

What more can be said about Ubaldo than what we and everyone else has written? When he controls his walks, his stuff is good enough to keep him in most any game. And the Orioles need a long outing from him to give the bullpen a break. I’ll be at the game also, and I’d like to not go crazy with wild pitching and a terribly late night.

Tags: Baltimore Orioles

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