Baltimore Orioles: Deep in the Barrel and Looking Up


Aug 23, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Steve Clevenger (45) scores on a double by second baseman Jonathan Schoop (6) (not pictured) during the fifth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

I am not sure when or how the Minnesota Twins turned into the 1927 Yankees, but for the Baltimore Orioles, they might as well be. How does a team lose four consecutive home games against the Twins, while also being swept for the season series?

In less than a week, the Orioles have gone from having a good month of August to now being 10-11 on the month. They are 62-61 and headed out of town to play the top team in the American League. The Royals are 27 games over .500 with a home record of 42-20.

So this is what it has come to: the Baltimore Orioles are giving the ball to Ubaldo Jimenez to pull them out of the hole they’ve dug. They will look to Steve Pearce returning to give them an offensive lift with J.J. Hardy mercifully on the DL — a move everyone could see coming with their bare eyes.

For anyone who likes challenges — the bigger the better — you have to envy the position the Orioles are in. Going full Minnesota Twins all over the Royals would be justice on several fronts: a rescue of a season of futility and a payback for a four-game sweep in the American League Championships last year. There is a piece of me that kinda likes this scenario, though frankly I’d rather see the Orioles right now sporting that 75-48 record possessed by the Royals.

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There are more things than a single problem that have gone wrong for the Orioles in 2015. Yet I am surprised by the number of O’s fans that I meet who immediately launch into the pitching as being insufficient and the #1 issue. The bullpen has been as good as we could have hoped for realistically, and the starters have been too inconsistent for sure, but the lack of run support is by far the greater problem.

However, the issue of not scoring is not immediately visible in the stats. The Orioles are actually tied for fifth in the A.L. in runs scored, which is a bit of a surprise. Interestingly, the O’s are also tied for fifth in the league in ERA at 3.79.  So, if all you knew were those two numbers over the course of 123 games, you would certainly expect a better overall record than 62-61!

Digging deeper, the Orioles did score 55 of their runs this season in just three games — twice scoring 18 and once getting 19. Overall, the Orioles are 15-11 in blowout games (defined by a margin of winning or losing of five runs). But in one-run games, the O’s are merely 17-22. These are most often the low-scoring games where there is a need for someone to step up and get a clutch hit, as the bullpen cannot hang on for scoreless inning after scoreless inning. The one-run games that were won in 2012 will forever make that squad a special one in Orioles memory.

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Honestly, how can we fault the pitching for a four-game sweep to the Twins? The pitching was not amazing, but it was good enough to have won two of the games, if not three. The Orioles scored a total of 10 runs in 39 innings. They were a combined 35-for-145 at the plate (.241) and 8-for-34 in RISP situations (.235).  The starting pitchers in the final three games had three quality starts and gave up six runs in 19.2 innings (ERA of 2.75). Surely a team should win one or two of those games, if not all three.

And I don’t want to hear that Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis would have made all the difference. This roster is good enough to compete at a much higher level and they simply have not done it. They have underperformed; it is as simple as that.