Baltimore Orioles Clicking on All Cylinders

Apr 22, 2017; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy (2) celebrates with his teammates after the Orioles defeated the Boston Red Sox 4-2 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 22, 2017; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy (2) celebrates with his teammates after the Orioles defeated the Boston Red Sox 4-2 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports /

The Baltimore Orioles open the season with 24-out-of-27 games against division rivals. Initially sought to be a tough task but, nobody told them.

Could this season be going any better for the Baltimore Orioles? Sure, they didn’t open the year with a 7-0 record. And yes, they do have a few notable names on the disabled list.

But, no matter what scenario, or which team they play, there isn’t anything that has slowed them down yet.

Before the season started, schedule-makers threw 20 games against in-division teams at the Orioles. That’s tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for the most in-division games in the month of April.

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Elsewhere, the Toronto Blue Jays open with 16, and the Boston Red Sox, and New York Yankees open with 15.

Presumably a tough task, the Orioles paid zero attention to the projections and came out of the gates with a full head of steam.

By and large, the Orioles are off to their best start under Buck Showalter.

The 2017 club starts play today with a solid record of 12-4, which is the best record of all division leaders. In other words, they have the best record in baseball.

Surely, it’s not possible to judge the season on a 16-game stretch to open, however, take a look at teams like the Seattle Mariners (7-12), or, the Blue Jays (4-13). I’m sure they’d love to be where the Orioles are right now.

The Blue Jays begin play on Sunday sitting eight-and-a-half games behind the Orioles in the AL East, and nine games under .500. Additionally, the Blue Jays have a total of six players on the DL. That’s not the start they had in mind.

So, for the Orioles, starting the season eight games over .500, and 10-3 versus in-division teams, that’s their best baseball to begin a season under manager Buck Showalter.

Must Read: What to make of recent stellar starts by Jiménez, Miley

Previously, last season was the best 16-game stretch to open, as they started 11-5. Before 2016 however, the team had yet to eclipse double-digit victories under Showalter’s guidance.

The keys to the team’s early success have been clutch hitting, and great pitching, divvied amongst everyone.

Ultimately, the Orioles are winning ballgames because every player, hitter or pitcher, is contributing.

The clutch hitting on the team has come up big through 16 games. Entering play on Sunday, the Orioles are batting .326, with an on-base percentage of .381 with runners-in-scoring-position.

Guys like Jonathan Schoop (.333 with six RBI in 15 chances), J.J. Hardy (.364 with five RBI in 12 chances), and Adam Jones (.571 with three in nine chances), have come up huge with potential runs on the bases.

You can’t talk about RISP without mentioning Trey Mancini. In eight plate appearances, Mancini is three-for-eight, with three home runs, nine RBI, and an OPS of 1.875.

From here, we move to the pitching. Now would usually be the part where we discuss how the bullpen is holding the pitching staff together. While the bullpen is still a huge part of the team’s early success, the starting pitching has been absolutely off the hook.

I apologize, I’ll never use that terminology again. I’ve been out of high school for 11 years now.

Unless you check the stats to believe it yourself, you wouldn’t imagine Kevin Gausman having the highest ERA of starting pitchers. It’s true though. Check. Right now.

Gausman, who gets the start this afternoon against the Red Sox, comes in with a 7.23 ERA in four starts. Meanwhile, Dylan Bundy (1.37), Alec Asher (1.42), Wade Miley (1.89), Jayson Aquino (3.00), and Ubaldo Jiménez (5.51) all have lower ERAs.

And again, you wouldn’t believe it unless you’ve paid close attention, but since April 12 in Boston, the Orioles starting pitchers have tossed eight quality starts in nine games. The blip on that radar was Gausman’s outing last Tuesday in Cincinnati.

The bullpen has been just as good in that nine-game stretch. In 24.2 innings since April 12, the bullpen has allowed only seven runs, good for an ERA of 2.60.

Furthermore, they have not allowed a run since Joey Votto‘s two-run homer off Vidal Nuño in the third inning on April 18 in Cincinnati.

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The Orioles currently sit in first place, a game-and-a-half up on the Yankees. It’s still early, but it’s always fun to see the team in first.

With 146 games remaining on the schedule, there is still plenty of time for slips, trips, and misses.

But, as of this Sunday morning though, who can stop these guys?