If not for the collapse of the White Sox bullpen early last week, this Orioles homestand could really be disastrous.
As it is, four more home games with the occasionally hot-hitting Texas Rangers could turn it into something close to that.
Losing three out of four to the lowly Tampa Bay Rays is bad enough, but who on earth were those people running around the bases for the Rays all weekend? I’ve never heard of half of them. Yes, Zobrist and Joyce and Longoria, I know those guys. But, Guyer and Forsythe and Kiermaier…I wouldn’t know those guys if they walked in the studio this morning.
The Orioles are lucky because no one else in the division is playing well enough to distance themselves from the pack. Then again, the rest of the A.L. East is just as lucky, because the Birds can’t get out of their own way as well.
Inconsistent starting pitching continues to plague Buck Showalter’s team. Only Bud Norris could be labeled “consistent” over the last two months. Chris Tillman has come along recently, including a solid start on Friday night in the only win of the weekend over the Rays, but he’s just as likely to go 3.2 innings against Texas this week as he is to throw six shutout innings. Jimenez stinks. And it’s very on-again, off-again with Wei Yin Chen. Even the golden boy, Kevin Gausman, looked human in the doubleheader opener last Friday.
They need better starting pitching over the last half of the season. In fact, they need much better starting pitching. I’m not sure they have it in them.
The bullpen got battered on Sunday, particularly Brian Matusz, who at least used to be able to get left-handed hitters out. Now, it’s a coin-flip. When a lefty can’t get a lefty out, that’s real trouble.
Part of the Orioles’ woes can be traced back to Zach Britton taking over the closer role when Tommy Hunter blew up back in May. Britton’s been fine as a closer, he’s not the problem. Now, though, the club can’t find someone to reliably retire left handed hitters in key late-game situations. With Hunter closing and Britton available for basic relief duty, the club was in much better shape to navigate any sort of crucial situation that involved a left handed hitter or two. Now, it’s not so easy. In fact, it’s become downright difficult.
Even though Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley have been adequate defensively, neither has the offensive pop that Matt Wieters had, making his injury all the more troublesome. It’s not like Wieters is Mike Piazza with the bat, but he’s better than Joseph and Hundley combined. They’re missing him, too.
Another interesting decision comes up in the next 24 hours when the club is forced to make a decision on Nolan Reimold. Out of options, Reimold either stays with the big league club or gets put on waivers. I can’t see any way possible they put Reimold on waivers. Why else would you have stuck with him this long? They’re going to use him if he’s healthy. Look for Delmon Young to get DFA’d, even though I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that move. Fact of the matter is this: Reimold will get hurt again. He always does. I don’t want it happen; I just know it WILL happen.
I don’t know if the Orioles have anything down on the farm worthy of trading at the deadline, but this team will once again be faced with the important end-of-July question: ”Do we buy? Or sell?”
My guess is they’ll be well in the race this time next month.
That would tell you they SHOULD be buyers. They could use another good starting pitcher. They could also use a good left handed bat. Or two. I know they have Henry Urrutia somewhere down on the farm, but he’s not rescuing the team’s offense over the last 60 games. The Orioles need to acquire better players at the deadline. What, though, do they have to give up?
A friend of mine sent me a post-game text after yesterday’s 12-7 drubbing and said, “Is it time to worry?”
My reply: ”Not at all. They’ve been playing like this all season.”
And that’s the truth.
The Orioles have been wildly inconsistent since the season started. They win two, then lose four out of five. Then they’ll bounce back to win five of seven. Then lose three straight. It’s what they are. Inconsistent. But, again, no one else in the division is lighting it up.
It’s all still better than what we had here five years ago, when the club was routinely out of the race by the end of June, but it’s no less heartbreaking to see a team filled with talent sputter along like this and leave the door wide open for the rest of the division.