Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Critical stretch coming for Orioles

The American League East hasn’t exactly been the powerhouse division it was advertised in the off-season. In fact the division looks completely upside-down compared to most predictions before spring training. The two consensus picks to win the division, the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, now have the two worst records in the American League. Although the Orioles have been inconsistent throughout the season, other team’s struggles have allowed them to remain in contention. The Orioles are only 4.5 games out first and their schedule in June could have them in perfect position to move up in the division and provide some momentum for the second half of the season.

It has been an up-and-down season for the Orioles, but as of late it looks like they could be finding some consistency. They took two out of three from the rival Red Sox making them 6-4 in the month of June. The Orioles have averaged nearly five runs a game in that span, and despite the disastrous ten run loss on Sunday, still have a plus 11 run differential. Also, in the three game series against Boston the Orioles’ starters allowed only one run in 20 innings.

The Orioles will need to maintain that steadiness for the next couple weeks because June could be one of the most important stretches of the season. Of the 18 games remaining in June, 14 are against divisional opponents. That stretch includes a four game series against the first place Blue Jays, and a seven game road trip against New York and Tampa Bay. The Orioles are currently tied with the Yankees at second place in the division, but the two meet six times before the All-Star break.

The biggest concern with the Orioles going forward would have to be the back of their lineup. Guys like Markakis, Jones and Cruz have been consistent most of the season, and guys like Pearce and Young have provided key hits off the bench. However, the Orioles have yet to find much  production from the 7-8-9 hitters. David Lough is hitting only .183 coming into Thursday night’s game, Manny Machado, now in the seventh slot, is hitless in his last 18 ABs and they haven’t gotten any consistent production from the Ryan Flaherty-Jonathan Schoop platoon. If the Orioles want to have success during this difficult stretch they’re going to need more from that part of the lineup.

If the Orioles can build on the minor success they’ve had recently, June could be a pivotal point for a team looking to contend in September. They’ve certainly been inconsistent to this point, but with their schedule the Orioles have a chance to chase down the Jays, and put more distance between themselves and other teams.

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Tags: Baltimore Orioles

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