May 17, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones (10) connects for a single in the seventh inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
The Orioles (22-20) had a disappointing past week, going 2-5 (Monday-Sunday) against the Detroit Tigers and the Kansas City Royals. They fell to second place in the AL East and sit a half game behind the first place New York Yankees. Despite some solid pitching, the Orioles lineup continued to disappoint, and sadly, there really isn’t much that team management can do besides sit and watch.
Established hitters like Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, and Adam Jones have not been able to replicate the productivity of previous seasons. Though Davis and Jones each hit home runs during the course of the week, they are still both still far off the pace of the last two years.
As of today, Jones is on pace to hit 23 home runs and Davis is on a pace to hit 11. Not exactly eye-popping numbers. It seems likely that either one of them could get hot and change that, but their inability to drive the ball in the three and four spots in the lineup is becoming predictably disappointing.
Over the course of the week, there were several instances of the Orioles getting a runner in scoring position with less than two outs out and failing to cash in with their big bats up. Most notably was in Saturday night’s loss to the Royals.
After getting dominated all night by Danny Duffy (1-0) and trailing by one run in the ninth inning, the Orioles had runners on first and third with one out and Jones at the plate. Jones appeared to have struck out on a ball in the dirt, but was given second life when the umpire called it a foul ball. Jones failed to take advantage and struck out…again. Davis then drew a walk to load the bases, followed by a Nelson Cruz strikeout to end the game with a final of 1-0.
Although the Orioles have the AL’s third best average with runners at third and less than two outs (.382), they rank 12th in runs (55). The Orioles’ inability to make useful outs (e.g. sac flies, ground balls to the right side of the infield) has been their kryptonite in close games.
The offense is becoming the story of the season so far, but unfortunately it is not the type of story fans might have predicted prior to the season’s start. The past week saw some of the best pitching that Orioles fans have seen in the past few years.
Four of the Orioles’ seven starts went seven-plus innings. Bud Norris (2-3, 3.98) pitched 7.2 innings on Monday night’s game against Detroit, but got the loss as the Orioles failed to score and a crucial late game home run by Ian Kinsler put the game out of reach.
Chris Tillman (4-2, 3.34) pitched his first career complete game shutout against the Royals on Friday night, as the Orioles won 4-0.
Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Kansas City saw Norris get snubbed yet again, as he pitched 7.1 innings while allowing just one run.
Clearly, the starting pitching is on track. But it is also clear that issues on offense and in the bullpen may ultimately decide the fate of the Orioles. There was once a point where most who followed the Orioles said that their success depended solely on the productivity of the starting rotation. Now, all eyes are on the non-existent offense.
Upcoming games against the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cleveland Indians will hopefully give the Orioles the spark they need to get on track.
Coming Up This Week:
The Orioles travel to Pittsburgh to play the struggling Pirates (18-25). The Pirates have struggled of late, losing two of three to both the Milwaukee Brewers and the New York Yankees. They currently are in fourth place in the NL Central and sit 8.5 games out of first place.
Though they rank just 10th in runs scored in the NL (167), they also rank 11th in total runs allowed (185). Their inconsistent starting pitching may be just what the doctor ordered for the Orioles’ sputtering offense.
Following the trip to PItt, the Orioles will come home to battle the Indians (19-25) who have struggled at all aspects. Their pitching and hitting have had problems, but their last ranked defense (.972) has exacerbated many of their issues.
Pitching Preview vs. Pitt.:
Wednesday (7:05 P.M. ET): Chris Tillman (4-2, 3.34) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (0-2, 6.84)