Steve Pearce talks to Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter after being tagged out at home by White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers (not pictured) during the fifth inning at U.S Cellular Field. Photo: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports
You may think a blog that has made a habit of telling it like it is during times of mediocrity would be running out of ideas now that the Baltimore Orioles are 21 games over .500. Not to worry. I also say things are good when they’re good.
Better than good is how things have been recently. I wouldn’t describe the Orioles as completely mistake free, if one considers The Rundown from Hell last week, or the fact that Nick Markakis nonchalanted a throw home last night and allowed a run to score. He also made a great, home run-saving catch Monday night and went 3 for 3.
One of the surprises during the recent run of success, in which their AL East lead has grown to nine games over the Yankees and 9 1/2 over Toronto, is that they’ve done it without Manny Machado. Chris Davis has manned third base acceptably for the first week or so that Machado has been on the DL with his sprained right knee.
His DL stint will last the rest of August, and the question then becomes how much Buck Showalter will rest him in September, how judiciously Showalter will manage Manny’s days off.
If you’re Buck, you probably want to give Machado enough days off to save wear and tear on the knee, but at the same time play him enough so that he gets his rhythm back in time for the postseason. His rhythm had been just fine ever since June, only to have this injury interrupt it all.
Several other players’ rhythm has also been just fine, among them Nelson Cruz, who hit home run No. 33 last night, Steve Pearce, who also homered, and Adam Jones, who went 3 for 3 with an opposite-field homer last night to cap a sweep of the White Sox.
Even though the offensive numbers say the Orioles are now 49-10 when they hit a home run and have hit 161 of them, which leads the Major Leagues, the pitching is what has fueled their sizzling post-All Star Break stretch.
In the month and a half they have left, they can still hit a dead spot
In the month and a half they have left, they can still hit a dead spot, and they can’t afford to have that happen in September, when they play New York eight times and Toronto six.
Any student of history knows collapses have been known to happen. For that reason, sending Ubaldo Jimenez to the bullpen was a no-brainer. Additionally , if Machado and J.J. Hardy got hurt – and Matt Wieters hasn’t played since May – anyone could get hurt.
In the meantime, the Orioles just have to follow the cliché and take it one series and one game at a time, with the next stop being Wrigley Field, if the Cubs can just get their field in playable shape. The good news is that they had the judgement to suspend last night’s game against the Giants, rather than call it an official game, when the trap couldn’t be deployed properly during a rain after the top of the fifth inning. The bad news is that when play is resumed this afternoon, what amounts to a game and a half will now be played on an already partly damaged field today, and who can say what condition it will be in for the weekend.