Baltimore Orioles: Who’s hot and who’s cold going into October?
Photo: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
With a week left before the playoffs begin and the Orioles all but locked into the two seed, the birds now are forced wait patiently for the calendar to flip to October. The last few games will be all about getting guys enough work to stay in rhythm, while keeping everyone healthy. The emphasis will probably be on keeping players healthy. Also, several players will use the last few games to try to get themselves out of a late season slump before the playoffs while others will use the time to try to keep their hot streak going.
Baseball fans have seen year after year how a single player can carry a team through a series, and the Orioles will need something like that if they’re going to go far into the playoffs. However, it’s also clear how a couple struggling hitters can really have a significant effect. The Orioles saw in 2012 just how difficult it is to score runs in the playoffs, and a couple of struggling hitters can really compound that already difficult task.
If you’re talking about struggling hitters on the Orioles you have to start with Caleb Joseph. On the 10th of September Joseph collected three hits and three RBI’s. Since then he has gone 0-25 with 12 strikeouts, and looks every bit as bad at the plate as those numbers sound. Joseph has still played stellar defensive, but in the playoffs those numbers can’t continue.
Another cold bat would be second baseman Jonathan Schoop. It’s been feast or famine for much of the year for Schoop, but recently has just been famine. Schoop is hitting .143 in September and has only four extra-base hits in his last 72 at-bats. Schoop has turned himself into a plus-defender, and has hit some big homers this season. However, if his struggles at the plate continue it’s going to be difficult not to pencil in Jimmy Paredes or Ryan Flaherty in October.
It hardly seems news anymore but the Orioles hottest hitter is Nelson Cruz. Over his last ten games Cruz is batting .429 with 6 RBIs, and has hit .383 so far in September. Cruz putting up ridiculous offensive numbers isn’t surprising for Orioles fans, but he may be in the midst of his hottest streak entering the postseason.
A more surprising hot hitter for the Orioles is David Lough. A month ago, with the Orioles acquiring Alejandro De Aza and promoting Quintin Berry, it looked as if Lough may not have a spot on the postseason roster. However, since the end of August Lough has seen more consistent at-bats and has taken advantage of the opportunity. He is hitting .333 in September and has hit .375 over his last ten games.
Runs are always hard to come by in the playoffs, and this season will be no exception. If the Orioles are going to go deep into the playoffs they will need contributions from everyone in the lineup, and even extraordinary work from at least one or two.