Baltimore Orioles: Thoughts on a Wild Opening Series Win

BOSTON, MA - JULY 26: The Baltimore Orioles tap hats after defeating the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on July 26, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JULY 26: The Baltimore Orioles tap hats after defeating the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on July 26, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

Expected to finish last in the league this year, the Baltimore Orioles opened the 2020 season with a series win, taking two out of three games from the Red Sox in Boston.

Yes, this was only three games and it is easy to read too much into such a small sample size, but I think there are some legitimate conclusions we can draw out about the 2020 Baltimore Orioles.

First and foremost, the Orioles might actually be better than we previously thought. I am not saying they are good, because any team is capable of winning back-to-back games, but they gave some merit to the strong performances we heard about in the preseason, especially on offense.

The coaches are hopeful that Rio Ruiz can build up his power, and he hit two long balls this weekend with some really pretty swings.  Anthony Santander put any questions about his preparedness to bed with a home run he looped nearly out of the dirt and made two web gems, including a home run robbery.

The batters we knew can get hits got even more than we expected, with Jose Iglesias dropping four on Sunday and seven for the series, and Hanser Alberto got six hits albeit forgetting how many outs there were on the base paths.

Most impressive? Walks. A team not know for their plate discipline, the Orioles drew eleven walks in three games, including three from the light-hitting and light-fielding Chance Sisco.

Walks also translated well for the pitching staff, which did not give up any in back-to-back games in five years, as beat writer Joe Trezza noted. Alex Cobb and Wade LeBlanc both pitched better than expected, leaving a dangerous Red Sox lineup flailing at well-placed splitters and changeups.  If either of them continue to be effective, they could find themselves on the market when few others in the majors will be.

Miguel Castro gave up two inherited runs but held the Red Sox otherwise, especially getting a big out on Saturday when a hit would have made things dicey.  Richard Bleier and Mychal Givens were also effective in their scoreless outings, but the brightest spot was Cole Sulser, who got his first career save in 1.1 innings that started off with a double play.

The same cannot be said of the pitchers from Friday’s night blowout loss, which was more of what we expected but still a serious eye sore. Tommy Milone was bad, but not an embarrassment. When he located his changeup he got whiffs, but ones left over the middle got whacked to the left field corner. The real embarrassments came from the bullpen, starting with Cody Carroll, who threw 100, but velocity doesn’t matter if he can’t throw strikes. He gave up four earned without recording an out. If we want to feel good about the 2018 firesale, he will need to pitch better.

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Travis Lakins was not much better, giving up two in two innings, and then David Hess gave up three in three innings after I turned the game off.  As Brandon Hyde warned after the game, pitchers will not stick around the big leagues if they are that bad.  With so many others waiting in the player pool, these fringe guys will have short leashes.

The big question has been whether Chris Davis can find his swing and carry over his Spring Training momentum. He got his first hit Sunday, and hopefully there are more to come. He was 0-10 before that, but he has also drawn a walk an only struck out once.  He rolled over a few, but also had some long outs before his RBI double.

The wind was blowing out all of Sunday’s game, but then the direction suddenly changed in the 9th inning. Davis thought he had a home run over the deepest part of the monster, but the ball hit near the top of the wall. Renato Nunez then hit a hanging slider to left which I thought was gone off the bat, and Davis thought it would at least hit the wall in the air. The ball was caught on the warning track and Davis got doubled-off.  I’ll give him a pass on that, unlike Alberto’s mental mistake.

Next. Four Consecutive Orioles Shutouts of 1957. dark

Three games do not reveal much, and I still expect the Orioles to fall to the bottom. But with only 57 games left, Baltimore is tied for first. Maybe we are in for a treat this fall.