It was August of the year 2017. The average price of fuel was under three dollars. Non-Spanish speakers around Baltimore Orioles country were learning what “Despacito” meant.
Bitcoin was under $5,000, and the crypto craze was still a few months from taking off in earnest. We took a lunch break to go outside and stare at a solar eclipse. This was also the last time the Baltimore Orioles finished a month with a record above .500.
That is, until now.
In a month that included series against five of the top six teams in the American League Wild Card standings, the O’s went 14-12 to bring their overall record to 35-42; for reference, the team didn’t win their 35th game last season until July 28th.
The offense posted a collective .316 wOBA but was buoyed by standout performances from the likes of Ryan Mountcastle, Austin Hays, and the first-full-month-in-the-bigs Adley Rutschman. The starting rotation saw improved production from Tyler Wells and the renaissance of Dean Kremer (and his hair). Things are looking up in Birdland again!
Baltimore Orioles: June Awards, aka The Brooksies
Given the occasion, it seems appropriate that the burgeoning Birds’ achievements in the month of June should be recognized. An awards ceremony of sorts…quite possibly the most prestigious monthly baseball awards banquet this side of Federal Hill.
“June Awards” seems a little unoriginal, so why not have our metaphysical trophies named after a franchise hero and the most outstanding defensive third baseman to ever step between the lines? Without further adieu, I present to you, The Brooksies.
Best Performance by a Hitter – Month: Ryan Mountcastle
Even in a month wherein five other Orioles had a wRC+ above 100 (league average), Mountcastle stood head and shoulders above the rest. His .297/.345/.614 slash line for the month is even more extraordinary when you peel back the wrapper; Ryan led the team in home runs (7), isolated power (.317), wOBA (.407), and wRC+ (167), all good enough to place him amongst the top 20 of all MLB hitters in each respective category. Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays did all they could to pry the Brooksie away, but Mountcastle’s grip was simply too overwhelming.
Best Performance by a Pitcher – Month: Jorge López
Dean Kremer has every right to feel slighted here; he’s been spectacular and deserves to be lauded for his June starts, but the Brooksie has to go to the guy who didn’t allow a single earned run in June. López has been nothing short of dominant since assuming the role of closer in April and put up a June stat line that would make the 2016 incarnation of Zack Britton blush.
13.2 innings, 49 batters faced, four hits, no earned runs, one walk, and 17 strikeouts. Five of his eleven appearances exceeded one inning, including June 2nd against Seattle, where he recorded seven outs. It was easy to see a scenario in which López became a valued reliever, given his electric fastball and arsenal of off-speed pitches. Still, even his most ardent supporters couldn’t have envisioned this degree of dominance.
Best Single-Game Performance – Hitter: Austin Hays (vs. WAS, June 22nd)
When you clench your first career cycle in a torrential downpour while a maelstrom forms in the outfield, the Brooksie is simply a formality. Hays made light work of Nationals starter Patrick Corbin in his first three at-bats with a single, home run, and triple.
Corbin was pulled after four innings of work, leaving Steve Cishek responsible for getting Hays out in the bottom of the sixth inning with the rain pouring and his bat aflame; he failed, and Hays doubled to the left-center field gap. The cycle was complete, the game was called shortly after that, and the Orioles won 7-0.
Best Single-Game Performance – Pitcher: Félix Bautista (vs. TB, June 17th)
Honestly, it wouldn’t be out of line for Dean Kremer to pull a Kanye and rush the stage for feeling slighted because his seven scoreless innings in Seattle on June 28th make a compelling case for this award. Unfortunately, the offense did him no favors that night, and the Mariners emerged 2-0 victors, so Bautista gets the nod.
Bautista entered a 0-0 game in the top of the 7th to face the heart of Tampa’s lineup and proceeded to strike out, reigning AL ROY Randy Arozarena, Harold Ramirez, and Brett Phillips in succession.
The Orioles claimed the lead in the bottom of the 7th thanks to an Adley Rutschman flare to center, then Bautista retired one more batter in the eighth before giving way to Cionel Perez. Baltimore deservedly took the 1-0 win with Bautista, the pitcher of record, for his quick dispatching of three of the Rays’ best hitters in a high leverage situation. This Brooksie belongs to Big Félix.
Best Moment: Adley Rutschman’s first career home run (@TOR, June 15th)
Adley Rutschman had looked the part since being promoted from Norfolk in May; however, the stat line wasn’t giving him his just due as he was slashing just .176/.256/.257 heading into that Wednesday’s game.
After grounding out to lead off the top of the second, Rutschman stepped in against Jays starter José Berríos with the Baltimore Orioles trailing 5-0 and Austin Hays on first base. Rutschman decided that the first pitch fastball was worth swinging at and what happened next can only be described as magical:
I mean, would you just LOOK AT IT! A prodigious blast for a prodigious prospect and an easy Brooksie winner.
The Michael Scott “How The Turntables” Award: Jorge Mateo scores after being intentionally hit, allegedly (@ CWS, June 24th)
The unwritten rules of baseball could be described as anachronistic at best and mind-numbingly stupid at worst, a relic of a should-be-bygone era that often stamps out fun and excitement at the expense of “playing the right way”.
Baltimore Orioles fans reaped the benefits of their “enforcement” during the second of a four-game series against the White Sox when starting pitcher Michael Kopech appeared to intentionally hit Jorge Mateo in the top of the second inning (this came in response to Josh Harrison being hit by a Dean Kremer pitch the night before while Kremer was throwing a shutout and trying to hold onto a two-run lead).
As an elite baserunner who’s currently tied for the second-most stolen bases in MLB, Mateo promptly took advantage of the situation by stealing second base and scoring the very next at-bat when Richie Martin singled him in.
To summarize, the White Sox gifted the Baltimore Orioles a run while seeking vengeance for a play that happened 24 hours prior and was almost certainly an accident. Those unwritten rules sure are effective!
And with that, the inaugural June 2022 Brooksies ceremony has come to a close. Let this month be remembered as a catalyst for the next entertaining era of Orioles baseball and a reminder of how wildly fun baseball is when your team is exciting to watch.
Mike Elias’s visions are finally beginning to manifest, and Birdland is reaping the benefits. May we soon meet again to hand out even more Brooksies to acknowledge and honor the contributions of Orioles present and future!