Orioles Victory Number 32: 11-5 over the Tampa Bay Rays
2007 Upper Deck Sendy Rleal
At some point at the end of March, when the roster had been finalized, General Manager Dan Duquette and shadow GM Brady Anderson had to look forward to weekends like this. They had to know that the team they had assembled would be hard-pressed to compete with the Yankees, Red Sox and Astros, but that with a little bit of luck and some old-fashioned slugging they might be able to contend for a wild card spot.
Unfortunately, as we all now know, that wouldn't happen. Instead the offense disappeared, the starting pitching (while better than last year) was still adequate at best and the bullpen, long a Baltimore asset, was beset by injuries and ineffectiveness. The season was lost by Memorial Day and by the All-Star Game the team was in full rebuild mode.
Yet, for three nights and one day, the Baltimore Orioles showed what could have been. Following a respectful 4-3 loss on Thursday, the offense exploded racking up 37 runs in their next three games. At the center of it was Jonathan Schoop. Mired in a tough season, the second baseman has been scorching hot since the All-Star break (also since his best friend on the team, Manny Machado, was traded). Against Tampa Schoop collected seven hits, three home runs and drove in six runs. He's riding a 12 game hitting streak and has raised his season .OPS from .652 to .720. He's flat out mashing the ball.
Much maligned first baseman Chris Davis had his best three-game stretch with seven hits in fifteen at-bats capping off the weekend with two home runs on Sunday. Almost as important are the five walks against two strikeouts in that time period. An indication that he's finally emerging out of his season-long slump just in time to avoid having the worst season ever.
Along with the rejuvenated offense, the pitching staff has come around as the team picked up decent starts from their big four pitchers. Alex Cobb pitched 6 innings giving up 3 runs in a bit of a hard luck loss on Thursday. Andrew Cashner followed on Friday with a gutty 6 inning outing in which he only let two runners cross the plate. With trade rumors swirling Keven Gausman went out and held the Rays to 2 runs over seven innings.
Also the target of some trade talks, staff ace Dylan Bundy took to the hill on Sunday and produced a typical Bundy-esque outing. He worked seven innings, striking out seven Rays and only gave up four hits. Because he is Bundy three of those hits left the yard. Of the 110 hits Bundy has given up this season 26 of them have been home runs. All three of the home runs were single shots as were the three he gave up in the game before. That's a positive sign amidst a troubling run.
Even with the 3 wins in a row the Orioles still sit a disquieting 42 games out of first place. The best they can hope for is to spoil a few games for the other teams in contention as they did with the Rays outside shot at a wild card spot. That and seeing who might be around next season. The line-up getting rolled out on a daily basis isn't really a building block for the future. This collection of players is pretty much the bungee cord holding your bumper up until you can buy a new car. That new car isn't coming to Baltimore until 2020 at the earliest.
It's not the season anyone, including Duquette and Anderson, hoped for back in April, but maybe it's the one they need. Instead of patching a falling apart car, they finally realize that it'll be better to save and invest in a brand new ride.