This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. This year, I’ll be cutting it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver–Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.
1. The Orioles, like Will Ferrell in “Old School,” are going streaking. After seven straight wins, the Birds are right back in the thick of things in the AL Wild Card race, and I’m as surprised as you are.
No more than ten days ago, no one would’ve predicted they’d be in this spot. In fact, after Zach Britton blew a save last week to end his AL-record at 60, things looked pretty bleak. Britton was removed from a tied game and Miguel Castro came in and somehow kept things that way. The O’s would go on to win that game in the 12th and as it stands, they haven’t lost since.
This streak is their longest of the season and they are now three games above .500 for the first time since early June. It’s just the kind of run they need to get them back into the mix, but it still doesn’t make them a leading contender to grab one of the two Wild Card spots.
There is still a lot of work to be done in order to make that happen.
2. Dylan Bundy turned in one of the great performances in Orioles history on Tuesday night. A complete game shutout with a bunt single and two walks allowed, paired with 12 strikeouts.
While watching, I was also completing a fantasy football draft. To say I was distracted from my draft is an understatement. Watching Bundy pitch was like watching an artist paint. It was so crafty and designed. He used a great mix of his overpowering fastball and dazzling breaking pitches to keep the Mariners off-balance throughout the game.
To say the start of Bundy’s career has been tumultuous would be putting it gently, but this season he really has shown signs that he can live up to the hype of a first-round pick. I still have massive reservations about the way the Orioles have used him this year, but now that the team is in contention entering September, there’s no real holding back. It just makes me nervous going forward about how Bundy’s arm will hold up into 2018.
That there wasn’t any real plan for his innings entering this season is the larger issue. Bundy’s first half was spectacular, then his ERA ballooned up over 4.00. Now it’s back down under that mark and hopefully will continue to dip as the season rolls to a close.
3. Speaking of the season coming to a close, September really is upon us. It seems to have crept up, but call-ups are on the way and the stretch run is here. If you’d asked me a month ago, I would’ve expected the Orioles to be calling up a bunch of prospects and young kids to give a shot this month.
That’s no longer the case. It’ll be “all hands on deck” for sure, but I don’t expect players to just come up and sit on the bench. Buck Showalter has never shown a propensity for clogging up his clubhouse with players who don’t need to be there. There will be plenty of arms coming up to help out, and that’s important because every game in September must be treated like a playoff game.
Showalter can’t continue to allow starters to go deep in games while allowing big innings. He’ll have the depth in arms throughout the month to get by with short starts.
I’d expect some creativity in hiding struggling pitchers.
4. Just more than a week ago I wrote over at MASNSports.com that Trey Mancini’s season has been outstanding, but won’t get him in the winner’s circle for the Rookie of the Year honors. That may have been premature. Mancini still likely won’t garner the votes that Yankees slugger Aaron Judge is set to receive, but it should be closer than you think.
Judge’s gaudy home run totals are what will win him the race, along with his absurd number of walks and high on-base percentage. But he has also struck out at an obscene rate, and as an overall hitter, Mancini has proven more consistent. This is also not a two-man race. There are other players who deserve consideration, including the Astros’ Yuli Gurriel and Andrew Benintendi of the Red Sox.
But Mancini is showing up in a big way and is a large reason as to why the O’s are still in contention. It’s important to remember that the Rookie of the Year award, like all of them, is voted on by writers.
Most writers are going to have heard more about Aaron Judge than they have about Trey Mancini. That’s just the facts.