Again, some are quick to forget that we have just hit the half way point of the 2017 campaign. The All-Star break is still a week away, and guess what?
Despite the topsy-turvy roller coaster that the Orioles have been on this season, they remain just a game and a half out of the playoff picture and will head into their last road trip of the first half just a game under .500. Believe it or not, things could be a whole lot worse.
And despite almost getting swept in front of their own fans by the visiting Rays this weekend, they’ve finally broken the curse that has plagued them on the road this season by winning two straight road series after going two months without winning a single one. Small victories add up.
Yes, it is 100% factual that this Orioles squad is flawed. Their starting pitching leaves much to be desired, their strung-out bullpen is showing signs of early-season abuse, and their offense is as bipolar as Gordon Ramsay’s temper.
But despite all of this, they haven’t given in. They are still very much in the fight, and they will continue to be due to what’s beneath that orange cursive “Orioles” lettering on their chest.
You can either go through this season being cynical, or you can pipe down and enjoy the ride. It’s as simple as that.
I suggest you buckle up…Nobody likes a J.J. Redick-esque cry baby after all.
Now, that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s break down the past week of Orioles baseball.
– The starting pitching was in fact amazing this week. They posted a stellar 1.47 ERA over 18 1/3 innings in Toronto and then followed up by notching a solid 3.94 ERA over 16 innings versus the Rays. Add it up, and the Orioles starters finished the week with a sensational 2.62 ERA over 34 1/3 innings.
– If you take away Alec Asher‘s terrible performance on Saturday, the Orioles bullpen has also stepped up as of late. They posted an impressive 2.19 ERA over 12 1/3 innings in Tampa and a miniscule 1.17 ERA in Toronto before this weekend rolled around. Even after struggling at home over the last three nights, the O’s relievers have posted a solid 3.94 ERA over their last nine games and 32 innings of work.
On the flip side, if you take away Sunday’s seven-run showing, the bats have disappeared lately.
– The Orioles hitters managed to hit just .206 in Toronto while scoring a paltry combined total of five runs over three games. They then followed up by hitting just .200 as a unit versus Tampa Bay, but managed to push across fourteen runs along with five homers.
– Over the last six contests, the Orioles sluggers are hitting just .203 as a team and have barely averaged three runs per game (19 total). They’re hitting just .226 with runners in scoring position during that span.
– Over the last thirteen games, the Orioles are batting .238 at the plate with 50 runs (3.8 per game) on fifteen homers. They’re hitting a lowly .210 with runners in scoring position over that stretch.
Lastly, let’s get to the fun part. Onto the ”Three Stars” of the week!
Jonathan Schoop. After being the only hitter to really do anything in Toronto, Schoop finished the three-game clash in Ontario 4-for-11 with an RBI before following up by launching his 16th home run and recording his team-leading 51st RBI on Saturday versus Tampa. Over his last seventeen games, Schoop is hitting a stellar .306 with five homers and fifteen RBI.
While his week wasn’t as glamorous as his entire season, Schoop gets the third star of the week in honor of his very first All-Star game selection! No one on the team deserves it more than the Orioles star second baseman, and that’s a fact. He’s finally being recognized for his excellence.
Ubaldo Jimenez. Coming off his career-worst start two weekends ago in Tampa, Jimenez bounced back in resilient and dominating fashion versus the Blue Jays in the series finale on Thursday.
Jimenez spun an absolute gem to the tune of allowing just two hits over eight stellar shutout innings while walking one and striking out eight.
In case anyone was wondering, it was the best start by an Orioles pitcher since Jason Hammel spun a one-hit complete game shutout versus Atlanta in June 2012.
Kevin Gausman. Gausman’s struggles during the 2017 campaign have been well-documented, and with an 0-3 record and an 8.03 ERA through four starts in June going into his bout versus the Jays in Ontario, few expected it to turn around soon, if at all this season.
How did Gausman respond that night? By holding the Jays to just four hits over 5 1/3 shutout innings in his first win since May 31st. Upon returning home, Gausman would then orchestrate a total gem on Sunday versus the Rays by allowing just two hits over seven shutout innings while walking just two and striking out nine.
If you were keeping score at home, Gausman gets the first star of the week after winning both of his starts while allowing just six hits over 12 1/3 shutout innings along with thirteen strikeouts.
It looks like the ”Gas Man” is back.