A disappointing bullpen collapse put a damper on what had otherwise been a successful week in Birdland, as the Orioles backed up their series win over the Tampa Bay Rays by taking two of three from the Pittsburgh Pirates and then two of the first three from the Angels. The Halos eked out the series split Thursday afternoon, but it was still another winning week for Baltimore at 4-3.
Let’s take our weekly look into who was up and who was down, focusing on the final seven games of the homestand.
Cedric Mullins leads off the O’s lineup and again leads off our UP category. Over 26 plate appearances, Mullins had nine hits including two doubles, a triple, two home runs (.360/.385/.760), and drove in six for a wRC+ of 210. In a particularly awesome bit of “how can you not be romantic about baseball?” Mullins hit a home run with A.J. Rodriguez in the house. A.J., for those unaware, is the streamer who “can’t escape” Mullins.
If you can’t escape him, join him. pic.twitter.com/TuAA1DqXQe
— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) May 15, 2023
Mullins is hitting .283/.338/.550 in May, and has a 130 wRC+ for the season, just shy of his career-best 136 over a full season posted in 2021. Mullins had a pinch-hit ground-rule double with two outs in the ninth on Thursday, giving the Birds some ultimately futile late hope. Why he was even available to pinch hit though, rather than being in the lineup already – there was a lefty starter for the Angels, but Mullins is hitting .298 against LHP this season – is a question for Brandon Hyde.
Oh, and he hit for the seventh cycle in Baltimore Orioles history on Friday night. Ho hum.
Lefties, righties, ambidextrous throwers (that guy isn’t still around, is he?), it doesn’t matter: major league pitching can’t escape Cedric Mullins.
Adley Rutschman was scuffling a little bit to start the month of May, and his batting average dropped nearly 45 points. However, he’s turned things back around since, and had a huge week against Pittsburgh and LAA. In 27 plate appearances, Adley hit .348/.444/.696 with two doubles and two homers, good for a wRC+ just behind Mullins at 205. Adley’s OPS in May is at .912, and after making his first visit to Eutaw Street last Tuesday, he would have done it again yesterday, were it not for a brick pillar getting in the way.
— Eutaw Street Report (@EutawStReport) May 18, 2023
For the season, Adley is at .285/.407/.462 (142 wRC+), and sits third in MLB in fWAR among catchers.
He’s pretty great. One complaint: please don’t pick up giant relief pitchers any more. Or at least, if you must, lift with your legs.
blessing your tl pic.twitter.com/JGaBbTP75a
— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) May 17, 2023
The O’s rotation had a few more strong performances over the past week, but no starter was more impressive than Kyle Bradish. On Friday against Pittsburgh, he went six strong innings, allowing no earned runs, just three hits, and striking out six to just one walk. Wednesday, he followed it up by getting two outs in the seventh inning after allowing a lone earned run on four hits, striking out five and not walking a single batter.
Since the poor start against Boston in late April, Bradish seems to be throwing his slider more, and to great effect. In three May starts, he has a 2.04 ERA in 17.2 IP, and 15 strikeouts to go with just three walks.
It pains us to put Grayson Rodriguez down here, but it’s exactly where he deserves to be after his worst big league start on Monday against the Angels. Grayson gave up eight earned runs on nine hits, walked as many as he struck out (three), and served up two dingers, including one to Shohei Ohtani that nearly landed on Boog’s BBQ.
His command was awful, as he was either missing the strike zone completely or catching entirely too much of it.
Let’s just flush that one and move on. He’s a rookie and these things happen. Still, I’ll be keeping an eye on those Statcast numbers, which at the moment, aren’t too promising.
Down for the second straight week, Jorge Mateo‘s miserable May drags on. In 18 plate appearances, Mateo had just a single hit (though it drove in two!), and a wRC+ of -58. On the bright side, he only struck out twice, but was unfortunately roasted by the BABIP dragon (.067).
So far this month, Jorge is at a dismal .106/.140/.128. There are reports that his leg is bothering him a bit, and maybe it’s time for an IL stint to get back to 100%. With Joey Ortiz here to man shortstop, there’s no pressing reason to keep Mateo in the lineup when he’s hurting the team like this.
Hitting with RISP
Not singling out one player here: hitting with men in scoring position was a team-wide issue this week. Over the seven games, the Birds were 9-for-50 with runners in scoring position, an average of .180, and left 44 men on base, an average of 6.3 per game. Not only does failing in the clutch like this turn potential wins into losses, it also makes even the wins more stressful, creating more high-leverage situations late in games for an already taxed bullpen.
The Orioles are still ninth in MLB in runs per game at 5.0, but are just 19th in MLB with a .243 average with runners in scoring position. Were they able to get that number up into the top third of the league (about .270+), they could really start rolling. Until then though, we seem destined for more of the usual 2023 checklist, at best.
Are they aware they are allowed to score first?
2023 Orioles Checklist
✅ Fall behind early
⬜ Battle back in mid innings
⬜ Late-inning butt clenching
— Eutaw Street Report (@EutawStReport) May 15, 2023