• Ben Hall

What fans should know about Orioles' success

Prior to the 2020 MLB shortened season, the Baltimore Orioles were projected to finish last place in a strong AL East division. The Orioles have continued to prove everyone wrong early on in the season.

Following last nights win in Philadelphia, the Orioles improved their record to 9-7. They're now just two games behind the New York Yankees for first place in the division.

Baseball writers, fans, analysts, and anybody else around the sport questioned the Orioles hitting and pitching. However, the hitting has been some of the best in the league and the pitching has shown more success than expected.

Hanser Alberto has been one of the better hitters in the MLB so far. He is hitting .342 with 25 base hits and two home runs. Alberto journey to get to where he's at now has been a bit of a bumpy road. Towards the end of the 2018 season and the beginning of the 2019 season, Alberto was designated for assignment three times and claimed four times, including twice by the Orioles. That decision has benefited the Orioles significantly.

Another three batters who have swung the bat well for the Orioles this season are Anthony Santander, Renato Núñez, and Rio Ruiz. Núñez has been one of the most productive hitters on the team. He's hitting .302 with 19 hits, 15 runs, and five home runs. Santander is hitting .265 with 18 hits and four home runs. Not only has Ruiz swung the bat well, but his ability to play third base has been beneficial for the Orioles. Ruiz is hitting .256 with nine RBI's and four home runs. At third base, Ruiz has been able to eliminate some game tying hits. Last night, Ruiz made one of the best plays that I've seen all year in a clutch moment.

One thing that Alberto, Núñez, Santander, and Ruiz all have in common is that they were all claimed off waivers by the Orioles. Not only did the club give these guys an opportunity, but the guys have really helped turn this team into a competitor.

Jose Iglesias, Pedro Severino, and Chance Sisco have also been doing well at the plate. Iglesias started the season on a tear before slowing down a bit after a quad injury. He's currently hitting .378 with seven extra base hits. Severino and Sisco have been splitting time behind the dish. Both of them have had limited at bats, however they've taken advantage of every opportunity they've gotten. Sisco is hitting .381 with two home runs in just 21 at bats. Severino is hitting .302 with three home runs in 43 at bats.

Dwight Smith Jr. and Austin Hays have both had big time impacts for the team as well. Smith has been hitting exceptionally lately. In the last seven games, Smith is hitting .350 with seven hits and one home run. Austin Hays is hitting just .200 with 12 hits and one home run, however he's been unlucky. This season, Hays has had a ton of good swings where he hit the ball hard but it was just right at the defense. Lately, he has started finding some grass in the outfield and his average has been starting to pick up. But his ability to play center field is what has been incredible. Hays covers so much ground and gets to a lot of balls that would likely be base hits against other center fielders. He uses his speed well to track down balls and has shown true arm strength.

Lastly, for the Orioles hitting, Pat Valaika has been a clutch hitter during his opportunities. Valaika is hitting .250 with two home runs and a walk off single. In August, Valaika has been hitting better and he's been pinch hitting a ton late in games.

Another thing that fans need to keep in mind is that the Orioles bats are doing this without their usual best hitter Trey Mancini, who was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer prior to the season. Mancini underwent successful surgery to remove the tumor. We hope to see Trey continue to make a healthy recovery.

For pitching, the Orioles have done a mediocre job. However, the pitching staff has proved all of baseball wrong. The team ERA sits at 4.43 which ranks 21st in all of baseball.

For the starting pitchers, Alex Cobb has been the best by far. So far, Cobb has a 1-1 record with a 2.75 ERA in four starts. Cobb was the number one pitcher in the rotation with John Means on the injured list (IL).

Since returning from the IL, John Means has started two games. Means first game did not go too well for him. He gave up five earned runs in just 2.1 innings to a powerful Yankees lineup. In his second outing, Means looked just as he did last season. He went 4.1 innings giving up just one earned run against the Marlins. That was his most recent start. Means was placed on the bereavement list to attend to a family matter. He has since returned to Baltimore and been placed on the IL and must undergo the league protocol testing before being able to return to the team.

Asher Wojciechowski and Tommy Milone have both pitched well for the Orioles as well. Milone has a 1-1 record with a 3.21 ERA and Wojciechowski has an 0-2 record with 3.95 ERA. Both of these guys have continued to improve throughout the season.

Wade LeBlanc doesn't have too good of numbers this season, however he has had some good starts and has battled in all of his starts. He currently has a 1-0 record with a 7.13 ERA in four starts.

The last starter who I think will be a huge part of the Orioles rotation as the season goes on is Thomas Eshelman. In two appearances and one start, Eshelman has no record and a 3.68 ERA. He will be starting against the Phillies in the series finale tonight. Eshelman stays around the zone and rarely walks hitters. This could really benefit him down the stretch of the season.

For the relievers, the one guy who I think has caught most fans by surprise is Cole Sulser. Sulser has served as the closer for the Orioles and has done a relatively good job in those opportunities. He has a 1-1 record with four saves and a 5.00 ERA. Brandon Hyde has shown his trust in Sulser and that has benefited both Sulser and the Orioles.

Mychal Givens, Travis Lakins, Tanner Scott, and Miguel Castro have been the main bullpen guys. So far, in six innings, Givens has yet to give up a run. Travis Lakins and Tanner Scott have been dominant as well. Lakins is 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA, while Scott has no record and a 1.80 ERA. Miguel Castro had been dominant before the series in Philadelphia, however he has struggled a bit since game one. Castro hadn't given up a run in seven innings before. Castro gave up four earned runs in the past two days which pushed his ERA up to 4.00. Castro has always thrown hard, but I think the main reason for his success this season is his off-speed. His 92 mph changeup is unhittable when he has control of it and the movement on his slider is insane. The Orioles will need Castro to continue to pitch well if they want to continue being a contender for the rest of the season.

Something that fans should pay attention to for the rest of the season is who they will call up from their alternative site in Bowie. The Orioles have a ton of prospects their and fans have been confused to why some of them haven't been brought up already. If the Orioles are a competitor throughout the rest of the short season, it's likely that fans will see Ryan Mountcastle on the Major League roster at some point.

The Orioles have a tough path ahead of them to make the playoffs, however if they continue to play the way they have, they will make it.

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