Finally a Much Needed Off Day for the Orioles
The second-place Baltimore Orioles (78-62) have been the best team in the majors since July 26th after going 25-13 over that stretch, one game better than their cross-town rival Washington Nationals.
However, this weekend’s series against the Yankees tired them out both mentally and physically. They need a day off to regroup and give the entire bullpen a day off.
After winning the first game, even though the bullpen allowed three runs, Wei-Yin Chen served up three home runs and surrendered seven earned over just 4.1 innings of work as he dropped his ninth game of the year.
Game three was a nail-biter for sure, as Joe Saunders tossed 5.1 strong innings, and allowed just two earned runs. However, with the Birds up 5-2 in the 8 th, the pen allowed two earned runs and Jim Johnson made it interesting by loading the bases with no one out in the 9 th. Somehow, he escaped the inning after surrendering just one run and the Birds won 5-4. That improves their one-run win record to 25-7, best in the majors still.
Yesterday’s game was another story. The Bronx Bombers routed Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta, and Tommy Hunter on Sunday afternoon as the Birds dropped the final game of the year 13-3, splitting the 18 games, nine wins apiece.
So, even though they split the series, the Birds are tired and need a rest.
They had not had a day off since finishing their last series with the Rangers on Wednesday, August 26 th, which is 14 games in a row (only because the game was postponed in Baltimore due to rain). Over that stretch, they played to a 9-5 clip, winning three of the four series, and splitting a four game series.
Not to mention, even though they managed to remain just one game behind them for the lead in the East, they lost one of the major reasons they are in this position.
It was quite evident that the lefthander was in excruciating pain; his face told the entire story. I knew right when he was struck and pulled away that he would not be able to stay in the game.
In fact, his left thumb is broken and Markakis will be out for about six weeks. So, unless the Orioles go deep into the playoffs, he will be out for the remainder of the season.
Even though they beat Sabathia, losing a guy like Markakis is a major blow to the Orioles both on and off the field. Not only is he a leader, a clutch hitter, and has occasional power, he is one of the best right fielders with one of the strongest arms in the game.
Markakis was batting just two points below the .300 mark, and he drilled 13 home runs and drove in 54 runs. The career .295 hitter was on pace for another solid season from an outfielder as he was projected to finish with 15 home runs and 62 RBI over just 120 games (remember, he missed a bit over a month of the season due to a right hamate bone fracture).
Although he got off to a slow start over the first couple of months, he turned his season around in July after going 31-for-82 (.378 average), with two home runs, six doubles and six RBI. Over the entire month, he only struck out one time.
August was another strong month for him. He batted .312 as he went 34-for-109 with three home runs, six doubles, two triples and 18 RBI. This month, he was batting at an even .300 clip (9-for-30) with three doubles.
He has definitely been one of the most consistent Orioles over the second half of the season and is one of the major reasons why they are in the race for the AL East title.
Reynolds is on Fire
Let’s change gears and talk about Mark Reynolds, who has been one of the most dangerous batters over the last three weeks or so.
This season against the Yankees, the former Diamonback has belted seven of his 21 home runs on the year. Not to mention, he has three two-home run games this year and two of those games have come at the hands of the Yankees.
Over the last week, the powerful right-hander has crushed five home runs and driven in 10 RBI while batting .292. This month, in 31 at-bats, he’s collected 10 base hits (.323 average), including seven longballs, 14 RBI and nine runs scored.
There is no doubt that Reynolds is on fire at the dish; everything must seem like it’s in slow motion for him. Pitchers have got to be aware of his power and the streak he is on, and they still continue to throw him balls out over the middle of the plate.
Reynolds is another reason why the Birds have been so successful over the last month or so. In June and July, he hit .218 and .207 respectively. The heat must have hit him in August because he began his rampage. In August, he batted .278 (22-for-80) and jolted six home runs and drove in 13 RBI. Everyone already knows what he has done since.
Without Reynolds in the lineup, the Birds might not have had as much success against the Yankees this year. After being swept in the first series of the year, the Birds were able to go 9-6 over the remaining 15 games to split the season series.
Especially with the absence of Markakis, the Birds desperately need Reynolds to continue his demolishion course.
Has Anyone Noticed Darren O’Day?
Finally, I just thought I should mention a note about reliever Darren O’Day, who I do not think gets the type of respect or puiblicity that he should. He has been one of the Orioles most consistent and dominating members out of the pen and I’m sure most people have not hear of his name, unless they are die-hard Birds’ fans.
The 29-year-old out of Jacksonville, FL features a 7-1 record and an impressive team-leading 2.22 ERA. In 58 games on the year, he’s tossed 56.2 innings, allowed just 14 earned runs on 42 base hits.
In his career, he’s appeared in 244 games over four big league seasons and sports a 15-6 record with a strong 2.73 ERA.
Although he is one of those unconventional, underhanded pitchers, he has been very dominant for the Birds and is another reason they are where they are at this point in the season.
The Birds need O’Day to continue his dominance out there on the mound in relief with the struggles of Pedro Strop over his last couple of outings.
The Orioles begin a three-game series with the Rays tomorrow night at Camden Yards. First pitch is at 7pm. Make sure to check out the blog tomorrow morning for a preview!
By: Alex Van Rees
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