Ever since the All-Star break, the Orioles have been consistent in the outcomes of their games. After winning their first two games after the break, the Orioles lost four in a row, then won five in a row.
Now, they find themselves in the midst of a three-game losing streak. The three-game skid is especially frustrating because the Orioles have finally gotten some decent outings from their starting pitching, which has been below average all season. The struggles now appear to be happening offensively; Baltimore has scored six runs in their last three games.
On Thursday the Orioles were in Minneapolis playing a make-up game, the final game of a three-game set against the Twins that was originally scheduled for May 6.
The Orioles gave the ball to Ubaldo Jimenez last night, who had not thrown in a game since July 8. Jimenez gave the Orioles a chance to win, pitching five innings and allowing one run on five hits, three walks and eight strikeouts. He got off to a rocky start, as Joe Mauer hit an RBI triple in the first inning, but he settled in.
However, Jimenez’s effort was tarnished by the Orioles bullpen. Odrisamer Despaigne relieved Jimenez and only went 1.1 innings, allowing four runs on five hits and a walk. Max Kepler hit a solo home run off of Despaigne in the sixth inning. Despaigne has been a reliable lefty reliever for the O’s, but Thursday night was an outing Despaigne will be looking to forget.
The Orioles couldn’t fight back, and the Twins came away with a 6-2 win. The O’s won the first two games of this series back in May, but they should have come out of Minnesota with a win against the worst team in the American League.
The Orioles also played a three-game series against the Colorado Rockies this week at Camden Yards. Baltimore edged Colorado 3-2 on Monday night, but lost the final two games by scores of 6-3 and 3-1. This was just the second series the O’s have lost as home so far in 2016.
A good sign for Baltimore’s rotation transpired in Wednesday night’s ballgame, as Dylan Bundy pitched 5.2 innings. Bundy had a perfect game going until the sixth inning, but allowed two home runs on change-ups that missed their spots. The perfect game was broken up when Bundy walked former Oriole Mark Reynolds. Nick Hundley, another former Oriole, then hit a two-run home run.
Still, it was an excellent outing for Bundy. It is hard to win a game as a starting pitcher when your offense only gives you one run to work with. Bundy may not be stretched out much this season, but he proved that his stuff is good against a solid offensive lineup; the Rockies have scored the second most runs in the majors this season (519), only behind the Red Sox (561).
Before the Orioles return home to face the Texas Rangers, they have a very important divisional series this weekend in Toronto against the Blue Jays. Since the All-Star break the Blue Jays have gone 6-5 and have surpassed the Red Sox for second place in the AL East as Boston has now lost five out of their last six games. Toronto is only 1.5 games behind the first-place Orioles. So far, the season series between Baltimore and Toronto is tied, with each team having five wins in 10 games played.
Several Orioles are currently in slumps at the plate, Chris Davis being the most notable. Over the last week Davis is hitting .043 with one RBI. He broke an 0-for-24 streak on Wednesday night with a bunt single, but he did go 2 for 4 in Thursday’s game against the Twins. MLB’s home run leader, Mark Trumbo, is also in a slump. Before Thursday’s game, Trumbo had five hits in 40 at-bats. His last home run was hit on July 23 (a week from Saturday). Manny Machado is also anxiously waiting for July to end, as the 24-year-old has a .216 batting average this month. Some are clamoring for Buck Showalter to move Machado back into the leadoff role and to move Jones into the #3 spot in the lineup. Jones is hitting .275 in July.
The Orioles are going to have to turn the offensive woes around this weekend, as they get ready to face three Toronto starters who all have ERA’s below 3.30. On Friday, Kevin Gausman (2-7, 3.77) will take on Marco Estrada (5-4, 2.94). First pitch is at 7:00 pm. In Gausman’s last start, he went seven innings without allowing a run and struck out seven in a 5-2 win over the Indians. In two starts against the O’s this season, Estrada has allowed four runs on 10 hits and 17 strikeouts in 11 innings.
Saturday’s match-up, a 1:07 start time, features Yovani Gallardo (3-2, 5.37) taking on J.A. Happ (13-3, 3.27 ERA). Happ is second in the American League starters in wins with 13, right behind Baltimore’s Chris Tillman and Chicago’s Chris Sale, who each have 14 wins. Gallardo pitched in Monday’s 3-2 win over the Rockies and has pitched into the seventh inning in his last two starts. Before then, he had not done that.
Sunday’s afternoon game (1:07 start) features Chris Tillman (14-3, 3.47 ERA) taking on Aaron Sanchez (11-1, 2.72 ERA). Tillman has had his problems with Toronto in the past, but in two starts this season he has allowed six runs in 11 innings pitched. He has not pitched at Rogers Centre so far, where he has a 7.94 career ERA. Sanchez also has double-digit wins, but he has a 5.73 ERA against the Orioles in two starts this season. Despite that, Toronto won both of those games and Sanchez is 2-0 against the Orioles in 2016.
Being in a three-game losing streak and returning to Rogers Centre will be a big test for the Orioles this weekend. They played a four-game set in Toronto in June and went 1-3. At 21-27 on the road so far, the Orioles need to start getting the job done away from home. This weekend could be a big indication of how resilient this 2016 Orioles team is.