A lot was made of Dan Duquette’s comments Saturday to season-ticket holders about whether he is in buy mode or sell mode.
He didn’t come out and specify which, but his comments would make you think that buying a starting pitcher for this team is still in play.
“This year, we haven’t had the starting pitching that we need, but the other elements of our ballclub are intact. And if we can get a little bit better pitching — or add to the pitching — we can still make a run at this,” Duquette said during the annual Midseason State of the Orioles address
A chunk of my Twitter followers, of course, went goofy-nuts on me Saturday afternoon and evening. How can Duquette think this team has a chance with the collapsed starting rotation that gets wheeled out there most nights?
Especially after the Orioles have now dropped two straight to the Houston Astros and sit at 46-51 on the season.
Well, I wouldn’t get too riled up about Duquette’s statements. I still think when push comes to shove, this team will sell off some of its assets – a top reliever, at least – for starting pitching prospects.
I’ve covered Duquette for some years now. And he never really gives a glimpse as to what he’s doing. He just doesn’t. And he certainly isn’t telling season-ticket holders that he’s punting 2017 at an official event.
Plus, I’m not 100 percent sure that Duquette knows which way he is going in the next week. Heck, he may try to buy and sell. So, if you are a strong believer that the Orioles should sell by July 31’s nonwaiver trade deadline, I’d relax a little. It could still happen — Duquette’s comments Saturday surely can be amended.
Schoop trailing only Cruz and Judge in AL RBIs
Here are a few stunning things about Orioles’ second baseman Jonathan Schoop’s impressive run this year.
With his two-run homer Saturday – his team-leading 21st and his third homer in three games – Schoop is leading the Orioles with 69 RBIs. That’s 19 RBIs ahead of the next closest Oriole, rookie Trey Mancini’s 50.
Schoop’s career high is 82, set last year. He’s on pace to obliterate that.
He’s also right in the mix for the RBI crown. Schoop trails only Seattle’s Nelson Cruz, one of his mentors, and New York Yankees rookie sensation Aaron Judge, in the AL race. Entering late Saturday night, Cruz led the AL with 74 and Judge, 72.
We can’t forget Schoop is only 25, doesn’t turn 26 until October. He’s only about six months older than Judge.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter isn’t taking his young star’s offensive heroics for granted.
“It’s been fun to watch. Jon’s a guy that’s very unassuming. I could tell you three or four stories a day about him that would make you smile. He’s a humble young man. Knows where he came from and his family. Some people go out and in any walk of life they have some good fortune come their way, a car or something. Everything Jon does is about his family,” Showalter said. “And I think everybody takes a little extra satisfaction when Jon is doing well because he deserves it.”
Craziest at-bat ever
What a bizarre at-bat in the top of the sixth at Camden Yards. With two outs, two on and the Orioles leading 4-3, Houston rookie Colin Moran – the nephew of former Oriole B.J. Surhoff – swung at a Darren O’Day pitch and fouled the ball off his left eye.
It was a scary moment. Moran’s eye immediately swelled and blood spilled out of a gash. He got up with help from Houston’s athletic trainer and immediately sat back down again, woozy. Ultimately, he walked with assistance to a medical cart, which drove him off the field. He went to the hospital Saturday night and almost assuredly will be placed on the disabled list.
Marwin Gonzalez then entered to take over Moran’s 0-1 count, and on his second pitch, lost control of his bat, which apparently hit a fan behind the Orioles’ dugout (who later appeared to be OK).
O’Day, who waited on the grass between home plate and the mound during the delay caused by Moran’s injury, then locked into an intense battle with Gonzalez.
With the count at 2-2, Gonzalez fouled off four straight pitches before lifting a breaking ball over the flag court in right for a three-run homer. It was Gonzalez’s 18th homer of the season and his first of the pinch-hit variety this season.
You have to wonder if the delay during the Moran injury affected O’Day, who has served up three of his four homers this season in his last nine outings after allowing one in his first 27.
O’Day didn’t use it as an excuse for not putting Gonzalez away – especially after he already had allowed two singles in the inning.
“It was tough. I hope he’s OK. But I don’t think that really affected me as a pitcher. It’s easy to make an excuse. I came in and made a couple poor pitches, got guys on base and then I had to be perfect,” O’Day said. “It was a tough at-bat. He fouled off some really good pitches until he got a bad one. Did a hell of a job keeping it fair. I thought I had him set up for a pitch there and I didn’t execute, so I just made a mistake. It’s really unacceptable for a team that’s kind of fighting for every win. I just didn’t get the job done.”
To make the at-bat a little more memorable, the homer landed on Eutaw Street, the 93rd time that’s happened in stadium history, and fifth time this season, all by Orioles’ opponents.
Recap: One at-bat, two batters, one bizarre and scary injury, nine pitches, four two-strike fouls, and one pinch-hit homer with stadium significance that ultimately won the game.
Got all that?
Tillman’s night ‘encouraging’
Chris Tillman may not have reached quality start status on Saturday night – that manufactured, six-inning, three-run benchmark – but, again, he was good enough to put the Orioles in position to win.
You’d like for him to go six innings, and keep the ball in the park. But Tillman didn’t walk anyone, struck out five and allowed six hits. He gave up two homers: A fifth-inning solo shot by Alex Bregman and a two-run homer to Yuli Gurriel, that chased Tillman in the sixth.
“I felt pretty good about it. For the most part, I threw the ball pretty well,” Tillman said. “I was missing (with) the breaking balls, but, for the most part, the other pitches were there for me when I needed them and I was able to make some good pitches with them.”
He left with the lead, and this is now the third straight start in which Tillman kept the damage at a minimum. In those three outings, he’s allowed six runs in 16 1/3 innings (3.31 ERA).
That’s closer to what the Orioles expect from Tillman, whose season ERA is 7.01 in 13 starts after missing the first part of the year with a shoulder injury.
“It’s another good outing by Chris,” Showalter said. “The line may not look as well as he pitched … but I was real encouraged with Chris’ last two outings. That’s encouraging.”
I don’t believe this rotation can miraculously turn things around in the second half. But I’d be surprised if Tillman doesn’t get back to a more consistent form in these final two months, now that he’s been pitching for a while after the huge layoff this spring.