When covering baseball for a living, sometimes you have a notion in your mind about a trend, and then you look it up and discover that the stats don’t back it up.
Every now and then, though, you get it right.
After the Orioles scored three runs in the seventh inning Monday night to ultimately beat the Kansas City Royals for their fifth comeback win in their last six games, it struck me that the seventh inning seemed to be a particularly advantageous one for the Orioles.
The Orioles have scored 54 times in the seventh inning in their 56 games this season. Their second most prosperous inning is the sixth, when they’ve scored 32 runs. In comparison, the Orioles’ opposition in those 56 games have scored just 25 times in the seventh.
So why are the Orioles so good in the seventh frame? Coincidence?
Probably not. That’s usually when the opposition’s starter is out of the game and before the best late-inning relievers enter. The Orioles can swing the bats, they feast on mistakes and they can score quickly, especially against inferior or tired arms.
“(There’s) probably some of that, but a lot of good pitchers pitch in the seventh inning,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “The good bullpens and starters that go that far, have (had) a really good outing. So, it’s been kind to us so far.”
The other part of this is that the Orioles don’t ever feel they are out of it. So when it’s close, and they are down late in the game, there is no panic. And that has been resulting in plenty of late runs –especially in the seventh.
“We just stay with it throughout the whole game,” Manny Machado said. “There’s always going to be that one pitch that they make a mistake on and we have to take advantage of it.”
Schoop’s rough inning
Oriole second baseman Jonathan Schoop had a rough seventh inning. In the top of the frame, he attempted to pump fake a throw to first on a force out at second base – knowing that he couldn’t double up the speedy Jarrod Dyson.
Schoop’s plan was to fake to first and then throw back to third to try and get Paulo Orlando cheating toward home. But Schoop accidentally spiked the ball and it slammed against baserunner Cheslor Cuthbert’s right elbow.
Cuthbert was removed with a contusion – luckily nothing more – but a run scored on the Schoop error. He felt terrible afterward, and apologized to Cuthbert.
In the bottom of the seventh, Schoop made another miscue, this one of the mental variety. He rounded third with his head down on a double to left by Adam Jones. Schoop didn’t see the hold sign from third base coach Bobby Dickerson until he had committed. He hesitated, then tried to score and was tagged out.
“I should have kept my head up. I dropped my head, and didn’t see (the sign),” he said. “I saw it late, and then I couldn’t stop anymore. I’ve got to clean it up and get better at it.”
It’s easy to forget Schoop is just 24 and still learning this game. But he takes accountability for his mistakes. And that’s worth noting.
Hardy fields grounders in Sarasota
Showalter said injured shortstop J.J. Hardy took 25 groundballs at the club’s minor league complex in Sarasota, the next step in his recovery from a fractured bone in his left foot.
Hardy went on the DL retroactive to May 2, and the loose estimate for his recovery was roughly six weeks or more. The conservative estimate was eight weeks – which would come around the end of this month. Showalter said he’s not ruling that out yet for a Hardy return.
The Orioles surely could use Hardy and his defense. The team had among the fewest errors in the AL when Hardy was hurt; now they are in the bottom third. Maybe it’s coincidence, but Hardy has long been the defensive glue on this squad for years, and having him and Manny Machado together on the left side is better than whatever combination the Orioles can conjure with Machado at shortstop.
Joseph won’t catch for three more weeks
When Showalter mentioned that Caleb Joseph would be out “at least” 15 days following testicular surgery, the sense was it would be a month or more before we’d see him behind the plate again.
Showalter clarified things a little bit Monday, saying Joseph was ordered by doctors not to take part in catching activities until a month after his surgery, which was on Memorial Day night, hours after he took a foul tip to the groin.
So you have to assume Francisco Pena will continue to be Matt Wieters’ backup through this month and maybe a little longer while Joseph readies himself for the mental and physical hurdles of catching a big league game again.
Buck passes Davey
Before Showalter arrived in Baltimore, the Orioles hadn’t had a winning season since 1997, the last year of manager Davey Johnson’s reign, before he resigned due to a disagreement with ownership.
Now, Showalter has passed Johnson on the all-time managerial wins’ list with 1,373 – that’s good for 29th in baseball history. Pretty impressive, especially considering Showalter just turned 60 and could manage for several more years if he desires.