I’d like to write about Yovani Gallardo’s performance — and health — in the Orioles’ first game of this crucial homestand. I was considering leading with the news that Chris Tillman has had his next start pushed back due to shoulder discomfort. Or maybe talk about Brad Brach’s second-half struggles.
But those things will have to wait a little. Because this piece has been Mookied.
Camden Yards has been Mookied.
The American League MVP race has been Mookied.
Boston right fielder Mookie Betts homered twice Tuesday in the Red Sox 5-3 victory over the Orioles. His blasts – one against Gallardo and one against Brach — accounted for all five runs.
It’s the third time – third time! – this year that Betts has had a multi-homer performance in Baltimore.
He has now hit seven homers and driven in 13 RBIs in five games at Camden Yards this season. That’s seven home runs and 10 total hits in 21 at-bats here this year.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, Betts is the only opposing player to ever hit seven homers in one season at Camden Yards. And the Red Sox have five more games remaining in Charm City.
Overall, Betts has 20 hits, eight homers and 17 RBIs in 11 games versus the Orioles.
He has 20 homers against everyone else.
“I’m sure there are some numbers to dictate that it’s more (against) us, but he’s been having that type of year against most everybody,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “We shouldn’t feel like he’s picking on us but I know it seems like it.”
When it comes to the American League MVP race, voters aren’t going to care where the homers occurred (and if they do, it is pretty impressive so many have come against a division rival).
But there always is a faction that looks at when the big numbers were compiled. In his last 16 games, as the pennant race heats up, Betts has hit safely in 15 of them, batting .388 with six doubles, eight homers and 22 RBIs. So, yeah, he’s not just picking on the Orioles.
The bottom line is that Betts has been on the short list of MVP candidates for a while now along with the Orioles’ Manny Machado, Houston’s Jose Altuve, Los Angeles’ Mike Trout and a few others.
If Betts does win, the gaudy numbers he has put up against the Orioles — and in front of Machado — will certainly play a part in earning the award.
Brach struggling in second half
Brad Brach was so good in the first half of this season – allowing just five earned runs in 49 1/3 innings pitched (0.91 ERA) — that he earned an All-Star selection despite not being a closer.
Things have not gone so smoothly since the All-Star Break.
After serving up a two-run homer Tuesday, Brach has now allowed six earned runs in 12 second-half innings for an ERA of 4.50. That’s more runs allowed in his last 13 games than in his first 40.
“He’s going through a little period where every little mistake seems to get magnified. It’s a real testament to him to come back after that (homer) and pitch to the next three hitters the way he did,” Showalter said. “That’s why Brad is having such a great year, because of what he does after that happened. Most people would, ‘woe is me’ and make you bring somebody else in.”
To be fair, the single before the homer against Brach easily could have been an out. David Ortiz hit a liner into the shift that Jonathan Schoop should have caught, but dropped. It was ruled a single. Brach then left an up-and-away fastball over the plate.
What does Brach think he is doing differently in the last couple weeks?
“Probably thinking about it, talking about it too much and … honestly I don’t know,” Brach said. “I don’t know what’s different, just, like I said, probably just thinking about it too much, worrying about every single pitch that I’ve thrown instead of going out there and throwing like I know I can.”
It’s unfair to think Brach can have an ERA under 1.00 all season. But, with Darren O’Day shelved at least until late this month, the Orioles need Brach to be close to his first-half self if they are going to survive this tough stretch of games against contenders.
Tillman scratched; will start Saturday
Showalter told reporters after the game that Chris Tillman, the club’s top pitcher, is dealing with some shoulder discomfort and will not pitch Wednesday against the Red Sox as originally planned. He’ll now pitch Saturday against the Houston Astros.
At this point, Showalter made it seem like it isn’t a big deal, just normal aches that crop up this time of year.
“It’s better. He’s getting there. We have the luxury of giving him the extra time and we’re going to do it,” Showalter said. “A lot of things most starting pitchers go through, especially in August. But that’s why I had pushed everybody back a day, give everybody some time.”
So no need to sound the alarm yet, but this team would be in serious trouble if Tillman (15-4, 3.46 ERA) is out for any period of time.
Gallardo says he’s fine
In the fifth inning, Gallardo took a comebacker off the right forearm and was in some obvious discomfort. He stayed in to pitch – and gave up the homer to Betts – and after the game had his arm wrapped. But said he believes he’ll be fine going forward and no tests are scheduled.
“If it were going to get hit, I think it hit that one spot that’s mostly muscle,” he said post-game. “So just try to see how it feels tomorrow. Right now it’s just stiff, which I expected. But I think I’ll be alright.”