When we look hard at the Orioles’ offense, it’s often with a jaundiced eye. If you watch this team a lot, you’re exceptionally familiar with the lineup’s weaknesses.
You know that these guys strike out too much, don’t make enough productive outs, don’t work counts often and strand too many runners in scoring position. You know, when crunch time is at hand, just throw the Orioles breaking pitches in the dirt and watch them flail hopelessly.
That’s what we see.
But other teams apparently see something much different.
I talked to a scout recently who said you don’t want to face the Orioles in the playoffs because their power makes them so dangerous.
We see the big strikeout totals and the all-or-nothing at-bats, which often spell doom against above-average pitching in the postseason. But the scout sees a team that can win a close game with one swing at any point in the batting order. If the Orioles’ pitching can somehow keep the opposition to a couple runs, the scout said the Orioles might push deep into the playoffs because their extra-base power can strike at any moment.
That was interesting to hear. And in the last two weeks, the Orioles’ opposition has made that point clear, too.
When the Orioles faced Toronto in Baltimore last week, the Blue Jays brought Aaron Sanchez back from a trip to the minors to pitch at Camden Yards. Sanchez had been sent down to limit his innings so the 24-year-old right-hander would be fresher down the stretch.
He didn’t pitch for 10 days, but they made sure he was back for the Orioles series. I was told that the Jays set up their rotation so their three best pitchers at the time, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ and Sanchez, could face the Orioles.
A similar thing has happened this weekend. The Orioles face Detroit’s three best starters, rookie Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann and Justin Verlander.
Jason Beck, MLB.com’s Detroit Tigers’ beatwriter, told me in Friday’s Podcast that it wasn’t a coincidence. This series at Comerica Park is crucial for both teams and so the Tigers were lining up their best. That meant activating Zimmermann (neck injury) from the disabled list for just his second start since June 30. But they wanted him to pitch in this series, so he’ll go Saturday.
Detroit’s manager Brad Ausmus was asked about the Orioles’ offense recently, and told the Detroit News: “Better not make a lot of mistakes in the middle of the plate against their lineup.”
It’s funny. We’ve been watching this club for a year and see the warts. But other clubs see the six guys with 20 homers or more and the three with 30 or more.
They see landmines instead of holes in swings.