The Orioles are going to win a lot or go down in flames this season depending on what their starting pitching does.
We all know that.
But it sure wouldn’t hurt if Manny Machado starts hitting like Manny Machado.
He certainly did that Tuesday. The team’s best player had arguably his best game of the season.
He had four hits – a season-high – including two home runs for his first multi-homer game of the season. He drove in four, scored three and improved his season average from .214 to .227 in one evening.
Machado now has eight RBIs so far in the first five games of this homestand – all of which have come in the second spot in the batting order.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter moved Machado from his customary three hole to shake things up. Did that trigger Machado’s big performance in Tuesday’s 6-5 comeback victory against the Cleveland Indians?
“I don’t think so,” Showalter said. “It’s easy to say, but he’s hit some home runs and had some good nights in the three hole this year, too. I am a believer in a little different, a change. Just a different look sometimes. But I don’t put a whole lot of stock in it. Manny would hit well wherever we played him. He looked real comfortable tonight.”
Machado had basically the same take as his manager.
“The pitchers are going to throw me the same pitches,” he said. “Just because I’m in the two-hole doesn’t mean I have my name changed.”
I agree. It’s a matter of time before Machado’s talent rises to the surface; I don’t care if he is batting second or seventh.
But the Orioles need him. Badly. That’s a fact, too. Machado, of course, wouldn’t bite on that assessment.
“It’s a team sport. You can’t win one side—offensively, defensively, pitching, whatever,” Machado said. “We’ve all got to stick together and do what we’ve got to do as a team. We’ll figure it out as a team. At the end of the day, we’re not going to blame it on the pitchers. We’re not hitting either. We’ve got to get together as a team and do the little things that count, and hopefully that takes us to the next level.”
Castro needed in big spot
The acquisition of Miguel Castro in April for cash considerations from the Colorado Rockies actually received a little more of a blip than the normal Dan Duquette minor-league acquisition.
Simply because Castro is only 22 and started out his major league career as the anointed closer for the Toronto Blue Jays to begin the 2015 season.
But Castro couldn’t hold the job, ultimately was dealt to the Rockies in the Troy Tulowitzki blockbuster, struggled there and is now an Oriole.
That he is so young, has a big arm and had minor-league options made him a little different than some of the other flotsam the Orioles often find floating adrift. His introduction to the Orioles’ system wasn’t noteworthy, though, a 5.59 ERA in five games at Bowie.
So, who would have thought they’d have him pitching in key situations in the majors in June?
Castro, however, came up huge Tuesday in the seventh, when he entered with the bases loaded and one out to relieve Richard Bleier.
He struck out Yan Gomes on three pitches – all sliders – and then induced an inning-ending groundout by Bradley Zimmer.
It earned Castro his first big league win.
And it earned him even more credibility with Showalter.
“This might be a guy who hopefully will kind of seize an opportunity and run with it. I know Ramon (Martinez) has talked to him about it, and obviously Roger (McDowell) talks to these guys every day,” Showalter said. “But you’ve got to feed them little by little. As I’m sure you’ve seen, it’s been a little give here and a little give there and if they handle that, you try to give them a little bit more.”
That seventh-inning jam is usually Mychal Givens’ spot. But with Darren O’Day on the disabled list – O’Day will likely be back Friday if his simulated game goes well today – Givens has been needed in the eighth.
And so Castro got the call in the tough spot. And he thrived. He has now allowed two earned runs – both home runs – in eight innings. You have to figure he’ll get more chances – at least while he is still up in the majors.
Tillman struggles again
I’m not really sure what more there is to say about Chris Tillman.
This is not the Tillman we are accustomed to seeing in an Orioles uniform. He gave up five runs in four-plus innings Tuesday and now has an 8.39 ERA in nine starts this season.
He’s not right, whether it’s health – a shoulder injury kept him out this year until early May — or arm strength or mechanics. Whatever, he’s not the guy the he or the Orioles expected this year.
“It’s frustrating, but you keep thinking about the same thing over and over again you’re not going to get anywhere,” Tillman said. “You’ve got to buy into the process and keep working. You’ve got to show up tomorrow ready to start and get better for the next start. I know I’m not the only one, but you’ve got to keep going You can’t just dwell on all the negative.”
Frankly, I’m not sure what the Orioles can do about Tillman’s situation. They have no one better, no one with his experience. No one with his track record.
So, the Orioles are forced to hope the hard-working Tillman can figure it out. That’s basically what Showalter said, though he hinted the leash is getting shorter.
“You always talk about, if this doesn’t get any better what are we going to do? Nobody knows that more than Chris,” Showalter said. “It’s a little bit different proposition than what we did with Ubaldo (Jimenez) because Ubaldo is able to pitch out of the (bullpen). I’m hoping Chris can solve this as a starter, but obviously the return we’re getting right now isn’t as good as he needs to give us and he knows that.”
Showalter was asked point blank if he’s getting close to making a change.
“He’ll make his next start,” the manager said, flatly.
Doug Stamper likes the O’s, dislikes the Yanks
Actor Michael J. Kelly Jr., was in town while shooting the upcoming movie, “All Square,” and was given the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Camden Yards.
Kelly a two-time Emmy Award nominee, may not be a household name, but his character, ruthless Doug Stamper, is a vital part of the award-winning Netflix drama, “House of Cards.”
Kelly grew up in Atlanta and is a Braves fan, but has spent a lot of time filming his political drama in Baltimore and said the Orioles are his American League team. More important for Orioles fans, Kelly said he truly dislikes the Yankees.
“I’m here five, six months of the year and a lot of times it’s during baseball season, where our season coincides, so I come over and see games,” Kelly said. “I’ve lived in New York for 20-some years, and never, ever, for one second considered being a Yankees or Mets fan. Mets, because they are in our (Braves) division and Yankees just because they are so pompous. They don’t even put their names on their uniforms, I can’t stand that, I can’t stand them. So, the Orioles were easy for me. I was like, ‘Oh, they play against the Yankees. Cool.’ That was an easy one.”
It was the first time Kelly ever threw out a ceremonial first pitch. A runner growing up who played baseball sparingly, he said he was exceptionally nervous and didn’t want to make a spectacle of himself. He threw it down the middle, but the throw short-hopped catcher Caleb Joseph.