One series down, and these Orioles have struggled in the same ways as 2017 - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Dan Connolly

One series down, and these Orioles have struggled in the same ways as 2017

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

There’s no reason to sugarcoat this – after an electrifying home opener, the Orioles delivered two consecutive clunkers against the Minnesota Twins that brought the primary flaws of 2017 back to the forefront as the Orioles embark on a brutal, two-city road trip to Houston and New York.

The hitters crawled into a collective funk against solid but not world-dominant pitchers and the rotation dug an early hole for which the crawling offense had no shot to scale.

OK, before we hit all the negatives, it is prudent to note the Orioles did not get swept by a Twins club that made the playoffs in 2017 and have improved its roster this year.

And it was Game 3 of 162 – there’s an eternity left here in the season.

That’s really all I’ve got, silver-lining wise.

Moving on.

Let’s start with an offense that managed 11 hits and five runs in 28 innings (plus one batter). The Orioles could only muster five hits in 21 innings against Minnesota’s trio of starters: Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson and Jose Berrios. Those guys are good pitchers; they’re not making hitters tremble in their cleats, however.

The punchless offense was particularly glaring Sunday, when the Orioles had one hit through eight innings, a double against the left field wall that Minnesota’s Eddie Rosario could have caught. Otherwise, Berrios would have taken a perfect game into the ninth.

On Saturday, Gibson – Kyle, not Bob – carried a no-hitter into the eighth. Odorizzi threw six innings of two-hit ball on Thursday.

We all know the Orioles can score runs in bunches; we also know they go ice cold in painstakingly long stretches with their free-swinging approach. They fanned 30 times in the three-game series (though they did draw 13 walks; baby steps).

Currently, only two Orioles – Sisco and Manny Machado — have more than one hit in these three games.

Jones has one hit in 12 at-bats and Tim Beckham has one hit in 11. Both are homers. Jonathan Schoop has one hit in 13 at-bats, and it is a single.

Then there’s Chris Davis. He is hitless in 12 at-bats with two walks, but only one strikeout – more baby steps.

Through three games, this unorthodox Davis leadoff hitter experiment hasn’t worked. You have to assume the plug will be pulled soon, and it should be.

“I’m not married to it, but we certainly are looking for something to try and get him going a little bit early in the season. It hasn’t been the case so far. But like I said when we first started talking about it, we’ll look at it, step back and see cause and effect or whatever you want to call it. We’re always looking for ways to get better,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “But Chris is not the only one right now three games into the season with 159 left that’s not doing exactly what we know they’re going to do.”

Davis said he is fine with whichever way the manager decides to go.

“I think it’s just important for me to be in there every day, whether it’s in the one-hole, three-hole, four-hole, wherever it is. I know what my job is. It doesn’t really change where I am in the order,” Davis said. “We talked about it before the season started, kind of the fact that he wasn’t married to the idea.”

Then there is the Orioles’ starting pitching. It was supposed to be much improved this year, if only because it’s darn near unfathomable that it could get worse.

And Dylan Bundy provided hope Thursday with seven shutout innings.

But the rotation unraveled from there. Andrew Cashner allowed five runs (four earned) in five innings Saturday. Kevin Gausman surrendered six runs, all earned, in four innings Sunday. Both gave up three homers.

The Orioles were down 4-0 by the fourth Saturday; down 4-0 after the first inning Sunday.

From watching last season, it’s obvious how demoralizing that can be – to be in a deep hole before the game is half over.

“Because of some of the challenges we had last year, I’m sure it’s something (to be concerned about) … But I’m sure our guys are mature enough to know those things have a way of changing real quickly,” Showalter said. “We know Chris (Tillman) is capable of better. We hope that starts tomorrow. We’re going to hold onto the thought that these guys are not going to have a situation like that as often as we had last year. Last couple of days it’s been like that, though.”

A pass can be given to Cashner, who was making his first start as an Oriole.

But it’s hard not to have some concern about Gausman, whose velocity was down substantially Sunday, especially early on when he was barely touching the low-90s with his fastball. It ultimately crept to 94 as the afternoon progressed.

Afterward, Gausman said he was fine physically. He just wasn’t locating the fastball well.

“For whatever reason, it kind of wasn’t there today. I felt like I got better as the game went on, really with everything. But I will say early on I just didn’t really feel as locked in as I have been in spring,” Gausman said. “I don’t know if maybe having a couple extra days off had something to do with that, but my overall feel for my pitches wasn’t what it has been.”

The other concern is that Gausman, for whatever reason, has struggled in the first half and thrived in the second half for most of his career. He was hoping to get out to a fast start this year, but he surrendered a home run on his first pitch of 2018.

That’s obviously far from ideal, though Showalter stresses that one rocky start doesn’t mean Gausman is going to have a rough first half.

“It’s one game. Let’s see what the next one brings and the next one brings and the next one brings,” Showalter said. “It’s one game against a really good team and I know how people think the past is always going to repeat. It doesn’t. Kevin’s a good pitcher. He showed that last year and the year before. He’ll have some good outings ahead of him in the first half.”

It’s one series. Not even a blip in the season. We all should remember that.

But the unsettling part here is that the struggles that torpedoed the last part of 2017 greeted the Orioles almost immediately when the games began to count in 2018.

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28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Osfan73

    April 1, 2018 at 5:57 pm

    If Buck is always looking for ways to get better then he needs to get CD out of the leadoff spot, please!! Just that move alone makes the lineup better.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 1, 2018 at 6:57 pm

      I would assume that is coming.

  2. Orial

    April 1, 2018 at 7:08 pm

    It is a repeat of last season. Alarming and normally I might say it’s early but Houston,NY coming up ON THE ROAD is overpowering. Gausman an enigma,Davis a scapegoat for an offense that continues to falter. Never thought I’d say this but–“when does Trumbo return?” Starting to worry that all the praise we want to give the hitters may be a falsification. Can I say OVERRATED?

    • Dan Connolly

      April 1, 2018 at 7:25 pm

      I’d say early. But again bad signs aren’t good signs.

  3. jkneps63

    April 1, 2018 at 7:12 pm

    Time to go full rebuild mode IMO. Pretty sure others will agree as the season progresses and the O’s win % is hovering around 0.400. High OBP and low WHIP wins games, Orioles have neither of these going for them except in the bullpen. Trade Manny and get what you can for him. Same goes for Jones, Crush, and Trumbo; maybe even consider trading Schoop if he will bring 3 or more prospects. Time to say goodbye to Duquette and Showalter too, one brings in mediocre players and the other isn’t insisting they play disciplined ball. Pitching coach and hitting coach need to go too. Clean house, start over with a new philosophy that isn’t beholden to three run homers…

    • Dan Connolly

      April 1, 2018 at 7:26 pm

      There have been three games played.

      • jkneps63

        April 1, 2018 at 8:33 pm

        It’s going to be all down hill for the next 159…

    • Ben1

      April 1, 2018 at 9:34 pm

      Wasn’t rub on Buck that as great as he is, he gets too close and too loyal to his players. I seem to remember that is why he got fired in NY ans AZ. Can caving to Manny and leaving Brach in so long be defined as too close or too loyal?

    • Dan Connolly

      April 2, 2018 at 12:15 am

      Actually no. He resigned from NYY because he wouldn’t fire his hitting coach. Had nothing to do with players. In Arizona, the regime wanted a change and he was there from the beginning.

    • Jbiglen49

      April 2, 2018 at 1:49 am

      Davis is an immovable object. Trumbo won’t be moved easily either. 3 games in isn’t and won’t be the time to tear it down though. The only guys we may deal that would be bringing back a significant prospect are Machado and Schoop . Jones is more valuable to the Orioles than he is elsewhere in a trade. That’s just the sad truth. We could move Adam easily but it would just be for salary relief. Andrew Mccutchen is a superior player at this point and the Pirates couldn’t even get back a significant piece for him.

  4. bickel57

    April 1, 2018 at 9:17 pm

    Starting the season like we ended the last one. Few people hitting. Keep Sisco in and let him leadoff. Until they start to hit juggle the lineup. I give the starters benefit of the doubt for 2 or 3 starts after that a trend starts. Hopefully when Cobb is ready to pitch we have a line up that is hitting. The next 2 series aren’t going to help the hitting psyche.

    • Ben1

      April 1, 2018 at 9:35 pm

      Started last year 7 – 0

    • Dan Connolly

      April 2, 2018 at 12:17 am

      Lead off Sisco? Aye Caramba, what is happening to this board?

      • Jbiglen49

        April 2, 2018 at 1:45 am

        You obviously can’t lead off with Sisco at this point. He’s the backup catcher and he’s barely gotten his feet wet in the big leagues. But, if you want to look at it objectively he’ll likely have a higher or as high BB% than anyone on the team. He doesn’t clog the bases up like Davis would if he were capable of getting on anymore. It’s not going to happen and it shouldn’t happen yet. But it’s not hard for me to imagine Chance Sisco being our best option to lead off by mid July or next season.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 2, 2018 at 11:25 am

      I get the OBP, but he ain’t in Kansas anymore. If he’s gonna be a MLB starting catcher defense and game-calling has to be his focus. And that means, at least initially, the offense will suffer. The kid can play but I feel like people are underestimating how hard it is to play catcher at MLB level.

  5. Bancells Moustache

    April 1, 2018 at 9:23 pm

    Man, these guys suck.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 2, 2018 at 12:17 am

      You talking about the players?

  6. Ben1

    April 1, 2018 at 9:30 pm

    Deja September all over again? Hope not. Watching Tillman tomorrow will bring us all up or be more deja vu.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 2, 2018 at 12:18 am

      Sure is not an inviting first assignment.

  7. Jbiglen49

    April 2, 2018 at 1:38 am

    The problem is this Twins team is likely the hurdle we have to climb to make the postseason. Getting obliterated 2/3 games at OPACY with 3 of your top 4 starters pitching isn’t encouraging for sure. We can move Davis off of the leadoff spot but there’s no replacement on this roster that’s significantly better at that spot. This is nothing new though, we’ve been working with patchwork leadoff hitters for years and years. Based solely off of tools Chance Sisco is probably our best option to leadoff and he’s obviously not going to do that or play everyday.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 2, 2018 at 9:19 am

      I’m not sure Sisco has the tools to leadoff — especially if speed is a primary ingredient. But he does take walks. I see him as a great No. 2 — when he has come into his own as a player.

      • Jbigle1

        April 2, 2018 at 12:51 pm

        I agree on him being a #2 hitter eventually. The only thing is if you have the skills to be a #2 hitter you’re far and away the best leadoff hitter option for the Orioles.

  8. Boog Robinson Robinson

    April 2, 2018 at 6:54 am

    Waaaaaaaaaaaah!! C’mon boys & girls … it was freakin’ game 3 for crying out loud. Just wait for Mike Wright to get his chance! That’ll shut everybody up!

    • Dan Connolly

      April 2, 2018 at 9:19 am

      Hahaha. You the man, Boog.

  9. Dpsmith22

    April 2, 2018 at 9:44 am

    The pitching will improve. Let’s worry about that in a couple more weeks.

    BUT, I am not sure why you guys are complaining about the offense. Its the same players with hitters like them, added.

    Duquette had a chance to improve the balance of this offense. Instead, he acquired Beckham and Rasmus. Both of these guys are in the same “bash or Trash” mold as our current roster. The blame lies there.

    The O’s will be streaky. The O’s will hit homers. The O’s will play bad boring baseball. The O’s will go back to back quite a few times.

    The O’s will win around 80 games. The good news is, Duquette will be gone soon.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 2, 2018 at 11:26 am

      I do think this is a team that will hover between 80-85 wins. And so that is a competitive club with obvious flaws. Which is basically what you wrote above

  10. Creatively_19

    April 2, 2018 at 11:21 am

    Take Davis out of the leadoff and replace him with which hitter that has played better? Just curious, I know he’s not long for the spot anyhow.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 2, 2018 at 11:27 am

      Ah, 19. Stop tossing in logic.

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