OK, Orioles fans, your team has made it through the gauntlet.
Barely, terribly, painfully.
But the Orioles finally get somewhat of a break in their schedule — well, as much as you can in the major leagues.
This month, the Orioles had to face all five American League teams that made the postseason in 2017: the Minnesota Twins, Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians.
The Indians left Baltimore on Monday night, winning three of four and dropping the Orioles to an abysmal 6-17 record.
Of those 23 games, the Orioles faced last year’s playoff clubs 17 times. And were 5-12 in those contests.
The tough early schedule is a factor in how bad this team has started. No question.
It’s only one factor, though. These Orioles haven’t hit or played good defense or pitched particularly well, either. Those are more important factors.
Case in point: They are 1-5 in their other six games against teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year: Toronto and Detroit.
Technically speaking, the Orioles’ schedule should get easier starting Tuesday, when the Tampa Bay Rays come to town for a three-game series. They’ll be followed by the Tigers. Then the Orioles head on the road to play at the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics before coming back home to host the Kansas City Royals, Rays again and the surprising Philadelphia Phillies.
Of that group, only the Angels were considered particularly formidable coming into the year.
That change in competition is something the Orioles have noticed — but can’t celebrate.
“I think it’d be ignorant to ignore that, but, at the same time, it’s a new year. If we consider ourself a playoff team, then we’ve got to compete with those teams, whether it’s early in the season, late in the season, whenever,” Orioles first baseman Chris Davis said. ” We’ve got to find a way to push a runner across. I hate to try to take anything positive away from a loss, but we’re in these games all the way to the end. We’ve just got to find a way to scratch (out) a few more runs.”
Nothing is easy for the Orioles right now. And that includes the “easy” part of this schedule. The Rays (8-13) are riding a four-game winning streak that included a sweep of the Twins over the weekend.
The Tigers (9-11) have a better record than the Orioles, partially because of that sweep in Detroit last week. The Orioles rarely play well in Oakland and have had one winning record against the Royals in the past five season series.
So, yeah, this upcoming 20-game stretch is, on paper, less treacherous than the 23 the Orioles already experienced.
But, make no mistake, those future opponents are also looking at the upcoming games against the Orioles as ones they should — and need to — win, too.
Gausman’s excellent outing and immaculate inning
I’m not sure which cliché to use to discuss Kevin Gausman’s performance Monday in a 2-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
He deserved a better fate.
Or he threw just one bad pitch that cost him.
We’ll go with the latter, since we’re contractually obligated to use the former for Dylan Bundy starts.
But know this, Gausman is continuing to pitch well after his initial outing to begin the year. He allowed four hits, including a two-run homer to Yonder Alonso, in eight innings Monday.
He walked only one and struck out seven batters, including all three in the seventh on nine pitches — completing an immaculate inning.
“I didn’t realize it until I got in the dugout. They were a little more pumped up than they’d normally be,” Gausman said. “Told me I tied Major League history or something. I did it in college once before. But to do it in the big leagues is obviously a little different.”
Radio musings — thoughts on Alex Cobb
In my weekly radio show Monday, my guest was Bill Chastain, the long-time Tampa Bay Rays beat writer for mlb.com. One of the primary reasons I wanted to talk to Chastain was to get his take on Alex Cobb, who had spent his entire pro career with the Rays before signing a four-year, $57 million deal with the Orioles in March.
Chastain said he’s always been impressed with Cobb’s acumen for pitching and that he’s not concerned about Cobb despite the right-hander’s 15.43 ERA through two games. Give it time, Chastain said, and Cobb will be fine. Chastain also discussed the Rays, who have won four straight heading into tonight’s game at Camden Yards that pits Cobb against his old club.
In the second part of my interview with Chastain, we talk about his new biography of Chicago Cubs manager (and former Rays skipper) Joe Maddon. The book, and the interview, are worth checking out.