Orioles win series in Toronto, but finish first half without a sweep - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Paul Folkemer

Orioles win series in Toronto, but finish first half without a sweep

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

For an Orioles team that’s bringing up the rear of the major league standings, a series win is nothing to complain about.

A series sweep, though, will have to wait a bit longer.

The Orioles, after taking the first two games against the Blue Jays in Toronto over the weekend, were denied a sweep with a 6-1 loss on Sunday, their final game before the All-Star break.

It marks just the fourth time in Orioles history that the club entered the All-Star break without sweeping a series of two games or more. The 1955, 1988 and 1991 teams — each of whom finished their season with 95 or more losses — also accomplished the dubious feat.

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Last year’s Orioles, the worst club in franchise history, didn’t have any three-game sweeps in the first half, but did sweep a two-gamer against the New York Mets from June 5-6. Their only three-game sweep of the season occurred late in the year, August 27-29, against the Blue Jays in Baltimore.

So far this year, the Orioles have rarely put themselves in position to sweep. Only three times have they won the first two games of a series. In the previous two cases — in Toronto on April 3, and at home against Cleveland on June 30 — they dropped the finale, as they did on Sunday.

With the loss, the Orioles head into the break with a 27-62 record, two games behind the next-worst major league team, the Kansas City Royals (30-61). They are, however, three games better than the 2018 Orioles were at the same 89-game mark (24-65). Last year’s club played 97 games before the All-Star break, going 28-69 in the first half en route to a 115-loss season.

It might not be much comfort to Orioles fans that this year’s squad has an incrementally better record than last year’s historically awful team. Still, the club has shown signs of life in the past 10 days, winning two of its last three series of the first half. It’s not much, but in a season where wins are hard to come by, the Orioles will take every one they can get.

Cashner’s bounceback season continues

The Orioles’ final win of the first half, an 8-1 thrashing of the Blue Jays on Saturday, featured another stellar performance from Andrew Cashner. The veteran pitcher stymied Toronto for seven innings, giving up just one run and three hits.

Cashner has pitched brilliantly since June. He’s thrown five consecutive quality starts, going 3-1 with a 1.41 ERA. Opposing batters are hitting only .168 with a .423 OPS against him.

Cashner’s overall numbers are solid. He finished the first half with a 9-3 record and 3.83 ERA, and across the board, his stats have improved over last year. He’s averaging nearly half a baserunner less per inning — cutting his WHIP from 1.582 to 1.194 — and has also slashed his hit rate (from 10.4 to 8.0), HR rate (1.5 to 1.0) and walk rate (3.8 to 2.7) while raising his strikeout rate from 5.8 to 6.2.

Perhaps most impressively, the Orioles have a winning record when Cashner starts, at 11-6. No other Baltimore starter can boast that claim, not even All-Star John Means. (The Orioles have a 6-8 record in Means’ starts.) Cashner has helped give the overworked bullpen a reprieve. He’s worked five or more innings in all but two of his 17 starts.

The 32-year-old is eligible for free agency after the season, unless he pitches 187 innings this year, in which case his $10 million team option for 2020 automatically vests. Cashner has never thrown 187 innings in a season, and he’s currently on pace for 175.

Naturally, trade speculation has swirled around Cashner. When the season began, he wasn’t seen as one of the Orioles’ most valuable trade chips. His forgettable 2018 campaign included a 4-15 record and a career-worst 5.29 ERA, and he was still owed $8 million for the 2019 season. Any trade, it seemed, would essentially be a contract dump, with the Orioles possibly having to pick up part of his salary while getting only a marginal prospect in return.

Cashner’s 2019 renaissance, though, has changed the narrative. The right-hander now looks like a legitimate trade target who might appeal to pitching-hungry contenders at the July 31 deadline.

With plenty of clubs still in the running for the postseason — 20 of 30 are within five games of a playoff spot — it could be a seller’s market, and Cashner is one of the more intriguing veteran starters who’s clearly on the block. He’s not the caliber of San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner or Toronto’s Marcus Stroman, who will likely attract the most attention from trade suitors, but he’s a solid second-tier option.

A trade of Cashner, one of the Orioles’ most reliable starters, would further weaken the club’s already thin pitching depth. But if Mike Elias can land a noteworthy prospect for him, it’s a move the Orioles might need to make.

Davis makes a contribution

The ongoing question of Chris Davis’ future with the Orioles has loomed over the club all season. Coming off his disastrous 2018 season, in which he set an MLB record for the lowest average (.168) by a qualified hitter, Davis has spent extended stretches of 2019 in a similarly hopeless funk. And with top prospect Ryan Mountcastle, who’s primarily a first baseman, pounding on the door for a big league promotion, the Orioles are nearing a tipping point with Davis, who is in the fourth season of a seven-year, $161 million deal.

Occasionally, though, Davis has shown signs of life at the plate this year, delaying any consideration the Orioles may have of parting ways with their longtime slugger.

Davis excelled in Toronto over the weekend, starting on Friday and Sunday and reaching base five times in eight plate appearances. His hits included a home run and a double. He’s now homered twice in four games in July after going homerless in June, and he has hits in seven of his last eight games. Davis lifted his average to .189, his highest mark since May 17, and his OPS to .606, his best since May 21.

It’s not the first time Davis has run off a hot stretch of games. From April 13 — the day he snapped his MLB-record 0-for-54 hitless drought — through May 12, Davis batted .290 with a .952 OPS, homering five times in 21 games. That was followed, though, by another month of futility. Davis hit .116 with a .332 OPS and 37 strikeouts in 75 plate appearances from May 15 to June 19.

The overall season numbers, of course, are still a severe disappointment for the highest-paid player in Orioles history. Davis has lost playing time under Brandon Hyde this year, getting benched against most left-handed starters, and he doesn’t figure to be part of the rebuilding Orioles’ future plans, even if his contract is unmovable.

As long as Davis remains in Baltimore, though, the Orioles will gladly accept any contributions he can give. For the moment, he’s trending up.

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. CalsPals

    July 8, 2019 at 7:18 am

    It’s a shame Cash & Crush’ contracts weren’t reversed, I think Cash can be a contributor down the line as a vet for our younger pitchers, especially since he likes being here, I understand the dynamics of his value, he should only be traded if we get crazy value, so far we really haven’t gotten anything but warm bodies for most of our salary dumping last year…Go O’s…

    • Paul Folkemer

      July 8, 2019 at 1:12 pm

      It all comes down to Cashner’s value, CalsPals. He’s no longer in “salary dump” territory. The Orioles will only trade him if they can get a worthwhile return.

  2. CalsPals

    July 8, 2019 at 7:27 am

    On the 1/2 full side, O’s pitchers in the future game held their own, no K’s, but no runs, they both looked far better than Colorado’s closer who was 20/20 on saves this yr, curious where the texas’ kids ball would have landed in the Rockies, makes me want to visit some of the O’s minor parks…go O’s

  3. SpinMaster

    July 8, 2019 at 8:23 am

    A sweep of the Blue Jays would have been really nice and a great way to end the first half. Alas, this game looked like a lot of our earlier games where we get dominated by a pitcher and our batters can’t seem to get on base in any way, shape or form. It looks like we still have to learn to play a different kind of game when the opposing pitcher seems to have our number. Yesterday, reminded me of that ALCS in 2014.

  4. Orial

    July 8, 2019 at 8:27 am

    I may be in the minority but I’m not keen about trading Cashner. What he is presently bringing to the team on the mound and in the clubhouse far outweighs what any package of middling prospects could offer. I may be wrong. Don’t just trade for the sake of trading. Now if a solid prospect is thrown in–definitely. What’s happening to Dwight Jr? He’s fading fast.

    • CalsPals

      July 8, 2019 at 9:47 am

      I don’t think you’re in the minority, I’ve been saying that all along, I’m guessing they will trade him, although I think it will be a huge mistake, what pitcher would then be your vet for leadership, Givens, Blier, Cobb? None of them could be a plus like Cash…go O’s…

    • Camden Brooks

      July 8, 2019 at 9:49 am

      I’m torn on the Cashner situation. He’s pitching so well now, but with each great outing the caliber of player(s) we would get in return goes up.

    • ClayDal

      July 8, 2019 at 10:08 am

      The issue with Cashner is his contract. He has a 10 million dollar option which automatically kicks in if he pitches 340 innings between last year and this. He is unlikely to do that but the Orioles could still pick up the option. The question is would the Orioles do that? Nothing they have done since the trade deadline last season indicates that they are going to make any large expenditures. Don’t forget Alex Cobb is still around and his health and contract preclude any trade. If they aren’t going to pick up Cashner’s option the best thing to do is trade him, get the best deal possible and see if you can get him back in the off-season for less money. It will make for an unpleasant August and September, but hey they are 27-62 as it is. Bring on the Ravens!

    • Paul Folkemer

      July 8, 2019 at 1:15 pm

      Regarding Dwight Jr., I think we’re seeing why the Blue Jays were willing to part ways with him. His bat is his calling card, but he makes a lot of mistakes defensively and doesn’t have a good arm. He’s a fine stopgap for a rebuilding team, but it’s looking less and less likely that he’ll be an important cog for the future.

    • Camden Brooks

      July 8, 2019 at 4:11 pm

      I agree Paul. Athletic player, but his mental lapses in the field and base paths are an issue. I think he is trying too hard to make more of a play than is given.

  5. BARay

    July 8, 2019 at 8:47 am

    The Os are 17-14 when either Cash or Means start? If true then they are 10-48!! when anybody else starts. Playing under .200 ball! Wow.

    • CalsPals

      July 8, 2019 at 10:41 am

      Obviously we just need to start Cash & Means the rest of the yr…lol…go O’s…

      • ButchBird59

        July 8, 2019 at 1:05 pm

        I believe it was the old Boston Braves that had Warren Spahn and Johnny Sane. The saying went something like, “Spahn and Sane and pray for rain.” 🙂

        Total hunch here: I don’t think Cashner’s going anywhere unless a bunch of the major contenders’ starters blow tires with injuries and offer a major deal. By today’s standards, Cashner’s salary isn’t insane and there’s no immediate help in the high minor leagues. I would think Elias’ asking price in the trade market should be and would be rather high. We’ll see.

        • willmiranda

          July 8, 2019 at 2:18 pm

          Not to quibble, but it was “Sain.” You got the saying right. That was when three good starters –not five– was the rule.

  6. willmiranda

    July 8, 2019 at 10:41 am

    Cashner is a solid number 2 major league pitcher whom we have under contract for another year and a half if we want. How many “noteworthy prospects” can guarantee being that good at any time in the future? Of course, if you’re just into the process, a couple lifetime minor leaguers to fill gaps in the system might be considered more valuable. For the present, when Cashner pitches, everyone else plays better, so the whole team will depreciate if he is traded. But if you are resigned to playing badly, this is no problem.

    • Paul Folkemer

      July 8, 2019 at 1:18 pm

      I don’t think the Orioles are inclined to pick up Cashner’s $10 million option, no matter how well he pitches this year. That’s a significant expenditure for a rebuilding team to make to a 32-year-old who won’t be part of the next winning O’s club. But it’s possible that Cashner’s option year could be intriguing for a trade partner, if they want a pitcher who will be under team control next year instead of a rental.

  7. cedar

    July 8, 2019 at 12:48 pm

    I’m torn on Cashner as well. The real question I have in a trade scenario is who replaces Cashner’s innings and what effect that has on an already stretched bullpen? I get that this is a lost/rebuilding year, but how many pitchers can we keep bringing up and down on the Norfolk shuttle before arms get tired or players you may want to preserve get pushed into service before they are ready?

    • Paul Folkemer

      July 8, 2019 at 1:22 pm

      That, I think, is the key question when considering a Cashner trade. Even if he’s not part of the Orioles’ future, he’s helping them in the present, and the O’s already have precious little pitching depth. If Cashner goes, the O’s might try to trade for another journeyman minor league Eshelman/Wojciechowski type to eat some innings. But yes, it’ll be a challenge to replace Cashner’s contributions.

    • ClayDal

      July 8, 2019 at 1:37 pm

      Of course in September you can expand the roster so you just bring up everyone who’s been riding the shuttle all year and keep them in the bullpen. It could get ugly, but frankly it already is. If you can’t get any real value for Cashner it might just make sense to keep him, decline the option, and try to sign him for a lot less as a free agent. Cashner at around 5 million, a healthy Cobb( big if) and Means making little more than the minimum could actually be a respectable rotation at a reasonable cost I didn’t forget Bundy, it’s just I think he may be traded now or in the off-season

      • Jbigle1

        July 8, 2019 at 3:14 pm

        I think getting cashner back at 5 per is a dream. Coming off a year like this he’s going to be searching for another 2 year deal w incentives. Maybe you can get his base salary at 5 but I have to imagine he’d have a ton of incentives to get him near the level he’s at now. I’m on the trade him boat for sure. I think at this point we’d get an actual prospect for him. Even if it’s a future reliever prospect that’s more value to the next good orioles team than cash will provide. I’m all for trying to bring him back next year as well I just think he will be expensive.

        Eshelman, Wojo, Ynoa, Means, and Bundy will have to eat the innings. That leaves room for guys like Akin to take a few turns and perhaps we see an Aaron Brooks or Luis Ortiz a time or two as well. It’s not ideal but we aren’t going anywhere. If there’s an upside prospect to be had I want them.

  8. cb

    July 8, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    Maybe they could do a package deal, Cash, Bundy, and Nunez for example.

    • ClayDal

      July 8, 2019 at 5:11 pm

      Problem there is that the receiving team would have to add those 3 to the 25 and 40 man rosters. The 3 players that the receiving team would have to remove from their rosters probably would not be players the Orioles would be interested in. The Orioles would most likely be interested in prospects who are not currently on the receiving teams 40 man roster. That’s why you rarely see large package trades in baseball. Not like in the NBA where you have 3 for 6 trades and 2/3 of the players are released as soon as they go to their new teams

  9. Bumble bee

    July 8, 2019 at 6:30 pm

    Keep cash even at the end of the year u have him pitch an inning hear and there to hits his goal. The young pitcher needs a guy like this to show the way and he WANTS to stay in Baltimore. Davis on the other hand, give him a train ticket and say see ya and thanks for the memories

    • ClayDal

      July 8, 2019 at 6:56 pm

      Unfortunately this isn’t like “ Wheel of Fortune “ where you give Davis 6 months supply of Chips Ahoy cookies, thank him for playing and he goes away. Counting deferred money they owe him 93 million after this year. They may keep him a little longer

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