By almost any measure, the Orioles had a horrible first half. It’s not likely that the second half will be measurably better, but manager Brandon Hyde is trying to maintain an equal amount of optimism and realism.
“We’ve gone through quite a bit these first 80-something games,” Hyde said last week in St. Petersburg, Florida “It’s not been easy. We knew it was going to be a tough road, and we knew where we were, obviously starting this process out and our shortcomings.”
The Orioles play nearly half their games against the four other teams in the American League East: Boston, New York, Tampa Bay and Toronto. They’re just 13-26 against them with their only winning record (5-4) coming against the Blue Jays.
“We play in a tough division against a quality opponent almost every single night,” Hyde said. “I think we’ve assessed a lot so far and we’re going to continue to. I’d like to get back to those games that we were playing the first couple of months where we were really playing competitive baseball.”
Hyde had to watch an awful stretch last month when the Orioles lost 10 straight, their longest losing streak in 10 years, and 13 of 14. In those 13 losses, the Orioles gave up 10 or more runs six times.
In the nine games since that stretch ended, the Orioles haven’t given up more than six runs in any games.
The Orioles are 6-26 in games decided by five or more runs, and 6-11 in one-run games. They’ve won just a single one-run game since May 1, a maddening 12-11 win at Texas on June 4 that left Hyde as angry as he’s been after many losses.
“Now, I think we have more experience and we know our guys a little bit better. I think we would win some of those closer games that we played early on,” Hyde said.
The second-half Orioles will start play on Friday with eight players on their 25-man roster who weren’t there on Opening Day — if no other moves beyond adding right-handed pitcher Aaron Brooks are made.
Catcher Chance Sisco and outfielder Anthony Santander are two of the eight. They received regular playing time over the last month, and they and others are likely to get extended looks in the final 73 games.
“I think we’re going to continue to get young, too,” Hyde said. “Santander’s going to play a lot the second half, Sisco, these type of guys. We’re going to be throwing a lot of 24-, 25-year-olds out on the field, let them develop at the big league level.”
The Orioles are at the bottom of nearly pitching category. Their 5.59 ERA and 170 home runs allowed are the worst in the majors.
“I was looking at our pitching numbers,” Hyde said on July 3. “I’d like to see that really, really improve. We have a lot of guys who are having tough years on the mound.”
Orioles relievers have a 6.21 ERA and none has an ERA lower than 4.29.
“You’ve got to be able to pitch to win in this league,” Hyde said. “You’ve got to be able to pitch to keep games close in this league. I think our starters have done a pretty good job for the most part, especially recently. I’d just like to see our bullpen guys start to keep us in games a little bit more.”