Which teams have had the most dominant single seasons against the Orioles? - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Paul Folkemer

Which teams have had the most dominant single seasons against the Orioles?

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

The Orioles head to New York today for a four-game series against the Yankees, which will complete the two clubs’ season series for 2019.

Forgive the Orioles if they aren’t looking forward to the experience.

The season series has been a one-sided affair, to put it mildly. Since winning two of three in the Bronx to open the year, the Orioles haven’t defeated the Yankees since, losing 12 straight games and getting swept four times (including all 10 games at Camden Yards).

The Yankees haven’t just won, they’ve dominated. They’ve already set MLB records for the most home runs against a single opponent in a season (52) and the most at a visiting ballpark (43). Nearly 25 percent of the Yankees’ 210 home runs have come at the expense of the Orioles. They’ve scored three or more runs in every game versus Baltimore this year, and five or more in all but two. And with four games still to play, the damage could get worse this week.

The Yankees, with their 13-2 record against the Orioles, have an .867 winning percentage. It’s not the most successful season a team has ever compiled against Baltimore, though.

Here’s a look at the eight teams that have had the most dominant seasons against the Orioles, by win percentage (min. 12 games).

t-7th: The 2009 Boston Red Sox (16-2, .889)

In their first game against the Red Sox in 2009, the Orioles stormed out to a huge early lead thanks to a seven-run second inning at Fenway Park…and went on to lose the game anyway, 10-8. That pretty much set the tone for the Orioles’ futility versus Boston that year.

The Red Sox ended up sweeping that opening four-game set, and also swept the final three series between the two clubs. The Orioles lost their fair share of blowouts (giving up 10 or more runs six times) but also suffered some agonizingly close losses, including a July 1 game in which they blew a four-run lead in the ninth. Red Sox lefty Jon Lester won all four of his starts against the Orioles that year, extending his career record against Baltimore at the time to 10-0 (his win streak ultimately reached 14 before the Orioles finally beat him in 2012). Jonathan Papelbon notched eight saves.

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The Red Sox feasted on Orioles pitching, crushing them for their highest batting average (.335), on-base percentage (.407) and slugging percentage (.544) against any team. Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and J.D. Drew each topped a 1.000 OPS and racked up 14 or more RBIs. Jacoby Ellsbury batted .432/1.119 and was a perfect 10-for-10 in stolen base attempts. The Orioles’ No. 1 starter, Jeremy Guthrie, was 0-3 with a 7.23 ERA in four starts against Boston.

As hapless as the Orioles were against the Red Sox in 2009, one of their two victories was a memorable one. On June 30, the Orioles pulled off the largest comeback in club history, erasing a nine-run, seventh-inning deficit to stun Boston at Camden Yards.

t-7th: The 1962 Detroit Tigers (16-2, .889)

The 1962 Tigers weren’t that much better than the Orioles — finishing 8 1/2 games ahead of them in the AL standings — and the two clubs had been evenly matched in previous years, with Detroit barely ahead in the all-time season series, 88 wins to 84, entering the season. So it’s a bit surprising that the Tigers dominated the Orioles this time around.

Nothing worked for the Orioles in their matchups with Detroit. Future Hall of Famers Robin Roberts and Hoyt Wilhelm combined for five losses and no wins. A quiet offense, though, was the biggest culprit. The Orioles lost two 1-0 games, one in which the Tigers scored in the first inning and one in which they scored in the 10th. Only three times in 18 games did the Orioles score more than four runs. The one time they scored 10 runs, they allowed 13.

Offensively, the thorn in the Orioles’ side that year was Rocky Colavito, who roped seven homers, 17 RBIs and a 1.116 OPS in 18 games. The Tigers’ pitching standout was lefty Hank Aguirre, whose four starts against the Orioles were all complete game victories. Hall of Famer Jim Bunning also won four games (and saved one), posting a 2.70 ERA and throwing three complete games. The Tigers’ 2.36 ERA against the Orioles was nearly a run better than versus any other team.

6th: The 1999 Toronto Blue Jays (11-1, .916)

The Blue Jays didn’t win a season series against the Orioles until 1984, their eighth year of existence. Since that point, though, they’ve had the Orioles’ number, going 320-242 all time and winning 22 out of 35 season series (with the 2019 season yet to be determined).

The 1999 season was particularly lopsided. The Orioles’ only win in 12 contests came in a 1-0 shutout April 10, the second game between the two clubs. Toronto then won the final 10 in a row. The most brutal series for the Orioles came occurred at SkyDome from June 29-July 1, when the Blue Jays won all three games in their final at-bat, including two walkoff, 10th-inning victories. Reliever John Frascatore got the win in all three games. Five days later in Baltimore, the Blue Jays did it again, winning with a run in the top of the 10th. Orioles closer Mike Timlin, a longtime Blue Jay, suffered two losses and two blown saves against his former club that year.

Had the fourth-place Orioles (78-84) broken even in the season series against the third-place Blue Jays (84-78), the two clubs would’ve switched positions in the AL East standings.

t-2nd: The 1985 Yankees (12-1, .923)

The 2019 Yankees aren’t the first version of the club to dominate the Orioles in a season series. The 1985 club held Baltimore to one win in 13 matchups. They kicked things off with a pair of 10-0 wins at Memorial Stadium in the first series of the year, chasing Orioles starters Scott McGregor and Dennis Martinez — who combined for an 0-4 record and 6.60 ERA against New York that year — in the second inning of each game. After that, the Yankees eked out a bunch of close wins. All but two of the final 10 games were decided by three runs or fewer.

The Yankees had a flair for the dramatic, pulling off four last at-bat victories at home. Three times, they were trailing in the bottom of the ninth, only to plate multiple runs to walk off the Orioles. Baltimore reliever Don Aase had a nightmarish time in New York that season. In four games at Yankee Stadium, he gave up five runs in two innings, blowing two saves and losing twice.

The Orioles’ .213 team average, .289 OBP and .343 SLG versus New York were their worst marks against anyone. Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. was one of several Orioles who struggled that year, hitting .205 with a .625 OPS, no homers and four RBIs in 13 games. The Yankees had their best ERA against Baltimore (2.64); the Orioles had their worst versus New York (5.84).

Nearly every Yankee regular hit well against the Orioles that year (much as they have in 2019). All three starting outfielders — Ken Griffey Sr., Rickey Henderson and Dave Winfield — batted at least .333 with a .600 SLG, as did first baseman Don Mattingly. The Hall of Famer Henderson was unstoppable, reaching base in more than half his plate appearances (.556 OBP) and stealing 17 bases in 18 tries.

t-2nd: The 1986 Tigers (12-1, .923)

A year after the Orioles’ 1-12 showing against the Yankees, they repeated the feat against the Tigers. The difference was that none of these games were particularly close. In the Orioles’ 12 losses, nine were by a margin of three or more runs.

Tigers rookie righty Eric King dominated the Orioles’ bats, going 3-0 with a 0.69 ERA and a save in five games that season. Detroit pitchers posted a 2.52 ERA against the Orioles. Tiger Stadium was a house of horrors for the Orioles’ offense, which batted just .156 with a .476 OPS in six games there, averaging two runs per game. The club’s two most prominent hitters, Ripken and Eddie Murray, combined to hit .159 with no homers and one RBI in Detroit.

Meanwhile, Detroit’s offense hit 21 home runs against the Orioles, their best against any team that year. Slugger Kirk Gibson (.385 average, 1.218 OPS, six homers, 19 RBIs) was an Oriole destroyer. The Orioles’ pitching staff carried a 6.29 ERA against the Tigers, their worst against any club.

t-2nd: The 1987 Red Sox and Blue Jays (each 12-1, .923)

I’ll group these two together because they happened in the same year, marking the fourth time in a three-season span that the Orioles finished 1-12 against an opponent. As the Orioles steadily descended down the AL East standings in the mid- to late-’80s, their division competitors took turns drubbing them in season series, and the Red Sox and Blue Jays each took their turn in 1987.

The Orioles had the misfortune of playing the two teams in succession several times that year, leading to prolonged losing streaks. From June 5-14, the Orioles played 10 straight games against the Blue Jays and Red Sox, losing the first nine before salvaging their lone victory against Toronto. Then from Sept. 10-20, the Orioles played four series in a row against the two clubs — two apiece on the road and at home — and went 1-12.

While the Orioles didn’t hit particularly well against either team, the real problem was their pitching. Against the Blue Jays, the Orioles allowed five or more runs in 11 of the 13 games, and one of those losses made dubious history. During an 18-3 shellacking in Toronto on Sept. 14, the Blue Jays hit 10 home runs, an MLB record that still stands. Catcher Ernie Whitt blasted three of them.

All told, Toronto blasted 31 homers off Orioles pitchers; they hit no more than 20 against any other club. Whitt and eventual AL MVP George Bell each swatted six. The Orioles’ season ERA against the Blue Jays was a brutal 6.45…and that was still better than their unfathomable 7.58 mark against the Red Sox.

The Red Sox as a team batted .349 with a .945 OPS versus Baltimore. Among Boston regulars, Marty Barrett, Spike Owen, Mike Greenwell and Hall of Famer Wade Boggs each hit better than .400 with over a 1.000 OPS. During one stretch, the Orioles allowed 15, 14 and 13 runs in consecutive games to the Red Sox, giving up three grand slams.

1st: The 1988 Kansas City Royals (12-0, 1.000)

Only once in Orioles history has the club been swept in a season series of 10 or more games. It happened, perhaps not surprisingly, during an infamously woeful 1988 season in which the Orioles suffered 107 defeats and began the year with a 21-game losing streak. The Royals did the honors, earning some payback for the 1970 season, in which the Orioles swept Kansas City in a 12-game season series on their way to a World Series championship.

The Royals accounted for six of the Orioles’ losses during the 0-21 skid. They swept a three-game series in Baltimore from April 12-14 (accounting for losses seven through nine) and another three-gamer in Kansas City (losses 16 through 18). Two more sweeps, one in July and one in August, completed the Royals’ perfect season against the Orioles. During that final series, the Royals won all three games in their last at-bat. Orioles reliever Tom Niedenfuer blew a two-run, ninth-inning lead in the opener, then gave up a walkoff in the 12th in the finale.

The Orioles inexplicably couldn’t retire Frank White. Even though the Royals second baseman batted just .235 with a .595 OPS overall in 1988, his numbers against the Orioles were staggering: a .419 average and 1.199 OPS. Of the eight home runs he hit that year, three were against Baltimore.

The Baltimore offense, meanwhile, was stagnant. Royals pitchers combined for a 2.35 ERA and held the Orioles to a .196 average and .590 OPS. Only three times in 12 games did the club score more than three runs.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Chuck

    August 12, 2019 at 7:55 am

    OOPS! The AL East did not exist in 1962.

    • Paul Folkemer

      August 12, 2019 at 11:21 am

      Good catch, Chuck. Fixed.

  2. Fareastern89

    August 12, 2019 at 9:27 am

    Interesting that five of the eight came during a five-year span in the 1980s; I would have expected more from the first decade of this century, when the team was so consistently bad. Any hypotheses about that, Paul, or does it simply mean that this sort of one-season performance has a large element of randomness about it?

    • Paul Folkemer

      August 12, 2019 at 11:26 am

      Part of it is that they don’t play other teams as often as they used to, thanks to the unbalanced schedule. The Orioles have had a few really bad season series in the 2000s (including getting swept in season series against the A’s) , but the clubs only played 6-7 games against each other. For this piece, I set the minimum at 12 games, which usually means four series.

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    August 12, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    Hey Paul … got SQL?

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