When the Orioles left Camden Yards on May 22nd, they were 17-25. After an eventful and satisfying eight-game road trip to Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park, they return still eight games under .500, but their confidence is rising.
The Orioles split their eight-game trip, losing two of three at Yankee Stadium, but winning three of five at Fenway Park, including Monday night’s 10-0 win over the Red Sox behind a dominant performance by starter Tyler Wells.
They’ll begin an eight-game homestand with three games against Seattle. The Orioles’ record of 21-29 is impressive, considering what they went through on the trip.
In only one game, Sunday’s 12-2 loss to Boston, were the Orioles overmatched. One of their two losses to the Yankees was 7-6 in 11 innings, the only extra-inning loss of the season.
Friday night’s 12-8 win featured the Orioles clawing back from 6-0 and 8-2 deficits. The Orioles scored 10 runs in the last three innings.
Monday night’s win featured the best performance this season by Wells (2-4), but it also included 14 hits, three home runs and one of the best all-around games the Orioles have played this season.
Wells allowed just two hits in six innings, throwing 88 pitches. He walked one and struck out three.
The Orioles got two home runs against Boston starter Rich Hill (1-3). Ryan Mountcastle launched his sixth over the Green Monster in the first. Ramón Urías blasted his fourth, a two-run shot, in the third. Anthony Santander added a three-run home run, his ninth, in the ninth.
Mountcastle had four hits, equaling a career high. Trey Mancini, who tripled in the first, had three hits, and his average has risen to .309.
The Orioles play three games against Seattle beginning Tuesday night, and manager Brandon Hyde hasn’t named a starter. He told reporters in Boston he’d announce his decision on Tuesday morning. Zac Lowther, who’s on the 40-man roster, would be pitching in turn if the Orioles elect to recall him.
When the road trip began, the Orioles’ road record was 5-14. It’s now 9-18, but the team looks increasingly solid.
With three-game series against the Mariners and Cleveland and a two-game series next week with the Chicago Cubs, the Orioles hope to improve on their 12-11 home record.
Rutschman’s engagement: Oriole fans got to see top prospect Adley Rutschman behind the plate only in his major league debut on May 21st. In the Orioles’ thrilling comeback win on May 22nd, Rutschman was the designated hitter.
Watching Rutschman behind the plate is a treat. His engagement with the pitchers at the end of innings is so genuine and infectious, it’s a wonder that more catchers don’t do it.
He’s showing leadership, and it’s obvious the pitchers are buying into it.
His outstanding catch of a foul popup by Jackie Bradley Jr. to end the fifth inning showed his athletic ability.
Rutschman was 2-for-5 in Monday night’s win, and his offense should get much better as he becomes more familiar with the league.
Catchers aren’t usually players fans come to watch, but seeing the enthusiastic Rutschman behind the plate is fun, and after watching Pedro Severino jog after balls in recent years, this is a huge step up for the Orioles.
Attendance ticks up: It will be interesting to see how the crowds measure up in the homestand. Neither Seattle nor Cleveland is a great draw, and the Cubs aren’t the attraction they were the last time they visited Baltimore in 2017 when they were the defending world champions.
The Orioles have averaged 17,663, 23rd in the major leagues. That would equate to a full-season attendance of just under 1.4 million.
In 2019, the last season without attendance restrictions, the Orioles drew 1,307,807, which was 28th in the majors.
Fans are generally slow to realize when a club is improving. Conversely, they’re also slow to catch on when a team is regressing.
With Rutschman here and Grayson Rodriguez coming soon, attendance should continue to move up, but probably not in the numbers the Orioles are hoping.
After five years of losing records and two years of the pandemic, many fans got out of the habit of attending games in person. The team last recorded a full-season rise in attendance from 2013 to 2014 when they drew 2,464,473.
The Orioles discounted many tickets in the first two months of the season, and that helped somewhat. Last year’s unpopular move to prohibit outside food has been lifted, and that’s helped, too.
The team announced three postgame concerts, which should help boost attendance.
Obviously, a competitive team is the best promotion.
The Orioles also might benefit from the sharp decline of the Washington Nationals.
The Orioles drew 2.7 million fans in 2004, the year before the Nationals came to Washington. When both teams were winning from 2012-2016, both drew well.
The Nationals’ average crowd of 20,707 is 19th in the majors, and if they’re in a prolonged rebuild, which looks likely, perhaps the Orioles can win back some of the fans from Maryland who’ve deserted them in recent years.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB