Now, the real season begins for the Orioles. On April 10th, they had just finished a series with the New York Yankees and had a record of 4-5. Then came series against the Oakland Athletics, Chicago White Sox, Washington Nationals, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, another with the Tigers, and the Kansas City Royals.
The Orioles won each of those series, seven straight—the first time they’ve done that since 2014, and head into Atlanta with a 21-10 record.
That record is the third best in baseball, trailing only Tampa Bay (26-6) and the Braves (22-10).
Six of the seven series were against teams with five of the worst eight records in baseball. Only Boston (18-14) has a winning record.
After winning 17 of 22, the Orioles face a month against teams that have much better records. Their next three series are against Atlanta, the Rays and the surprising Pittsburgh Pirates, who are 20-12.
On Thursday, the Orioles struggled to beat the Royals, 13-10, in a wild game that featured the Orioles blowing an 8-1 lead and then scoring five runs in the eighth and ninth before Félix Bautista, who had been voted April’s American League Reliever of the Month, nearly cratered with a fourth-run lead in the ninth.
The 13 runs scored and 10 runs allowed were both season highs, and they continue to play close games.
Only a 7-2 win at Texas on April 4th and a 6-0 loss to Kansas City on Wednesday night were decided by five or more runs.
With these tough series approaching and other ones against the Los Angeles Angels, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and the Rangers to follow, the Orioles will be tested.
While their early offense was impressive against Kansas City (8-24), Grayson Rodriguez’s performance was underwhelming. Given that seven-run lead, Rodriguez allowed six runs on eight hits and gave up three home runs in 3 2/3 innings, and the first three relievers manager Brandon Hyde used — Cionel Pérez, Bryan Baker and Danny Coulombe — were hit.
Pérez allowed a run, and Coulombe gave up two. Baker, who had been hot recently, wasn’t scored upon but gave up a hit and walked two while recording only one out.
Fortunately, Yennier Cano (2-0) wasn’t scored upon in his two innings, but Bautista gave up a hit and walked two as he allowed the 10th run to score.
Both Cano and Bautista threw 32 pitches, which may leave them idle for Friday night’s game at Truist Park.
Hyde had Mike Baumann warming up as the game ended, and it seems a safe bet that he’ll be a key reliever on Friday night. Dean Kremer (2-1, 6.67) will start on Friday night. Kyle Bradish (1-1, 6.14) will start Saturday night, and Tyler Wells (2-1, 3.34) will start on Sunday morning.
Atlanta’s starters will be Maxi Fried (2-0. 0.45), Spencer Strider (4-0. 2.57) and Bryce Elder (3-0, 1.75). A wider audience than usual will get a look at the Orioles this weekend.
After a 7:20 p.m. start on Friday night, FOX Sports has chosen the Orioles-Braves as its secondary game at 7:15 p.m. on Saturday night, and Sunday’s game will be on NBC/Peacock at 11:35 a.m.
The Orioles’ bullpen, which had the best ERA in baseball when the Royals series began, slipped this week and now is sixth with a 3.16 mark. Oriole starters are 25th with a 5.65 ERA.
It’s obvious that the starters must improve, but there are some new candidates for the rotation should a change be made. Drew Rom, who started the first Grapefruit League game, is 4-1 with a 2.87 ERA with Triple-A Norfolk. On Wednesday, Rom threw six scoreless innings, giving up two hits and striking out 11 while walking three against Durham.
DL Hall, who allowed two runs on five hits in three innings as the 27th man in the first game in Detroit, had his best outing for Norfolk on Thursday, throwing five scoreless innings, giving up three hits. Hall, who struck out seven Tigers, struck out eight against Durham while walking four.
This weekend should bring some personnel changes. Catcher Luis Torrens, who was traded to the Orioles from the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday, is supposed to report, and a position player must be subtracted to add Torrens.
In the eighth and ninth innings on Thursday, the Orioles used two of their most potent weapons, the base on balls and stolen bases to retake the lead against the Royals.
The Orioles, who are tied for second in the majors with 127 walks, had six bases on balls, and they stole five bases. The Orioles have stolen 35 bases, third most in baseball and been caught stealing six times.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB