BALTIMORE – Clearly, the Orioles did not want to waste any hits or runs that might come in handy when they face the big-swinging Texas Rangers or stubborn Tampa Bay Rays in the Division Series starting next weekend.
They managed to squeeze out just one run and two hits Sunday off a group of Boston Red Sox pitchers who will be pitching on five months rest the next time they throw a baseball in anger. The 2023 regular season ended with an offensive whimper but manager Brandon Hyde had made it clear that Job One had nothing to do with the final score of a game that had no impact on anything that will happen the rest of October.
“You want guys to not get hurt,’’ he said after the Red Sox closed out their last-place season with a 6-1 victory.
So, leftfielder Austin Hays was given no opportunity to crash into the left-field wall or take a swan dive into Sunday night’s SportsCenter highlight reel. Designated hitter Adley Rutschman was nowhere near any errant breaking pitches that could bounce up and leave a mark. Starter Kyle Bradish was allowed to dominate the Boston lineup for all of two innings.
Still, the soft offensive performance wasn’t the first time over the past week or so that the Orioles were not their usual selves. Even though they finished the season with six wins in their last eight games, they averaged just three runs per game over that span and scored two runs or fewer in half of them. They also have been in something of a power outage, with just three homers in their last 10 games.
Hyde didn’t seem too concerned. The Orioles have been able to do more with less all season and the likely American League Manager of the Year (as voted by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America) gives the same light-hearted response when asked how his team has been so successful.
“It’s certainly not because of our run differential,” he has quipped on several occasions.
What he took out of Sunday’s game was a nice warm feeling about the benefit of playing the game at 3:05 p.m. instead of his team’s usual 1:35 time slot.
“I thought it was important for us to play at this game time today…possible postseason game time and just see how much harder it is to see,’’ he said. “Sometimes in the postseason, you get some unusual game times, and I thought it was important for our guys to play in front of that.”
No doubt, the club will play some simulated games and take batting practice under various conditions as they try to stay sharp during the five-day layoff before the start of the Division Series, which will open at Oriole Park on Saturday.