When the Orioles’ offense is at its best, the hitters work hard to run up pitch counts on opposing pitchers and take a lot of first pitches in an effort to get ahead of the count.
That’s exactly what they will have to do to beat a seemingly rejuvenated Texas Rangers club in the American League Division Series that opens at Oriole Park on Saturday afternoon. Hopefully, nobody in the Orioles’ lineup has dinner reservations and tickets for Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks at M&T Stadium after the game.
No doubt, the so-called experts (like me) in Texas are saying exactly the same things about plate discipline, because both teams arrived in the postseason with significant bullpen issues. The team that can get opposing starters out of games earliest – obviously – will have the best chance to advance to the American League Championship Series.
Now, the alternate school of thought might be that the Orioles need to be more aggressive and try to knock the Rangers’ starters out early instead of trying to outlast them, but we all have seen how many early no-out rallies have died on a first-pitch popup or double play. So, first-pitch swingers such as Anthony Santander and Ryan O’Hearn may need to dial down the testosterone the first and second time through the batting order.
Seeing more pitches early has been known to be helpful in later at-bats against a solid starter.
That also might help the Orioles emerge from a late season hitting pause that featured an average of just 2.6 runs per game during the final eight games and hit just three home runs in their final 10. It was hard to get too concerned since they won six of those last eight games and could afford to swing freely after clinching the AL East title, but that kind of offensive production won’t get it done in the postseason.
Again, they’re probably saying the same things about the Rangers, who averaged just three runs per game over their final seven regular-season games but bounced back with a more representative 11 runs in their two-game wild-card sweep of the wounded Tampa Bay Rays.
It would seem that the Orioles have the edge when it comes to each team’s starting rotation since the Rangers lost big-money free agent acquisition Jacob deGrom early in the season and likely will be without both Max Scherzer and Jon Gray in the ALDS, but Nathan Eovaldi and trade deadline acquisition Jordan Mongomery pitched very well in the wild-card round and figure to start two of the first three games.
So the watchwords for both of these very talented but recently sputtering offenses should be obvious: All things come to those who wait.