Despite an encouraging off-season full of additions, which we thought would help see this team remain somewhat competitive, the Orioles couldn’t ride a wave of momentum following a dramatic Opening Day walk-off win and eventually dropped two of three to the impressive Minnesota Twins.
Isolated, two losses in the first three games of a 162-game season is obviously no major cause for concern, however the way in which the losses occurred probably holds a little more weight.
Yet again, the losses came on the back of a starter implosions, with both Andrew Cashner and Kevin Gausman feeding a hungry Twins lineup meatballs flat down the pipe or up in the zone. The result saw balls routinely leaving the yard despite the cool weather. Between the two, six home runs and 11 runs (10 earned) total were allowed through just nine innings of work. Of particular concern was Gausman who not only missed his spots, but also lacked velocity. According to MLB’s Statcast data, his fastball averaged 92.3 mph which was noticeably different to his lowest game average of 94.2 mph last season. His softest fastball toped out at just 89.3 mph which was the softest of his career. The carnage that followed brought back all-too familiar memories of 2017 when the rotation worked to a MLB-worst 5.70 ERA.
Yet again, the Orioles relied far too heavily on the long ball and when it went missing, they simply couldn’t score. Five runs in 29 innings is never going to win you too many ballgames in a stacked American League and the team’s collective .117 batting average highlighted its inability to hit frequently and manufacture runs. With runners in scoring position, they were 4-for-15 combined and collectively left 19 men on base, failing to capitalize on the 13 walks issued by Twins pitching. Chris Davis (0-for-12) was the main culprit, continuing his struggles of recent years, while Jonathan Schoop (1-for-12, four strikeouts) also struggled. For Davis, it appears his time leading-off is limited.
Yet again, Brad Brach struggled in the closer role and while it may seem harsh to single out one arm from the bullpen, his poor performance on Opening Day almost cost the Orioles their sole win of the series. Brach entered the season working to just a 62% career success rate when presented with a save opportunity (21 of 34) and he’s blown the first opportunity he’s had this season. He needs to be better or risk losing the closer’s role well before Zach Britton returns.
Yet again, the defense struggled to achieve its high standards of 2012-2016 which were so pivotal to the success of this ballclub during that period. With a suspect rotation the defense needs to be on top its game, however we saw some struggles from Chris Davis, Tim Beckham, and Caleb Joseph at times this series, while also witnessing some miscommunication in the outfield on occasion. Beckham’s shift to the hot corner will take some time and we can expect some bumps along the way, however the others must quickly return to the lofty heights we know they’re capable of.
Manager Buck Showalter may have experienced some restlessness last night as he ponders how these returning concerns can be overcome. However, the team has an opportunity to do just that tonight against the best team in baseball. Three games on the road in Houston could have disastrous results this early in the season, or, they could provide a spark which can be continued on throughout April. Let’s see how the Orioles respond.
What were your thoughts on the season opening series?
Photo: Kenneth K Lam (Baltimore Sun)