There’s nothing like sweeping the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards for a morale boost. After a horrific start the Orioles went 4-2 in their homestand against the Yankees and Red Sox, including the first sweep of the Sox at home since a four game series in 1998. A thumping of fresh off the disabled list pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka sandwiched between two walk-off wins for the Orioles sent Red Sox fans (Sox Nation bandwagon fans since 2004) back home to Boston (or their homes around the Baltimore area) disappointed. The spike in Red Sox fans since 2004 is intriguing—but enough about them.
Last night’s 4-1 loss to CC Sabathia at Yankee Stadium does little, at least right now, to dampen the enthusiasm.
I think everybody can see the difference in the Orioles over the past eight games or so, all against the Red Sox or Yankees. Hitting, and getting hits, when it matters. Over the past eight games the Orioles have scored 41 runs, or 5.13 runs per game. In the first 17 games the Orioles scored 49 runs, or only 2.88 per game. In those 17 games the Orioles had a .227 batting average and a .654 OPS. Last eight games the batting average was .290 and the OPS sat at .798.
Lets give Dave Trembley some credit. Working without two good players and two leadoff men, Brian Roberts and Felix Pie, Trembley has managed his lineup very well over the past week or so. Adam Jones has been hitting better. His 3:25 walk-to-strikeout ratio is terrible, and not what you want from your leadoff hitter, but besides Nick Markakis there is really nobody else to put there. Maybe he is responding to the leadoff role after starting off cold there, as Jones has hit .316 with a .350 on base percentage in eight games, raising his batting average from .203 to .241. Miguel Tejada, Ty Wigginton, and Markakis are on fire over the past eight games, each with batting averages over .375 and an OPS over 1.000.
The bats heating up were just a matter of time, so the best thing to happen to the Orioles might be benching Garrett Atkins. Bravo Trembley. He gave Atkins a chance to perform, and he did nothing. Rhyne Hughes, while most likely never be a top first baseman in the league, is playing a lot better than Atkins. In seven games he is hitting .296 and a .715 OPS with four RBI. Atkins owns a .224 batting average, .530 OPS, and five RBIs in 17 games and a pinch-hit appearance. A .530 OPS! From a first basemen! Cesar Izturis, who is barely expected to hit, and not at all for power, has a .563 OPS.
After the Orioles finish series with the Yankees and Twins, the rest of the schedule in May isn’t as tough. May is a great opportunity to get some wins that did not come the first three weeks of the year.