Orioles reestablish: Series loss to Yankees shows gap still exists between Baltimore and top AL East

Going into the season, the expectations, excitement and energy for the Orioles they were higher than at any time at the start of a year since rebuilding began five years ago.

He inaugural home win over the New York Yankees on Friday, with 45,017 fans, most of whom were in Orioles orange, rocking the park, it took those emotions to new heightswith Bryan Baker’s strikeout in the eighth and the one-run victory having the potential to serve as a springboard into a post-Rebuild world.

But, just as the Orioles lost the last two games against the Boston Red Sox last weekend after a opening day winBaltimore followed Friday’s thrilling win with two straight losses against the Yankees.

“We’re playing some close games,” Hyde said after the The Orioles’ 5-3 loss on Sunday. “I feel like we are making some mistakes that we can’t make against good clubs. Boston, we could have won two there, and then here just some mistakes on the mound. We haven’t been playing our best defense yet. We have a long way to go, and there is a long year left. We’re going to keep playing with these guys a lot more.”

The Orioles are 2-4 against American League East foes and 4-5 overall going into Monday’s home stand against the Oakland A’s. They are in last place in the division as the only team under .500 and are already five games out of first place.

“It’s still early in the year, so you can’t really put a price on it too high,” said right-hander Tyler Wells, who was the losing pitcher Sunday after giving up four runs in six innings.

Wells is right. It’s early, too early to draw any drastic conclusions about what the two series could mean for the future of the 2023 Orioles. Remember, Baltimore went 7-14 in April of last year and was under .500 until the club heated up in the summer and ultimately fell just three games away from the playoffs.

However, the gap between the Orioles and the division’s top contenders will remain until it stops. That’s not to say it won’t close out this season, but through six games, roughly 12% of the division’s schedule, it still hasn’t.

Despite the series loss to the Yankees, the Orioles players who challenged the restart are confident that the club is now in a position to truly compete against the giants in the AL East. The Yankees won 99 games last season and are 6-3 entering Monday; the Tampa Bay Rays, who claimed the final wild-card berth over the Orioles in 2022, are 9-0.

“I think last year we opened some eyes for sure,” first baseman Ryan Mountcastle said. “Going into this year, it seems like we’ve gotten better, and I think other teams are starting to realize that we’re not the same Orioles team that we were the two years before last year. It’s fun, and we’re going to have some great games like that. It seems like all the division games have a little more meaning now.”

After Friday’s 7-6 win, Yankees manager Aaron Boone named the Orioles, whose stated goal is to make the playoffs this season, “contenders.”

“As far as I’m concerned, they’re a tough team to beat and they’re contenders now,” Boone told reporters. “You know you have to play well to beat them. …They are a formidable opponent. We know. We’ve seen that build in the last two years, but certainly last year, and now they’re playing with a lot of confidence. It’s a tough team to play against.”

But after losses Saturday and Sunday, Baltimore’s struggles against the Yankees have bled dry, for at least one series, through 2023. The Orioles went 7-12 against them in 2022. They went 9-10 against each of the Toronto Blue Jays, Red Sox and Rays: finishing an 83-79 season with a 34-42 divisional record. Against non-division opponents, Baltimore scored 63 more runs than it allowed and went 49-37.

His run differential against the division was even worse. The Orioles were outscored by 77 runs (roughly one run per game) for a Pythagorean record, a metric that calculates a team’s record based on their run differential, of 29-47 against the AL East.

“We are more talented, but we also play in a very, very tough division,” Hyde said. “Everyone in the American League has improved and we are very aware of that. I don’t want our guys to think about last year or think about raising their expectations except winning every night.”

However, that record against the AL East was a huge step forward for a team that was the worst in the sport from 2018-21. Mountcastle noted how the Orioles went 1-18 against the Rays in 2021, adding that the rebuilding club “just didn’t know how to win”.

“We know we can go out there and beat anybody if we go out there and play our game,” Mountcastle said. “It’s a lot more fun like this compared to the past where you just came onto the field and we didn’t know it. But now we look at our lineup against other teams, and I feel like we can take on anyone.”

Many of those AL East losses in 2022 were close games, as were all four losses so far this season. The Orioles fell to the Red Sox by one and four runs and to the Yankees by two and three runs.

“Having a lot of close games that didn’t go our way, it was a positive sign for us that we were able to stay in the games and compete throughout the game,” center fielder Cedric Mullins said of playing close with teams from the East Division. American League last season. “We’re going to have games where we come up short, but we’re confident we can take a lot of those games as well.”

One silver lining to the Orioles’ struggles against the AL East is that they will play fewer games in the division this season than in years past. With MLB’s new balanced schedule, teams will play just 52 divisional games, down 24 from last year. That gives the Orioles more room for error if they continue to play noticeably better against teams outside of the AL East.

It should be noted, however, that the Orioles still have 10 more games against the Red Sox and Yankees and 13 contests each against the Rays and Blue Jays.

“We have a lot of baseball left,” catcher Adley Rutschman said.

What is to come?

Early stumbles against the AL East won’t matter this week, as the Orioles take on the A’s in a four-game series at Camden Yards and go on the road against the Chicago White Sox in a three-game series.

The A’s entered the season projected to be the worst team in the American League, and have played as advertised thus far. Oakland is tied with the Detroit Tigers for the worst record in the majors at 2-7. But the Orioles, who struggled against left-handed starter Néstor Cortés on Sunday, likely face three more left-handers against the A’s.

Grayson Rodriguez, the Orioles’ top pitching prospect, is expected to start his first game at Camden Yards on Tuesday. He made his MLB debut last week in his home state of Texas against the Rangers with friends and family present.

What was good?


The Orioles’ offense had its ups and downs (Tuesday’s win over Texas and Friday’s win over New York) and its downs (loss to the Yankees on Saturday) this week, but Rutschman was an unsurprising bright spot.

Rutschman went 8-for-21 with a home run and four walks last week, with his 4-for-4 performance Sunday increasing his season-long slash line to .389/.476/.556. The switch-hitter went 3-for-3 off Cortés, a positive sign for Rutschman’s prospects against lefties, and then hit a solo homer left-handed in the eighth.

What was not?

It’s early in the season, but the Orioles’ starting pitchers have mostly failed to get deep in games.

Command issues, the number of high pitches, and defensive errors have led to longer innings early in contests, causing Hyde to retire his starters before the sixth inning.

Only twice in nine games this season has an Orioles starter recorded more than 15 putouts. Kyle Gibson pitched two-run ball in seven innings Tuesday, and Tyler Wells allowed four runs in six innings Sunday.

excluding Kyle Bradish’s 1 2/3 inning start in which he left early with a foot injury, Orioles starters have averaged just under five innings per start. Baltimore’s rotation has thrown just 9 2/3 more innings this season (39 2/3) than its bullpen (30).

In the farm

If the Orioles’ prospects want to make it to the big leagues, they’ll have to be versatile. That became clear last week in the minor leagues, as multiple top prospects played up new positions.

Infielder Jordan Westburg started games at four different spots: second, third base, shortstop, and left field. Westburg, who spent all spring in major league camp, has experience playing infield positions, but his start in left field was the first of his professional career.

Outfielder Heston Kjerstad, who played just right field last season, started two games at first base for Double-A Bowie. And shortstop Jackson Holliday made a stop at second base, his secondary position, with Low-A Delmarva on Saturday.

Holliday, Westburg and Kjerstad are the Orioles’ No. 3, No. 6 and No. 12 prospects, respectively, according to Baseball America.

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Monday, 18:35


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