Some Orioles quotes and thoughts
*The Orioles 7-5 win over the Tigers this afternoon was the kind of win that typically –especially in years past — would have the clubhouse celebrating after like it was the World Series. And while there was music playing and plenty of good moods all around in Detroit, more and more this team starts to give off the sense –at least to me — that it’s just another day’s work.
Manager Buck Showalter has gone to great lengths to keep his team focused, not on just being .500 or just winning the series, but on on winning every game, every day. And that feeling is becoming more evident among this group every day. Yes, they were happy to take two of three from a Tigers team that hadn’t lost a series since June 5-7 versus Cleveland. But multiple players still pointed out in their post-game interviews that they should have won Friday’s game. That they didn’t let that emotion carry over, in what was arguably the most fired-up clubhouse I’ve seen all year, is a testament to the maturity this relatively young and inexperienced club has.
“That first game was tough,” said shortstop J.J. Hardy, who agreed taking the series puts the teams back on an emotional high heading to Texas. “It was really tough. It was good to see this team bounce back the way we did.”
Twice now, the Orioles have rallied from five-run deficits in the first inning on the road: Detroit and New York. Those are tough places to play for any team and the kind of wins that build character.
*How good of a pickup has Wei-Yin Chen been for the Orioles? He has 12 wins now and is the first Oriole rookie since Daniel Cabrera in 2004 to hit that mark. On Sunday, Chen looked like he wasn’t going to make it past the first out — when Steve Johnson got up in the bullpen and started stretching — but managed to go five innings, earning high praise from Showalter, Tigers manager Jim Leyland and Chen’s teammates.
“He’s a tough dude,” reliever Darren O’Day said. “A lot of people don’t expect that, but he really is. He’s done it before, did it against the Rays earlier in the year when they were dropping bunts all over the field in the first inning, he came back and gave us five or six [innings] like that. So, he’s got a track record and sometimes you got to do that. It’s a pretty awesome job by him.”
And if there was still any doubt about Chen’s mentality, here’s his final quote from this afternoon.
“Every game is challenging for me,” Chen said through his interpreter. “And every game is challenging for this team. Right now, my only hope is to help the team get to the playoffs. That’s my only dream right now, my only goal.”
*The Orioles have a few roster decisions to make moving forward with an off-day on Thursday. The team is currently playing with an extra pitcher and a three-man bench.
With right-hander Steve Johnson — who last pitched on Thursday — serving as the long man, Showalter said the Orioles will continue to operate on a day-to-day basis. They are trying to keep their bullpen healthy and productive while also waiting to see if first baseman Mark Reynolds incurs any kind of suspension for his ejection on Friday.
It’s unlikely Reynolds is suspended and I think you will see Johnson serve as the long man in Texas, as needed with a short bench for now. The Orioles will pitch Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman the first two games and if either has a short start, Johnson will be the guy. If he gets used in a long relief outing, I could also see them optioning him to get a fresh arm. It’s important to note the Orioles haven’t ruled out Johnson as a starter for them this year, but with the way the schedule lines up it looks like the roster will continue to be a daily juggling act.
It seems likely the team will also keep Zach Britton –coming off his best start of the season — with the big league club, although what they will do with the rotation following Thursday’s day off is unclear. The Orioles could opt to stay with a five-man rotation and give each pitcher an extra day of rest, or option a pitcher and add either a reliever or another bench player. You can read more on that here.
*I’ve been asked a few times about the status of some of the Orioles’ injured players so here’s what I’ve got. Wilson Betemit and Troy Patton are in Sarasota, Fla. receiving treatment and both are thought to be more than a week away. Jim Thome is home in Chicago and told me before he left he was going to be clear to swing a bat in early September. Since he doesn’t play the field, his return could be soon after that.
Jason Hammel is also still targeting an early September return and will throw another bullpen on Monday at about 90 percent effort. Hammel, who has been traveling with the team, hopes to do some fielding practice and test his knee more later in the week if all goes well on Monday. Showalter has been cautious with putting a timeframe on it, but did say that the team feels pretty good about where Hammel is so soon after right knee surgery. The key is really minimizing the soreness that is still back behind that knee.
*Did anyone see this coming with the bullpen? The Orioles are 51-0 when leading after seven innings this season and nearly every night the starting pitcher will single out the effort of the guys who come in after him. On Sunday afternoon Luis Ayala, Darren O’Day, Pedro Strop and closer Jim Johnson combined to post four scoreless innings lowering the ‘pen’s ERA to 1.56 over the last 16 games.
Johnson, who is on pace for a record-breaking season, picked up his 37th save, second most in the Majors and putting him in a tie for the second most in a single season in Orioles history with a 1-2-3 ninth. Showalter loves singling out how hard it is to close out one-run games on the road, and 23 of Johnson’s 37 saves this season have come away from Camden Yards.
He’s a guy who doesn’t want a lot of credit, but has had a heavy hand in this year’s success.
*Rookie Manny Machado has hit safely in seven of his first 10 Major League games, with three multi-hit efforts over that time. Seven of his 10 hits have been for extra bases with three doubles, three home runs and a triple. His defense has been equally impressive, with several of the Orioles noting how impressive his arm is. Showalter said it was “as advertised” this spring, although Machado took a lot of road trips and long bus rides as a rookie unofficially in camp, meaning a lot of the Oriole starters didn’t get to see him play much.
*Mark Reynolds, who won a lot of fans over with his comments following Friday’s ejection, has put together a nice stretch for the past two weeks. He is hitting .368 (14-for-38) with five walks, eight extra-base hits, seven runs scored and 10 RBIs over his last 13 games.
I don’t think it’s any secret what Reynolds is capable of doing for this club if he can keep hitting. There’s arguably no other Orioles player in the lineup with as much of an impact on their postseason chances than Reynolds.