When last we left our simulated Orioles, we were finally caught up to real time. The team stumbled a bit against the first place Rays but has been pleasantly surprising, at least compared to last year’s winning percentage, with a 20-29 record.
The roster merry-go-round keeps on spinning. Simulated Cole Sulser is back on the shuttle down to Norfolk since he didn’t do very well in this stint and he’s old enough that it’s not like we’re worried about whether the constant trips between Baltimore and Norfolk will hamper the development of a prospect. Sulser was sent down to make room for Hunter Harvey, who just pitched a couple of successful rehab outings for Norfolk.
Other than that, things have stayed stable, though whether it will remain stable is to be seen. Wade LeBlanc is on the verge of getting sent to the great DFA in the sky. I’m trying to will the simulated Ryan Mountcastle to at least get an OBP over .300 at Norfolk so I can feel like I’m not just indulging my own whims in calling him up to the team.
A bit farther down the road, the injury rehab for Evan Phillips will run out and we’ll have to figure out how he fits on this team, or if he fits. DJ Stewart has a few days left to heal from a thumb injury, then he’ll be out on a rehab assignment and trying to figure out the same stuff about him.
This week’s games
Game 50: Blue Jays 3, Orioles 1
The Jays had lost nine straight games before this one. The Orioles were not able to push that streak to ten since they were held to just three hits over an eight inning outing by Blue Jays starter Tanner Roark.
Despite the poor offense, the O’s took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when Jose Iglesias drove in Mason Williams with a sacrifice fly. This held until the seventh inning when John Means, who was cruising with a low pitch count, ran into trouble against the bottom of the Toronto lineup, putting men on base who were driven in by #8 batter Travis Shaw (.300 OBP) and #9 hitter Brandon Drury.
Means’s final line still looks pretty good except for that he took the loss, with only six hits and one walk allowed in seven innings. Unfortunately for him, four of those hits were in the same inning and it put the O’s in the loss column. The O’s did get a leadoff walk in the ninth and had the tying run on base after a two-out error, but Rio Ruiz couldn’t get the clutch hit and so the game ended.
Game 51: Orioles 10, Blue Jays 6
It’s even crazier than it looks from the score because that doesn’t tell you that the Orioles scored eight of their ten runs in the top of the ninth inning to storm ahead. Four of those eight runs, including the go-ahead run, scored with two outs, and the go-ahead run only scored because Jays shortstop Bo Bichette duffed a ground ball that would have ended the inning.
The triumph was helped by the bottom part of the lineup coming through. Pat Valaika, who had forced a call-up by slugging .660 for Norfolk, had three doubles in the game, driving in two runs and scoring two. Other O’s with multi-hit games were Anthony Santander, Andrew Velazquez, and Dwight Smith Jr.
Alex Cobb turned in a minimum quality start (6 IP, 3 ER), an improvement over much of his Orioles tenure and his performance in this sim so far. He was still on the hook for a loss unti the O’s blew up the Jays staff in the ninth. Harvey, in his first game since returning from the IL, vultured a win even though he allowed two inherited runners to score to put the O’s into what must have then seemed like an insurmountable 6-2 deficit.
Game 52: Blue Jays 4, Orioles 2
Though the O’s out-hit Toronto in this one, 8-7, they were just never able to string together a bunch of hits for a big inning. The only runs came when a Bichette error in the second put an O’s run on the board, and when Richie Martin hit a solo home run in the seventh inning.
It’s a bit of a frustrating one to look at in the box score, because 2-3-4 hitters Austin Hays, Santander, and Renato Nunez all had two hits and yet none of them were able to drive the others in at any point. And all of this while Wade LeBlanc, our worst starter so far, was able to have a 7.2 inning outing in which he “only” gave up two home runs and four runs.
That might be enough for LeBlanc to hold on for another start or two. If he’d gotten bombed, it’d be Kohl Stewart time again, but after Stewart was torched in his first four starts in this sim, I’d like to give him more than five good games in Norfolk before he comes back.
All-Star voting update: The Orioles do not have any players among the top three vote-getters at any position. I know, it’s a real shock.
Game 53: Blue Jays 6, Orioles 3
There aren’t any fun losses, but there are ones that sting a little less. In this case, it wouldn’t have been a whole heck of a lot of fun to watch Cody Carroll give up a three-run home run in the eighth inning to turn a 3-2 hole into a 6-2 hole, but we could all feel good about Keegan Akin, making his third MLB start, striking out nine batters with two walks allowed over 6.1 innings.
Akin took the loss, the first of his sim MLB career, because he gave up a two-run shot to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in the first inning and a solo dinger to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the third inning. Guerrero, with 13 home runs, is close to matching his 2019 total of 15.
For the O’s, Iglesias was on base three times but only driven in once. Most of the O’s scoring was done on late solo home runs. Smith hit his eighth of the year in the eighth inning, while Alberto went deep for the fourth time in the ninth inning.
Record: 21-32, 12 games behind Rays, 9 games out of WC2
The Orioles have the second-worst run differential in MLB at -66. They remain one win luckier than their expected Pythagorean W-L of 20-33. There are four teams who have a worse winning percentage than the O’s current .396.
Next: Four games vs. White Sox (34-19)
It wasn’t a great series since the O’s lost three out of four, but they’re coming out of it with only two relievers who aren’t rested. For this starting rotation, that’s as close to a moral victory as it gets. On the other hand, our O’s have now lost seven of their last ten games and there’s four games coming against a first place team.
Full statistics through 53 games
Minor league performance that is interesting
At Norfolk, Zac Lowther has a 2.17 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 12.3 K/9 after pitching in nine games. That gets a Stone Cold Steve Austin “Hell yeah!” To a lesser degree, so does Stewart, who now has a 2.80 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 35.1 innings since getting demoted to the Tides. We may still see him soon.
Results remain good for Grayson Rodriguez at Frederick, as he’s sporting a 2.91 ERA and 12.3 K/9 after nine starts. However, he’s also got a 1.48 WHIP, which is higher than you’d like. Also at Frederick, Adley Rutschman is batting .314/.470/.510. Again: Hell yeah! It seems like Rutschman would absolutely get a mid-season promotion with that kind of performance. When do you think we should kick him up to Bowie?
- Starting pitchers: John Means, Alex Cobb, Wade LeBlanc, Tommy Milone, Keegan Akin
- Relievers: Shawn Armstrong, Richard Bleier, Cody Carroll, Miguel Castro, Paul Fry, Mychal Givens, Hunter Harvey, Tanner Scott
- Lineup vs. RHP: Jose Iglesias (SS), Austin Hays (CF), Anthony Santander (RF), Renato Nunez (1B), Dwight Smith Jr. (LF), Pedro Severino (C), Rio Ruiz (3B), Hanser Alberto (2B), Richie Martin (DH)
- Bench: Chance Sisco, Andrew Velazquez, Pat Valaika, Mason Williams
- Injured: DJ Stewart (3 days), Evan Phillips (11 days max on rehab), Asher Wojciechowski (2-3 weeks), Travis Lakins (3 months), Chris Davis (8 months)
- 40-man in the minors: Michael Baumann, Kohl Stewart, David Hess, Cole Sulser, Dillon Tate, Hector Velazquez, Austin Wynns, Ryan Mountcastle, Ramon Urias, Ryan McKenna, Cedric Mullins
Baumann is on the 40-man roster because this sim started out with him in the Orioles rotation. I sent him to Bowie and then promoted him to Norfolk when Akin arrived in Baltimore.
We have a whopping $3,482 available for free agents, so we’re pretty much stuck with what we’ve got unless we can trade somebody. I’m not sure if this budget limitation will apply to waiver claims also; there hasn’t been one worth making yet. Givens might have some value. I’m going to put him on the block once the calendar turns to June and see what kind of offers we get.