Heading towards this weekend’s Division Series, Camden Chat writers will be looking at each of the winning months that got the Orioles to where they are right now. Today is July. Catch up by reading March/April, May and June. August will come out later today.
Injuries: 7/4- Cionel Pérez (left forearm soreness), 7/16- Cedric Mullins (Right adductor groin strain), 7/25- Aaron Hicks (left hamstring strain)
Best Win: 7/6 at New York Yankees, 14-1.* In perhaps the Orioles most complete game of the season, the team collected a franchise-high 20 hits and Kyle Bradish twirled a gem against the Yankees in the Bronx. Gunnar Henderson set the tone early when he launched an opposite-field, solo HR to start the game. The Orioles went on to score seven runs in the third, five runs in the fourth and continually batter New York pitching. Henderson finished the game 4-7 with two HRs and five RBIs. Meanwhile, Bradish twirled six scoreless innings while striking out five, as he got a jump start on his dominant second half.
*Honorable mention goes to the 4-3 win over Tampa Bay in extras on 7/20. This was the series opener of a four-game set that the Orioles won 3-1. Félix Bautista dominated in both the 9th and 10th innings and the Orioles took sole possession of first place in the AL East for the first time all season.
Worst Loss: 7/18 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 10-3. Not only was the seven-run margin the Orioles largest loss of the month, but the L vs. L.A. presented the Orioles with some hard questions. The O’s came into the series riding an eight-game win streak and looked to be proving all the doubters wrong about their status as true contenders. However, this humbling loss to L.A. had many questioning whether the Orioles could stand up to the NL’s best should they make it all the way to the World Series. Additionally, Tyler Wells struggled mightily in this game, giving up five runs in two innings. While this wasn’t his last start as a member of the Orioles rotation, it was the beginning of the end for Wells, as the O’s ended up optioning him to Bowie at the end of the month
Best Position Player (fWAR): Gunnar Henderson, 0.9 WAR. After breaking out in June, Henderson continued his high level play to end the first half and begin the second. While his .245 batting average didn’t jump off the page, Gunnar continued to tap into his power. With three 2Bs, two 3Bs and six HRs, the rookie SS put up an impressive .500 slugging percentage in July and even had some calling him a dark horse All-Star candidate.
Best Pitcher (fWAR): Félix Bautista, 1.0 WAR. The Orioles’ lights-out closer earned his first All-Star appearance and the the All-Star Game was perhaps the only game he didn’t dominate in July. The Mountain made 11 appearances spanning either side of the All-Star break and didn’t allow an earned run in any of them. He also struck out 25 in 14 innings and held opponents to a .070 average. Bautista converted all eight of his save opportunities and even pick up three wins in July.
The Orioles came into July on their longest losing streak of the season and dropped a dud in the month’s first game, losing 1-0 to the Twins in Camden Yards. However, the month became defined by big offensive performances and statement series victories as the Orioles took control of the AL East. In addition to the 14-spot the O’s hung on the Yankees, the Orioles beat the Twins 15-2 in Minnesota on the last day before the All-Star Break.
The All-Star festivities in Seattle were ones to remember for the Orioles as well. Adley Rutshcman, Austin Hays, Yennier Cano and Bautista all made their first All-Star team, with Hays getting the start as an injury replacement for Mike Trout. Adley had perhaps the biggest All-Star weekend, returning to the Pacific Northwest and participating in the Home Run Derby. While he didn’t advance past the first round of the derby, Rutschman put on a show by switch-hitting and pumping out an impressive 27 HRs—all while taking BP from his dad, Randy. Hays collected a hit in the All-Star game and Cano pitched a scoreless inning, but the evening was soured when Bautista gave up the game-winning home run to Rockies catcher Elias Díaz.
After the All-Star break, the Orioles stared down the daunting task of five straight series against teams with winning records. Baltimore started their second half by sweeping the Marlins in Camden Yards before dropping two out of three to the Dodgers at home. However, a cold stretch for the Rays meant that Baltimore traveled to Florida in a virtual tie atop the AL East. After taking three out of four against the Rays in St. Pete, the O’s left the Sunshine State with a two game lead in the division—a lead they would never fully relinquish.
That emotional high against the Rays was followed by a low when the O’s dropped two out of three in Philadelphia, including a walk-off loss in the second game of the series. However, the Orioles ended July on a high note, winning a series against the Yankees in Baltimore. They saved the best for last against New York, as a the two teams faced off on Sunday Night Baseball on 7/30. Much like how they terrorized New York at the beginning of the month, the O’s bats came alive in primetime, as Baltimore jumped out to a 6-0 lead before recording an out.
July also saw the MLB debut of Colton Cowser on 7/5 against the Yankees. The former No. 5 overall pick from the 2021 draft went 1-3 with single and a walk in his debut, but overall struggled to adjust to major league pitching. Cowser finished the month with a .098 average after collecting only five hits in 51 ABs. He did show good patience at the plate, however, as he worked nine walks and had a more respectable .254 OBP.
July also saw the metamorphosis of Kyle Bradish into the ace he would be for the remainder of the season. In five starts, Bradish put up a 2.25 ERA, held opponents to a .219 average and punched out 28 over 32 innings. Bradish would only get better from their in the last two months of the season, but he laid the foundation for his rise up AL pitching ranks in July.
Grayson Rodriguez also made his return from demotion after the All-Star Break, and at first still looked a little shaky. In his first start back against the Dodgers on 7/17, Rodriguez looked strong through the first five innings, only allowing one run and striking out four. However, Brandon Hyde made the questionable decision to send his rookie starter back out for the sixth and then things fell apart. Rodriguez allowed a leadoff triple followed by a single and a walk—and both those runners scored when Bryan Baker came in an allowed a grand slam. Rodriguez’s final line was 5+ IP, seven hits, four runs and four Ks—but that was the last time all season he’d allow 4+ runs in a start.
Ryan Mountcastle also made his return from vertigo in July and began mashing immediately upon arrival. In 15 July games, the 26-year-old 1B slashed .350/.386/.625 with five doubles and two HRs, setting himself up for monster second half overall.
Not to be outdone, fellow 1B Ryan O’Hearn tied Henderson for the team lead in RBIs, posting 15 in a month where he had a .893 OPS. Like Henderson, O’Hearn’s best game of the month came in the drubbing of the Yankees, as the big lefty went 3-4 with a 2B and four RBIs.
Despite making his first All-Star appearance, one of the storylines of the month was the struggles of Yennier Cano. The big righty from Cuba was almost untouchable through the first three months of the season, but started to show signs of fatigue in July. Cano’s .327 BAA in July was the worst for any month this season, and his 4.50 ERA was indicative of the up-and-down month for the O’s set up man. However, midway through the month Cano began to incorporate his slider more and more, which helped him right the ship and return to dominant form in August.
Later today: August