The Baltimore Orioles began the second half of their season with a dismal start, opening a 10-game home stand by getting swept by the Chicago Cubs. Baltimore’s starting pitching was horrendous, allowing 21 runs against Chicago in three games. The Orioles were four games back of an American League wild-card spot at the all-star break. They trail by six now.
The Orioles next face the Texas Rangers, a team also in the wild-card hunt, in a four-game series. It’s the first time the two teams will play each other this season. The Rangers are three games back of a wild-card spot, as are the Seattle Mariners, trailing the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees, who currently lead the wild-card standings, and the Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals, who currently sit just outside.
The Los Angeles Angels are next down the table — and behind them is Baltimore, tied with the Toronto Blue Jays with 42-49 records. The series against the Rangers, starting Monday, could help the Orioles regain some ground and some much-needed momentum. Or, if it goes the way of the Chicago series, it could be the final nail in the Orioles’ postseason hopes.
Texas this season
The Rangers have been disappointing so far this season. They were back-to-back AL West champions the past two seasons and last year were tied with the Washington Nationals for the third-best record in baseball. But this season, the Texas pitching staff has been less than stellar, contributing to the team’s inconsistent play.
Starting pitchers Cole Hamels and Tyson Ross spent time on the disabled list earlier in the season. Yu Darvish leads the team in wins but is only 6-8 in 20 games this season. Meanwhile, the Rangers’ bullpen has the sixth highest ERA in the majors and have not found a dependable closer all season. Matt Bush was the Rangers’ closer for the first half of the season, but Texas Manager Jeff Banister removed him from that role just before the all-star break. Bush had five blown saves this season before he was relieved.
Texas’s offense, meanwhile, ranks in the bottom three in the big leagues in hits (721) and team batting average (.239). But the Rangers are third in the AL runs scored (450) and also have the second-most home runs in the AL behind the Houston Astros (137 vs. 151), an alarming statistic for the Orioles’ pitching staff, which has allowed the fourth-most home runs in the majors.
Elvis Andrus has been the Rangers’ best player, batting .295 with 11 home runs and 50 RBI, earning him a spot in MLB’s All-Star Game “final vote” contest (he did not win). Adrian Beltre missed the first part of the season with a hamstring injury but has produced since returning, hitting .284 with eight home runs in 37 games. The 38-year-old Beltre also is just 20 hits away from reaching the 3,000 mark.
Other Texas players have struggled, however. While Mike Napoli does have 19 home runs, he is batting under .200. Jonathan Lucroy is batting .257 with just four home runs and 25 RBI in 66 games. In 47 games with Texas last year, after he was acquired midseason via a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers, he hit 11 home runs and had 31 RBI.
Chris Davis has struggled in three games since returning from a right oblique strain he suffered June 13. In the three game series against the Cubs, Davis went 1 for 11, with one walk, an RBI and five strikeouts. His oblique hasn’t bothered, and he feels no discomfort or pain.
“As far as my swing at the plate, I’m in between right now, my timing is a little bit off, I think that’s obvious with all the foul balls, fouling balls straight back,” Davis said. “But I’ve got to find a way to get that going, we need everybody on the offensive side of the ball.”
Davis has struggled somewhat this season. While the power is still there — he has 14 home runs in 63 games — his season batting average (.222) is 26 points below his career mark. He also has 98 strikeouts in 259 plate appearances this season.
Mon.: RHP Chris Tillman vs. RHP Andrew Cashner
Tues.: RHP Dylan Bundy vs. RHP Tyson Ross
Wed.: TBD vs. LHP Martin Perez
Thurs.: TBD vs. LHP Cole Hamels