Your Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t the only surprisingly good team playing baseball in Baltimore this week. The Orioles have seen a good amount of first place this year as well, and are just a game out of first in the toughest division in baseball with a record of 34-26. That’s certainly not something you have heard often recently. Let’s take a look at what the Orioles have been up to this year.
When you’re trying to figure out why Baltimore has been so good this year, the only real answer is the long ball. They have hit 82 home runs this year, good for third in the league behind just the Yankees and Blue Jays (that’s a fun division to pitch in). Their team batting average isn’t great, but they make up for it with extra base hits. They have the sixth best slugging percentage in the league, and the twelfth most runs scored.
Adam Jones paces the O’s with 17 bombs and a .300/.345/.568 triple-slash line. Those are incredibly impressive numbers, and he was rewarded for them by getting a long term contract not long ago. He is one of the premiere players in the game, and he is finally realizing the potential he has always had. J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis are also having nice power seasons with 11 and 10 home runs respectively. Davis is even hitting for average with a .298 mark. They are getting production from Matt Wieters (.255/.336/.450 9 HR) and Nick Markakis (.256/.333/.452 8 HR) to boot. It’s a very good lineup that the Pirates will have to be careful with.
The pitching has done a pretty decent job as well, especially when you consider the division they play in. They have the 10th best team ERA in the bigs and are 13th in WHIP. Jason Hammel has been fantastic with a 3.22 ERA, including 8.5 K/9. Wei-Yin Chen, who the Pirates will see Tuesday night, has been their second best option with an ERA of 3.49 and 6.9 K/9. The bullpen features four pitchers with ERA’s below 2. Pedro Stop (1.48 in 30.1 IP), Darren O’Day (1.78 in 301 IP), Luis Ayala (1.93 in 28 IP), and the closer Jim Johnson (1.29 in 28.0 IP) have been phenomenal for the O’s.
All of that good stuff said, the Orioles haven’t been playing their best baseball as of late. They suffered a six game losing streak at the end of May that spilled over into June and took them out of first place, but they’ve done a nice job bouncing back from it by winning five of their last eight against the Rays, Red Sox, and Phillies. That’s a good sign for the young, inexperienced Orioles team – being able to bounce back from adversity against some quality baseball teams.
This has to be one of the most interesting series of the week, as two surprise contenders duke it out. These squads have history as well; they’ve played each other in the World Series twice (1971 and 1979, both won by the Pirates). The way things are going this year, you could predict a World Series rematch between these two and nobody would laugh at you TOO hard. I mean they’d laugh at you, but they might not beat you up.
It should be a fun series. I’ll be at the game on Wednesday, so follow me on twitter @McEffect for updates, pictures, and whatever else I come up with.