It could be a long season for Baltimore Orioles fans; it could also be a fantastic one all things considered. However, the early returns are pretty favorable. Still, even in recent 100 loss seasons, the Orioles have had decent starts. So let’s put it all into perspective, and realize we’ve got a long way to go. That doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the highs as we simmer with the lows.
We’re going to start a weekly article for BirdLand where we sum up the good, the bad, and the gorgeous. Not the ugly, because we can expect a ton of that:
The Orioles began the 2021 campaign on a tremendous note, going up to Fenway Park and sweeping a division rival in the Boston Red Sox. The series featured some offensive firepower including a season-high 11 runs on Sunday. Although they did not hit a single home run, the Orioles managed to get guys around the bases.
It was the pitching that surprised the most, as the starters shined and the bullpen held their own. Means was great, but more on him later. The starter that has surprised me the most to start is Matt Harvey. The Dark Knight, as he’s also known, took the number 2 spot and has shown why Brandon Hyde made that decision. He’s limited runs and gives the Orioles a chance when he’s on the mound.
Rio Ruiz opened the season as the second baseman and made a few highlight-reel-worthy plays. His bat was decent as well, as he hit the first homer for the team this season. He does need to show that consistent power or get on base some more to justify being the everyday 2B.
After an exciting sweep that had the team moving up on various power rankings, the Orioles came back down to Earth. Nothing will do it more than a series with the AL-East favored New York Yankees. Predictably, the pitching staff could not keep such a powerful lineup at bay and the O’s bats went a little cold. The Orioles lost the first two games of that series by a combined 14-2. When your baseball scores look more like football scores, you know something is off.
The back end of the rotation showed why so many were bracing for another long season in Baltimore. Jorge Lopez showed the inconsistent control that has plagued his days with the Orioles. Dean Kremer flashed ability but also flashed his inexperience. The Orioles will need at least a few goods starts from these guys if they want to really surprise people. Luckily, the team’s farm system has some reinforcements on the way in the coming seasons.
The most disheartening news came when the Orioles placed outfielder Austin Hays on the 10-day injured list. He’s a very promising young piece for the rebuilding O’s, but injuries have limited his development. There are enough good options on the team to immediately replace him, but it’s just a sad development this early in the season.
This category is for the best of the best, and the best is often saved for last. Opening day brought forth one of the best pitching performances the squad has seen in years and maybe even decades. John Means lasted 7 innings allowing just one hit on the day. It was the best we’ve seen of the defacto ace.
Outfielder Cedric Mullins might be putting it all together. His .448 batting average is the 6th best in the league. He had a five-hit game on Sunday against the Red Sox. He’s putting the team in play for a fast start as the lead-off hitter. But best of all, his defense is showing up. He made a leaping catch reminiscent of the days when Adam Jones was patrolling center field for the Orioles.
Best of all, the Orioles finally ended their losing streak in Yankees at Yankee stadium. The streak extended all the way to the 2019 season. But with the win, the Orioles have to feel like they got a proverbial weight off their shoulders. It’s a big deal for the young team and signals that their road to relevance could end sooner rather than later.
It’s just one win against a team that will undoubtedly have a better season. But little things like this matter during the heart of a rebuilding stage. So, you’re perfectly justified in celebrating it, BirdLand!
This season is off to a pretty sweet start, and we’ll be taking a weekly look at it. If nothing else, we were able to confirm that these Orioles are exciting to follow and will make the loss a little more bearable.