The Orioles haven’t been swept in over a year. They credit their culture as the reason. – The Mercury News

Two weeks ago, the Orioles woke up early for a day game, coming off two of their worst losses of the season. The previous day, Baltimore was clobbered by the Milwaukee Brewers, a defeat made worse by the extra-inning, walk-off loss the night before.

A sweep looked inevitable as the Orioles trailed 3-0 in the seventh inning of the series finale. But they rallied late, as they have many times this year, for the comeback win.

The seemingly ordinary victory in early June was more than that, though. It was emblematic of the type of team the Orioles have been since they turned the corner last season and transformed from a rebuilding club into a playoff contender.

It’s been more than a year since Baltimore was swept in a series — the longest active streak in the major leagues. Orioles players and manager Brandon Hyde credit their culture, mentality and developing maturity as the reasons why, but there’s one other obvious explanation.

“Well, we’re a better team,” said Hyde, noting as he has frequently this year that these Orioles are more talented than the clubs from 2019 to 2021.

The last time the Orioles were swept was in May 2022 against the Detroit Tigers. A week later, they promoted catcher Adley Rutschman, and they’ve managed to go without another in the 63 series since. That streak, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is by far the longest active one in the majors, with the National League West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks in second at 37.

“I think our guys do a good job of staying as consistent as possible in a roller coaster, six-month season,” Hyde added. “They don’t ride the wave too high, too low. I think that kind of allows you to know that every day is a new day. Whether you’ve lost a couple in a row or won a couple in a row, things can happen and things can change quickly.”

Since they were last swept, the Orioles have gone 114-86. This year, they’ve lost just seven of the 24 series they’ve played. Three times in the past four weeks, including against the Brewers, the Orioles have dropped the first two games of a series, only to bounce back in the third.

In a playoff race that’s expected to be tight, every win could matter, outfielder Ryan McKenna said. For example, Baltimore fell just three games short of the final American League playoff spot last year.

“I think it shows we have a good culture and a little more maturity, as well,” McKenna said. “We’re never out of a game. We have that mentality. For the guys who have been in the playoffs who are now in this clubhouse, they know. it comes down to the end of September, the race is tight and all these games really matter a lot.”

To go a full calendar year without being swept would’ve been unfathomable during the first few years of the rebuild. In the 108-loss 2019 season, the Orioles were swept in series of two or more games 13 times. In the 110-loss 2020 campaign, they were swept in 19 of their 52 series.

Austin Hays spent time on both of those rosters. He agrees with Hyde and McKenna that Baltimore’s mentality and culture have improved, but he thinks the depth of the Orioles’ roster has been integral to the turnaround and the sweepless streak.

“I think it’s just the depth on our team,” Hays said. “Our pitching staff has gotten a lot better. Those guys are still continuing to learn every day. You can see the quality of their starts, how much more consistent they are now and then already having such a good bullpen.

“They give the offense a chance every day. I think the biggest part of it is the pitching staff, and we’ve played some pretty good defense behind them, too.”

While Tyler Wells on Wednesday handed in one of the worst starts of his stellar season, it still extended the rotation’s streak of allowing three or fewer earned runs to 12 straight games and 21 of the past 22. Starting pitching was a weakness early in the season as the offense carried the team, but as the bats have cooled, the arms have stepped up.

Three of Baltimore’s four main starters have ERAs below 4.00. Dean Kremer, the lone exception at 4.56, has a 3.33 ERA over his past nine starts, and his 8-3 record is the best in the rotation.

“They’ve kept us in games,” Hyde said. “We’ve had a little bit of trouble in that sixth-seventh inning range, but our starters have done a great job of doing everything they can to keep us in baseball games. For the most part, all these guys have done a really good job.”

After dropping the first two series of the season versus AL East teams, the Orioles haven’t lost one since, winning five straight before splitting a two-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays this week. A year after going 34-42 in the division, Baltimore is 14-9 with 29 games to go.

At 45-28, the Orioles are five games back of the Rays for first in the division but are between 4 1/2 and seven games up on the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox.

“We started talking about it at the beginning of the year. Every series, we expect to win the series,” Hays said. “Every guy in this clubhouse, we know we have a chance — whether it’s against an AL East team or somebody outside the AL East. We have a ton of confidence in ourselves, and it starts there. We’ve been playing good baseball, especially against the AL East.”

The past few weeks have also presented a significant hurdle: playing without Cedric Mullins. However, since the 2021 All-Star center fielder was placed on the injured list May 30, the Orioles have gone 11-8. In addition to the consistent starting pitching, players enjoying a change of scenery such as Aaron Hicks and Ryan O’Hearn have filled the void of Mullins, as well as first baseman Ryan Mountcastle.

“Aaron Hicks, Ryan O’Hearn, what they’ve done the last couple weeks, been a huge part of a lot of our wins and our offense,” Hyde said. “They’ve allowed us to manage the time away from Cedric, who is a massive part of our team with the year he was having, the way he was driving in runs, the Gold Glove defense he plays and what he brings to the table on a nightly basis. Really happy with how our guys have picked it up around him, picked up the pieces.”


Source link