It’s hard to find many flaws, at least offensively speaking, during this 3-1 start for the Orioles, but if you were in the mood to nitpick a little bit, one thing that does stand out is their average with runners in scoring position, spots in which they struggled at times last year, including the playoff loss to the New York Yankees.
In their first four games of 2013, the Orioles have batted 11-for-43 with runners in scoring position, which is a .256 average. As I write this, they lead the major leagues with 29 runs, but they have also stranded 30 runners.
But four of those 11 hits with runners in scoring position were home runs, including a go-ahead grand slam from first baseman Chris Davis in the eighth inning of Friday’s 9-5 win over the Minnesota Twins. And the O’s have scored 22 runs on those 11 hits, so technically they are averaging about one run in every two RISP situations.
So should the Orioles be concerned at all?
Well, it’s way too early in the season to be too concerned about much of anything, especially when you are winning. But they are aware that Davis, whose hot start has been historical, is bound to cool off eventually and that they aren’t always going to be able to bring runs home in bunches with two-run doubles and three-run homers.
“We’ve been lucky to have Chris get a big hit in pretty much every game. It’s huge,” left fielder Nate McLouth said after Friday’s win. “But I think those things average out. We’re not going to be able to count on that all season. We’re going to need some run-scoring singles and things like that. But I think we’ve got a pretty good lineup. It’s been four games. That stuff evens out over the course of the season.”
A time will come, probably sooner than later, when the Orioles will have to make more of these opportunities count and scrape together some runs, especially against teams with quality pitching.
The Orioles were actually playing a little bit of small ball in the inning in which Davis blew Friday’s game open. Third baseman Manny Machado laid down a sacrifice bunt to put runners on second and third with one out. And after the Twins intentionally walked right fielder Nick Markakis, center fielder Adam Jones made them pay for it with a one-run single up the middle.
Enter Davis, who drilled the first pitch he saw from Twins reliever Tyler Robinson over the wall in left center field.
“His contact-to-damage ratio is real good right now,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter dryly noted after the win.
No kidding, Buck. Davis is the fourth player in major league history with four home runs in the first four games of the season, and no one has ever had 16 RBIs through four games before, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
The Orioles are too busy sitting back and watching Davis do his thing to sweat these early wasted at-bats with runners in scoring position. And like I said, winning games will mask their struggles. But they’re also confident that they have enough firepower throughout the lineup to be more productive in RISP situations this season.
“This is a team game,” Machado said. “We did it last year, pick each other up every time. If I go up there and get an out with a runner in scoring position, I know that we have faith as a team that the guy behind me -- Markakis or Jones or whoever is next in the order may be -- we just back up each other. That’s something we have as a team, faith in each other, and that’s going to take us a long way.”