For the first time all season, more Orioles are slumping than not.
The only player immune over the last week or so is catcher Matt Wieters, whose last seven games have seen him hit three home runs with a .458/.458/.958. He paced the offense in Wednesday’s win over the Seattle Mariners, and hit the decisive three-run home run in the ninth inning Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
He does not have much company in having a green, upward arrow next to his name in the proverbial stock market, though second baseman Jonathan Schoop homered and had two hits Sunday to bring him to .333/.346/.500 over the last seven games.
Schoop’s double-play battery mate, shortstop Manny Machado, is having as tough a stretch as he’s had in recent memory. He homered and reached base four times in the Orioles’ big win Friday over the Angels, but he has just three hits in his last six games and has just four in his last 36 at-bats, with a dozen strikeouts since May 13.
Adam Jones entered last week as hot as anyone in baseball, but then went 2-for-23. First baseman Chris Davis was right there with him, especially in the two-game set in Minnesota, but is 3-for-21 in his last six games. Even outfielders Joey Rickard (.217) and Mark Trumbo (.208) have cooled from their strong starts.
As they showed Friday, the entire group is always liable to break out at a moment’s notice. They were futile in Thursday’s matinee loss to the Mariners, then exploded Friday, then needed Wieters’ home run Saturday to save them from a series loss.
The common denominator, at least this week, has been opposing pitchers being able to locate their off-speed pitches. If the Orioles face a pitcher who can’t get anything but their fastball over the plate, they sit on the heater and eat.
This week saw three pitchers who kept the Orioles off-balance all game. On Wednesday, Mariners left-hander Wade Miley did that. On Saturday, right-hander Matt Shoemaker struck out a career-high 12 batters by locating his slider and splitter all night. Jered Weaver used his curveball and changeup to keep the Orioles off-balance Sunday.
It’s a common refrain when the Orioles face pitchers without overpowering fastballs — manager Buck Showalter says they revert away from their normal pitch usage and lean on off-speed offerings to keep his team off a fastball they could be vulnerable to.
Of Weaver, Showalter said: “I think he threw 64 out of 100 or so off-speed. A lot like last night and we’re going to see a lot of that.”
“It gets tougher because they command it for strike and balls,” Schoop said. “That’s how it became difficult. If they can throw it for strikes, it’s going to be a tough day.”