The Orioles’ early-season tumble to the worst record in the major leagues was predicated by a bunch of patchwork lineups that were necessitated by injuries and inconsistency.
Now, just seven games into this nine-game homestand, the Orioles have put together their best stretch of baseball this season. Yes, it’s a reflection of how poorly this club played before this stretch, but out of nowhere, the Orioles are scoring runs in bunches and finally look more like their complete selves, and their 17-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays was an example of that.
The club has unquestionably benefited from the return of middle-of-the-order bats Jonathan Schoop and Mark Trumbo. But it is also now suddenly a team that is better able to put its pieces where they belong, and it’s resulted in recent wins.
The Orioles (13-28) — winners of five of their past six games, including three of four against the Rays, a team that outscored them 35-12 in an abbreviated two-game series at Camden Yards three weeks ago — have seen their share of routs this season. But on Sunday, they were finally on the winning side of one with their largest offensive output this season, as well as their largest margin of victory in 2018.
Outfielder Joey Rickard, who was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk before the game when the team was able to option outfielder Anthony Santander because he fulfilled his Rule 5 draft requirements, had his first multihomer game in his first start back with the big league club as part of a four-homer attack. In seven games since returning home from a winless California trip, the Orioles have scored 58 runs, averaging 8.3 a game. The Orioles averaged 3.4 throughout their first 34 games this season.
“It’s a challenge for a club when you have a lot of different things show up,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “[Rule 5 pick Pedro] Araujo’s new to the club. Here comes Santander, kind of new to the club. Joey, who’s not new to the club, goes away. You’re starting to see some things, I think, kind of like what is it, getting the band back together, somewhat. Not just the band, but getting … kind of the atmosphere that we’re used to back. … Of course, Trum and Jon have been a big addition for us. I think we forget sometimes we functioned a lot without those people.”
Dylan Bundy’s rebound start Sunday set the tone. Bundy — who failed to get an out in his most recent start and hadn’t gotten out of the fifth in any of his three previous starts, held Tampa Bay to two hits over seven scoreless innings.
“[It gives you] great confidence, especially when they put up four or five runs early on the board,” Bundy said. “You go out there and really do your thing and attack those hitters. You really just go at them and watch the show.”
The Orioles homered three times — all solo shots — in the second inning, including back-to-back blasts by Danny Valencia and Rickard to open the frame. Trey Mancini added his sixth homer of the season later that inning for a 3-0 lead.
“It helps a lot,” said Valencia, who entered the game just 1-for-6 against Rays left-hander Blake Snell but mashes against left-handers. “Obviously, you want to score runs. He’s really tough. He didn’t have his best day, but I’ve faced him plenty and he is not a comfortable at-bat. He’s one of the great left-handed pitchers in our league and to score like that early is huge.”
The Orioles offense posted two other crooked-number innings, putting the game out of reach with a seven-run fourth that chased Snell from the game and a six-run seventh.
Rickard, a former Tampa Bay farmhand who was selected in the Rule 5 draft three offseasons ago, was a former roommate of Snell’s in the Rays system.
“There are very familiar faces over there,” Rickard said. “Good guys, good friends, but different teams. I just have to go out there and play hard.”
Valencia tied his career high with four hits. Shortstop Manny Machado had three hits to improve his batting average to .350 and two RBIs to boost his American League-leading total to 38.
The 6-7-8 hitters in the lineup — Valencia, Rickard and Craig Gentry — combined to drive in 11 runs. Valencia, Rickard and Machado each scored three runs.
“There’s really no explanation for why April went the way it did,” Valencia said. “We obviously just didn’t play good baseball. It’s nice to come out and swing the bats well. This whole homestand so far we’ve done a great job of swinging the bats well. There’s a lot of great hitters in here and we’ve done a great job of relieving each other and I can’t imagine our offense doing what it did in April the rest of the season. It was only a matter of time before it turned. This whole homestand has been really good for us.”