As Trey Mancini prepared to retreat into a much-needed night off and Friday off day after his heartwarming return to Camden Yards, he couldn’t help but acknowledge the struggles he’s having at the plate.
He called the three games in New York and Thursday’s loss in the home opener against the Red Sox some of the toughest in his career. He noted how hard he’s trying to show he’s the Mancini of old in unproductive ways like expanding the strike zone and not having a plan.
Mancini isn’t alone in that, as a troubling offensive start to the season for the Orioles has shown. But the same path out for him is one in which the rest of the team can take solace.
“I don’t know if I’d call this a slump, it’s been 28 at-bats or something but it feels like a lot more,” Mancini said. “I feel like I’ve played months worth of games and I played one week. At the same time, we have 154 games left. I need to realize that and take what I did my last at-bat and learn from it. I just need to stick to an approach up there and I have not been doing that well at all.”
For the Orioles as a group, an alarming amount of strikeouts late in their 11-3, blowout win in Boston on Sunday that clinched their season-opening sweep has not subsided. They struck out 15 times in that game, and through the three-game series in New York and Thursday’s game against the Red Sox, the Orioles struck out 13, 14, 17 and 14 times.
That’s the most consecutive games with 13 strikeouts since 1901, when Baseball Reference’s statistics are complete. Go back to their 11 strikeouts last Saturday, and the six straight games of 11 or more has only been topped once.
Their 91 strikeouts in the first seven games of the season seems to be unprecedented as well.
Those dubious marks have been against good pitchers, undoubtedly, including Yankees star Gerrit Cole. But the rest of the pitchers they’ve faced speak to the quality of arms that a six-month season in the American League East will challenge them with.
So far, they’re not up to it, which is surprising given the day before the season Hyde’s own assessment of the team was that the Orioles had a chance to “score a lot of runs.”
“We have a lot of upside offensively,” Hyde said before the team left Sarasota. “We have a lot of young hitters that are going to come into their own. We started seeing that last year and I think we’re going to improve on that. I’m not going to have any goals statistically for them, but we have some really good young upside hitters that have a chance to have some good years.”
Speaking at that point, he expected to be able to put Austin Hays in the outfield pretty regularly and keep the lineup deep with Ryan Mountcastle at designated hitter. Hays suffered a hamstring injury Sunday and has been out since.
And besides the joyful first week for leadoff hitter Cedric Mullins, who is batting .448 with a 1.139 OPS exclusively from the left side, there hasn’t been much consistency in the lineup.
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Mullins had five hits in that 11-3 win in Boston on Sunday, and Hyde said after the game that when your top three hitters have 10 hits total, you’ll win more often than not.
Anthony Santander and Mancini haven’t been at their best other than that game, though. Santander had three hits that day and has three hits in 21 at-bats otherwise, with his home run Wednesday in New York his only extra-base hit.
That was Mancini’s only multi-hit game of the season, and behind them in the lineup, Mountcastle had an imposing home run Thursday but hasn’t locked in yet either.
This was always going to be a top-heavy Orioles lineup, and in the rest of it, only catcher Pedro Severino has been anything close to productive.
Mancini is right to note how many games remain, but this all shouldn’t come as a surprise to an Orioles team that knew things would be different this year. At his best, Hanser Alberto could be a tough out, and José Iglesias was a revelation in his best offensive season of his career.
Hyde constantly praised Iglesias’ professional at-bats and the way he made everyone around him better last year, and the numbers bore that out. Iglesias made 35 starts in the 60-game season, with a quadriceps injury limiting his impact, but scored 4.8 runs per game in those starts and 4.24 per game when he didn’t start.
Freddy Galvis has shown no inkling of being that kind of offensive player, so the burden is even more on the players at the top of the lineup to arrest the strikeout rates and help the team string together some productive at-bats.