xml:space="preserve">

Before the Orioles’ series finale Thursday night with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the inevitability of a second straight 100-loss season was pointed out to manager Brandon Hyde.

“Not if we get hot,” he quipped back.

Advertisement

That would take some doing, given that Thursday’s defeat was their 99th and 16 games remain in this 2019 season, the first of the organization’s lengthy rebuild. But whether the Orioles finish this year with 99 losses or match last year’s franchise record of 115, Hyde will not be satisfied.

“I don’t think 47 wins is anything to celebrate,” he said after Wednesday’s victory got them to last season’s win total. “We’ll celebrate when we get to 95.”

That goal is years away, and Hyde is aware of that. For that reason, his public stance has repeatedly been that he doesn’t care about his team’s record, and that remains the case as the Orioles try to stave off a 100th loss and surpass 2018′s number of victories.

Instead, his focus is on individual improvement in these final weeks, with hopes that, in time, that will accumulate into team improvement. Hyde particularly referenced the growth his team needs in defense and base running, areas at the forefront of Thursday night’s 4-2 loss. Rio Ruiz’s error preceded Pedro Severino’s passed ball that led to two runs scoring on what would’ve been an inning-ending strikeout in the sixth. Both also made an out on the base paths, with Severino doubled up on a lineout and Ruiz caught at third trying to advance on a grounder to the left side.

“The majority of our base running mistakes are overaggressive, are trying to do too much, not understanding game situations," Hyde said. "And I’ve never seen a team talk about base running more than we do or practice it during batting practice, so it’s a little mind-boggling to me, honestly.

“There’s unacceptable outs on on the bases, and we make too many of them.”

Hyde questioned whether there was a difference among 98, 100 and 104 losses in terms of the feelings those numbers evoke. The only difference likely comes in draft order, and from that standpoint, the Orioles’ most significant series of 2019 is their next one. Friday, they begin a four-game set with the Detroit Tigers, who hold the worst record in baseball by 3 1/2 games. The difference between the first and second overall pick in the 2020 draft could prove massive or marginal, but Hyde’s job as manager isn’t to worry about such things.

“It matters a lot to me how we play,” Hyde said. “I want to see us play hard and compete until the last inning of the last game. That’s really important to me, and I think the message has been sent to our players.

“We’re going to continue to grind and see this out.”

Their next victory will be their 48th, surpassing last year’s total that earned them the right to select Adley Rutschman with the draft’s first overall pick. But Hyde, the Orioles’ first-year manager, has no interest in drawing parallels between the seasons.

“For me, it’s a different team," Hyde said. "It’s a different year. I just want to get better every year. I want to finish the season strong, and then I want to be a lot better next year.”

That’s certainly a possibility, given that a farm system that entered the league’s top third this season is more likely to be pulled from in 2020. But Hyde and the Orioles likely remain years away from participating in the types of games Hyde savored as a member of the Chicago Cubs’ coaching staff at this time of year the past several seasons.

Watching the Dodgers clinch a seventh straight division title Tuesday night brought him back. He wants the Orioles to bring him forward.

“I miss that,” Hyde said. “That’s a lot of fun playing meaningful games this late in the year. It’s like the way these guys played two nights ago, where their magic number was one and they win, they’re in. You could just see from the get-go that they wanted it to be [clinched] two nights ago. You could hear their dugout. You could see. That’s when it’s fun, when you’re like that. And I’ve been fortunate to be on some pretty good clubs that played meaningful games into October.

Advertisement

“That’s where you want to be.”

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement