Through 64 games, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde wrote 64 different lineups. For at least a day, he seemed to find one he likes.
The Orioles’ batting order for Sunday’s finale at the Houston Astros, a 4-0 loss, was the same one Hyde used for Saturday’s 4-1 victory. With the Astros again sending a left-hander to the mound, this time in former Oriole Wade Miley, Hyde decided to run it back with the same nine, in the same order, at the same positions. He was the last manager in baseball to repeat a batting order, saying it wasn’t intentional and he learned of the oddity last week. Hyde added that he didn’t aspire to go 162-for-162.
“That was definitely not my goal,” Hyde said. “It’s not my goal coming in to change it up all the time. We look at the opposing pitcher, look at guys, our guys, our strength, his strengths, weaknesses, all those sorts of things, and the numbers, and put together the lineup we feel like gives us a chance. We’ve done a good job of that, I think. I feel like we’ve done a good job of constructing a lineup that gives us a chance every night. We’ve been in most games. Today is just the first day we’re repeating.”
Often, it became easy to recognize on a daily basis whether Hyde was using a new lineup. The Orioles’ inexperienced roster has undergone plenty of change, so noticing a new name in a new spot was standard. In search of production, Hyde has rearranged the top of his lineup frequently in recent games. Sometimes, the only difference was a swap of the hitters batting eighth and ninth.
With several players putting up strong splits against lefties then not performing as well against right-handers, handedness has also factored into the decision. The repeat lineup featured all right-handed hitters or switch-hitters, with the three Orioles on the bench all being left-handed bats.
“With our roster and with the amount of inexperience our guys have, our roster’s shuffled quite a bit,” Hyde said. “I just think it’s one of those things that — we don’t have a lineup like [the Astros], where there are a lot of everyday guys with experience and playoff experience. This is more we’re trying to just give guys the right matchups and get guys to the top of the lineup we feel like have a good opportunity, good chance for us, so I think you’re gonna continue to see different lineups over the course of the year.
“I think someday, some point, we’ll have more of a set lineup. Looking forward to that day, but right now, where we are, you’re gonna see a lot of different lineups.”
Ruiz, Villar savor return to Minute Maid Park
Orioles infielder Rio Ruiz and Astros right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. stood side-by-side behind the Minute Maid Park batting cage Saturday, arms crossed amid conversation.
Both were products of Houston’s 2012 draft, signed out of high school after the Astros saved part of their bonus pool by taking Carlos Correa first overall in a move current Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias helped orchestrate. But only McCullers made it to the majors with Houston. Ruiz, traded to the Atlanta Braves before the 2015 season for catcher Evan Gattis, played in Minute Maid Park for the first time in this weekend series. He went 0-for-2 Sunday after entering the game as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning, eventually playing first base and third.
“It’s cool,” Ruiz said. “This is where my professional career started. I remember the day I signed and taking BP and doing groundballs. That was awesome. To be here and actually play a big league game, it’s awesome.”
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Infielder Jonathan Villar made his major league debut with the Astros in 2013, but since they traded him away before the 2016 season, he had yet to play a regular-season game in Houston. While with the Milwaukee Brewers, he was at Minute Maid Park for four late-March spring training games, a pair each in 2016 and 2018. He’s thankful last season’s trade to the Orioles gives him more opportunities to see old friends Correa, José Altuve and George Springer.
“I play in the American League now, so I can see them more,” said Villar, who started at second base Sunday and went 1-for-3 with a single.
He’s particularly grateful to get to see Altuve, who often served as his double-play partner coming up through the minors. Altuve got called up in 2011, so Villar’s debut meant more because it meant reuniting with his friend.
“I feel like that moment, my first time here, we were very happy to play together again,” Villar said.
Those friendships don’t take away from Ruiz and Villar’s appreciation for the opportunities they’ve received in Baltimore, even as Houston developed into one of the league’s top teams without them.
“You can’t think of everybody else’s success, wish you had that,” Ruiz said. “Otherwise, you’re gonna be behind the eight ball. Everybody has a career path, so I’m definitely in the midst of mine, and I’m still gonna continue to grow.”
Around the horn
As part of his rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Norfolk, Mark Trumbo (knee) homered Saturday. He will be evaluated by head athletic trainer Brian Ebel on Monday, Hyde said. Trumbo’s 20-day rehab assignment runs through June 16. … Hyde does not expect right-hander Andrew Cashner to miss anytime with the “hot spot” he developed on his right middle finger during Saturday’s start.