Orioles manager Brandon Hyde doesn’t put much stock in his team’s struggles at Camden Yards through two homestands, but the third is lengthy enough to reverse any home blues.
Friday, the Orioles began a nine-game homestand hosting the Tampa Bay Rays, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels with a 3-10 record in Baltimore. They got swept by the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins and lost three of four games to the Oakland A’s, though they won their most recent home series by taking two of three against the Chicago White Sox.
In 2018, the Orioles went 28-53 at Camden Yards amid a 115-loss season. Although they want to avoid a similar end result, both Hyde and outfielder Trey Mancini pointed to this season’s slow start as a case of a small sample size.
“Honestly, I think it's probably just more coincidence than anything,” Mancini said. “You always want to do well at home, and last year, we struggled here, but no, we definitely love being here more than the road, and I think it's just coincidence. We've lost a lot of close games here, too. Hopefully, we can put together a good homestand and improve that record a little bit.”
Four of the Orioles’ home defeats have come by three runs or fewer, including two one-run losses in the Twins’ sweep. But they’ve also suffered four blowouts of at least nine runs, three of which ended with an Orioles position player pitching.
Of the league-leading 74 home runs Orioles pitchers allowed entering Friday, 41 came at Camden Yards, a rate of 3.15 per game. The Yankees and Twins hit 25 of them in going 6-0 at Oriole Park. Minnesota then hit 12 more when the Orioles visited Target Field last week.
“I wouldn't put into anything into [our home record] except that we ran into a Minnesota team that we've had a really hard time with,” Hyde said. “New York swung the bat great. Oakland's a good club. I don't think we've just played our best baseball at home.”
Part of that, Mancini said, might be a team with new faces not yet feeling quite comfortable in Baltimore. The Orioles have played six more games on the road than at home and began the season with a road trip.
“It's really good to be back and just get settled in,” Mancini said. “I feel like a lot of guys are still trying to finish moving into their apartments, things like that. We started on the road, and you can get a little behind on those things, so I think we're getting there as far as all that goes and getting settled, getting comfortable, so hopefully, that shows on the field, too.”
Orioles fans would certainly like to see that, too. Camden Yards has drawn an average of 15,611 fans per game, the 11th fewest in the American League. More than half of the Orioles’ total attendance came in the home-opening Yankees series. In the 10 games since — which included the lowest open-admission crowd in the ballpark’s history — Oriole Park’s average of 9,816 fans exceeds only Miami’s Marlins Park.
“Our fans come here to watch us win,” Mancini said. “That's why they come to games, so hopefully, we can pick it up so they keep coming out.”
Wilkerson in center
Despite a career .311/.336/.566 slashline against the organization that originally drafted him, outfielder Joey Rickard was out of the lineup for Friday’s series opener against the Rays and right-hander Tyler Glasnow.
Rickard, who the Orioles acquired from Tampa Bay in the 2015 Rule 5 draft, had one hit in 20 at-bats on Baltimore’s recent road trip. Since recording four hits in last month’s series finale at Tropicana Field, Rickard is 6-for-41, a .146 average.
"I just wanted to give Joey a blow, give him a couple days, the off day yesterday and the day today,” Hyde said. “Glasnow's tough. He's one of the best pitchers in the American League. He's got elite, elite stuff and tough on right-handers and left-handers, so I just wanted to give Joey a breather.”
With Rickard sitting, Stevie Wilkerson made his first major league start in center field. Wilkerson’s only other professional experience in center came this season when he started two games there with Triple-A Norfolk and moved there for an inning in Minnesota.
With Dwight Smith Jr. and Mancini flanking Wilkerson, it will be another new starting outfield combination for a team that has struggled at times with its communication out there.
Around the horn
Outfielder Austin Hays played six innings in center field in an extended spring training game, his first as he begins to progress toward a return from a sprained left thumb. … Left-hander Richard Bleier, recovering from shoulder tendinitis, has pitched well in extended spring games and seen an uptick in his velocity, Hyde said.