It would take quite a collapse for the Orioles to look at this season and not see improvement. As they look to grow even further and transform from a rebuilding team to one that can reasonably contend in the American League East, they’ll have to learn how to be more consistent.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde was quick to praise the Atlanta Braves pitchers for stifling his hitters in Tuesday night’s 5-1 loss, which came after a 14-run explosion the night before. Still, he acknowledged that the Orioles are “definitely a streaky hitting team,” and considering how they need to score more than five runs to win, that makes them a streaky team in a more broad sense.
“I think that’s pretty common for young hitters, to chase a little bit out of the strike zone,” Hyde said. "I think when we’re not swinging the bat well, that’s really what we’re doing. For me tonight, I would give credit to the Braves pitching staff. I thought they were excellent.
“But, I think going forward, I think we need to top bottom, we need to zero in on our strike zone a little bit and understand what pitches we can handle and what pitches we can drive because the nights that we score a bunch of runs, we’re putting good swings on strikes. When we’re scuffling is when we’re trying to do a little bit too much and leaving the strike zone.”
There’s no denying that the Orioles are pitching better than they did the past few years. But it still comes down to the offense to determine whether they win on a given night. They’re 20-8 when scoring five or more runs this year, and 1-19 when they don’t. In 12 of those losses in which they scored five or fewer runs, they allowed five or fewer as well.
Those are simply winnable games, and swinging a few of those losses the other way might make some of these late-September games against playoff hopefuls more meaningful.
The Orioles' streaky offense also explains the roller coaster their season has been. In their four-game losing streak against the Miami Marlins, the Orioles averaged two runs per game and were shut out twice. During the six-game winning streak that followed, they scored eight runs per game, including double-digits three times.
During a season-high, six-game losing streak in mid-August, they scored 22 runs for an average of 3.66 per game, then 14 in a five-game losing streak at the end of the month, averaging 2.8 runs per game.
When they pulled themselves back into the playoff race with a four-game winning streak from Sept. 4-8, they did so averaging seven runs per game. They scored six runs the following night in a deflating loss to the New York Mets, then went on to lose four straight to the Yankees while scoring three runs total.
It hasn’t been the same Orioles lineup every time. They’ve had vastly different personnel at different points in the season. But as the young core of this lineup grows together, flattening out those inconsistencies will be what helps solidify the next step up in quality.