NEW YORK —
In consecutive at-bats across separate games of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the New York Yankees, Orioles outfielder Joey Rickard doubled with two outs. Both times, the extra-base hit proved fruitless.
Given a chance to drive in a run with the bases loaded and the Orioles down a run, Rickard grounded out amid a day Baltimore went 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position, a continuation of a season-long struggle in such situations.
The Orioles began their four-game series at the Cleveland Indians on Thursday ranking last in the American League with a .211 batting average with a runner on second or third base.
“I think when you’re not scoring a ton of runs and you’re in that kind of a situation it’s natural to press,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “Guys try to do too much maybe and try to score the guy instead of taking their at-bat. So I just think we still have to continue to have a middle-of-the-field approach and be able to think through the big part of the field and not try to do too much when we have runners out there.”
Fortunately in the Orioles’ case, the Indians haven’t been so fruitful in that category, either. Cleveland’s .230 average with runners in scoring position was better than only the Detroit Tigers and Baltimore in the AL.
Hits with runners in scoring position are a critical part of run production, one that’s been a struggle for the Orioles, and especially of late. They’re hitting .100 with runners in scoring position in their past 10 games, going 3-for-7 in that stretch.
Going further back, since going 5-for-14 in those situations in an extra-inning victory on the road against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 18, the Orioles are 25-for-140 with runners in scoring position, a .179 average in those 22 games. Baltimore went 6-for-16 in those games.
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“Just haven’t been getting it done,” outfielder Trey Mancini said. “I don’t know if we’re pressing when guys are there. Everybody obviously wants to succeed in that position. But yeah, we’ve been having a tough time driving guys in and that’s gotta change, whether it’s our mindset, maybe we’re trying to get too big. I don’t know; it could be a lot of things, but it’s definitely something we need to take care of a little better.”
Some Orioles, though, have found success in those situations. Outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. is batting .424 with runners in scoring position, leading to his team-high 27 RBIs. But the Oriole with the next closest average with runners on second or third is Rio Ruiz at .280, a steep drop. No other Oriole is above .241. That includes Mancini, who, despite a productive season, is hitting .189 with runners in scoring position.
In the Indians’ case, three Cleveland batters with at least a dozen at-bats with a runner in scoring position are hitting at least .325 in Jason Kipnis (.417), Tyler Naquin (.333) and Carlos Santana (.325), though Naquin was placed on the injured list Tuesday.
But star shortstop Francisco Lindor is 2-for-18, a .111 average, with four strikeouts in those situations for an Indians team that could use him to overcome an early deficit in the AL Central standings.
Interestingly, the teams aren’t that far apart in opponents average with runners in scoring position, with Cleveland just ahead of the Orioles at .246 compared with Baltimore’s .248.
The Indians will have the chance to get their bats going against a struggling team this weekend, while any offensive production will be a bright spot for the inexperienced and developing Orioles.
“That’s kinda part of growing,” Mancini said. “The adrenaline goes up when there’s a guy in scoring position. You’ve gotta find a way to control it, so lately, we haven’t been doing as good of a job as we were earlier on in the year, but that happens, and hopefully, we can turn it around and have a good streak of it here.”