This time last year, the Orioles would have liked nothing more than for the breakout duo of Trey Mancini and Jonathan Schoop to come to the plate representing the tying run with the bases loaded in the seventh inning against the rival Boston Red Sox the way they did Tuesday night.
Much has changed this season, and the Orioles left that inning just as they began it — trailing 6-2 in an eventual 6-4 loss at Camden Yards that dropped them to 19-47 and solidified their fourth six-game losing streak of the season.
Mancini struck out on five pitches and Schoop topped a ball back to the mound for a force play at home to leave the bases loaded, with the missed opportunity representing a major regression for them individually and a significant problem for the team.
Both Mancini, who finished third in 2017 American League Rookie of the Year voting, and Schoop, the team's lone All-Star last season and the player selected as Most Valuable Oriole, are struggling badly compared with their levels a year ago.
“If we knew how it happened, we'd solve it,” manager Buck Showalter said. “We know what they're capable of, and a lot of guys go through it. Like I tell them, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. But they need some success. I don't care how strong you are mentally or emotionally, this game will wear on you when you have that amount of struggles with something you've been so good at. So, as long as they keep grinding at it...”
Schoop drove in a team-high 105 runs while batting .293 with an .841 OPS last season, helped by a .338/.391/.519 line with runners in scoring position. Mancini hit .293 with an .823 OPS and 73 RBIs in his rookie year, buoyed by a .340/.393/.708 batting line in those situations. Together, they were two of five Orioles regulars with averages over .300 in such scenarios.
This year, their results have reversed. Mancini entered Tuesday with just four hits with runners in scoring position for a .091/.208/.182 line. His most recent hit with a runner in scoring position came a full month ago, May 12 against the Tampa Bay Rays.
“I know with Trey, there’s a lot of emotion and just, I don’t want to say ‘fatigue,’ but it just beats on you every day,” Showalter said. “I know what they’re going through. I see it behind the scenes and in the dugout and up the runway. But there's only one way to get out of it, you've got to keep going out there and you’ve got to fight your way through it.”
Schoop, who spent most of the season as the cleanup hitter when he wasn't out with an oblique injury, has seven hits in 45 at-bats with a runner on or past second base for a .156 average. His last hit with a runner in scoring position came May 28, though it was a single that advanced Pedro Álvarez only from second to third. His last run-scoring hit in such a situation came on May 13 in that same series against the Rays.
“It's really tough,” Schoop said. “We got the bases loaded. We didn't score when we got some runners on. … There's no excuses, just got to find a way to get it done, you know. I don't know how we're going to do it, but I'm going to keep working hard and keep making the adjustment and hopefully, it clicks for me.”
They are the two worst regulars on the club in such scenarios, with Manny Machado the only Orioles player above .300 in such situations. Machado was at that level last season, too, but over 2½ months into this season, Schoop is done hearing about last season and how good it was.
“You just said it — last year,” Schoop said. “Last year is the past already. This year, we've got to figure out something. We've got to figure out something for us to do the things we did last year. So, I know I can do it and I know for sure Trey can do it, too. You've got to just keep working hard, and hopefully, it clicks.”
The breakdown of two lineup fixtures in such scenarios for the entire season goes a long way toward explaining how the Orioles, as a club, entered Tuesday 28th in the league with a .217 average with runners in scoring position. Tuesday, they were 2-for-12 in such situations, with a run-scoring single by Danny Valencia in the third inning and Mark Trumbo’s two-out, two-strike double that scored two runs in the ninth inning the saving factor on that front.
The Orioles leave Tuesday's game averaging 2.4 runs per game in June thanks to 7-for-69 batting with runners in scoring position. Their 3.5 runs per game are the fewest in the AL.
That’s not liable to change unless the likes of Schoop and Mancini turn things around.
“There will be something down the road in what will be long careers for both of them that they'll look back on and grow from,” Showalter said.