Taking a division lead becomes much easier when your team goes on a long winning streak; just ask the Kansas City Royals. Most teams at or toward the top of their divisions have gone on tears where they have won a long string of games in a row, or only dropped a few out of two weeks of games. For the Baltimore Orioles, this has not happened. The reason for this may fall on the Orioles imbalance of hot and cold.
It seems like for the birds, whenever their lineup is hot, the pitchers are cold, or vice versa. Right now, the starting pitching staff has pitched great over the last 10 games with a long string of consecutive quality starts still active. Unfortunately, the lineup is the opposite.
With the exception of Adam Jones, who is having a phenomenal month of June, and Nick Markakis who has been consistent all year, the rest of the lineup seems to be struggling. Manny Machado has been dropped down to the number seven spot in the order numerous times due to his struggles at the plate. Chris Davis coming in to yesterday’s game in Tampa had struck out 16 of his last 34 plate appearances, and was batting .167 over his last 84 at bats. Nelson Cruz has not hit a home run since June 3rd, although still leads the league in the category.
Likewise, with the starting pitching staff finally pitching well nightly, the bullpen has been the reason for some of their losses. Zach Britton still is strong in the back end of the bullpen, but both Tommy Hunter and Brian Matusz have struggled lately.
Hunter seems to have completely lost it all together and seems incapable of getting hitters out on a consistent basis. Matusz has been cold lately, but seems to just be going through a slump like most pitchers experience, and hopefully will be back to normal form shortly.
With the trend of how the O’s season has went, the lineup will begin hitting and putting up four or more runs a game, and the pitchers will begin to give up runs and only last into the fourth or fifth inning. On the bright side, the Orioles sit four games out of first place and are extremely due for their hot streak like other teams are experiencing.
When the lineup gets it together and the pitching staff as a whole performs how they have as of late, the O’s will be a scary team to face. The only worrisome side of this theory is of course that the team may not ever get to this point. If that is the case, they are luckily just good enough to keep themselves in the hunt throughout the rest of the season.