Twelve Orioles Thoughts after first 100 games of 2023 season

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With the Orioles reaching the 100-game mark with a league-leading 62-38 record atop the American League East, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Brandon Hyde’s club had little time to reflect, but it doesn’t get much better than the series win over Tampa Bay — at least in July. From Orioles fans taking over Tropicana Field to winning three tight games to take sole possession of first place, that four-game set won’t be forgotten. 

2. Following those four days with a gutsy Monday performance to steal the series opener from the Phillies was impressive, especially with the bullpen really shorthanded and Adley Rutschman receiving the night off. Dean Kremer matching his season high with seven strong innings certainly helped the cause. 

3. Jordan Westburg had been scuffling for much of July before hitting his first major league homer while Colton Cowser was 4-for-38 in the majors before hitting the game-winning RBI double in the ninth on Monday. You hope those heroics help the rookies’ confidence even more moving forward.

4. Though Mike Elias and the Orioles exercising “due diligence” on the availability of megastar Shohei Ohtani is what you’d expect from a club with the AL’s top record, pivoting from their methodical approach — that’s worked very well, mind you — for a rental requiring significant prospects would be shocking. But fun! 

5. The Orioles like Shintaro Fujinami’s arm and believe the Japanese right-hander can contribute with some tweaking, but acquiring a high-leverage bullpen arm — or two — should remain the top priority when weighing the relative cost of deadline trades. Shorten the game on the back end as much as possible. 

6. Not only did Sunday bring a series win, but Yennier Cano was as sharp as he’s looked in recent weeks and Felix Bautista showed off his best splitter, a pitch that hasn’t been quite as consistent as it was last year despite the All-Star closer’s incredible overall performance.

7. Mike Baumann also delivered a critical 2 2/3 scoreless innings in that Sunday victory over the Rays, one of his best outings of the season. The 27-year-old still walks more batters than you’d like, but he has the arm and makeup to pitch in tighter games when necessary. 

8. Gunnar Henderson is just 22 years old and needs further refinement against left-handed pitching, but the superstar vibes he gave off in the Tampa Bay series were undeniable. No disrespect to Rutschman or any of the veterans, but Henderson has been this club’s best position player since mid-May. 

9. Tyler Wells outperformed his peripheral numbers over the first half and was unlikely to sustain a 3.18 ERA, but surrendering his season high in runs allowed and then walks over his first two starts coming out of the All-Star break is unsettling. You hope there isn’t a physical concern. 

10. A hamstring issue for Aaron Hicks may lead to more playing time for Cowser, but it magnifies the latest injury to Cedric Mullins. The Orioles have endured Mullins’ absence better than anyone could have expected, but they really need their starting center fielder to get healthy for the stretch run. 

11. While Ramon Urias has reinforced his value with terrific defense at multiple positions, Jorge Mateo has had a few too many fielding hiccups for someone whose defense and speed are the only factors keeping him on the roster. Of course, injuries have quelled the roster crunch talk for now.

12. Media and fans spend so much time discussing what the Orioles aren’t and how they might improve, which happens everywhere. But this playoff favorite is on pace to win 100 games less than two years removed from a 52-110 season that included a 19-game losing streak. It’s a remarkable story. 

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