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Twelve Orioles Thoughts following series loss in Pittsburgh

With the Orioles losing two out of three at Pittsburgh over the weekend to fall to 5-4 on the season, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. After scoring 24 runs over the first two games of the season, Baltimore has plated a total of 23 over the last seven contests. We can debate a bullpen decision or bemoan an untimely defensive miscue, but you’re not winning consistently scoring just over three runs per game.

2. With Kyle Bradish and John Means sidelined, the back half of the rotation remains a question, but Dean Kremer was superb Sunday with his biggest blemish being a throwing error on a potential double play. He’s struck out 11 and walked only one over 12 1/3 innings thus far. 

3. Brandon Hyde was criticized for not using Yennier Cano on Saturday. He was criticized by others for using Cano in Sunday’s save situation. No matter how you slice it, the same two or three relievers can’t handle every high-leverage situation when you’re playing so many close games. Score more runs.

4. Saturday did feel like the kind of game in which Felix Bautista would put the team on his back — or arm? — for two innings to secure a win. The bullpen has been perfectly fine statistically thus far, but another reliever who consistently misses bats would go a long way.

5. A 2-for-26 stretch at any other point barely garners mention, but that start is magnified after Austin Hays produced a .229/.290/.384 slash line over the final three months of 2023. Talk of more drastic measures this early is silly, but Colton Cowser starting more often is perfectly reasonable. 

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6. Despite lacking the changeup that dominated the Angels, Grayson Rodriguez allowed two runs and struck out seven over 6 1/3 innings Friday. The 24-year-old has completed six innings in nine of his last 13 regular-season starts. I’ll take Corbin Burnes and Rodriguez against just about anyone’s top two.

7. Tyler Wells wasn’t nearly as effective Saturday as he struggled to miss bats and allowed three runs over 5 1/3 innings. I’d like to see the rotation get to a point where Wells could be deployed as a late-inning reliever, but a starting role is completely understandable for now. 

8. Saturday was the latest example of the Orioles wanting to see Mike Baumann become a viable high-leverage option with his mid-90s fastball and breaking stuff, but that needs to start translating to consistency. The 28-year-old has walked four batters in three innings and is out of minor-league options.

9. In contrast, Keegan Akin is taking advantage of the early injury to Cionel Perez and has allowed two hits while striking out five over 4 1/3 scoreless innings. Akin figured to work in long relief, but his two appearances in Pittsburgh came in the late innings of close games. 

10. I’ve seen some questioning Gunnar Henderson in the leadoff spot, but who’s the alternative other than Adley Rutschman? Cedric Mullins holds a .250 on-base percentage dating back to Memorial Day last season. Regardless of the batting order, more guys simply need to start hitting. 

11. Heston Kjerstad has 25 RBIs. He and Kyle Stowers both have six homers. Six regulars (at least 20 at-bats) have an OPS of 1.091 or higher. No, it’s not the major leagues, but the offensive numbers at Triple-A Norfolk are ridiculous and reflect the talent knocking on the door.

12. The roster conversation has layers. Tony Kemp is a placeholder, and jettisoning Ramon Urias or Jorge Mateo at some point this season is quite possible. But the Orioles aren’t moving on from a former All-Star outfielder solely to make room for a prospect. The right trade has to present itself.  

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