With the Orioles having split a brief two-game set with league-leading Tampa Bay, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. Despite being outscored 13-4 over the final 14 innings of the series, the Orioles still earned a split against the Rays, who’ve lost just eight games at Tropicana Field all year. There’s a reason why Tampa Bay has owned the best record in baseball throughout the season.
2. Wednesday was forgettable for Tyler Wells, who uncharacteristically committed two errors and walked three in addition to giving up two homers. His 18 long balls allowed are a conundrum for someone with a sub-1.00 WHIP and rotation-leading 3.22 ERA, but all but six have been solos. He’ll be fine.
3. Talking about trading for a starting pitcher or another bat is more exciting, but concerns about middle relief are growing. Counting on major contributions from Dillon Tate and Mychal Givens is feeling more tenuous, so Mike Elias needs to add bullpen help — or discover a way to clone Felix Bautista.
4. Adam Frazier has a .286 on-base percentage and has struggled in June. Jorge Mateo entered Wednesday with a putrid .381 OPS since May 1. It’s growing more and more difficult to justify keeping Jordan Westburg at Triple-A Norfolk when you’re getting so little at both second base and shortstop.
5. At the very least, you’d like to see the slick-fielding Joey Ortiz receive more playing time if he’s going to be on the 26-man roster for the time being. Ortiz has made only two starts since being recalled a week ago.
6. A pet peeve of mine is hearing someone justify standing pat by arguing that the Orioles are on pace to win 100 games as presently constructed. You should always be trying to improve on deficiencies, especially when having potential solutions sitting in your own farm system.
7. Austin Hays entered Wednesday leading the AL in batting average and leading Baltimore in hits, doubles, runs scored, and OPS. It’s never easy for an unheralded outfielder to crack the All-Star Game roster, but he’s had an excellent season. You just hope he continues staying healthy.
8. I’ll expand on this later this week, but Baltimore should take advantage of Ryan Mountcastle being on a rehab assignment, especially with Ryan O’Hearn hitting so well. Mountcastle sports a 4.6% walk rate and a .264 OBP and really needs to make better swing decisions to remain an everyday player.
9. Remember how irrationally angry some were that the Orioles signed Aaron Hicks when Cedric Mullins injured his groin and Colton Cowser wasn’t yet off the Triple-A injured list? Wednesday marked only Hicks’ second start with Baltimore in which he didn’t reach base.
10. If someone had told you at the end of last season that the Orioles would have a top-five record in baseball in late June despite Grayson Rodriguez being demoted to Triple-A Norfolk and DL Hall currently training in Sarasota, you probably could have made a pretty penny.
11. Dan Duquette was no stranger to manipulating a major league roster years ago, but the roster gymnastics to accommodate multiple backup catchers over the last 10 days have been something else. The Orioles are all but trolling anyone clamoring for a Westburg or Cowser promotion at this point.
12. Baltimore is now 0-3 in opportunities to move to 19 games over .500, which would be the high-water mark since 2014. The upcoming homestand doesn’t look too imposing on paper, but it takes on a different complexion with how hot Cincinnati has been since Elly De La Cruz’s debut.