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Twelve Orioles Thoughts following series split with Toronto

With the Orioles salvaging a two-game series split with AL East rival Toronto in dramatic fashion on Wednesday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Adley Rutschman must have heard all the Gunnar Henderson MVP chatter and recent praise for Jordan Westburg and figured it was time to remind everyone that his arrival in the majors two years ago really jump-started this turnaround and ascension. What a moment for the All-Star catcher. 

2. Brandon Hyde stated the obvious when acknowledging “you normally don’t win games like that when you leave that many guys on base and have that many scoring opportunities.” The Orioles stranded 11 men and went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Talk about stealing one. 

3. The Orioles still lead the AL in runs per game, but ranking last in walks and 10th in on-base percentage becomes more relevant when you’re averaging 3.8 runs per contest in May. There’s nothing wrong with more aggressiveness, but finding the middle ground is probably in order.  

4. I still don’t know what we watched in that eighth inning. James McCann is a good bunter, so I’ll live with Hyde’s initial safety squeeze call, but McCann can’t continue multiple attempts on his own. A lefty reliever looming or not, Ryan O’Hearn also needs to pinch-hit in that inning.

5. Making McCann’s bunt attempts worse was Anthony Santander being on third base with a knee that was feeling worse after he bruised it in the outfield earlier in the game. I find much of the Hyde criticism on social media to be unfair, but that inning made my head hurt. 

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6. Kyle Bradish needed 85 pitches to complete four innings, registering only five swinging strikes. For the foreseeable future, we’ll wonder about the health of his elbow whenever he struggles, but this was only his sixth start of 2024 including his rehab assignment and acknowledging him missing helpful Grapefruit League tuneups.

7. Credit the Baltimore bullpen for making Wednesday’s ninth-inning comeback possible after tossing five innings of one-hit ball. Jacob Webb would rather not walk the bases loaded before escaping trouble, but even Mike Baumann was able to get five meaningful outs to maintain the one-run deficit. 

8. We’ll see if the revamped lineup featuring Westburg leading off and Henderson batting cleanup becomes a fixture against left-handed starters, an everyday occurrence, or a simple one-off. At the very least, Westburg reinforced why he should be batting higher in the order. 

9. Much was made about Corbin Burnes being “fatigued” after 85 pitches Monday, but he’s on track to eclipse his career high in innings (202) and completed seven frames once before May 27 last season. Like it or not, even an ace in today’s game doesn’t mean what it used to.

10. Since his walk-off home run against Minnesota on April 17, Cedric Mullins is 8-for-68 with two extra-base hits, four walks, and 19 strikeouts. He’s 5-for-41 against lefties in 2024. I’m not about to bury someone who’s a superb center fielder at the very least, but a platoon is overdue.

11. Complicating that is Hyde revealing Austin Hays is still dealing with “lingering effects in the calf,” which explains why Kyle Stowers ran for him after the seventh-inning pinch-hit double. If that’s the case, why be so quick to activate Hays when he could have stayed on his rehab assignment longer? 

12. I refuse to ignore last year’s AL Division Series, but Baltimore not being swept in 105 of its last 106 series — yes, counting postseason — is remarkable. The regular-season streak has tied the 1903-05 New York Giants — who were managed by onetime Baltimore Oriole John McGraw — for third longest in history. 

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