Monday, June 8, 2009

West Coast Brings Birds Batting Down to Earth

It had been nice for the Orioles, defeating the Nationals two out of three, sweeping AL East rival Toronto, then taking two of four from AL Central leading Detroit. But on the west coast against Seattle and Oakland, the Orioles bats fell silent, losing five of six games and scoring a combined 10 runs in those games. Only once did the Orioles score more than two runs in those games.

Things came front and center when Aubrey Huff got in a tirade in the dugout after another close hit. The last five games certainly have been frustrating, but the problems with the Oriole bats were clear on the west coast.

A number of combined factors came into this. Brian Roberts has gone two for his last 30 at-bats. No one other than Luke Scott or Nolan Reimold has homered in the last 10 games. A number of Aubrey Huff's hits have been close to home runs, but not close enough. Cesar Izturis was put onto the DL, so a .260 bat is out of the lineup. Early struggles with Matt Wieters and current ones with the Orioles bench also do not help.

With the struggles of the rotation, the Orioles need the bats to succeed. Jeremy Guthrie has not looked good at all lately and the young arms of the rotation can only do so much. Although the bullpen has been good, the fact is this team will normally need to win by establishing strong leads and holding on to them in the late innings. Very rarely with this squad can the starting pitching win games on their own. So when the bats are silent, like this west coast trip, the Orioles will not win.

With Oscar Salazar coming up for Izturis, more Norfolk players are coming up. Although they have been doing well, in the long term for the season they will probably struggle. There really is not much the front office can do about this. The Orioles are not in competition mode and should not sign anyone, and the Orioles would not benefit much by bringing up more Tides players. So this will come down to the veteran bats doing well. Roberts and Huff will need to get out of their slumps plus some of the other players will need to step up in the wake of injuries.

The season continues to be a struggle, but the team has plenty of bright spots, and there is time to get back to winning ways. At the very least, they will not be going back to the west coast until the start of July.

(Photo credit: AP)

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