AL East Report: Baltimore Orioles
The Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox have a less than cozy rivalry seeming from run-ins from last season.
Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com(April 14, 2016 – Source: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America)
Red Sox infielder Dustin Pedroia and Orioles’ infielder Manny Machado collided with each other at second base during a game at Camden Yards in April, leading to a string of brushbacks and hit-by-pitches that resulted in finger pointing and suspensions. In May of 2017 fans at Fenway Park taunted the Orioles’ outfielder Adam Jones with racial slurs, the latest in a string of events involving the Boston Red Sox and Fenway Park where a black player claimed to be on the receiving end of bigoted taunts. While the Red Sox went on to finish first in the AL East, and the Orioles finished last, it’s premature to say that last season’s bad blood won’t play a role in game where the two new rivals face each other, especially when both teams have so much power in the lineup.
Rivalry aside, the Baltimore Orioles have been an AL East playoff threat in recent years. Let’s take a look at how they’re shaping up for the 2018 season.
The Orioles’ Starting Lineup
Let’s start with the Orioles’ best hitter Jonathan Schoop, who hit .293 with 32 home runs and 105 RBIs last season. As a Red Sox season ticket holder, I have to admit that he was the one I’d worry about the most when I heard his name announced in the starting lineup. Schoop brings power and consistency to the plate that always threatens opposing pitchers, especially with runners in scoring position. Not far behind is Manny Machado, who arguably is the source of tension between the Red Sox and Orioles. Machado’s 33 home runs and 95 RBIs compounds the threat that Schoop brings to the lineup. Combine these two hitters with Chris Davis, Trey Mancini, Adam Jones, and Seth Smith, all of whom hit 20+ home runs last season, and you still have a dangerous powerhouse in the AL East.
The Orioles’ Starting Rotation
Unlike the Orioles’ lineup, the team’s starting rotation leaves a lot to be desired. Only Dylan Bundy had a winning record among O’s pitchers who started nineteen or more games last season. Relievers Zach Britton and Brad Brach racked up double digit saves last season, but it’ll be hard for them to save if their starters can’t keep the opposition at bay.
2018 Will Be a Telling Year for the Baltimore Orioles
Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Manny Machado, and Adam Jones will be free agents at the end of the 2018 season. Manager Buck Showalter’s contract will expire at the end of the season as well. Whether they choose to stay or leave will hinge on how well they can all come together. The key to that solution lies in their starting rotation. If the Orioles are going to be contenders their powerhouse hitters should focus on advancing the runners home.
One thing is clear though. The Orioles have to overcome the intimidating lineup the New York Yankees put together in the offseason. They also have to contend against the Red Sox starting rotation, which is arguably the strongest rotation in the American League right now. If they can’t do these two things, then O’s fans will have to get used to more losing seasons.