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If you have baseball, you will have storylines. Baseball and storylines, in fact, could potentially give hot dogs and peanuts a run for their money in regard the best dynamic duo.
Through the first full week of the season, a plethora of storylines can already be noticed just by a brief glimpse at the standings. Who would have thought the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres would both be over .500? Or that the Tampa Bay Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks are both under .500? Or that Miami has not played a game since July 26 due to a COVID-19 outbreak?
The storylines extend to individual players as well. Ronald Acuna Jr. currently leads all players in strikeouts (18). Christian Yelich only has one hit through 28 plate appearances? Talk about weird.
These storylines just skid the tip of the iceberg. Even still, there is arguably no bigger storyline in MLB right now than the Baltimore Orioles. Their storyline, however, does not come from severe underperformance; nor does it come from front office mishaps or managerial changes, either. There is no “Charm City Tragedy” to talk about in regard to Baltimore right now. Instead, the team has turned heads in a much more positive manner.
Well, the Orioles currently possess a 5-3 record and are second only to the New York Yankees in the American League East.
That sentence alone would be enough to show the storyline. A rebuilding team having a winning record at any point of the season should show intrigue. Even still, the storyline goes much deeper than wins, losses and the team’s placement in the standings.
When looking at their 3-2 record over the past week, the storyline begins to show itself even more. After all, they started off the week 0-2 after facing the Yankees. Their second loss to them came on a blown save in the ninth inning thanks to an Aaron Judge three-run home run shot. Despite the gut-wrenching loss, Baltimore turned around and swept the Tampa Bay Rays in three games.
What is so important about that, you may ask?
The sweep was Baltimore’s first since August 27-29 against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The sweep was also the first against Tampa Bay in a three-game series since September 11-13 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
The sweep was possible due to gritty pitching and consistent hitting. The starting trio of Alex Cobb, Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone pitched a combined 14.1 innings and gave up only four earned runs. The bullpen behind the starters, meanwhile, pitched 14.2 innings and only gave up two earned runs. The most complete win to emphasize the effectiveness of the pitching came on Sunday (5-1 win), as Milone pitched five innings, struck out eight batters and only gave up one earned run. The bullpen pitched the remaining four innings and did not allow any runs, hits or walks to any Tampa Bay batter.
The offense, meanwhile, collected 32 hits during the three-game stretch and scored 16 runs. Seven different batters would have multi-hit performances combined during the series (Hanser Alberto, Renato Nunez, Anthony Santander, Pedro Severino, Rio Ruiz, Dwight Smith Jr. and Jose Iglesias). Of the group, Alberto and Nunez would both collect two multi-hit games (Friday and Sunday). The strong weekend for Alberto, specifically, would bump his batting average up to .429 on the season through 37 plate appearances.
When combining the pitching and hitting, the storyline becomes vividly clear. While Baltimore is, on paper, rebuilding, the team still can surprise teams and win even without household names. While the club might not yet possess electric starters, high-profile sluggers or superstar players entirely, they can still compete day in and day out and, as seen over the weekend, sweep a potential playoff contender.
Although it remains to be seen if Baltimore can keep up the production over the duration of the season, the sweep over the weekend shows how any team can win over any game, series or stretch. Rebuild teams are no exception.