The Baltimore Orioles Monthly Recap: May
Lord and heavens above; the Baltimore Orioles are officially a good baseball team. Wait. Let me try that again: the 2023 Baltimore Orioles are a great baseball team. Mmm still not right. How’s this? The Baltimore Orioles are one of the best teams in baseball. Don’t believe me? Let me prove it to you.
We’re over a third of the way through the season and the O’s are 8th in run differential, 10th in OPS, and possess the 3rd best record in MLB. As of today, the Birds record of 35-21 would be good for the highest seeded wildcard. Despite their impressive record, their division rival Tampa Bay Rays have the best record in the league and are currently first in the AL East. Through the month of May the Orioles posted a record of 16-12 while recording series wins over the Rays and Yankees, and a series sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Now let’s take a look at the highs and the lows for the month of May.
Nineteen of the Orioles’ 35 wins have been comebacks. While it would be nice to simply blow out inferior ball clubs, given the pitching woes that have afflicted the O’s (more on that below) the never-say-die attitude of the 2023 Orioles has become a trademark of the squad.
Their contest against the Yankees on May 25 encapsulates the grit and perseverance of this team perfectly. The O’s were down 5-1 through six innings and the energy seemed lackluster at best. But in the top of the 7th, Adam Frazier had the big hit the Orioles were begging for all game; a dinger to the short porch in right field drove in three, and just like that the O’s were back. By the end of the inning the Birds had scored eight and led 9-5. The final score was 9-6, setting the stage for a game three rubber match.
This game is just a microcosm of what the O’s have been able to do both this season, and even in the second half of 2022. There is a staunchly positive culture being built in the Orioles’ clubhouse, and it seems this team is built to compete in the very near future.
You Can’t Escape Cedric Mullins
Cedric Mullins played like a man possessed this May. He slashed .271/.346/.531, while hitting five home runs, and playing gold-glove caliber defense in center. Mullins even recorded a five-hit game, and hit for the cycle on May 12. This an exciting bounce back for the 28-year-old who by no means had a bad year in 2022, but certainly left a lot to be desired – especially when compared to his all-star campaign in 2021.
Let the Good Times Roll
Not only are the Orioles good at baseball, they’re also a ridiculously fun team. For example, the water-themed celebrations that the Birds began to employ have made a genuine cultural impact. There’s even a section in Camden Yards dubbed the “Birdbath” in which fans are sprayed with water upon an extra base being hit. The O’s have loveable personalities, a will to win, and ridiculous amounts of talent throughout the organization. What’s not to love about these Orioles?
Ok here’s something to love a little less. Jorge Mateo landed firmly in the “highs” column of my last monthly recap, but since then he has slumped hard. In April Mateo slashed .347/.395/.667 with six home runs and 10 stolen bases, and I really thought he may have turned a page on his struggles at the plate. Unfortunately, his regression to the mean has felt more like a nosedive. Through the month of May, Mateo slashed a dismal .128/.165/.151, and hit zero home runs. The eye test is equally concerning: Mateo just looks lost at the plate. He’ll swing wildly at pitches outside, and then whiff on the same pitch three times in a row. Mateo barely made contact in May, and when he did it was soft, nonthreatening batted balls. Perhaps he’ll get his groove back in June, but right now, Mateo’s performances are concerning.
Through the month of April I had the Orioles’ pitching as an area to keep an eye on, but nothing that should set the alarm bells off. In May however, it was less than ideal. With the exception of Danny Coulombe, Yennier Cano, and Felix Bautista, the Orioles’ bullpen has struggled. Free agent acquisition Mychal Givens has especially struggled. After starting the year on the IL with an injured knee, Givens returned this past month and has looked awful. Through six games he’s allowed five earned runs, good for an ERA of 11.25. In their latest game against the Cleveland Guardians, the Orioles elected to play a bullpen game, starting Keegan Akin. Despite scoring eight runs in a game that Shane Bieber started, the Orioles lost 12-8, due to a complete collapse from the admittedly overworked bullpen.
Furthermore, the O’s currently don’t have a fifth starter. LHP Cole Irvin was optioned back to AAA, and won’t be eligible to return until June 5th, and rookie Grayson Rodriguez seems to be done in the Bigs for the foreseeable future after getting roughed up his last few outings. Irvin will likely be back June 5, and hopefully he will right the ship for the struggling O’s rotation.
Cedric Mullins’ Injury
Disaster struck right at the end of May when the aforementioned Mullins went down with a groin strain. Normally, given the O’s deep farm system, an injury like this wouldn’t have been disastrous, but the timing is awful. Almost all of the outfield prospects in AAA are dealing with injury, precluding a callup. As a result, the Orioles signed OF Aaron Hicks. For more on this move and Mullins click this link.