If there is one song that can sum up the Baltimore Orioles season so far, it has to be New Edition’s 1988 hit single Can You Stand the Rain? Surviving the third rain delay dealt to them in as many weeks, Baltimore defeated the New York Yankees Sunday 3-1 in a game that had to be called in just five short innings. Heading into the All-Star break, it seems as if every other week this season the O’s have had to face either a postponement or delay because of stormy weather. However, if there is one lesson to be learned by the amount of rain this team has endured and have had to overcome this season, it is this: Come rain or shine, the Baltimore Orioles are here to stay.
Going into the break, the O’s have won nine of their last 12 games, stretching their AL-East lead to four games over the struggling Toronto Blue Jays. Sitting atop the division heading into the All-Star festivities for the first time since 1997 has not come easy for the O’s. Due to rain storms, Baltimore has already had six games either postponed or called early, forcing the team to have to complete three double headers just half way through the year.
This most recent postponed game (July 8 at the Washington Nationals) will now have to be made up August 4, which will force the team to play 16 games in 16 days from July 29 through August 13. That August 4 game will also force the team to have to fly to Washington, play a game, and then turn around and fly to Toronto that very same night. But even with all of the rain, double headers, extra innings and added traveling time that Baltimore has had to deal with, it is not the only “rain”- so to speak- that the team has had to prevail through.
The injury bug has also plagued the O’s throughout this season: To start the year, All-Star third baseman Manny Machado was on the bench recovering from a left-knee surgery. Starting pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez (currently injured), Miguel Gonzales, Bud Norris and closer Tommy Hunter have all seen 15-day disabled list stints. Starting first baseman Chris “Crush” Davis spent time on the 15-day DL. Starting catcher Matt Wieters is out for the season with Tommy John surgery. Finally, comeback hopeful Johan Santana is also out for the year. All together, the big three of Davis, Machado and Wieters have missed a combined 116 games, which is certainly not an easy problem to surmount.
All of these injuries to key players combined with the amount of double headers and rainouts sustained have forced other players to step up at big moments throughout this year. Nelson Cruz, who leads the team in home runs (28) and slugging percentage (.570), has shouldered the responsibility of team slugger as Davis has continued to struggle at the plate while battling through injury. OF Adam Jones has also had an amazing year, especially at the plate and will be joining teammate Cruz as starters for the AL All-Star team. Utility player and fill-in DH, Steve Pearce, has slowly grown into a household name in Baltimore and currently leads the team in batting average with a .316. An early acquisition of Nick Hundley has certainly paid off with Wieters unexpectedly going down for the year. Hundley, who recently hit a walk off homer against the Yankees, is splitting time behind the plate with Caleb Joseph, who has also played well defensively for the O’s. Lastly, 23-year-old starting pitcher Kevin Gausman has pitched terrifically while filling in as a spot starter. The hard throwing righty, who has gone up and down from majors to minors all season long, is now making a strong case to remain on the roster for the long haul, proving more and more with every outing just how indispensable he truly can be for the team.
No matter what this first half of the season has brought to Baltimore’s door step, this team just keeps on finding ways to win. Battling through storm after storm, a seemingly endless barrage of double headers and constant nagging injuries, the O’s have proven time and time again that they deserve to be atop the AL East and that they truly are here to stay. With every hurdle they face, this team grows stronger and going into the second half of this season, if any luck should swing back in the direction of the Baltimore Orioles, they could really pick up some steam heading into the Fall Classic and become a true force to be reckoned with.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer Covering the Baltimore Orioles