Week a painful re­minder of re­build pay­off

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Nathan Ruiz

Bran­don Hyde fig­ures it was 2013 when he and the rest of the Chicago Cubs’ front of­fice looked down at the field hous­ing a game be­tween their team and the St. Louis Car­di­nals and thought about how far apart the ri­vals’ rosters ap­peared to be.

“We were talk­ing about how much dif­fer­ent their team was than ours,” Hyde said. “Like, ‘When are we are ever gonna look like that?’ ”

Hyde, now in his first year as the Ori­oles man­ager, has likely had sim­i­lar thoughts float through his mind of­ten this year. If so, they were es­pe­cially preva­lent this week, when he watched from the first base du­gout as the New York Yan­kees and Hous­ton Astros, the top two teams in the Amer­i­can League, won five straight games by a mar­gin of 58-16 be­fore Bal­ti­more walked off a win­ner Sun­day, a sol­vent for what was

po­ten­tially the tough­est week of the Ori­oles’ re­build.

Even when the Ori­oles’ lost 10 con­sec­u­tive games ear­lier this sea­son, most were com­pet­i­tive. But this week was em­bar­rass­ing on the field and off be­fore Rio Ruiz, a for­mer Hous­ton draftee, pro­vided Bal­ti­more’s first walk-off vic­tory of the year with a two-run shot af­ter the Ori­oles blew their own lead in the top of the ninth.

The ma­jor league records the Yan­kees set or matched in their se­ries at Cam­den Yards in­clude most home runs in a three-game se­ries, most home runs against one op­po­nent and most home runs at an op­po­nents’ ball­park. Of course, the se­ries fi­nale Wed­nes­day fea­tured Chris Davis and Hyde get­ting caught on cam­era bark­ing at each other in the du­gout, with Davis need­ing to be re­strained be­fore ex­it­ing the game and even­tu­ally the ball­park.

Af­ter Thurs­day’s day off, the Ori­oles seemed to move on from the un­de­sired spot­light the al­ter­ca­tion brought, with Davis and Hyde meet­ing for up­wards of an hour Fri­day and the team los­ing 3-2 to the Astros in a game that ended their record run of 12 con­sec­u­tive games al­low­ing mul­ti­ple home runs. But then came a 23-2 drub­bing in which Hous­ton set a fran­chise record for runs scored and the Ori­oles suf­fered their worst loss since 2007’s 30-3 de­feat against the Texas Rangers.

“No­body’s go­ing to feel sorry for us,” Hyde said be­fore Sun­day’s game. “When you’re in po­si­tion like those teams, they’re com­ing in ex­pect­ing to sweep. They’re com­ing in ex­pect­ing to stay hot and beat us up, and we have to do a re­ally good job of play­ing the spoiler and play­ing with noth­ing to lose.”

Hous­ton, of course, rep­re­sents ev­ery­thing the Ori­oles hope their re­build turns into. The ex­ec­u­tives head­ing it, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent/gen­eral man­ager Mike Elias and as­sis­tant gen­eral man­ager Sig Me­j­dal, are prod­ucts of an Astros front of­fice that took that team from three con­sec­u­tive first over­all draft picks to a World Se­ries ti­tle in the span of five years.

Hyde saw a sim­i­lar growth with Chicago. Two years af­ter Chicago’s di­rec­tor of player de­vel­op­ment was among those ques­tion­ing the future dur­ing that matchup with the Car­di­nals, he was the first base coach of a team in the Na­tional League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries. The Cubs won the World Se­ries the next sea­son.

Satur­day alone showed the di­chotomy the or­ga­ni­za­tion is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing. As the ma­jor league Ori­oles got blown out, both 2018 first-round pick Grayson Ro­driguez and Dean Kre­mer, part of the pack­age the Ori­oles got from the Los An­ge­les Dodgers in the Manny Machado trade, struck out 10 for their re­spec­tive mi­nor league af­fil­i­ates, while 2019 first over­all pick Ad­ley Rutschman hit a walk-off sin­gle for Short-A Aberdeen.

No one in the Ori­oles’ or­ga­ni­za­tion has been afraid to say there is a great dis­tance be­tween them and com­pet­i­tive­ness, with this week at Cam­den Yards show­ing just that. But thanks to Hous­ton’s jug­ger­naut and the Ori­oles’ abil­ity to over­come it Sun­day, it also dis­played the brighter future Bal­ti­more hopes be­comes its own, even if stretches such as the week’s first five games make that kind of turn­around seem years away.

“There is a gap right now, but I think things can turn around quickly,” Hyde said. “There ob­vi­ously has to be a ton of patience, but we’re go­ing to get tal­ent in this or­ga­ni­za­tion, and we’re go­ing to sign the right guys, and we be­lieve in de­vel­op­ment. You draft well and you hit on a cou­ple trades, and next thing you know, you’ve got a tal­ented club.”

What’s to come?

Hav­ing com­pleted the home por­tion of their 13-game stretch against teams bid­ding for the post­sea­son, the Ori­oles travel north to face the New York Yan­kees for four games, with a dou­ble­header Mon­day, then head to Fen­way Park for the first time since April to take on the Bos­ton Red Sox.

The Ori­oles have 45 games left in 2019, and en­ter­ing play Sun­day, their re­main­ing op­po­nents had a .509 winning per­cent­age, the high­est in the Amer­i­can League and third high­est in the ma­jors.

What was good?

In four starts this week, Jace Peter­son slashed .467/.500/1.333, hit­ting his first two home runs in the ma­jors this year and pro­vid­ing three cru­cial ex­tra-base hits in Sun­day’s vic­tory. His RBI dou­ble in the first in­ning gave the Ori­oles their first lead of the week. He tied the game with a triple in the fifth and scored the go-ahead run on Hanser Al­berto’s sacri­fice fly as Hous­ton ace Justin Ver­lan­der al­lowed a sea­son-high four runs and nine hits. Peter­son’s sec­ond dou­ble started the Ori­oles’ three-run rally in the ninth in­ning and raised his OPS to .698. It started the week at .389.

What wasn’t?

De­spite their record pace for al­low­ing home runs, the Ori­oles had yet to have a week like this one. The Yan­kees and Astros com­bined for 23 off Ori­oles pitch­ers, leav­ing Bal­ti­more 17 away from match­ing the 2016 Cincinnati Reds for most home runs given up in a sea­son. Even if that record falls on the road, the Ori­oles will have an­other to set when they get back to Cam­den Yards; they are11home runs shy for most al­lowed at home, a mark the Colorado Rock­ies set in 1999 be­fore hu­mi­dors were in­stalled at Coors Field.

On the farm

A day be­fore Rutschman’s walk-off, the Ori­oles’ sec­ond se­lec­tion in the 2019 draft had him­self a day in the Gulf Coast League. Short­stop Gun­nar Henderson, Bal­ti­more’s pick at No. 42 over­all, hit his first pro­fes­sional home run Fri­day and added a triple for good mea­sure. An 0-for-4 Satur­day ended the 18-year-old’s seven-game hit­ting streak, but over the past two weeks, Henderson hit .323/.432/.548 with as many walks as strike­outs.

JULIO CORTEZ/AP

Ori­oles man­ager Bran­don Hyde sits in the du­gout dur­ing the third in­ning of a game against the Yan­kees on Aug. 6 in Bal­ti­more.

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