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Schoop slugging his way into game's elite

Second baseman has career high in homers, walks and RBIs in breakout year
MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

BALTIMORE -- Perhaps Jonathan Schoop's 2017 season has gone largely unnoticed by the national media. But if you talk to any opposing team, particularly its pitching staff, they won't hesitate to let you know: Schoop has become one of the toughest outs in the American League.

So it should come as no surprise that in the Orioles' 7-3, series-opening victory against Oakland on Monday night, it was Schoop who broke the tie. The O's second baseman -- who has already surpassed last year's career high in home runs -- belted No. 27 in the fifth, giving Baltimore a three-run lead it would never relinquish.

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BALTIMORE -- Perhaps Jonathan Schoop's 2017 season has gone largely unnoticed by the national media. But if you talk to any opposing team, particularly its pitching staff, they won't hesitate to let you know: Schoop has become one of the toughest outs in the American League.

So it should come as no surprise that in the Orioles' 7-3, series-opening victory against Oakland on Monday night, it was Schoop who broke the tie. The O's second baseman -- who has already surpassed last year's career high in home runs -- belted No. 27 in the fifth, giving Baltimore a three-run lead it would never relinquish.

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"Jon knew the things he had to do to graduate to another level. It's been a lot of fun watching him," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Schoop, whose 91 RBIs rank below only former teammate and mentor Nelson Cruz (100, Seattle).

"You move him up a little bit [in the order] and then he kind of changes his approach. You knew he wasn't quite ready for it, but he's handled the three-hole really well. He's been fun to watch. He's a guy that is so easy to pull for because he's so serious about the right things."

One of the biggest differences for Schoop ? His selectiveness at the plate.

The 25-year-old, who has 29 walks -- already eight more than last year -- has a 50.9 percent swing rate this season, according to Statcast™. Last year, Schoop had a 60.2 percent swing rate that was second-highest in the Majors behind Jones (minimum 1,500 pitches seen).

A first-time All-Star this year, Schoop has 57 extra-base hits and a batting average of .302. Schoop leads the Orioles in several offensive categories, including homers and RBIs, and is second on the team with 24 RBIs in the seventh inning or later.

"It's just fun to watch. When you speak of people too much, you kind of jinx them from afar. I just love the maturity of him," said center fielder Adam Jones, who followed Schoop's homer with his second long ball of the night. "I love the continuing-ness of him and Manny [Machado], continuing their great relationship, they go at each other hot, they spark each other. And it's just fun to watch.

"We got two of the best young players in baseball and we talk about them so much offensively ... Schoop is pretty [darn] good himself [in the field] and he doesn't get enough credit for his defense."

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

Baltimore Orioles, Jonathan Schoop