O's strong trip offsets frustration over perceived All-Star snubs

July 8th, 2024

OAKLAND -- The words of conflicting emotions bounced around the visiting clubhouse late Sunday afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum, where the Orioles had just recorded a series win with a 6-3 victory over the A’s.

Happiness for rotation leader Corbin Burnes, named an All-Star earlier in the day.

“That was a slam dunk,” manager Brandon Hyde said.

Disappointment that more Baltimore players weren’t selected for the Midsummer Classic alongside the trio of Burnes, catcher Adley Rutschman and shortstop Gunnar Henderson, the latter two having been voted in by fans to serve as starters for the American League squad.

Ryan Mountcastle, Ryan O’Hearn, Anthony Santander and Jordan Westburg had all been finalists during Phase 2 of ASG voting -- none of them are heading to Arlington, Texas. Nor is Craig Kimbrel, who recorded his 23rd save on Sunday and has been among the AL’s best closers during the first half.

“When you have a team of this caliber and only three guys get to go, yeah, it definitely sucks,” O’Hearn said. “It is what it is. Very happy for Corbin and Gunnar and Adley. They’re extremely deserving.”

The defending AL East champion Orioles -- who won 101 games last year and are on pace for 102 this season -- could use the perceived All-Star snubs as motivation to keep trucking forward and make a run at a World Series title come October.

And that’s why the final emotion expressed by O’s players on Sunday may be the most important.

Satisfaction after a 4-2 West Coast road trip that featured Baltimore taking two of three from both Seattle and Oakland. It’s what Hyde called “championship baseball” when speaking to the team following Sunday’s game and before boarding a flight home.

“It’s never easy to come out west and win two series,” O’Hearn said. “Proud of the guys for how we competed. After yesterday, coming back and just ready to bounce back.”

The Orioles were on the wrong end of a 19-8 defeat Saturday, then came out Sunday and scored four runs in the top of the first to hand starter a sizable lead before he even took the mound.

Santander got the Orioles’ offense started with a two-out solo homer in the first, his 23rd long ball of the season. After O’Hearn and Westburg followed with consecutive singles, clobbered a Statcast-projected 406-foot home run to center field.

“The league’s about to get a wake-up call about him. Because the way he handles the bat is impressive,” Rodriguez said of Kjerstad. “He’s got some juice. You see it during BP, and it’s starting to show during the games.”

It was Kjerstad’s fifth MLB homer and his third of the season, all coming since June 27. The 25-year-old was called up to the big leagues for the third time on June 24 and has since hit .367 (11-for-30) with 12 RBIs.

“I just want to help the team win games, any way I can do that,” Kjerstad said. “Offense, defense, or whatever role they put me in. ... Whenever your name’s called on, whether you’ve gotten to play every day or you haven’t played in a couple days, you’ve got to show up and do your job and help the team win.”

Rodriguez, a fringe All-Star candidate himself, allowed three runs and racked up eight strikeouts over six-plus innings. The 24-year-old righty kept the A’s off the scoreboard for his first five frames, retiring 15 of 18 batters over that span with only three singles allowed.

Of Rodriguez’s 16 outings this season, nine have been quality starts, including each of his past three. He owns a 3.52 ERA and has 11 wins, tied for the most in MLB with Kansas City’s Seth Lugo and Atlanta’s Chris Sale.

“For a guy in his first full year, that’s unbelievable right before the break,” Hyde said. “Just getting better and better.”

The same could be said about the Orioles (57-33), who will enter the final week of the first half with the second-best record in the AL (behind only the 56-32 Guardians) and third in MLB (also behind the 58-32 Phillies). The O’s have won eight of 11 heading into a homestand that will feature three-game sets vs. the Cubs and Yankees.

Baltimore could still end up with more All-Stars to serve as injury/usage replacements. But if not, those who barely missed out will use the time off to recharge for the second half and the Orioles’ probable postseason push.

“You’d think that we’d get more guys in. I’m disappointed in that,” Hyde said. “But hopefully, they’ll have All-Star second halves also.”