If there is a silver lining to the slumps that seem to be spreading through the Orioles' clubhouse in the early going, it’s that they can’t possibly last forever. Probability forbids it.
Trey Mancini isn’t going to hit .163 all summer. A decade of history says Freddy Galvis should close the roughly 100-point gaps -- in batting average and slugging -- between his 2021 numbers and career norms. Like the .388 average next to Cedric Mullins’ name, the three mid-.400 OPS readings plaguing the bottom of the O’s lineup card can be considered an April-only phenomenon, brought on by slow starts and small sample size.
That doesn’t make them any easier to stomach.
The O’s frustration was plain to see throughout Thursday afternoon, when their sputtering offense was at the root of their doubleheader sweep at the hands of the Mariners. After scoring two runs during a 4-2 loss in Game 1, the lineup went silent behind Bruce Zimmermann and dropped Game 2, 2-1. Baltimore managed three hits off Justin Dunn and two relievers in the series finale, the deciding run coming on Mitch Haniger’s go-ahead solo homer in the fifth.
The O’s lost three of four to the Mariners this week, finishing their first 2021 homestand 1-6.
“We’ll get going,” said Zimmermann, who grinded through five innings. “We’ve seen spurts of it so far. Guys are starting to swing it a lot better. I’ll take care of my job, and they’ll take care of theirs, and soon we’ll sync up and start winning some games.”
It’s not that the Orioles aren’t scoring at all; through two weeks of play, they are actually a middle-of-the-pack team in terms of runs scored. But too often so far in 2021, those runs have come mostly in bunches. And when they don’t, the offense goes dormant for long stretches.
Thursday proved a primary example of the latter. After jumping out to an early lead on Mancini’s homer in Game 1, Baltimore managed just two baserunners (one hit) over its final six turns at bat. The O's mustered two singles besides Galvis’ solo homer in Game 2, totaling three runs across 14 innings on the afternoon.
Baltimore's Game 2 lineup featured four players hitting below .200 -- Mancini, Galvis, Rio Ruiz and Chance Sisco. Three owned OPS’s south of .440. Baltimore has scored three or fewer runs in seven of 13 games this season, and the team will arrive in Texas for its weekend series against the Rangers on Friday sporting the Majors’ worst team strikeout rate and ranked near the bottom in on-base percentage.
“We were too aggressive [against Dunn in Game 2]," Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “He has really good stuff. He didn’t get ahead with his fastball a lot early, but we made a lot of early outs on him. We chased the slider off the plate ... it would’ve been nice to grind out some at-bats a little longer.”
Asked to peruse his lineup for underlying signs of life, Hyde mentioned Mancini (three homers in past six games), Anthony Santander (.209 average, .604 OPS), Maikel Franco (team-high 12 RBIs) and others by name. Hyde also cited bad luck, referencing some of the seven batted balls the O’s produced across Thursday’s twin bill with exit velocities of at least 96.8 mph that did not land for hits. For those reasons, the manager remains bullish on a recovery for his bats.
“I do believe our offense is a lot better than we’re swinging the bat right now,” Hyde said. “We are going to turn it around.”