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The Best And Worst From Orioles' First Half

July 9, 2019
The Orioles are 27-62 and trail the first-place New York Yankees by 30.5 games at the All-Star break. The record is not surprising for a team in the first-year of a complete rebuild and playing in the American League East. The Orioles have enjoyed some inspiring moments, but have also dealt with several challenges throughout the first half of the season. 

Here are some midseason highs and lows: 

First-Half MVP: Trey Mancini

Mancini has become the face of the franchise and is the team's most productive hitter. There were expectations that he would get the nod for the team's representative for the All-Star team. However, the American League is packed with talent in the outfield and Mancini was left out despite leading the Orioles in almost every offensive category for much of the year. Mancini is batting .291/.351/.517 with 17 homers and 40 RBIs. He has eight multi-RBI games and leads the team with 25 multi-hit games. Mancini also hit safely in 19 of 24 games in June. There has been speculation that Mancini might be traded later this month, and Orioles general manager Mike Elias said he would listen to all offers. But he added: "Who wouldn't want a player like him around for the long haul?" 

Best Surprise: John Means

The rookie left-hander is second on the team with seven wins and earned the honor to represent the Orioles in this year's All-Star game. That's a pretty high accolade for a player who wasn't even expected to make the major-league roster out of spring training. Means is 7-4 with a 2.50 ERA with 69 strikeouts, 22 walks and a 1.08 WHIP. He leads all of the American League rookie starters with seven wins. Means, 26, missed one start because of a shoulder strain, but the club is confident the injury won't be a long-term issue. He has shown the potential that he could be a long-term fixture with the club. 

Biggest Disappointment: Chris Davis

The first baseman was optimistic this offseason that he was going to regain the stroke that made him one of the best power hitters in MLB. Instead, he has continued to struggle. Davis is batting .189/.274/.332 with seven homers, 22 RBIs and 82 strikeouts in 190 at-bats this season. He snapped a major-league record hitless streak at 54 at-bats with a single in the second inning against the Boston Red Sox April 13. Davis went 4-for-7 with a homer three RBIs during his last two games before the All-Star break. He still has time to turn things around in the second half of the season. 

Best Win: June 4 against the Texas Rangers

Catcher Pedro Severino was the hero on both sides of the plate in a 12-11 victory at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. He hit a career-high three homers to carry the offense. Severino also made a game-saving play behind the plate. The Orioles held a commanding 12-5 lead in the ninth before the Rangers rallied. Texas had the tying run on base against reliever Mychal Givens, who struck out Elvis Andrus for the apparent third out. However, Givens' wild last pitch got past Severino and rolled to the backstop. Severino jumped to his feet and delivered a perfect throw to first baseman Chris Davis just ahead Andrus to end the game. A potential devastating loss turned into an uplifting victory. 

Worst Loss: April 4 against the New York Yankees

The Orioles have already racked up 62 losses, and there are several options for the most disappointing setback. However, the 8-4 loss to the Yankees in the 2019 home opener was especially deflating. There is always excitement and hope on Opening Day at Camden Yards, and the Orioles could not deliver their end of the bargain this year. The Yankees hit three home runs and erased a 4-1 deficit with four runs in the sixth inning to take control of the game. Reliever Mike Wright took the loss after allowing three runs and four hits. The Orioles had won two of three games in New York to start the season. However, the Yankees took all three games at Camden Yards, which began the Orioles woes at home where their record ranks last in MLB at 11-31. 

Best Moment: June 29 against the Cleveland Indians

The Orioles took some of their frustration out against Cleveland in a three game series June 28-30. They became the first team in major-league history to record back-to-back shutouts while scoring at least 13 runs in each game, according to STATS LLC. On June 29, designated hitter Renato Nunez had two of the Orioles' four home runs, helping them clinch their first series win since late April. This prompted manager Brandon Hyde to exclaim the Orioles “are a fun team to watch." 

Most Impressive Home Run: Anthony Santander, June 29 against the Cleveland Indians

Santander has been another pleasant surprise for the Orioles, playing his way into the everyday lineup. Santander also secured his spot in Camden Yards history when he hit the 100th home run to land on Eutaw Street since the stadium opened on April 6, 1992. Santander is batting .274/.333/.443 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in 29 games (106 at-bats). 

Best Start: David Hess, April 1 against the Toronto Blue Jays

This was no April Fools' Day joke. In his first start of the season, Hess carried a no-hitter with one out in the seventh inning at Rogers Centre before being lifted by manager Brandon Hyde. Hess struck out eight batters and allowed just one walk in the eventual 6-5 win. Hyde did not want to take any chances because Hess had previously worked out of the bullpen and was on short rest. Unfortunately, that was the only win on the season for Hess, who dropped his next nine decisions and was sent to Triple-A Norfolk. 

Best Defensive Play: Dwight Smith Jr., April 23 against the Chicago White Sox

The left fielder jumped against the wall to deprive White Sox center fielder Adam Engel of a two-run homer in the second inning of a 9-1 win. Smith also set the tone offensively with a three-run shot in the fourth. 

Positive Trend: Effort

Despite their struggles, the Orioles have continued to play hard each game. The players run out grounders, steal bases and push teams that have more talent. Hyde has also done a solid job keeping the players focused and holding them accountable for their mistakes. The Orioles have shown some power on occasion, hitting 108 home runs this season. 

Troubling Trend: Mental mistakes

Whether it's getting picked off a base at a key moment, throwing to the wrong cutoff man or dropping routine pop-ups in foul territory, the Orioles have struggled with fundamentals. It's an area that is particularly infuriating to Hyde because of how much preparation goes into making those types of plays. The mental mistakes have also carried over to some of the pitchers, especially in the bullpen, which has allowed some costly leadoff walks. "The bottom line is we have to play almost perfect to win against good clubs," Hyde said.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox