Perhaps the oddest series of the MLB season came to a close yesterday when the Orioles completed a 4-1 win over the Rangers to earn a four-game sweep on the road. Not only were the O's an MLB worst 25-59 heading into the series, but the Rangers were playing great baseball and were 50-34.
I don't want to make too much of it -- after all, it was just one series -- but, then again, it was the first four-game road sweep for the O's since 1995. Fifteen years. That's a long time.
As for the game itself, Jake Arrieta allowed one run on six hits in 6.1 innings to win his third game. He also struck out three and walked two. Will Ohman relieved Arrieta and struggled a bit, giving up a hit and and a walk while failing to retire a batter, but Jason Berken pitched 1.2 scoreless innings to pick him up. Alfredo Simon pitched a scoreless ninth for the save.
The O's collected eight hits and five walks, allowing them to knock out Rangers' starter C.J. Wilson after only 4.2 innings pitched (and a total of 111 pitches). Julio Lugo had two hits, including a double, and Nick Markakis, Ty Wigginton, and Craig Tatum all had singles. Corey Patterson and Adam Jones each doubled, and Miguel Tejada hit a solo home run in the ninth inning to extend the O's lead to three.
The sweep improved the O's record to 29-59, which is obviously still very bad. But they're one game of getting out of the MLB cellar: The Pirates are 30-58 and have lost six in a row. And despite the one-game difference between the two, the Pirates have been outscored by an MLB worst 194 runs. The O's have been second worst (-142), but that's still 52 runs better. Just some food for thought.
Heading into the All-Star break, here are the O's team leaders in various offensive categories:
OBP: Nick Markakis (.395)
AVG: Nick Markakis (.308)
Runs: Adam Jones (44)
HR: Adam Jones, Ty Wigginton (14)
Doubles: Nick Markakis (28)
RBI: Ty Wigginton (45)
Walks: Nick Markakis (50)
SLG: Luke Scott (.520)
OPS: Luke Scott (.868)
WAR: Nick Markakis (2.2)
Markakis has been the team's best all-around hitter, and he hits a lot of doubles and walks a lot. Wigginton, the team's lone All-Star, has a lot of the counting stats like RBI and HRs (most of which came earlier in the season). Unfortunately, he's been rather cold at the plate lately and also has been awful in the field. It's also a shame that Scott has been stuck on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring. Most people discuss Wigginton as one of the main trade chips for the O's, but Scott is the better hitter between the two and should be worth more in the trade market.
Here are the team's pitching leaders:
ERA (starters): Jake Arrieta (4.38)
ERA (relievers): Jason Berken 1.95)
Strikeouts: Kevin Millwood (84)
K/9 (starters): Kevin Millwood (7.02)
Innings pitched: Jeremy Guthrie (111.1)
Quality starts: Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz (10)
Walks: Brian Matusz (38)
HR allowed: Kevin Millwood (20)
Wins: David Hernandez (4)
WAR: Brian Matusz (1.4)
Alfredo Simon also leads the team with 13 saves. What an awesome first half for Berken, who has been outstanding in the bullpen.
The O's haven't been very good -- that's a given. But hopefully they can build off of the sweep against the Rangers and play better baseball in the second half of the season.