#Orioles reset: The Braves series was just an appetizer. Baltimore’s schedule is about to get much harder. #Usa #Miami #Nyc #Houston #Uk #Es

#Orioles reset: The Braves series was just an appetizer. Baltimore’s schedule is about to get much harder. #Usa #Miami #Nyc #Houston #Uk #Es

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Was watching the Orioles this weekend a little more stressful than usual?

Facing the best team in the National League, with Cy Young-caliber pitchers on the mound and 40,000 fans in the stands, the Orioles and Atlanta Braves battled in three games that were one-run affairs in the seventh inning, with the final two coming down to the wire on national television.

It’s unusual for an interleague series to feel the way the Orioles’ did this weekend in Atlanta. But after a stretch of games against largely cellar-dwellers, combined with the yearning from the fan base to be thought of as a contender, the three games against the Braves offered an early taste for what the rest of the season could look like for the Orioles, whose remaining schedule is among the toughest in the major leagues.

Buckle up. If this weekend was any indication, there are a lot more games like those on the way.

“There’s no breaks,” manager Brandon Hyde said about his club’s upcoming schedule.

The gantlet begins as challenging as it possibly could, with the seemingly unstoppable Tampa Bay Rays coming to Baltimore.

The Rays are 28-7 with an eye-popping 115-run differential. After facing Cy Young runner-up Max Fried and strikeout extraordinaire Spencer Strider over the weekend, the Orioles (22-12) have the pleasure of taking the box against All-Star Shane McClanahan (6-0, 2.03 ERA) and Zach Eflin (4-0, 2.25 ERA) to begin the three-game set against their American League East foe.

After the Rays, the Orioles will take on the Pittsburgh Pirates (20-15), Los Angeles Angels (19-16), Toronto Blue Jays (21-14), New York Yankees (18-17), Texas Rangers (20-13) and Cleveland Guardians (16-18) to end the month. From the Tampa Bay series on, Baltimore’s upcoming opponents in May have a combined record of 142-100 — a .587 winning percentage that equates to a 95-win pace over a 162-game season.

Hyde believes his team is prepared for the upcoming schedule, noting that it wasn’t easy last summer when the Orioles emerged as a wild-card contender.

“I think the second half of last year we felt like that. We played really good baseball from May on and continue so far this year,” he said. “I don’t think anything’s really changed from the second half of last year.”

It’s not just May, though. The rest of the Orioles’ schedule is challenging, with 43 games against the vaunted AL East remaining. Baltimore’s remaining strength of schedule is tied with the Blue Jays for the most difficult in the majors, according to FanGraphs.

All five teams in the division have records above .500 with a combined winning percentage of .629 — good for a 102-win pace. The new balanced schedule means the teams in the AL East will beat up each other less often than in previous years. In 2022, the Orioles had a losing record against all four divisional opponents for an overall AL East mark of 34-42.

Early on, the Orioles played the division less often, with only six games against the Boston Red Sox, three versus the Yankees and none with the Rays and Blue Jays. That’ll change down the stretch. Baltimore will play 12 games against the division in July and 11 in September and October.

“This division is like no other,” Hyde said. “It’s a lot of really tough teams, all a little bit different, but really good lineups, front-end starters throughout, a lot of them have huge back-end bullpens. It’s just never a night off. You’ve got to play really well to win every night.”

The challenging schedule is part of the reason why, despite having the second-best record in the AL through the first one-fifth of the season, projection systems still aren’t completely buying into the pesky Orioles.

Baltimore opened the year with a 10.4% chance to make the playoffs, according to FanGraphs. Entering Sunday, that figure tripled to 31.7%, but it’s still the worst among the five AL East teams. The Orioles’ World Series odds are still below 1%. FanGraphs projects the Orioles to have a .473 winning percentage the rest of the way to end with an 83-79 record — the same mark they posted in 2022 but approximately seven games better than what the projection system forecasted before the season.

The juggernaut that is the AL East isn’t lost on the players, either.

After their starts this past weekend, pitchers Dean Kremer and Tyler Wells both talked about being ready to contend in the AL East when asked about the competitive series against the Braves. Kremer said after Friday’s win — perhaps the high of Baltimore’s season thus far, with Anthony Santander’s mammoth grand slam serving as the game’s denouement — that the Orioles are “out to make a name for ourselves.” Wells said after Sunday’s extra-innings loss that the back-and-forth series “shows that we’re up there with the best.”

“We came in and just showed everyone exactly who we are,” Wells said. “The AL East is still a beast, and we’re competing with the best.”

What’s to come?

The Orioles are coming off a 10-game road trip during which the club went 6-4, taking care of business against the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals before losing a competitive series to the Atlanta Braves. Next up is a 10-game homestand against the Rays, Pirates and Angels.

The series is Baltimore’s first versus the Rays this season, as starting pitchers Kyle Gibson, Grayson Rodriguez and Dean Kremer are set to face off against McClanahan, Eflin and Yonny Chirinos. The only other AL East club the Orioles have yet to play is the Blue Jays, whom Baltimore faces later this month.

What was good?

Anthony Santander.

As the Orioles’ offense spent April crushing the ball, Santander rarely joined the fun. The switch-hitter led the team in home runs last season with 33, but through April, he had a measly .213 batting average with a .642 OPS and just two long balls. But in his first six games in May, Santander has two hits in each with three home runs and nine RBIs. He’s now hitting .264 with a .795 OPS.

What wasn’t?

The bullpen, except for Sunday.

The Orioles’ bullpen was integral to the club’s success in 2022, and that was the case in April as well. Baltimore entered last week with the best bullpen ERA in the majors at 2.86. But the Orioles’ relief corps had perhaps its worst week of the season before salvaging it in Sunday’s loss by allowing one hit and one unearned run in 6 1/3 innings. Before Sunday, the bullpen allowed 24 hits, seven walks and 12 runs across 15 2/3 innings. Both losses in Atlanta were charged to relievers, first to Danny Coulombe on Saturday and then to Cionel Pérez on Sunday. Baltimore’s relievers have combined this season for a 3.20 ERA, which ranks fourth in the majors.

On the farm

The Orioles are hoping they can replicate their Triple-A team’s success when they take on the Rays this week. The Norfolk Tides, the best team in the minor leagues by a wide margin, beat up on Tampa Bay’s Triple-A club, the Durham Bulls, last week. The Tides won five of six games against the Bulls, outscoring the Rays’ affiliate by 18 runs. Prospects Jordan Westburg, Colton Cowser and Joey Ortiz remained hot, while pitchers Cole Irvin, DL Hall and Drew Rom all posted excellent starts.

A couple of levels down, the Orioles’ top prospect continued his strong start to the season. Jackson Holliday, who was promoted from Low-A Delmarva to High-A Aberdeen two weeks ago, hit .350 with five walks and three stolen bases last week. Through 10 games with the IronBirds, Holliday is slashing .297/.435/.459.

Rays at Orioles

Monday, 6:35 p.m.


Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM


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