Baltimore Orioles: Issues behind the scenes?

With their recent struggles, many fans have taken to saying that the Baltimore Orioles aren’t very good. I don’t buy that. For the most part, this year’s roster was identical to last year’s team that went to the post-season. Notice I said for the most part. There are always differences. But are we to believe they just got lucky last year?

This year’s team has been decimated by injuries to this point, which is part of why I think it would be a mistake to sell. If you sell, you potentially ruin your chances next year. And in fact, the Birds are still in the race at this point with a lot of season left to play and the likes of Davis and Hardy looking to return.

But last night’s loss makes one wonder if there isn’t some sort of strife going on in the Orioles’ clubhouse. It’s tough to imagine what that could be, but blowing a six-run lead is as much mental as it is anything else. Kevin Gausman looked good through three innings, but then fell apart. Gausman’s line: 4.0 IP, 9 H, 6 R (5 earned), 0 BB, 7 K.

The O’s took an early 2-0 lead when Seth Smith and Manny Machado led the game off with back-to-back homers. The O’s appeared poised to break that four-game losing streak, and Gausman started mowing people down when he came in. Machado also smacked a three-run homer in the top of the third, giving the O’s a 5-0 lead. Later in the inning Mancini’s RBI-single ran it to 6-0.

But it was almost as if someone turned a switch off for Gausman and on for Minnesota. They started smacking single after single and getting guys on base. Rosario’s RBI-single cut the lead to 6-1, and then Gausman hit Giminez by a pitch with the bases loaded. Suddenly it was 6-2, and Gausman was starting to melt down.

One inning later Grossman’s RBI-double cut the lead to 6-3, and Kepler’s RBI-single made it 6-4 (following a Machado throwing error). Vargas’ two-RBI double tied the game, however the writing was already on the wall for the O’s. Later in the inning Giminez came back up, and smacked an RBI-single which gave Minnesota the lead at 7-6. They would add on two in the eighth to beat the Oriole 9-6.

Minnesota’s one of those teams who love to play small ball. A single here, a double or a hit batsman there, and suddenly you’re staring traffic on the base paths in the face. There was something about Gausman that just clicked for them in those fourth and fifth innings. Which that can sometimes happen after guys have gotten a look at a pitcher once (or twice) through the order. But coughing up a six-run lead is still fairly incriminating.

But again, it does make you wonder if there isn’t some internal issue in the clubhouse. Because even the likes of Manny Machado can’t seem to get out of his own way at times – with his error last night for example. The Orioles’ clubhouse has always been incredibly tight-knit, so it does make you wonder.

Again, it’s also fair to say that while this was in essence the same team as last year, it’s not currently the same team. Half of the starting infield is on the DL currently, as have been numerous pieces of the bullpen for much of the first half. So in that sense it’s been a tough go.

The series in Minnesota continues this afternoon at Target Field. Wade Miley gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Minnesota’s Aldaberto Mejia. Game time is set for just after 2 PM.

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