AL East Beat: April 24th
The season isn’t a month old and the Orioles have been effectively knocked out of the American League East race.
The Orioles have lost 10 of their last 11 games to fall 11 games under .500 at 6-17. They already trail the first-place Boston Red Sox by 12 games and are eight games out of the second AL wild card behind the Toronto Blue Jays.
“You know what? There’s no excuse for what’s happening,” shortstop Manny Machado told reporters. “We need to play better overall. Nobody is in here pointing fingers. We are in here together, and we are going to ride or die together.”
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The Orioles’ awful start certainly isn’t Machado’s fault.
Machado is on an 11-game hitting streak and batting .360/.447/.708 with eight home runs in 23 games. He is second in the AL in batting average and home runs and fourth in on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
However, even Machado hasn’t been perfect. In the sixth inning of Monday night’s 2-1 loss to the visiting Cleveland Indians, Machado was easily doubled off first base when center fielder Bradley Zimmer made a sliding catch.
“The way we’re struggling to score runs, you’re trying to score on everything,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Take a chance here or there. I understand what his thinking is.”
Machado is only increasing his value as he gets set to enter free agency at the end of the season. An executive from another club believes that Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette should begin calling teams now to gauge interest in Machado.
“Let’s face it, the season is over for them,” the executive said. “I know it’s highly unusual to trade a big-name player this early in the season, but you would get more for him now rather than if you wait until the (July 31 non-waiver) trading deadline. Teams would be more willing to pay a premium for five months of Manny instead of just two months. The Orioles need to rebuild, and a trade would help kickstart that.”
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox have finally cooled off, at least as much as team with a major league-best 17-4 record can cool off.
For the first time this season, the Red Sox dropped back-to-back games over the weekend at the Oakland Athletics. Sean Manaea no-hit them Saturday night in a 3-0 loss then Daniel Mengden allowed just one run in 6 1/3 innings Sunday to help pitch the Athletics to a 4-1 victory.
“Our pitching staff will always give us a chance to win. I feel we are capable of scoring runs every night. Obviously, that’s not always going to happen. We can’t score eight or nine runs every night,” manager Alex Cora told reporters.
The Red Sox, who were off Monday before opening a three-game series at Toronto on Tuesday, still lead the division by four games over the Blue Jays. Boston also leads major leagues with a .277 batting average and .467 slugging percentage
Manaea’s no-hitter came with a disputed call as it appeared the Red Sox had a hit with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Left fielder Andrew Benintendi hit a grounder to the right side, tried to dodge a tag by first baseman Matt Olson and was called safe.
Benintendi ran onto the grass in foul territory to get around Olson. The umpires then conferred and, without going to replay, ruled Benintendi being out of the baseline.
The play cannot be challenged by a manager.
“It’s just a missed call,” Benintendi said. “I think if we have 10 hits at that point, that’s a single. But the situation the game was in, they might have been searching for something and they found it.”
New York Yankees
Second baseman Gleyber Torres made his much-anticipated major league debut Sunday as the Yankees continued the next stage of their youth movement.
Torres was called up from Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and went 0-for-4 in a 5-1 loss to the visiting Blue Jays. He collected his first hit Monday night, a single off Minnesota Twins rookie reliever Tyler Kinley in the eighth inning of a 14-1 rout at Yankee Stadium.
“I saw all my guys hitting pretty well,” the 21-year-old Torres told reporters. “I’m part of that.”
Though Torres can play both middle infield positions as well as third base, the Yankees plan to use him primarily at second base. Tyler Wade began the season as the starter but was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre when Torres was called up after hitting just .086/.158/.143 in 13 games.
In 14 games in the International League, Torres hit .347/.393/.510 with one home run. He was ranked as third-best prospect in baseball by Baseball Prospectus prior to the start of spring training while Baseball America and MLBPipeline.com both had him at No. 6.
“We just feel like he’s ready,” manager Aaron Boone said. “We think he has a chance to be a special player.”
Torres became the youngest position player to appear in a game for the Yankees since 20-year-old Melky Cabrera in 2005. The only younger player to appear in a major league game this year is Atlanta Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies, who is also 21.
“He’s a really complete player,” Boone said. “He does everything really well on a baseball field.”
Torres’ arrival came a little less than three weeks after third base prospect Miguel Andujar was recalled from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre when Brandon Drury was placed on the disabled list because of migraine headaches. The 23-year-old Andujar, who made his debut by playing in fvie games last season, is hitting .316/.33/.649 with three home runs in 14 games this year.
“I just want to keep doing the same thing,” Andujar said. “It’s about sticking to the plan.”
Tampa Bay Rays
Carlos Gomez has struggled in his first season with the Rays after being signed as a free agent in the offseason. However, on Sunday, the right fielder flashed the form that made him a two-time All-Star with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2013 and 2014.
Gomez hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the Rays to an 8-6 victory over the Twins. He had been 0-for-4 with three strikeouts to that point and had just two hits in his previous 38 at-bats.
Gomez told reporters he promised his son he would hit a home run.
“He had a really good game (Saturday) playing soccer,” Gomez said. “They won the game because of the goal he put in. So, I told him it’s my turn. I’ll try and hit a homer for you. I did it and I know he’s going to be really happy.”
Gomez had become so frustrated earlier in the game that he broke a bat over his leg after striking out. In 20 games this season, he is hitting just .160/.227/.309 with three homers.
“What’s impressive is he’s able to rebound from that and not let it consume him,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
It was the first walk-off hit for Gomez in his 12-year career that has spanned 1,329 games.
“Gomez finished on a really good note,” Cash said. “Good for him. Veteran player, young player. Any time you do something like that it’s pretty special.”
Toronto Blue Jays
Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to reach 100 career saves earlier this month. His manager, John Gibbons, believes there is no limit what the 23-year-old can accomplish.
“When you look at what he’s done far, he has a chance to do some great things in his career,” Gibbons said. “He’s obviously in a high-pressure job but he handles it really well. We pretty much take him for granted and what he’s done at such a young age. I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves around baseball.”
To put Osuna’s feat into perspective, all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera did not even make his major league debut until he was 25. Trevor Hoffman, who is being inducted into the Hall of Fame this year, also didn’t reach the majors until age 25 after being converted to a pitch from shortstop in the minor leagues.
Osuna has converted all six save opportunities this season and has yet to allow a run in 9 1/3 innings. He had 20 saves as a rookie in 2015, 36 in 2016 and 39 last season.
Osuna began his professional career in the Mexican League when he was 16 and one scout believes that has helped him succeed as a closer in the major leagues.
“He was just a kid — literally a kid — getting out former big leaguers in Mexico,” the scout said. “If that wouldn’t build your confidence then I don’t know what would. You watch him pitch and he’s unflappable. He looks like he’s 33 instead of 23. He’s really good and I think if he played in the (United) States he’d be a household name. And the best part is he just keeps getting better.”
John Perrotto has been a professional sports writer since 1982 and has covered a multitude of sports, including MLB, NFL and college football and basketball. He has been a member of the Baseball Writers' Association since 1988, a Hall of Fame voter since 1997 and has covered 21 World Series and two Super Bowls. He is a graduate of Geneva College, the birthplace of college basketball, and lives in Beaver Falls, Pa., the hometown of Joe Willie Namath.
He also writes The Perrotto Report (theperrottoreport.com), newsletters that concentrate on Major League Baseball and the Pittsburgh Pirates.