Baltimore Orioles’ Adam Jones follows through on a solo home run against the Washington Nationals in the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday, July 12, 2015, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
The Baltimore Orioles struggled in the week before the MLB All-Star break, having lost eight of their last 10 games, including back-to-back losses to the Washington Nationals during the weekend of July 11.
The untimely funk knocked Baltimore down to third place in the American League East with a 44-44 overall record.
Though they remained just 4 games behind the division-leading New York Yankees, the Orioles’ .500 record is far worse than what baseball pundits expected from a team that led the AL East with a 52-42 record at the All-Star break last season and won the division pennant with a 96-66 record, the O’s best showing since 1997.
Last year’s Orioles saw three players selected to the All-Star game as starters. This year, however, Baltimore will have only one representative starting the game, outfielder Adam Jones, and only because Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals suffered a groin injury. It will be Jones’ fifth All-Star appearance; he joins Machado, closer Zach Britton and set-up reliever Darren O’Day as the Orioles’ representatives for the game.
Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado fields a ground ball during a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
That’s a telling sign of how this season’s roster has lacked consistent production on the field, especially among the pitching rotation. Starters Chris Tillman and Wei-Yin Chen were easily Baltimore’s most reliable starters in 2014; Tillman finished with a 13-6 record as a starter last season and Chen was even better at 16-6. But Tillman has struggled this season, posting a 6-7 record, while Chen breaks even at 4-4.
Other starters have fared better, including Ubaldo Jimenez with a 7-4 record and Miguel Gonzalez at 7-6. But the starting rotation still feels incomplete without consistent play from Tillman and Chen.
Baltimore also hasn’t seen consistent offense, and is feeling the impact of losing slugger Nelson Cruz to free agency this offseason. Cruz led the league with 40 home runs last season for the Orioles, but now he’s a Seattle Mariner. Sluggers Chris Davis and Manny Machado are trying to pick up the slack; they each have a team-high 19 homers this season. But they need help from the rest of the batting lineup. Solid hitters like Adam Jones, Steve Pearce and Jimmy Paredes will have to step up and connect more to give Baltimore the push it needs on offense. Jones, a five-time All-Star, has 14 home runs so far this season after recording 29 a year ago, but he only has 85 hits this year, after finishing with 181 last season.
The All-Star Game is set for July 14 and will be aired on Fox at 7 p.m.