The Baltimore Orioles sure aren’t making their run to the playoffs easy for themselves.
Not only is it tough enough that they are fighting several teams for a Wild Card spot, they’re also fighting themselves lineup-wise at the very top. Not having a consistent table-setter can have a serious trickle-down effect on the rest of the lineup, and well … the O’s aren’t exactly a shining example of consistency at leadoff these days.
So, you could say it’s really no surprise that they find themselves losers of their last two series against AL East divisional rivals.
At three games back of the second Wild Card spot heading into play on Wednesday, Baltimore will need to come up with a win in the rubber match of their series against the Cleveland Indians to avoid stretching that series losing streak to three — something easier said then done when what had been a strength has suddenly become a weakness.
Yes, there was once a time, not too long ago, when the Nate McLouth Revival Tour was in full force and the outfielder provided a stable presence at the no. 1 spot.
The curtains had been drawn on that in August, however, with the veteran hitting .194/.272/.333 over that 93-AB span and being dropped to the bottom of the lineup over the last two games in the midst of a slump.
With a pair of two-hit outings, including the one on Tuesday from the no. 9 spot in a loss against the Indians, the Orioles are surely hoping that the move will kick start his bat, though he was also given days off from starting in August with little effect, so it’s hardly a sure thing at this point.
Okay, so why not just go with Nick Markakis? That doesn’t work out too well either. While the 29-year old has hit .308/.342 over 133 AB at leadoff for the O’s this season, his offensive output has all but collapsed since the All-Star break, as he has posted a miserable .244/.311/.280 line since the Midsummer Classic.
Needless to say, that’s not leadoff material.
And as for Brian Roberts, the man who took the stop atop the lineup on Tuesday? Well … he went 0-for-5, adding to his .048/.130/.095 triple-slash at leadoff over 21 AB.
In short, the Orioles find themselves suddenly short on options here. Manny Machado‘s doing just fine since the All-Star break, but his 5.3 percent walk rate since them makes his impact at leadoff much more limited than his current spot at second.
The team’s go-to guys in that spot aren’t working out anymore, and by the looks of their 15th-ranked offense over the last two weeks (54 runs), the offensive juggernaut feeling it down the lineup too.
While there’s definitely more than enough offense in Baltimore, they’ll need someone to spark it at the top — or their playoff hopes might just unravel before they know it.