Without Manny Machado and J.J. Hardy in the Baltimore Orioles‘ lineup, Buck Showalter has had to use Steve Lombardozzi, Ryan Flaherty and Jonathan Schoop all at the same time. To say that’s less than ideal would be an understatement.
In seven games so far in 2014 the Orioles have scored a combined 22 runs for an average of 3.1 runs per game. Yikes.
Defensively the injuries haven’t proved to be much of a problem, but with Lombardozzi, Flaherty and Schoop manning the Nos. 7, 8 and 9 slots respectively in the batting order the offensive production has become a real problem. The Orioles’ lineup has essentially been dumbed down to include only six competent hitters who provide a real threat to opposing pitchers. Having one or two of them hit during a game isn’t that big of a problem, but having all three (Lombardozzi, Flaherty and Schoop) hit back-to-back-to-back in the lineup is putting real pressure on hitters 1-6 to produce and killing rallies in the process.
Monday’s game against the New York Yankees is a perfect example to show how the bottom of the order is killing the Orioles. Baltimore eventually lost the game 4-2, but in the seventh inning the Orioles had the chance to tie the game up but instead managed to score only one run. Chris Davis led the inning off with a double, Matt Wieters then singled to put runners on the corners for Nelson Cruz who came through with a huge RBI single. Then came the trouble. Lombardozzi flew out and then Flaherty grounded out but managed to move both runners into scoring position. And then with two outs and the tying run at second base, Schoop grounded out to the pitcher.
Basically what this proves is that even if the meat of the Orioles’ lineup starts a rally, Baltimore will continue to struggle to score because the bottom of the order kills the rally before the lineup can turn over to the top again.
Until Hardy and Machado are back from their respective injuries, the Orioles will be hard-pressed to have big innings. They’ll be forced to rely on home runs and solid pitching to win games, and they haven’t had an abundance of either of those things as evidenced by a 2-5 start.