By Illya Harrell on August 4, 2014
Entering Monday night's play, the Baltimore Orioles hold a 3.5 game lead over the slumping Toronto Blue Jays and are five games over the hungry New York Yankees. While the O's pitching is solid, if they plan on going deep into the playoffs, their bats are going to need more production. Here are five guys who'd best right themselves before the American League playoff.
For the better part of the first-half of the season, Steve Pearce, a journeyman 1B/OF, looked like the Orioles' everyday left fielder. On June 24, he was hitting .344 with seven long balls. Since then, his shuttle landed and he's slashing a .223/.308/.398 clip.
Looking good for his third consecutive Gold Glove at shortstop, it's hard to knock J.J. Hardy. However, in years past, he's provided a bit of sock to go with his highlight-reel defense. He's only hit four over the wall this season, but was rocking a .297 average on July 2. Since then, the baseball has shrunk to BB size, and in his last 26 games he's hitting .196/.250/.309 with two homers.
Kevin Gausman makes the list for a different reason. The O's have done an outstanding job limiting his innings between triple-A and the big club. That's about to change as he will get the ball every fifth day and be expected to throw nearly as many pitches as the other dudes in the rotation. That's not an easy task for a guy just over two years out of college ball, but any post-season success will need to see Gausman pitching deeper into games.
What a difference a year makes for Chris Davis. On August 3, 2013, he was batting .303/.377/.679 with 40 home runs and 102 RBI. Fast forward to August 3, 2014, he's hitting a dismal .194/.304/.382 with 17 jacks and 51 ribbies. And that's the good news. In 30 games since June 27, his batting average is .130 -- or about the same weight as a bulky 10-year-old.
What? Nelson Cruz? His PED half-life went into effect on June 28. In his first 78 games he was sitting pretty, batting .289, 25 bombs and 66 RBI. Over the last 30 games he's hitting a Chris Davis-like .191, four homers and only nine ribs.
If the Orioles plan on going deep into the playoffs their bats need to pick up steam. Otherwise, they're out after the first-round.
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