ANAHEIM — With the Orioles working their way back into a heavily contested wild card race every game feels just as important as the last. However, the biggest challenge facing the O’s for the next week will be their annual west coast trip. Due to the major time difference, east coast teams have to play a lot of their cross-country games in the same week or two.
These matchups can make or break the O’s success for the month of August, especially with games against fellow wildcard contenders like the Angels and Mariners.
The Orioles enjoyed some great pitching and offense during Monday nights series opener. The game was closely contested up until the seventh inning when Manny Machado hit a grand slam to put the O’s up by four. Machado’s fifth career grand slam was another shining moment for the third baseman as he continues to heat up. The big hit also gave Machado his 12th RBI in the past week.
Dylan Bundy had a big game on the mound in the series opener as well. The 24-year-old pitcher tossed seven innings while surrendering just two runs. His 10 strike outs also marked a season high. After a rough month of July where he posted a 8.41 ERA, Bundy is back on the right track. So far in August Bundy holds a 1.20 ERA in two starts.
Monday also marked the 26th birthday of Mike Trout. The two-time MVP celebrated the day in style by picking up his 1,000 career hit. Trout was able to come around and score after his milestone hit and then launch a solo homer later in the game. Unfortunately for the Angels these two runs were the only offense they could produce as they went on to lose 6-2.
In game two the O’s did not fare as well. The pitching matchup made for a great story line with former Orioles pitcher, Parker Bridwell taking the hill for the Angels and newly acquired starter, Jeremy Hellickson pitching for the Birds. Bridwell had some trouble finding success with the Orioles but has certainly been a big part of the Angels rotation since being traded.
On Tuesday Bridwell did his best to make his former team regret that trade. Bridwell threw seven strong innings while giving up just one run. The start earned him his sixth win of the season and lowered his ERA to 3.00. Hellickson was not quite as effective but still solid in his second start with the O’s. The new Oriole starter gave up three runs and struck out nine in six innings of work.
The O’s trailed 3-1 when Hellickson exited the game but only managed to put one more run on the board in the next three innings. Caleb Joseph hit a solo homer in the ninth and the Orioles fell just short of the Angels 3-2.
Wednesday afternoons rubber match was another closely contested game. The Orioles struck first in the third inning with a solo homer by Welington Castillo but the Angels responded with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning. An RBI single in the fourth was followed by a two run homer in the sixth to give the Angels a 4-1 lead that they would not surrender.
The O’s had a chance to score in the top of the sixth but ultimately came up short. Joey Rickard led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch and Craig Gentry entered the game to run for him. With two outs recorded Jonathan Schoop came through with a base hit. Gentry attempted to score from first base but was cut down at the plate to end the inning.
The O’s offense struggled to get on base during the entire game so their scoring opportunities were extremely limited. The Angels pitching staff took advantage of this and closed out the final innings quickly to secure a 5-1 victory and a series win.
The west coast games continue this weekend as the Orioles prepare to play the Oakland A’s in a four game series. This will be the first meeting between the Orioles and Athletics in 2017.
Image Credit: Camden Chat