MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports­­

The Baltimore Orioles are playing .604 baseball and are in first place in the American League East by 1.5 games, three in the loss column, but, yikes! The sky is falling and the season is doomed because they lost two in a row in Philadelphia to the Phillies.

You’ve heard of them; the Phillies? Played in the World Series last year? They have uniforms and everything.

Such is life on social media. You’d think manager Brandon Hyde should be held accountable for the Lindbergh baby on just about any night or day on this thing, even after the Orioles win but somebody didn’t like the lineup Hyde used.

I think the guy’s doing alright for himself, don’t you? I mean, first place with the second-lowest payroll in baseball is pretty good.

Personally, I try not to look too closely, because my guess is most of the Chicken Little (or is it Henny Penny?) comes from younger users who are Orioles fans, who are too young to know or remember what it’s like to follow and root for a team having a winning season. In the case of the Orioles, their last winning season was 2016.

At least I hope that’s what it is.

Thing is, when a team is good enough to win 60 percent of its games over the first four months of the season, that means they are going to lose 40 percent of those games. But in baseball, that’s very, very good.

The Orioles just completed a stretch of 13 games against winning teams and went 8-5, winning three out of four in Tampa and taking first place in the process. Then after stealing the first game in Philly, they dropped two games that could have gone either way, but it’s Hyde’s fault for giving closer Felix Bautista some time off, which, given the innings he pitched over the weekend to seal the Tampa Bay series, was absolutely the right thing to do.

As Felix goes, so go the Orioles. He is what we call The Meal Ticket, and you keep that Meal Ticket as fresh and as healthy as possible over the course of 162, and not overuse him and render him useless by mid-August.

As it turns out, Bautista was scheduled to pitch on Wednesday night, but there was no bottom of the ninth inning. On Tuesday, Hyde chose to go with Yennier Cano in the ninth, and look no further than Cano to see a pitcher who could be experiencing the dead-arm period that every pitcher experiences during the season.

And by the way, if the Orioles had scored in the second inning Tuesday night when they loaded the bases with nobody out, a closer in the ninth might not have even mattered. With a 1-0 lead, the Orioles could have broken open the game early, but when you’re hunting for specific heads on social media, the first rule of thumb is to never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

The fact is Phillies starter Taijuan Walker, who pitched a gritty 5.2 innings, got Jordan Westburg, Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman out of the way 1-2-3 without giving up another run, but I didn’t see anybody complaining about that on social media.

Some of the Orioles fans are just new at this, and I get it; it’s been a long time since the Orioles have been good (and they’re pretty good), but it’s as outfielder Dan Ford said after the Orioles lost the 1983 season opener to the White Sox, “Well, we’ll probably lose 20 or 30 more.” It’s the way baseball works. Nobody likes it when their team loses, but the beauty of baseball is there is another game tomorrow.

In the case of the Orioles there wasn’t a game the following day, as the club enjoyed a much needed day off, its first since the All-Star break.

These are the dog days. Look at the injuries the Orioles have had just this month – McCann, Mullins, Hicks, Henderson. That’s baseball, but it’s a lot to make up for, even with the organizational depth the Orioles have developed. Injuries happen over the course of a season. The Orioles’ injuries just seem to be happening now, but that makes them no different than any other team chasing the grind.

The pitchers are showing wear, particularly the overused bullpen, and there are just nights when a manager has to save the back end of that bullpen. The starting pitching has been good, but the starters have to get deeper into games. Of course, all of the young Orioles starters are fast approaching their previous high-innings marks, so it would be great if general manager Mike Elias could land a top of the rotation starter by August 1. Another reliever wouldn’t hurt either, but it’s not as though there is a lot of low-hanging fruit to pick from.

The bats, which are streaky to begin with, have been dragging through the zone as well. Orioles hitters didn’t work counts very well the last two games, nor did they elevate pitch counts, as Wednesday’s game lasted just two hours.

But it’s just that time of the season. It’s why they call it the grind. It’s nobody’s fault. As Annie Savoy says, “It’s a long season and you gotta trust it.”

It’s baseball. Your team is doing exceptionally well. Do yourself a favor? Just enjoy it.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT