Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Baltimore Orioles GM Dan Duquette visits Fenway Park
That is the situation Dalton's Dan Duquette finds his Baltimore Orioles in this weekend.
Going into Saturday's game against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, the Orioles stood at 5-9, 6 1/2 games behind the AL East-leading Sox.
"This club has gotten off to a great start, as have a couple of other clubs in the league," Duquette said of the now 11-2 Red Sox. "You take a look at the math. If you get off to a great start like the Tigers did in 1984, you can play .500 the rest of the way and get in the playoffs. We've got to try to keep it close, so we do have the opportunity to make the playoffs.
"That's what we're trying to do."
Duquette was at Fenway this weekend as his Orioles came in for a four-game series that culminates with Monday morning's Patriots Day game at 11 a.m.
The Orioles won their first game, beating Minnesota, and then lost five straight. Since then, Duquette's team has gone 4-4.
"We haven't gotten it together yet," Duquette said, when we met in the Orioles' designated box at Fenway on Friday. "Hopefully, we're getting our pitching staff organized. We need [Alex Cobb] to stabilize our pitching.
"We haven't hit the ball effectively, so far, but we should be able to score runs."
He's not kidding.
Going into Friday night's game at Fenway, the Orioles had been outscored 44 runs to 66 runs. Baltimore's pitching had a 4.39 earned-run average, compared to 2.88 for the opposing pitchers.
As Baltimore's executive vice president of Baseball Operations said, it has really been the Baltimore offense that has struggled so far.
How bad has it been? Manny Machado, who is in his walk-year contractually, was hitting .321 with three home runs and six runs batted in. The team as a whole is hitting an anemic .216, with an equally anemic .635 OBP. So just imagine how rough the Orioles' stats would be without Machado.
So, record aside, what has Dan Duquette liked out of the Orioles in the first three weeks of the season?
"[Dylan] Bundy has helped us. He's pitched three really good games," said Duquette. "He doesn't have a lot to show for it."
Bundy, a first-round pick back in 2011, is coming off of 10-6 and 13-9 records, with ERAs around 4.00. This year, the right-hander is 0-1 but has a 1.35 ERA and has struck out 25 hitters in 20 innings.
"[Pitcher] Andrew Cashner has looked good. We've got some decent work out of our bullpen," Duquette said. "Machado's going to have a good year. Our young catcher [Chase] Sisco looks pretty good."
To top it off, the Orioles have not exactly had an easy start to their season.
Comparing Baltimore to Boston, the Red Sox have played Tampa Bay twice, Miami and the Yankees before the Orioles. Those teams have a .350 winning percentage, with the Yankees the only team at .500.
Counter that with Baltimore, as the Orioles have not yet played any team under .500. In fact, the Orioles had played Minnesota, Houston and Toronto, along with the Yankees, and those teams are playing baseball at a .610 winning percentage. That might get you into the playoffs.
"We've had a really tough schedule so far," Duquette said. "We went down and played Houston three games and they have a terrific ball club. We played the Yankees four and did pretty good against them. We lost two series, one to the Twins and one to the Blue Jays. Now we're playing the Red Sox.
"We have to stay around .500 for the first part of the schedule. Then we should be okay after that."
Duquette's Orioles return to Fenway in late September, so we'll see how "okay" they are.
Howard Herman can be reached at email@example.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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