For a team with a reputation of low key off-season moves, the Orioles are having a pretty loud year.
Acquiring Mark Trumbo over the winter wasn't seen as a move that would guarantee them a title, but it turns out dropping the former Angels slugger into a lineup that already included power threats like Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, and Matt Wieters was a solid move. The team is now second in MLB in home runs (87) and fourth in SLG (.450), and seem capable of outlasting or out-blasting any team in the league. Navigating through the middle of the Baltimore order is an unenviable task for any pitcher, but when even the utility infielders start bashing the cover off the ball, things are clearly out of control.
Ryan Flaherty, the 2B/SS/3B in question, has been an recent surprise for the team least deserving of an unexpected power hitter. Even without the 29-year-old infielder (And early on, some were questioning whether Flaherty would/should even be on the team this season), the Orioles' order would be formidable, but there he was last night, knocking a 446-foot double and stacking the dominant numbers he's been putting up over the last ten days. Having lost shortstop J.J. Hardy to a hairline fracture in his foot, Flaherty's output is all the more appreciated by a team having to fend off the persistent Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Rays offenses on a regular basis.
“Ryan knows how much we value what he brings as far as the club needs,” [Buck] Showalter said. “With J.J. out and some other things headed our way. I think Ryan revels in that opportunity to contribute. A lot of people forget this guy played third base in the playoffs and did a real good job. He’s easy to pull for.
“Ryan always seems to revel in being able to deliver something in a time of need for us when we have some people hurt and some other things.”
Tuesday night's brawl with the Royals added a bit of a personal desire to take a series win from Kansas City, and with Flaherty's bat, the Orioles were able to do so, moving to 12 games over .500 and maintaining their lead in the AL East in the process.
Flaherty, who has played every position except pitcher, catcher, and center field, says he started becoming a jack-of-all-positions while blocked by Starlin Castro on the Cubs' Double-A affiliate. The only way to get around the skilled Castro, now with the Yankees, was to widen his range, which Flaherty did, but became renown far more for his glove than his bat.
Appearing in 35 games and making 25 starts this year, Flaherty's season stats don't inspire the utmost confidence (.217/.313/.289), but there is no denying that he has stepped up of late - something he tends to do when the Orioles have needed him. The last week and a half, as the Orioles have played through a home stand against Boston, New York, and Kansas City, Flaherty has hit .308/406/.500, dropped a bomb on Eutaw Street, slapped a pair of doubles, and driven in seven runs while scoring seven as well, a surge he credits to working closely with Orioles hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh.
All you really have to do as a non-Davis/Wieters/Machado/ Jones/Trumbo member of the Baltimore lineup is get on base, and they'll probably have you rounding third in a matter of moments, but Flaherty seems to have enjoyed taking matters into his own hands.
“It’s nice to contribute,” [Flaherty] added. “I think the lineup, it seems like it’s the same guys every night. (Mark) Trumbo, (Matt) Wieters, (Chris) Davis, (Manny) Machado, (Adam) Jones. It’s nice to change it up and have some other guys pitch in.”