To say the Norfolk Tides are struggling at 15-21 does not tell the full story. The struggles have turned into a nightmare that won’t seem to end.
The Tides are winners of just four games in their last 20 and have lost three straight series to boot. In May alone, they already have lost 10 games, and we are only on the 16th day of the month (this includes off days, in which there have been three).
This was not what everyone had envisioned when most of Bowie, including manager Buck Britton moved up to Triple-A Norfolk. But for a team that has scored two runs or fewer 10 times in their last 17 games, there is still time to right the ship and turn things around.
This past week saw the Memphis Redbirds come to town. Winning the first game, 6-1, the Tides looked to start things off strong, but it went downhill from there, as the Tides lost their next five games.
The good news is there were bright spots in individual performances this week. And a game is nine innings, so anything can happen at any given time.
One stand-out from this week is a name many Orioles fans will recognize. After opening the season on the Orioles’ 40-man roster, Kelvin Gutierrez was DFA’d and cleared waivers, ending up in Norfolk. Since then, Gutierrez has played with a chip on his shoulder.
Gutierrez had a breakout series, batting .333 across the set and is carrying a current five-game on-base streak. His best game came in the Tides’ 6-1 victory to open the series. In that game, Gutierrez would go 2-for-4, collecting his first home run, RBI and run with the Tides.
After Gutierrez’s first series with Norfolk, he finds himself batting .333 on the year, with two home runs and two RBIs. His .440 OBP is aided by four walks and seven hits, and his OPS stands at 1.107.
Brett Cumberland had a stand-out series, after batting .417 in the four games he played. Once again, playing back-up to Adley Rutschman, Cumberland made the most of his opportunities in the lineup, going 5-for-12 across the series.
In Wednesday’s 9-7 defeat, Cumberland would have four plate appearances, picking up a hit in three of them, while knocking in a run and scoring one as well.
Cumberland is now batting .276 on the season, and after picking up two more RBIs in the series, he has 13 total RBIs for the year to go with three home runs.
In 12 games at catcher, he has also thrown out 25% of would-be base stealers. Cumberland has also played four games at first base this season, showing the versatility he brings to the table.
Another player, who was promoted during the series, well known to fans is Ryan McKenna. Though he only played three games this series, he made those games count, going 5-for-14 in those games.
Starring in the Tides’ loss Wednesday, McKenna had one of his best games as a pro. In five trips to the dish, McKenna would use three of those trips to the best of his ability by smacking three home runs and collecting four RBIs.
That game alone would account for the season total of home runs McKenna has hit and would bring his season RBI total to six. He now is batting .273 and has an OPS of .887 at the Triple-A level.
We will see if McKenna remains on the big league squad, or if he returns to Norfolk again this season. But we do wish him well either way.
Another familiar name makes his way into our stand-outs this week, and that’s Yusniel Díaz. He now holds an eight-game on-base streak, as well as a four-game hitting streak.
Against Memphis, Díaz would collect six hits in 16 at-bats. He would pick up two stolen bases, as well as two walks in Thursday’s 5-2 defeat. Though only credited with two official at-bats, he would pick up a hit in the game.
Díaz is now hitting .327 for the year, with two home runs and nine RBIs. After picking up an outfield assist, Díaz now has two on the year, and his fielding percentage is 1.000, as he has split time playing all three outfield spots.
Its not hard to see that if Díaz keeps going the way he is and stays healthy, we should see him make his big league debut this year. But that’s only if he can manage to avoid the injury bug.
Of course, you can’t talk about the Tides without one of the big three prospects entering the conversation. As the watch continues for Rutschman, Rodriguez and Hall, fans continue to watch to see what each does in their outings in the farm system.
Rodriguez seems to be the one everyone takes a deep breath for when a new spot opens in the rotation or someone underwhelms. Though not factoring in the decision this week, Rodriguez showed once again why he is the top pitching prospect in the sport.
Rodriguez would pitch five innings of three-hit ball, surrending the tying run before ending his day. He would give up only the one run, but he struck out eight in throwing 81 pitches, 52 of them for strikes.
Rodriguez would lower his ERA to 3.09 on the year, and his WHIP still stands at a respectable 1.000. He has now struck out 46 batters across 32 innings of work and held opponents to a .196 batting average.
Also, we can’t talk about pitching without bringing up Tides reliever, Nick Vespi, who continues to dazzle out of the pen.
Though he would only make two appearances this series, he would collect his fourth save and pitch another 2.2 innings without allowing an earned run. He struck out four of the seven batters he faced, and for the month of May, opponents are batting just .067 against the lefty.
Vespi now has four saves on the year in 12 appearances. His ERA still stands at 0.00, and his WHIP is a paltry 0.63 across 14.1 innings, where he has struck out 21. He’s picked up four holds, and though he sits at 0-1, opponents are batting just .128 when facing him.
Norfolk will look to turn things around starting Tuesday, when they visit the Charlotte Knights, who hold a 15-21 record as well. In a series the Tides need to do well in, we will be looking for a spark to turn the tide.
Who stood out to you in Norfolk this week? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to follow The Baltimore Battery on Facebook and Twitter! And make sure to use the hashtag #baltimorebattery when sharing our content to show your Birdland swag!
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