Orioles All Stars

It doesn’t seem like long ago that Ty Wigginton was the Orioles lone All-Star in a season in which the O’s entered the break with a 29-59 record. That’s probably because it was only three years ago. Despite sitting in third place in the AL East, life is pretty good as an O’s fan in 2013. Our beloved Birds are 53-43 and have sent five representatives to Citi Field in New York for the mid-summer classic.

I never would have believed you if you told me back in the summer of 2010 that the O’s would take over the All-Star game in just three seasons, but lo and behold here we are. Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones will start for the American League, while Manny Machado will back up the defending Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera, at third base and Chris Tillman will provide relief for skipper Jim Leyland.

Monday night, fans watched as the league’s leader in homers took a crack at his first Home Run Derby. Davis advanced to the second round with eight long balls and then was eliminated after hitting four and opening a callous on his right hand. The Orioles first baseman has been the top story of the first half grabbing headlines nationally for his breakout season. Davis has seven more home runs than the aforementioned Cabrera, leads the league with a .717 slugging percentage and has hit more extra-base hits than singles this season (64 XBH, 44 1B). He’ll bat cleanup ahead of Toronto’s Jose Bautista.

Adam Jones enters the All-Star break having homered in three consecutive games. After a difficult June, Jones is batting .327/.389/.612 with four homers and 10 RBI in 13 games in July. He leads centerfielders in home runs at the All-Star break (19), hits (117) and RBI (67). He’s also become one of the Orioles most clutch hitters, batting .329/.353/.491 with runners in scoring position. Jones will hit seventh behind David Ortiz and ahead of Joe Mauer.

Then there’s J.J. Hardy, who seems to make the difficult plays look routine at shortstop. Hardy has helped the Orioles turn 69 of their 100 double plays this season and has posted a .982 fielding percentage in the first 96 games of the season. At the dish, Hardy earned his starting spot in the All-Star game with a .324/.364/.520 slashline in June. He’ll hit ninth today for the American League.

On the bench is one of baseball’s top young phenoms, a name that Orioles fans hope and expect the league to be talking about for years to come, third baseman Manny Machado. The 21 year old is just four hits behind Miguel Cabrera for the league lead (132) and continues to stand atop baseball in the doubles category with 39. In his first full season in the Majors, Machado also leads the O’s in triples (3) and has made more web gems than any player in the game.

Chris Tillman was a late addition to the All-Star roster, replacing Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander who was ineligible to pitch after starting on Sunday. Tillman is 11-3 with a 3.95 ERA and 2.17 K/BB over 19 starts this season. In June, Tillman was 6-0 with a 2.38 ERA and held opponents to a .206 batting average against. The Orioles have been victorious in 14 of Tillman’s 19 starts this season.

It’s hard to reflect on the 2013 Orioles and avoid comparing them to the counterparts from a season ago. Through their first 96 games in 2012, the Orioles were 51-45. July was their only losing month of the season (13-14), but they rolled in August (18-9) and September (19-9). With Wei-Yin Chen returning to the rotation, the addition of Scott Feldman and the continued success of starting lineup, I’m sure Buck Showalter is expecting similar results this season.

What a great time to be an Orioles fan.