The Baltimore Orioles were off and running in the first two games of the pitch clock era.
The Orioles stole five bases in their opener at Boston and then five more in the series’ second game. They became the first team with 10 steals in their first two games since at least 1901. The new clock in the majors means pitchers can’t delay too long when trying to hold runners close, and there’s also a limit on pickoff throws.
One early indication of how this might go came in Baltimore’s 10-9 win over the Red Sox on Thursday. Adam Frazier, who stole 41 bases in the first seven years of his career, got a comically big jump while swiping second in that game. The Orioles already have Jorge Mateo and Cedric Mullins, the American League’s top two base thieves in 2022. Those two have combined for seven steals through three games this year. If players like Frazier are also getting in on the act, look out.
The Orioles actually finished in the middle of the pack with 95 steals last season. Texas led the majors with 128, but if the first few days are any indication, it’ll take a lot more than that to lead the way in 2023. Eleven teams are averaging more than a stolen base a game at this very early stage.
Teams are stealing at a success rate of 83.3% so far, up from 75.4% last year, and there have been 84 stolen base attempts in 50 games — an average of 1.68 per contest. That’s a 24% increase over last year’s average of 1.36 — and consistent with the 26% increase observed at the minor league level from 2019 to 2022 as the pitch clock was being tested.
Anthony Volpe stole a base in each of the New York Yankees’ first three games. The rookie shortstop won the starting job and made his big league debut when the season began.
The other top prospect to make his first major league appearance was Jordan Walker. The St. Louis outfielder had three singles, a double and, yes, a stolen base in his first three games.
Japanese stars Masataka Yoshida and Kodai Senga have looked impressive so far with the Red Sox and New York Mets. Yoshida already has a couple multihit games, and Senga struck out eight in New York’s win over the Miami Marlins on Sunday.
Only two teams in the live ball era have stolen 300 bases in a season. Who are they?
LINE OF THE WEEK
With apologies to Adley Rutschman, who had five hits and a walk in Baltimore’s opener, this honor goes to Trayce Thompson of the Los Angeles Dodgers for his three-homer, eight-RBI performance in a 10-1 win over Arizona on Saturday.
COMEBACK OF THE WEEK
The Red Sox nearly rallied from a 10-4, eighth-inning deficit in their first game against the Orioles. The following game, they completed the comeback. Down 7-1 in the third Saturday, Boston scored four quick runs on two-run homers by Alex Verdugo and Adam Duvall.
The Red Sox still trailed 8-7 in the bottom of the ninth when Baltimore’s Ryan McKenna dropped a two-out flyball by Yoshida. Duvall took advantage of the miscue, hitting a two-run homer over the Green Monster for a 9-8 victory.
Although they had a hard time stopping the Orioles on the basepaths, the Red Sox scored nine runs in each of their first three games and took two of three in the series.
The Oakland Athletics stole 341 bases in 1976, led by Bill North (75), Bert Campaneris (54) and Don Baylor (52).
The St. Louis Cardinals stole 314 in 1985, led by Vince Coleman (110) and Willie McGee (56).
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