The Baltimore Orioles were hitless in the first two games of the pitch clock era.
The Orioles stole five bases in their first game in Boston and then five more in the second game of the series. They became the first team with 10 steals in their first two games since at least 1901. The new clock in the big games means pitchers can’t linger too long when trying to hold runners close, and there’s also a limit on pickoff throws.
An early indication of how that might play out 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, took a comically large leap as he swiped second in that game. The Orioles already have Jorge Mateo and Cedric Mullins, the top two base stealers in the American League in 2022. Those two have combined for seven steals in three games this year. If players like Frazier also get in on the action, watch out.
The Orioles actually finished in the middle of the pack with 95 steals last season. Texas led the team with 128 home runs, but if the first few days are any indication, it will take a lot more than that to lead the way in 2023. Eleven teams are averaging more than one stolen base per game at this very early stage.
Teams are stealing at an 83.3 percent success rate so far, up from 75.4 percent last year, and have had 84 steals in 50 games — an average of 1.68 per contest. That’s a 24 percent increase from last year’s average of 1.36 — and in line with the 26 percent increase seen at the minor league level from 2019 to 2022 while the pitch clock is being tested.
Anthony Volpe has stolen a base in each of the New York Yankees’ first three games. The rookie earned the starting job and made his major league debut when the season began.
The other top prospect to make his major league debut was Jordan Walker. The St. Louis outfielder had three singles, one 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 several multi-hit games, and Senga had 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 a five-hitter in Baltimore’s opener, that honor goes to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Trace Thompson for his three-run, eight-RBI performance in a 10-1 win over Arizona on Saturday.
RETURN OF THE WEEK
The Red Sox nearly recovered from a 10-4, eighth-inning deficit in their opener against the Orioles. In the next 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 fly ball off Yoshida. Duvall took advantage of the error, 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), Burt Campaneris (54) and Don Baylor (52).
The St. Louis Cardinals stole 314 in 1985, led by Vince Coleman (110) and Willie McGee (56).