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Mark Reynolds quieting the doubters

Slugger's month-long hot streak has brought Baltimore to the brink of first place
09/06/2012 11:40 AM ET
By Joe Auriemma

Mark Reynolds has been a force behind the Orioles' surge into the AL pennant race.(AP)
“Keep doubting. I don't care. We keep coming in and doing our jobs and doing the little things that win baseball games.”

Those are the words of Orioles slugger Mark Reynolds, who uttered that quote after last Friday’s win over the Yankees. But with the way the Orioles have played over the last month and a half, no one should be doubting Baltimore’s baseball birds any more – and Reynolds is a huge reason why the Orioles offense is flourishing.

On July 17, the Orioles were 46-44 and in a distant second place in the AL East, 10 games behind the Yankees. Since then, they have gone 30-16 (compared to the Yankees’ 21-25 mark over the same span) to dramatically cut that deficit down, and after pulling into a tie atop the division on Tuesday night, Wednesday’s loss to Toronto combined with the Yankees’ win in Tampa means they come into the biggest series of their season just one game behind the Bombers.

A lot of that does have to do with Reynolds, who got hot in early August and hasn’t looked back. Over his last 26 games, Reynolds is hitting .322 (28-for-87) with 10 home runs, 23 RBI, 18 runs scored and a ridiculous 1.157 OPS. Since that hot streak began on August 6, when the Mariners visited Camden Yards, the Orioles are 18-8 and have averaged five runs a game.

For comparison, in the 108 games prior to the beginning of Reynolds’ hot stretch, the O’s averaged just 4.1 runs per game. And as for the 29-year-old slugger himself, prior to August 6, he had played in 83 of the team’s 108 games, notching just 55 hits in 271 at-bats (for a .202 average) with eight home runs, 32 RBI, and a putrid .681 OPS, and his team was just 43-40 in those games that he played.

Bottom line, this is a different player right now, and certainly a difference maker. This isn't even the slugger that averaged 38 home runs a season from 2009 to 2011, because he was just a .228 hitter during those years; right now, he's hitting for a much higher average and going through what is the hottest all-around streak of his career.

In Baltimore’s series victory in New York last weekend, everyone saw what Reynolds is now capable of. His two multi-home run games during the three-game set propelled the Orioles to the two victories, which allowed them to inch closer to the Yankees and set up a battle for first place this weekend in Baltimore. And over the last six games (which also includes Baltimore’s series win in Toronto), Reynolds has been the hottest hitter in all of baseball, going 9-for-23 (.391) with six home runs and 13 RBI.

“Mark, through thick and thin, has been a good teammate,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of his first baseman. “He's worked hard, and when he's struggled offensively he's gone out there to see how good he can be defensively.”

That hard work has paid off for the once struggling slugger, and shutting Reynolds down will be one of the biggest tasks the Yankees need to key in on this weekend – because if they don’t, and this weekend is the second “weekend of Reynolds,” the Bombers may find the Birds flying above them in the AL East standings as they board their plane to Boston.

Follow Joe Auriemma on Twitter: @JoeAuriemmaYES

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