With the World Cup, U.S. Open, and NBA Finals all going on at different times on Thursday, baseball might have been temporarily forgotten. Even so, yesterday was a Thursday in the middle of June, which means there was baseball to be played. In a game between the top two teams in the American League East, it was an unlikely hero who helped the home team inch a bit closer to the head of the division.
With a star-studded cast around him (including, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Nelson Cruz, and Manny Machado, among others) Delmon Young was the offensive hero for the Baltimore Orioles last night against the Toronto Blue Jays. Facing one of the best pitchers in the game through two months in Mark Buehrle, Young helped the Orioles get going early. After a Nick Markakis single to leadoff the 1st, Young belted Buehrle’s eighth pitch of the game over the left field wall for quick 2-0 lead. The Orioles wouldn’t look back, never surrendering their lead in their 4-2 victory to cut the Blue Jays’ lead in the AL East to 3.5 games. Young also added a single in the 5th inning to improve his batting average to .295.
Though he doesn’t play the 150 games he once did, Delmon Young has proved to Buck Showalter and the Orioles that he can be a productive sporadic player. Though he has only played in 31 games (21 starts), Young has hit .295 with two home runs and nine RBIs. He’s been most productive this year when hitting in the 2-hole in Showalter’s lineup where he has the protection of Jones, Davis, and Cruz. As the 2-hitter, Young is hitting .387 with both of his home runs, five of his nine RBIs, and two of his four doubles. Although only about 35% of his at-bats have come in the position, Young has flourished there. He has proven that he can provide a spark for this incredibly dangerous Baltimore lineup.
Since the career of Delmon Young has felt like a long one, it might be hard to believe that he’s still only 28 years old. Drafted first overall by the Rays in 2003 when he was just 17, Young hasn’t been one to shy away from controversy. While the former-top prospect never developed into the All-Star he was supposed to be, Young has been able to be productive over the course of a few full seasons. Now on the fifth team of his career (after a second stint with the Rays), Young has proved yet again that he is not over-the-hill or ready to give up on baseball. If he can continue to play every other day and hit like he has through June 12th, Young will win a few more games for his ball club.