Last season, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Baltimore Orioles tied for baseball's worst record with a staggering 110 losses apiece.
With that as a baseline, 2022 has been a bit more encouraging, so far.
The Diamondbacks are actually a game above .500. The Orioles are seven games under, but prior to being swept at Detroit, they'd won eight of 13. Keeping this season's loss total in double digits may not sound like much of an accomplishment, but for these two teams it would be a step back toward respectability.
Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli, whose team leads the AL Central, acknowledged a different feel visiting Camden Yards this year.
"It's a real challenge coming in here right now," Baldelli said recently of the Orioles. "Their pitching staff — it's not necessarily a revamped pitching staff, we're familiar with some of these guys — but they're throwing the ball really freaking well right now."
The Orioles finished last in the majors by a healthy margin last year with a 5.84 ERA. Then the team moved the wall in left field back at Camden Yards and increased its height. Now, Baltimore ranks 17th in the majors with a 3.79 ERA.
Whether that's because of the new dimensions, improved performance — or perhaps the sport is just more favorable to pitchers this year — it's been a noticeable improvement. ESPN's park factors stats rank Baltimore as the No. 24 run-scoring environment now, down from No. 7 last year.
"The ballpark is definitely part of this too," Baldelli said. "It's going to be a chore to put up runs quickly. You kind of have to stack some hits together, it feels like."
Of course, the day after Baldelli said that, the Twins gave up five solo homers in a loss at Baltimore.
The Diamondbacks have also improved drastically on the mound, rising from 29th in baseball last year to 10th in team ERA. Merrill Kelly, Zac Gallen and Madison Bumgarner all have ERAs under 2.00.
The Orioles and Diamondbacks play in tough divisions, so contention could still be a ways off, but they might be more dangerous as spoilers than they were a year ago. And Baltimore can look forward to the arrivals of catcher Adley Rutschman and right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, two of the game's top prospects.
SHUTTING THEM DOWN
When the Houston Astros lost to Washington on Saturday, their 11-game winning streak ended. They also allowed more runs in that defeat (13) then they had through the whole streak (12).
During its 11-game run, Houston shut out Seattle twice, Detroit once and Minnesota twice. After losing that game to Washington, the Astros then bounced back and blanked the Nationals 8-0 on Sunday.
The 1968 St. Louis Cardinals had a remarkable 30 shutouts in a season. Bob Gibson threw 13 of them. Who was second on the team with five?
LINE OF THE WEEK
Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers tied a record Wednesday when he hit for the cycle for a third time in his career. He became only the sixth player in major league history to do that.
Honorable mention: A night before Yelich's feat, Reid Detmers of the Los Angeles Angels threw a no-hitter in a 12-0 win over Tampa Bay.
COMEBACK OF THE WEEK
Josh Naylor had a dream night for Cleveland on Monday, hitting a tying grand slam with two outs in the ninth inning, then a three-run homer in the 11th that sent the Guardians to a 12-9 win over the Chicago White Sox.
The comeback was actually bigger than that. Chicago was up 8-2 entering the ninth, and the White Sox had a win probability of 99.8% during the eighth, according to Statcast.
Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister