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Series Preview: Rays (10-10) @ Orioles (12-5)

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb pitches.

After taking two of three from the visiting Boston Red Sox over the weekend, the Orioles will look to continue their excellent run of form against the Tampa Bay Rays during the second leg of the home stand tonight at Camden Yards.

The Orioles (12-5) couldn’t have dreamed of a better overall start to the 2017 season. Not only do they own an MLB-Best 12-5 record, they’ve also recorded an impressive 6-2 record at home, a 6-3 record away from OPACY, and a stellar 10-4 mark versus the vicious AL East.

Not bad, eh? These Birds are flying at the moment.

The Rays (10-10) have gotten off to a pretty solid start this season backed by the AL’s highest-scoring offense (93 runs scored) and a sparkling 9-4 record at home, but their record stands at a lowly 1-6 away from The Trop. They’ll also be looking to recover from losing two of three at home versus Houston over the weekend, which came right after sweeping Detroit in the previous series.

Will the O’s keep it rolling, or will the visitors pull off a minor upset in the first Orioles-Rays meeting of 2017?

 

Probables

Game One

Ubaldo Jimenez (1-0, 5.51 ERA) will take the mound tonight versus Rays ace Chris Archer (2-0, 3.20 ERA) in the series opener.

Jimenez was magnificent his last time out versus Cincinnati, having allowed just two hits over 7 2/3 shutout innings en route to notching a well-deserved first win of 2017. Jimenez’s pure gem of an outing resulted in his ERA plummeting from 10.38 to 5.51. Here’s to another sparking outling from the O’s veteran.

While he wasn’t at his best versus Detroit, Archer was almost unhittable over his first three starts of the campaign and seems to have rediscovered the form that made him one of the AL’s best from 2013-2015. Archer has allowed just nine runs over his first 25 1/3 innings while racking up 27 K’s in the process. More impressively, just a season after giving up 30 long balls, Archer has allowed zero dingers through his first four starts of April.

Game Two

Wade Miley (1-0, 1.89 ERA) will get the nod against Erasmo Ramirez (2-0, 3.07 ERA) on Tuesday.

Miley is coming off one of the finest performances of his career after allowing just a single run on two hits over eight innings to go along with tying a career high with 11 strikeouts versus the Reds last Thursday, and has been nothing short of stellar for the Orioles this season. He’s allowed just four runs on eight hits over his first 19 innings of work, and owns the AL’s sixth-best WHIP (0.84) and fifth-best K/9 (11.37).

Ramirez looked sharp in his first start of the season against the Tigers last Thursday, having allowed just one run on two hits over five innings along with zero walks and five strikeouts en route to his second win of the season. He’s also allowed just nine hits over his first 14 2/3 innings of the season (0.68 WHIP).

Game Three

Dylan Bundy (3-1, 1.37 ERA) will look to continue his dominant run of form versus Alex Cobb (1-2, 4.88 ERA) in the series finale on Wednesday.

Bundy has become one of baseball’s breakout star candidates after mowing down everyone through his first four starts of the campaign. He’s allowed one run or fewer in three of his four outings and goes into his fifth start of the season versus Tampa on a 13-inning scoreless streak after shutting out the Jays and ‘Sox over six and seven innings, respectively.

Cobb will be looking to snap out of a rough three-game patch in which he’s posted an 0-2 record and a 5.89 ERA. He’s also given up eight runs on a woeful twenty hits allowed over his last two starts (11 innings).

 

Notes

Manny Machado will kick off the three-game set on a five-game hit streak, and will be looking forward to Monday’s contest as he owns a stellar .313 average with one homer and three RBI against Chris Archer.

Chris Davis (.273, 3 HR, 7 RBI) J.J. Hardy (.348, 0 HR, 3 RBI) and Jonathan Schoop (.313, 2 HR, 2 RBI) have also hit Archer hard in the past. Maybe this will be the game the O’s break out of their slump at the plate.

– Davis has also posted excellent career numbers against Ramirez, going 6-for-19 (.316) at the plate with two homers and six RBI. Schoop, however, cannot say the same as he’s gone just 2-for-15 (.133) with zero homers and zero RBI against Ramirez.

– While Cobb may be struggling for form at the moment, he’s owned the Orioles big guns in the past.  Machado (.067, 1 HR, 2 RBI) has a single home run to show over his 15 at-bats versus Cobb, while Schoop (.111, 0 HR, 0 RBI) and Davis (.125, 0 HR, 0 RBI) are probably not looking forward to facing him, either.

– Orioles pitchers beware: Steven Souza is on absolute fire. He leads the club in batting average (.347), OBP (.424), SLG (.613), RBI (17) and is tied for the team lead in home runs (4).  Corey Dickerson (.314, 7 2B, 4 HR, 8 RBI) is also crushing the ball in the early stages. Long story short? These guys know how to mash.

 

That’s it for now, Orioles fans! Enjoy the series!

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Baltimre Riles: Where’s the O?

Mark Trumbo of the Orioles holds his bat horizontally and looks dismayed.

The final result of a chaotic series at Oriole Park at Camden Yards over the weekend was that the Orioles won two of three games over the Boston Red Sox and have yet to lose a single series three weeks into the 2017 season. Yet all anybody can talk about is what happened between Manny Machado, Dustin Pedroia, Matt Barnes, and the rest of the actors in that unseemly play.

Therein lies the problem. What we should be talking about, at least in Baltimore, is the play on the field.

Now don’t get me wrong: there is a lot to be happy about in Birdland. When all is said and done, the Orioles still have the best record in the American League at 12-5. Their starting rotation, despite Kevin Gausman‘s early struggles, ranks fourth the AL with a 3.50 ERA–a massive surprise considering the rotation was supposed to be the weak point on this team. But with all the ruckus going on this weekend, it has been easy to overlook the fact that the Orioles simply are not hitting, and thus not scoring.

A week ago Sunday, the Orioles rattled off 11 runs on 15 hits, including four home runs en route to a decisive 11-4 victory over the Happ-less (pun intended) Toronto Blue Jays. Since then, the Orioles have scored just 15 runs on 43 hits while hitting just five home runs in six games, failing to score more than three runs in five of those contests. That’s a 2.5 runs/gm average, and a team batting average of just .219.

Mark Trumbo, the Major’s home run champion in 2016, hasn’t homered since Opening Day and is batting just .227. Manny Machado, a perennial MVP candidate, is batting just .206. Chris Davis, who has averaged 99 RBI in his five seasons in Baltimore, has just four through 17 games.

These are your daily 3-4-5 hitters, ladies and gentlemen.

As a team, the club is batting just .243 and ranks last in walks, 12th in runs, and 11th in OBP while scoring three runs or fewer in 11 of 17 games. This is the type of production (or lack thereof) that saw the Orioles fall out of first place in 2016 and almost miss the playoffs. In fact, the trend of scoring three runs or fewer is a disturbing one.

In 2016, the Orioles scored three runs or fewer 72 times, going 19-53 in those 72 games. That means they went 70-20 in games in which they scored four runs or more. That’s 50 games above .500 if the Orioles simply score four or more runs.

There’s no doubt that the Orioles bats are going to wake up sooner or later. These guys just have too good of a track record. Still, the lack of offense to this point is disheartening and the weakness of this lineup against left-handed pitching is a serious cause for concern (last in the AL at .234 in 2016, 8th at .236 in 2017).

The bottom line is this: the Orioles are never going to be great at getting on base. Their offensive game plan is to bash as many home runs as possible and hope to bludgeon the opposition into submission. Everybody knows that power has many peaks and valleys, and the hope for the Orioles is that when the power hits one of those valleys, the pitching can make up for it, which it has to this point.

Still, much like the lineup has a proven track record, so does the starting rotation, only this track record isn’t nearly as good. There’s a reason the Orioles rotation was so heavily doubted coming into this season.

So what happens if the other shoe drops?

Only time will tell.

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Monday’s O’s Links: Joseph Helping Fuel Miley’s Stellar Start

Baltimore Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph in his catching crouch.

Tempers flared, baseballs flew at heads, and suspensions are sure to be coming soon. More importantly, the O’s took two of three from the Boston Red Sox over the weekend, pushing their record to a stellar 12-5. Things don’t get any easier though – the next 10 games are all against AL East teams, starting with three at home against Tampa Bay.

Stay Buckled Up, and let’s get to the links.

Britton Says Pedroia Needs to Control his Teammates

Zach Britton had some interesting things to say about this weekend’s drama, per Dan Connolly of Baltimore Baseball.

Trey Mancini Will Never Be Frank Energa

Trey went deep again this weekend, so Baseball Prospectus’ Bryan Grosnick may need to update this article. Who is Frank Energa you ask? Well, that’s a very interesting piece of obscure baseball history, as Grosnick explains.

In Nod to Orioles & Data, Jones Positioning Himself Deeper

Adam Jones is playing further from home plate this year. We had a link to a story on that in Friday’s links, but today’s goes even deeper (see what I did there?) as Jones explains to the Baltimore Sun’s Jon Meoli how the decision came about. It’s clear that Jones isn’t necessarily happy with the change, but it’s great that he’s willing to swallow his pride for the good of the team.

Free Hyun-soo Kim!

FanGraphs’ Paul Swayden says what I’ve been saying for months, which is that if the Orioles aren’t going to give Hyun-soo Kim a fair shake (AGAIN), then they should just trade him. Some team will find value in a guy who gets on base at a .380 clip. After Kim finally got a hit against a lefty (when given a chance) on Sunday, perhaps he’ll be in the lineup more? I won’t hold my breath.

Wade Miley’s Winning Combo: Great Command and Great Framing

Camden Depot’s Ryan Romano has an outstanding piece on what’s making Wade Miley look like a Dallas Kuechel clone here in 2017, instead of the train wreck he was for much of 2016’s second half. Part of the secret: Caleb Joseph, of course. The former Ubaldo-whisperer is now the Miley-whisperer.

A Few Thoughts on Baseball’s Unwritten Rules

Our own Andrew Stetka, writing in his weekly MASN guest column, weighs in on baseball’s very stupid “unwritten rules” which state that it’s perfectly OK, and even encouraged, for one grown man to intentionally throw a baseball at another grown man over some perceived slight.

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PiR: O’s Take the High Road, Kim Gets a Hit Off a Lefty

Baltimore Orioles OF Hyun-soo Kim swings his bat.

REALITY: Manny Machado and Dustin Pedroia kept their cool when the rest of their teams didn’t.

PERCEPTION: I gained a lot of respect for Dustin over the weekend. That statement from him after Sunday’s game says it all, and it should end any more retaliation talk. Pedroia knew Manny didn’t try to hurt him on Friday night. And Pedroia did not like that his pitcher threw at Manny’s head.

How often do you see a player in a team captain role throw a teammate under the bus like that? Matt Barnes and John Farrell both said that the pitch got away from him, and Pedroia said, “That’s not how you do that… It’s definitely a mishandled situation.”

But apparently the Boston clubhouse needs to get together and talk. Orioles pitcher Zach Britton told BaltimoreBaseball.com:

“Dustin, him telling Manny, ‘Hey, that didn’t come from me’ may be even more frustrating. Because he’s the leader of that clubhouse and if he can’t control his own teammates, then there’s a bigger issue over there.”

If it were a flipped situation, and he was planning to hit a batter in retaliation for what a team did to one of his teammates, and he was told not to by a veteran Oriole, he’d listen.

Pedroia knows “how things work” in baseball (as stupid as many “unwritten rules” are), but he did not agree with the way that his team did things. And you can’t say the pitch “slipped.” Then what do you call the three pitches in the 6th inning that were WAY inside… three straight pitches got away in the same spot? Get real.

This says it all:

It seems that everyone inside, and outside, of baseball agrees… it was a cowardly and childish pitch that MLB has to do something about. Barnes needs to be suspended. But not only that, the players need to do something. If throwing at someone is “a part of baseball,” then fine. But as Gary Thorne and Mike Bordick said over and over again during the MASN broadcast… that pitch has to be at the shoulders and below. Throwing at the head could kill someone, or end their career.

The manager and the pitcher should have manned up and said “Look, it was a bad pitch. Yes, I meant to come in on him, but I did not mean to go at his head, and for that I apologize.” But to act like they didn’t even mean to throw at him is ludicrous and their own player called them out on it.

Want to know the difference between Boston’s manager and Baltimore’s?

Baltimore has a manager that talks with his players and the players respect and listen to.

REALITY: Hyun Soo Kim got his first hit off a Left-Handed Pitcher in his career Sunday.

PERCEPTION: It took a 326 at bats to do it (but just 23 against LHP), but Kim finally got the “monkey off his back” when it comes to hitting against a left-handed pitcher. Maybe now Buck will let him play more.

Of the six Orioles to play outfield this season, Kim is 2nd in batting average and 3rd in on-base percentage. So I’m confused on why he is 5th in at bats? The only guy with fewer is on the disabled list.

Kim proved last year to be a fully capable outfielder, while adding a lot to a line-up that needed a guy to just get on base. Kim does that. There is no reason that your everyday outfield can’t be Kim, Jones, and Trumbo, with Trey Mancini at DH. If you want to get Seth Smith in the game, you can, but Kim should be getting more at-bats.

REALITY: The O’s are 14th in baseball in fielding percentage.

PERCEPTION: I cannot remember a time in my life that the Orioles have not been of the top five teams, defensively, in baseball. But early on this year they are struggling. Their 10 errors is 18th in baseball.

As much talk as there about the lack of strong defensive outfielders on the team, the infield has been where the real issue has been on this young season. Now, I’m not expecting that to continue. They will find their rhythm, and I still expect them to be in the top 5 by the end of the season, but it’s certainly been a concern early on.

REALITY: The Orioles have the best record in the American League and are tied for the best record in baseball.

 PERCEPTION: At 12-5, the Orioles have a .706 winning percentage, the same as the Washington Nationals. Man, that could be a fun World Series… but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The O’s are 10-4 against the AL East, and are 5-1 in 1-run games. Of all the stats you can look at, those are the two most important. In 2012 of course, they had an unbelievable 29-9 record in 1-run games. And if the Birds keep winning against their division then, they win the AL East… it’s that simple. And their next 10 games are against divisional opponents.

It’s a long season, and the Orioles seem to be similar to last year’s team in this… inconsistent pitching and hitting. Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley, and Dylan Bundy had three great starts and then Kevin Gausman lays another egg. While their pitching did great in giving up just one run during a three-game span, their offense only scored two runs per game. That’s not going to cut it. They are 16th in the league in batting average. Their offense needs to find a spark, because no one believes we can rely on Jimenez and Miley to keep up their production…although our fingers are crossed.

But that bullpen…that bullpen continues to be the best in baseball. They haven’t missed a beat with the best closer in baseball on the DL. Brad Brach has picked up the ball and been just as good. Donnie Hart, Mychal Givens, Darren O’Day, and Alec Asher have been very good. Jayson Aquino did a not job Saturday. Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter keep making it work with mixing and matching players.

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Wait, the Orioles Can…Pitch?

Dylan Bundy of the Baltimore Orioles pitches.

Your Baltimore Orioles currently have the best record in MLB. Yes, I know, it’s only April 23 and we’re only 16 games in, but we’re O’s fans! We get very excited over every little good thing this team does and also get very angry over every little bad thing they do.

The only other times in team history that the O’s have started 12-4 or better were in 1966 and 1997. If you just hopped on the bandwagon after the 2012 season or have lived in an underground bunker & are not familiar with what happened in 1966, head on up to the club level of Camden Yards and take a peek at that beautiful World Series trophy. 1966 was the first year the Orioles won the World Series.

Baltimore’s first-place record has a lot to do with their 23 home runs, which we all expected. However, the biggest contributor has been a surprise: the pitching. And not just our bullpen, but also our starting pitchers. Orioles pitchers have only allowed just three runs over their last 42 innings. Yes, you read that right.

Go on, I’ll take a minute for you to re-read that. Also, per Baltimore Sun’s Jon Meoli, the Orioles won last night’s game with 29 of 143 pitches at or above 90 MPH. In today’s velocity-obsessed MLB, that’s remarkable.

With Chris Tillman still out on his rehab assignment, our starting pitchers have consisted of Kevin Gausman, Ubaldo Jimenez, Dylan Bundy & Wade Miley. Also, Alec Asher, who gave us a quality start last weekend against Toronto and Jayson Aquino, who was called up from Norfolk & got his first major league start & win last night. Aquino’s start, which clinched the series against Boston, was the Orioles’ 8th quality start in the last nine games.

Oh, and Trey Mancini hit his 5th home run for the season. In other news, water is wet & the sky is blue. Now, back to the pitching.

Prior to the season, if I were to ask you who our “ace” would be, chances are you would say Gausman, right? Well, in four starts, Gausman has a 1-1 record with a 7.23 ERA in only 18.2 innings pitched. Bundy, on the other hand, has quickly won over our hearts with a 3-1 record & 1.37 ERA in four games. He’s also struck out 20 & only walked four in those 26.1 innings pitched.

But wait, there’s more! Miley is holding it down with a 1.89 ERA & 24 strikeouts in 19 innings pitched. Most recently, his outstanding outing against Cincinnati where he nearly went the distance with 8 innings pitched & only allowed two hits, one walk & struck out 11.

And as always, Baltimore’s bullpen continues to be dominant. They have not allowed a run in 8.2 innings & haven’t allowed a hit in the last eight.

The Orioles go for the sweep against the Red Sox today as Gausman gets the start and former Orioles prospect Edwardo Rodriguez gets the start for Boston.

The question is, will we be seeing 2016 Gausman or Ubaldo 2.0 this afternoon?

Movie poster featuring Kevin Gausman and Ubaldo Jimenez.

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Word on the Street: Machado’s Slide Causes Controversy

Manny Machado slides into Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedrioa at second base.

We had some controversy in last night’s win. Click play or read the transcript below.

The Baltimore Orioles won again on Friday night, 2-0 over the Boston Red Sox behind 7-plus shutout innings from Dylan Bundy and clutch bullpen work by Mychal Givens, Donnie Hart, and Brad Brach.

Unfortunately, we’re not talking about Bundy this morning. Instead, we’re talking about a play involving Manny Machado in the bottom of the eighth inning. Machado – who had homered earlier to give the Birds an insurance run – slid into second base as Dustin Pedroia was reaching out to field a throw, and his cleats made contact with Pedroia’s leg.

Manny appeared to immediately reach out to keep Pedroia from falling, but apparently the damage was already done, as the second baseman had to be removed from the game. What looked like a pretty routine play was suddenly soaked in controversy. Boston pitcher Joe Kelly was seen on camera yelling at Machado. Boston third base coach Brian Butterfield was ejected between innings for complaining about the slide. And manager John Farrell was apparently still barking from the dugout during his team’s at-bats in the top of the ninth.

A couple Boston reporters were – and are still today – weighing in, and overwhelmingly seem to be in favor of Boston engaging in some sort of “retaliation” against Manny this weekend. Retaliation in baseball of course, comes in the form of one grown man throwing a baseball at another grown man intentionally.

Real mature stuff.

Amusingly, if you look at the replies to Tweets on the subject from some of those aforementioned Boston reporters, there is hardly consensus among Red Sox fans on the issue. Many seem to have a much more reasoned reaction to what happened. They think the slide was fine, and that no retaliation is in order.

Some media also reported that the Red Sox players were watching the play in slow-motion after the game.

I suppose we’ll see what those players “discovered” as the series goes on. If Machado wears one in the ribs over the next two games, then we’ll know that the kangaroo court dubbed him guilty. In that case, let’s just hope he doesn’t get injured or charge the mound.

We O’s fans know that Manny has done some…questionable…things in the past. But you can believe that and also think that as far as the slide goes, there’s nothing to see here.

Maybe media members shouldn’t be carrying water for teams on things like this. And maybe those Red Sox players would be better served reviewing tape of those 27 outs they went without scoring a single run.

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Cincinnati Reds “Bandwagon Cam” is Amazing

Reds Bandwagon Cam shows Cubs fans' real allegiances.

The Cincinnati Reds have a new feature at Great American Ballpark that they are breaking out when the Chicago Cubs, and their newfound waves of fans, are in town – The Bandwagon Cam.

Check it out:

This is great. I’ll be honest though – I’m jealous. I wish the Orioles had done this about a decade ago for “Pink Hat Nation” AKA Boston Red Sox fans from Severna Park and Arlington. For that matter, I wish the team across the street, the Baltimore Ravens, would do it when the Pittsburgh Steelers are in town.

I get it – fans like teams who do well, and winners attract more fans. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t call people out for bandwagon-hopping.

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#Staturday: On the O’s Great Run of Pitching

Ubaldo Jimenez pitches for the Baltimore Orioles.

Happy Staturday Birdland! It was a really, really weird week of O’s baseball but nonetheless, a great one.

The pitching has caught fire since their three game series in Cincinnati:

The Orioles’ pitching staff has allowed one run over the last 33.1 innings.

In the last two games against the Reds, both relievers and starters put on an absolute clinic:

For two consecutive nights, Orioles’ pitchers have given up only two hits. This is the fifth such streak in Orioles’ history.

You know what great pitching means? The Orioles can actually consistently win low scoring games:

The Orioles have won three consecutive games scoring two runs or fewer. The last time this happened? 1972.

My last stat is a random one, so bear with me. On Wednesday, the Orioles beat the Reds and here’s the (wonky) strikeout count from that night:

Os pitchers threw four strikeouts.

Os batters struck out 16 times.

It was the sixth time in team history that they’ve won while striking out 16 or more times.

It was the first time the Orioles won a game striking out 16 or more times while throwing four or fewer strikeouts.

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Series Preview: Orioles (10-4) vs. Red Sox (10-6)

Side-by-side of Dylan Bundy and Drew Pomeranz of the Orioles and Red Sox, respectively, pitching.

After wrapping up an excellent showing in their first road trip of the season, the Orioles will now fly back to Camden to take on the reigning AL East Champion Boston Red Sox for a three-game set at home.

The Orioles (10-4) come back to Baltimore on a serious high after posting an impressive 6-3 record over their latest nine-game road stretch, while the Red Sox (10-6) will also be feeling pretty good after taking two of three in Toronto earlier this week and seem to have found their stride as we approach the month of May.

Both squads have been impressive in the early stages of 2017. The Orioles’ current 10-4 record is a league-best in terms of winning percentage (71.4%), while the ‘Sox have posted a 6-2 mark over their last eight contests after going 4-4 out of the box.

Will the Orioles remain in first, or will we see an early-season change in the standings?

 

Probables

Dylan Bundy (2-1, 1.86 EERA) will take on Drew Pomeranz (1-0, 5.23 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

Bundy has been simply sensational over his first three starts of the season. Not only does the budding star own an outstanding line consisting of a 2-1 record, 1.86 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, he’s recorded 6+ innings pitched in all three outings and allowed one run or less and five hits or less in two of three. Not to mention the fact that he’s posted a superb 3:17 walk-to-strikeout clip over 19 1/3 innings. Whether his sparkling form continues or not is another question, but for now, Bundy isn’t going anywhere.

Pomeranz will be making his second start of the season against the Birds after allowing just a single run on four hits over six innings against them in an 8-1 win on April 11th.

Jayson Aquino will be making his season debut and first career start against Steven Wright (1-1, 8.36 ERA) on Saturday.

The Orioles are high on Aquino, 24, but one must wonder why Alec Asher isn’t getting the nod here. Asher put in an excellent performance during his Orioles debut last week against the Blue Jays and allowed just one run on three hits over 6 1/3 innings to go along with one walk and five K’s. Hopefully, he’ll be taking the mound again soon.

Wright will be looking to erase the memory of his last start on April 12th against the O’s in which he allowed eight runs and four dingers over 1 1/3 innings in a 12-5 loss at Fenway. He’s already bounced back actually, having allowed just a single run over six innings en route to picking up his first win of the season against the Rays last week.

Kevin Gausman (1-1, 7.23 ERA) will take the mound against Eduardo Rodriguez (0-1, 4.76 ERA) in the series finale on Sunday.

Gausman will be looking to recover from a disastrous outing in Cincy which saw his ERA jump from 3.94 to 7.23, but the main concern with Gausman through his first four starts of the campaign is his control. The O’s fireballer has allowed an AL-high 12 walks over his first 18 2/3 innings of the season.

Rodriguez seems to have the same problem early on this year, as he’s allowed seven walks over his first 11 1/3 innings despite notching 15 K’s. The former Orioles top prospect was pretty sharp his last time out versus Pittsburgh and allowed just two runs over 5 1/3 innings while racking up eight K’s.

 

Notes

– Last year, the Orioles went 2-8 versus the Red Sox at Camden Yards….How many games out of first were we again? Let’s hope this trend doesn’t repeat itself.

– Boston’s three hottest hitters, Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and Mitch Moreland all have crushed the O’s in the past. Betts owns a career .292 average to go with 10 homers and 24 RBI versus Baltimore, while Benintendi owns a .292 average with one homer and six RBI and Moreland has posted a .269 average with seven homers and 21 RBI lifetime against the Birds….Brilliant.

– The same can’t be said for the Orioles two hottest hitters, Jonathan Schoop and J.J. Hardy. Schoop comes into the series with a career .222 average versus Boston, while Hardy clocks in a tick above Schoop at .223.

Mark Trumbo may still be homerless since opening day, but at least he’s gone 7-for-16 with two doubles over his current four-game hit streak. Here’s to a fireworks display from MLB’s reigning home run champion.

– Schoop has been tearing the cover off the ball lately, going 12-for-31 (.387) with six runs, three doubles, three home runs and eight RBI over the course of his current eight-game hitting streak.

– Hardy has been almost as hot as of late, going 10-for-28 (.357) with three doubles, one home run and five RBI over his last seven contests.

That’s it for now, Orioles fans! Enjoy the series!

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Friday’s O’s Links: Jones Playing Deeper, Gausman Searching for Answers

Adam Jones prepares to defend.

After a very successful 6-3 road trip through Boston, Toronto, and Cincinnati, the Birds return home tonight to start a six-game homestand against Boston and Tampa Bay. They then finish the month in New York, because the MLB schedule remains incredibly stupid.

That aside, let’s see what’s up in today’s links.

The Orioles Need Kevin Gausman to Get on Track, and He Will

Camden Depot’s Nick Cicere tries to assuage our fears about Kevin Gausman. His ERA is, of course, an unseemly 7.23 after he got tagged on Tuesday in Cincinnati. Three of his four starts this season have been shaky. Is a turnaround on the horizon? We all certainly hope so.

Jones Playing Deeper in Centerfield

Adam Jones is playing 17-feet deeper so far this season, much to the delight of my father. Is it helping? MLB.com’s Mike Petriello says that early returns have been favorable.

Why WAR-Based Systems Underestimate Elite Relievers

For the nerd crowd: Camden Depot’s Matt Perez tries to figure out why WAR seems to underestimate MLB’s elite relief pitchers, of which there now seem to be more than ever. Basically, WAR has trouble placing appropriate value on smaller sample sizes, and when relievers are throwing 60-70 innings per year, that becomes an issue.

Caleb Joseph on the Maturation Process

FanGraphs’ David Laurila sat down with Caleb Joseph to talk about how young pitchers and catchers mature in the minors and bigs. Ever want to get inside the head of an MLB catcher? This is the article for you. Very cool stuff.

How the Hell Do the Orioles Keep Winning?

Vice Sports’ Christopher Crawford is one of those guys who just refuses to believe that the Orioles are – and have been – a good team, despite what the win column has been telling him since 2012. It’s amusing to read him try to figure out what the heck is going on with this team that “over-performs” the projections every year. Maybe part of it goes back to that WAR problem Matt Perez talked about earlier. In addition to that…come on man. It ain’t luck…it’s Buck.

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Thursday Thoughts: Ubaldo “The Riddler” Jimenez

Jim Hunter interviews Buck Showalter with words underneath.

This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. This year, I’ll be cutting it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl WeaverBrooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.

1. If you say you’re surprised by Ubaldo Jimenez’s sparkling 7 2/3 innings of two-hit ball last night in Cincinnati, I’d guess you haven’t been watching over the last three-plus years. The reason Jimenez is so frustrating is that everyone knows he’s capable of turning in that kind of performance, but he does it so infrequently. Perhaps the above image from MASNSports.com last night, while surely a simple mistake, also has a bit of truth to it.

Jimenez is the ultimate “question mark.” And sure, last night’s four walks weren’t ideal. He didn’t have swing-and-miss type of stuff. Some of the balls hit in the later innings were ripped and required some nice defense. But all in all, Jimenez was good last night. He’s easy to root for and even easier to rip. Just wait until his next start, when the roller coaster ride continues.

2. It’s felt like “opposite day” in Cincinnati so far as Jimenez pitched well and Kevin Gausman continued to do the opposite. The 26-year-old is 1-for-4 in “quality starts” this season, and two of them have been complete duds. I’ll give Gausman a slight pass for Opening Day, though he was clearly not at his best there either. One of the more shocking things Gausman has dealt with this season is his walks. He’s got 12 of them compared to 13 strikeouts. I tend to fully believe that Gausman is carrying some extra “burden” with Chris Tillman out. Perhaps it’s mental, or at least one can hope. Then again, can an ERA north of 7.00 and a WHIP over 2.00 really be all mental? There’s got to be something else going on there.

Listening to Gausman speak after this week’s start in Cincinnati, he seemed to know exactly what was wrong. The way he discussed the outing made me think there was something mechanically that he knows is fixable.

Honestly, if that’s not the case, the Orioles could be in for a world of trouble.

3. Gausman isn’t the only player that’s noticeably struggling right now for the Orioles. Manny Machado’s woes at the plate are still bordering on the “small sample size” territory, but they are at least worth discussing. Machado has just eight hits on the year, and four of them came in the first four games. He’s got just four in the last nine, and is batting just .170. Machado is still showing the ability to draw some walks, but expectations are obviously way higher for Machado.

It’d be nice to see him heat up and help this offense show the pop it is capable of. Machado is the straw that stirs that drink.

4. I know everyone’s excited about Trey Mancini’s start to the season, heck, even his career. It’s totally understandable. Even I enjoy watching his at-bats, believe me. But I also think it’s time we all pump the brakes just a tad on the Trey Train. Let’s just slow it down a bit and let it work around the first curve. Mancini is less than 20 games into his career and is being anointed by some as a savior. I think he’s more than earned his spot on this roster and will likely stay up the whole season, unless there’s a serious roster crunch at some point and a need to move a player out who actually has options.

But Mancini still has a lot to prove. Pitchers will eventually adjust to him, and he’ll have to prove that he can re-adjust to them. Perhaps just as importantly, Mancini has to prove he can play in the field. Obviously, he’s blocked at first base by Chris Davis, so these starts he’s seeing in the corner outfield spots are crucial. He hasn’t been seriously tested in any one game thus far, but it will come. When he is tested, he needs to pass.

5. The Orioles farm system is obviously thin, but there’s one name I’m getting more and more excited about as the days go by. It’s not Chance Sisco or Chris Lee, but Double-A Bowie’s Cedric Mullins officially has my attention. Mullins was named Eastern League Player of the Week recently and has been on an absolute tear to start the season. He’s just 22 years old, and pushing for a potential call-up at season’s end already.

This is a guy who could be in the outfield come next season if things break his way. He’s hitting for some power already as well after making the jump from Delmarva last season. He profiles as the prototypical leadoff hitter who could steal bases and be a nuisance at the top of the order for the Birds, something they are desperately missing.

In a farm system that leaves a lot to be desired, Mullins is a guy I’ve been genuinely excited about thus far.

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Get Your Boom Boom Trey Mancini Shirt Here

Trey Mancini BOOM BOOM t-shirt.

Trey Mancini AKA “Boom Boom” has been off to quite the tear to start 2017. After homering twice in two separate games already this season, he has tied Trevor Story and Dino Restelli for most home runs through a player’s first 12 career MLB games with seven.

Last year, of course, upon being called up, he became the fourth Oriole to hit a home run for his first career hit, after Larry Haney, Nick Markakis, and Jonathan Schoop. He was the 20th major leaguer to homer in each of his first two starts. He was the third player to homer in each of his first three starts.

Boom Boom indeed.

And tonight, he’s leading off! Quite a whirlwind start for the youngster.

Now, thanks to our friends at Breaking T, you can support BOOM BOOM with this awesome new MLBPA-approved shirt:

Trey Mancini Boom Boom Logo.

Click Here to Buy

This isn’t our first rodeo with Breaking T. They’ve brought us some great shirts in the past, including Dealin’ Bundy, Great Britton (down to very limited sizes on those shirts. We’ll talk to them about maybe printing some more) and Manny Mashado (sold out).

Breaking T shirts are high-quality, very comfortable, and look great. Our usual disclaimer goes as follows: if you’re deciding between two sizes, though the 60/40 cotton/poly blend doesn’t shrink much (and feels great), go with the larger of the two.

Get your BOOM BOOM Mancini shirt today! Hurry, before Trey goes…

again.

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Wednesday’s O’s Links: All Aboard the Trey Train

Trey Mancini rounds the bases.

Sometimes you’re the windshield, and sometimes you’re the bug. On Sunday in Toronto, the O’s were the windshield. Last night in Cincy, they were the bug.

Get ’em tonight.

Will Kevin Gausman’s Slider Lead to Sustained Success?

So far, NOPE! SI.com’s Michael Beller put together this great piece on Gausman, published Monday, outlining his new use of his breaking ball. GIFs, charts, and all the fun stuff we seamheads have come to expect from pitching analysis these days. This article got O’s fans even more excited to watch Kevin pitch this week. Then he goes out and has one of the worst starts of his career on Tuesday night, because of course he did.

Despite Initial Skepticism, OPACY Has Become a Bucket List Destination

Do you remember that there were actually people who didn’t think building Oriole Park at Camden Yards was a good idea, or have you blocked that from memory? PressBox’s Jim Henneman reminds us.

O’s Pitching Staff Bound to be Tested

Our own Andrew Stetka, writing in his weekly MASN guest column, goes through the Birds’ bevy of pitcher acquisitions of late, and talks about how odd they are. Speaking of pitchers…check this out (and turn away from your screen if you have a mouthful of coffee):

Bird’s Eye View Episode 157: The Natural

Jake & Scott talk with Justin McGuire of the Baseball by the Book podcast, heap praise on Trey Mancini (while also preaching caution), and more in this week’s episode. Give a listen.

Trey Day: O’s Need to Make Room

Michael Klopman of Sports on Earth jumps aboard the Trey Train as well. Mancini wasn’t in the starting lineup last night, but with Seth Smith reportedly tweaking a hammy and being possibly headed for the DL, the Orioles ol’ roster crunch may have conveniently solved itself yet again.

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The Rundown: Tillman Makes Rehab Start, Trey Forces Way Into Lineup

Trey Mancini follows through on a swing.

The Orioles head to Cincinnati for their first interleague series of the season and despite the confusion, Kevin Gausman will be the one to take the mound for the O’s tonight to square off against Bronson Arroyo. It will be interesting to see which player between Mark Trumbo, Hyun-soo Kim and Seth Smith takes a seat tonight.

Due to a left-hander pitching game two, it could be Trumbo. No matter who gets the start, this is a prime spot for the offense to continue to mash the baseball, as Arroyo is sporting a horrendous 9.90 ERA and 1.60 WHIP.

 

Tillman Starts for Bowie

Chris Tillman returned to the mound in a competitive environment as he continues to make progress from a shoulder injury that has plagued him since the 2016 season. The right-hander’s velocity was consistently around 90 MPH which is to be expected as he continues to build arm strength.

It still might be aggressive to expect him to return in early May, but if he responds well from last night’s start in Bowie and gets stronger in his next start, it could be a realistic goal.

We all know how important a healthy Tillman will be so hopefully the good news continues for the staff ace.

 

 

How Long Can Mancini Be a Part-Time Player?

Trey Mancini hasn’t even played 15 games in the big leagues so it’s hard to draw any conclusions of how good he can be. The first baseman-turned-outfielder will struggle at some point. That’s baseball. However, Mancini has hit at every level and he has made an immediate impact with the Orioles. At this point, he should not be limited to games when a left-hander is on the mound.

I could be in the minority as Kim has a lot of support in Birdland, but to me, he’s better than Kim. Right now. Seth Smith is better than Kim. If Buck Showalter decides Mancini’s bat needs to be in the lineup, it would appear this would impact Kim the most.

Mancini can hit righties and lefties and the power is too much to ignore. We have yet to really see if his defense will be a liability, but Kim isn’t winning any Gold Gloves any time soon. This decision probably isn’t iminent, but if Mancini continues to hit like he has, it will be nearly impossible to keep him out of the lineup.

 

Orioles Philosophy on International Spending

Ben Badler of Baseball America did a good job laying out what the Orioles have spent internationally and how that is just not good enough, especially when the farm system is considered one of the worst in baseball.

Ken Rosenthal also wrote about it with comments from Dan Duquette and it appears it’s an ownership decision.

Since the start of the season, the O’s have already traded away money allotted to them for international spending in 2017 for two relief pitchers so it seems it will be more of the same for the organization moving forward.

I tend to side with the organization when it comes to their minor league rankings, as the “experts” appear to have missed out on Trey Mancini and possibly Bowie Baysox outfielder Cedric Mullins. Even though the organization isn’t bare of talent like the experts say, they also don’t have numerous players knocking on the door like the top minor league systems do. So, as with most things, it’s somewhere in the middle.

However, it makes no sense to ignore a demographic that has proven to breed major league players when you are given money to utilize it. Especially when you trade that money for players who are only considered bullpen arms. To their credit, they did trade international money for left-hander Chris Lee in 2015 and he could eventually crack the rotation.

In the end, not using all of your resources to improve your organization is extremely short-sighted, but if they keep winning on the big-league level, none of that will matter.

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Series Preview: Orioles (8-3) @ Reds (8-5)

Nighttime shot of Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.

After posting a 4-2 record over the first two legs of the road trip in Boston and Toronto, the red-hot Orioles will be looking to keep up the pace going into the last stop of their first road tour of 2017 in Cincinnati.

The Orioles (8-3) will be looking to come home in first place after taking three of four in Toronto, while the first-place Reds (8-5) will be trying to wash away a rough weekend after dropping three of four at home to the Brewers.

The Reds have been impressive over the beginning stages of the 2017 season. After finishing in the cellar of the NL Central in back-to-back seasons for the first time in almost ten years, they’ve engineered the NL’s second-best offense (62 runs) and third-best pitching staff (3.49 ERA) in the early stages of 2017, and the live odds at SportsBetting.ag reflect this.

Are they legit, or will they fade quickly?

 

Probables

Kevin Gausman (1-0, 3.94 ERA) will take the mound in the series opener against Bronson Arroyo (0-2, 9.90 ERA).

After shutting down the Blue Jays last week, Gausman will be looking for win #2 against a team he’s never faced before. Gausman is 2-5 with a 4.53 ERA over nine starts against the NL.

Arroyo is still kicking it at 40 years old, but his return to Cincinnati hasn’t gone quite as planned. Over his first two starts of the season, the part-time rock star has allowed a dreadful 11 runs on 13 hits over just ten innings of work…Maybe it’s finally time for the veteran to focus on his music career.

Ubaldo Jimenez (0-0, 10.38 ERA) will take on Reds rising star Amir Garrett (2-0, 1.42 ERA) on Wednesday.

Jimenez has been woeful through his first two starts of the campaign and has allowed ten runs on 15 hits over just eight and 2/3 innings. There’s nowhere to go but up though, right?

Garrett on the other hand, has been sensational over his first two big league starts. He’s allowed just two runs on seven hits over 12 2/3 innings while holding opponents to a .163 batting average and a 0.71 WHIP. The Reds #2 prospect seems to have arrived.

Wade Miley (1-0, 2.45 ERA) will take on Scott Feldman (1-1, 2.87 ERA) in the series finale on Thursday.

Miley has been a stud for the Orioles during the opening month of the season, having allowed just three runs on six hits over his first 11 innings of 2017 while racking up 13 K’s in the process. He’ll look to continue his impressive run of form, and maintain his perfect 3-0 career record and impressive 3.44 ERA at Great American Ball Park on Thursday.

Feldman has also gotten off to a nice start this season, having allowed just two runs on eight hits over his first 11 innings of work this year.

 

Notes

J.J. Hardy will be looking forward to reuniting with old foe Arroyo on Tuesday. He boasts a stellar .300 average to go along with five home runs and seven RBI over 30 at-bats against the Reds veteran hurler. Adam Jones may be as well, as he homered against Arroyo the only time he ever faced him in back in 2011.

Manny Machado will be licking his chops at the chance to face Feldman, as he owns a .455 average (5-for-11 with two homers and six RBI lifetime against the 34-year-old veteran. Jones (2-for-23) might not be as upbeat about it.

– Reds shortstop Zach Cozart has been leading the way for the home team with an NL-leading .432 batting average, five runs, two doubles, three triples, one homer, seven RBI and a .488 OBP… To say he’s the danger man would be an understatement.

Jonathan Schoop carries a five-game hitting streak into Cincinnati. During that span, he’s went a robust 9-for-19 at the plate with three doubles, two homers and five RBI.

Trey Mancini will also bring along a four-game hit streak with him to Cincy. The 24-year-old rookie has gone 7-for-14 at the dish during that stretch with four homers and eight RBI.

– Hardy seems to have found his stride and boasts a four-game hitting streak going into Tuesday. He’s 7-for-16 at the plate with two doubles, one homer and four RBI during that span.

– Two cold streaks to note: Machado (3-for-26) has seen a drop off in form over the past week, as has Mark Trumbo (4-for-25) over his last six games. Here’s to hoping for a fireworks show from these two in Cincy…They’re about due.

 

That’s it for now, Orioles fans! Enjoy the series!

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Monday’s O’s Links: Britton to DL, O’s Keep Ignoring Latin American Players

Zach Britton throws in spring training.

The Birds took three of four over the weekend in Toronto, but there was a bit of bad news in there as well, as before Sunday’s game we got word that Zach Britton was headed toward the 10-day DL with left forearm soreness. As we O’s fans know, it’s a very slippery slope from “forearm soreness” to “Dr. Andrews” to “PRP injection” to…well, you can fill in the rest. Hopefully our imaginations are as far as that particular scenario ever makes it.

To the links.

Mancini Has Two-Homer Day, Britton Talks About his Injury

MASN’s Steve Melewski has all sorts of quotes in this column. He talks to Trey Mancini about tying an MLB record for home runs in his first 12 games, Buck Showalter about seeing something the Skipper had never seen before, Dylan Bundy about shutting down the Blue Jays again, and Britton about that damn forearm.

Sunday Notes: Mancini’s Pop

FanGraphs’ Sunday Notes column has quotes from Mancini about Brady Anderson helping him change his swing back in 2015. On your way to scrolling down for that section though, stop by Buck talking about Chris Sale, in which he tosses some shade at our ol’ buddy Rick Peterson (I’m pretty sure).

Bullpen will Have a Different Look as Long as Britton is Out

And now to the nerve-wracking stuff. It was all good on Sunday, as the O’s decided to bash their way out of needing a closer. However, they’ve played a ton of close games already this year, so yesterday is very likely the exception, not the rule. Which means, of course, that they’ll need somebody to work a tight ninth inning very soon, probably before Britton is back. How will they manage that (and the ripples it will send throughout the pen)? Camden Chat’s Mark Brown gives his best guess.

International Reviews: Baltimore Orioles

Ben Badler of Baseball America takes the O’s to task for their continuing neglect of the international free agent market, an example of which was just on display last week when Dan Duquette dealt an international signing slot away (again). It seems that this is more of an edict from ownership than DD’s own choice, but either way, the Birds continue to put themselves at a huge disadvantage by ignoring the Latin American market.

The Orioles Have Positional Depth, Lack Positional DEPTH

Camden Depot’s Nate DeLong says that if any Orioles infielder were to suffer an injury, the team would be in some dire straights as far as replacing them. At least as far as replacing them with a guy who is even replacement level.

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Week in Review: O’s Find Power, Stay Hot in Boston & Toronto

Mark Trumbo and Trey Mancini of the Baltimore Orioles high five after a home run.

Put simply, life is pretty sweet for the Orioles at the moment. After kicking off the season with a bang at home, these O’s have carried their red-hot run of form into the first road trip of the season and find themselves in first place going into the second half of April.

Oh…and they own an MLB-best 72.7% win percentage (8-3) to begin the season. Is that good?

After splitting a two-game set in Boston, the Orioles, backed by tremendous starting pitching and a few power surges, went back to the building where their dream died last season and dished out some payback by taking three of four from the slumping Blue Jays.

Oh, and Birdland Power Company is officially back in business after clubbing five homers in a 12-5 win over the ‘Sox on Wednesday, four homers in a 6-4 win over Toronto on Friday, and then another four in Sunday’s 11-4 drubbing of the Jays.

Not only did the offense come through with a few expected fireworks, but the pitching staff, more specifically the starting rotation, was absolutely spectacular versus Toronto. Now the question is whether their sparkling form is the real deal or a mirage…I guess we’ll see, but enjoy it for the moment!

Here’s hoping that the next 151 games are as good as the first 11.

Now, let’s take a look at a few quick takeaways from the past week on the road:

Dylan Bundy may be becoming the staff ace right in front of our eyes. After allowing just five hits over six scoreless innings in Sunday’s 11-4 win versus Toronto, he now owns a stellar 1.86 ERA to go along with an impressive 0.98 WHIP over his first 19 1/3 innings of the 2017 season. He’s also recorded 17 strikeouts compared to just three walks. Is this the year?

– The Orioles have put together a pure gem of an effort over the past five games (4-1) by pushing 32 runs across the plate and allowing just 16. Not bad, eh?

– I can’t gush about the starting pitching versus Toronto enough. Kevin Gausman recorded his best outing and first win of 2017 by allowing just one run over six innings on Thursday. Wade Miley looked sharp, kept his team in the ballgame and picked up a deserved first win of the season on Friday. Alec Asher was superb in his Orioles debut on Saturday and allowed just a single run on three hits over 6 1/3 innings. Too bad he couldn’t get a single run of support. And then came Bundy’s gem on Sunday. All in all, the quartet posted a stellar 1.85 ERA over 24 1/3 innings versus Toronto. Keep it up, lads!

– After the great weekend series, Orioles starters now own a collective 3.67 ERA. If they can do that all season, you’re looking at a 90-95 win team. And that’s without staff ace Chris Tillman.

– The Orioles’ 32-run, 13-homer outburst over the past five games now sees them ranked second in the AL in home runs (18), with the Texas Rangers (20) in first.

Now, it’s time for the announcement of this week’s “Three Stars:”

 

3rd Star

Dylan Bundy. If you read this column, you already knew that Bundy was going to be on this list…because he’s the real deal. And he’d be higher up on the list if it wasn’t for what the other two guys did this week.

 

2nd Star

Jonathan Schoop. The Orioles’ 25-year-old second baseman caught fire this week and in the midst of a five-game hitting streak, Schoop’s average has jumped from .105 to .289. During that span, Schoop has recorded four multi-hit contests while going 9-for-19 (.474) with five runs, three doubles, two homers and five RBI at the plate. Somebody’s going to need to call the doctor if he gets any hotter than he is right now.

 

1st Star

Trey Mancini. Say hello to the newest member of Birdland Power Company. After burning Steven Wright and the ‘Sox with two long balls last Wednesday, the Notre Dame kid went ahead and burned the Jays with two more on Sunday. Not only does he lead the team in homers (4), RBI (9), batting average (.364), OBP (.417), SLG (.955) and OPS (1.371), he’s only needed seven games and 22 at-bats to do so.

That’s pretty scary. Now, the million-dollar question arises…How do you keep Mancini in the line-up, if possible at all? Only time will tell.

 

That’s it for now, Orioles Nation! Here’s to flying high and staying in first place!

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Friday’s O’s Links: Have You Seen This Man?

Hyun-soo Kim of the Orioles runs the bases.

Happy Friday, Birdland. No action at the Yard this weekend, as the O’s continue their four-game set in Toronto. It started off well, with a 2-1 win, the team’s second straight since losing the opener Tuesday night in Boston. A 6-2 start isn’t quite a 7-0 start (which they managed last year, of course) but it’ll certainly do.

To the links.

Orioles Make a Pair of Moves

The Birds called up Stephan Critchton from Norfolk, trading away Oliver Drake to Milwaukee in the process. For Drake, the O’s get a PTBNL or cash. While Dan was on the phone with the Brew Crew, he traded away their 2016-17 International Signing Bonus Slot number 15 (because of course he did) for a pitcher with a great name: Damien Magnifico. 2015 Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia was DFA’d to make room.

What is Up with Buck Showalter’s Usage of Hyun-soo Kim?

If Kim doesn’t get a start tonight against Aaron Sanchez, O’s Twitter might riot. We were all losing our minds the other night, and all Trey Mancini did was go out and bash two home runs. Camden Depot’s Matt Kremnitzer expands upon the weirdness that continues to be the Kim situation. It’s one that just seems to get muddier, not clearer.

Chris Davis’ Early-Season Approach is Encouraging

Camden Chat’s Nick Cicere takes a look at some video from Crush’s 2016 and compares it to so far this season, concluding that The Big Fella is having a much better go of getting his hands where he wants them during swings. This adds some evidence to the assertion that he was indeed hurt all of last season. So far, so good. Then, of course, Davis goes out and throws up the ol’ Golden Sombrero in Toronto last night. He crushes Aaron Sanchez historically though, so he may well bounce back tonight.

How Do the 2014 Long-Term Contracts Look Now?

O’s Uncensored’s Dillon Atkinson’s MASN guest column this week sparked some debate on Twitter, especially after Ubaldo Jimenez couldn’t get through five innings despite being spotted a nine-run lead the night this article came out. Anyway, the other DA O’s blogger used fWAR to examine the contracts of both Ubaldo and J.J. Hardy, which were signed at the start and end of the 2014 season, respectively. I’m with him on Ubie, for the record.

Britton, O’s, Hand Jays Worst Start Ever; Donaldson Hurt

Ain’t that a shame?

Let’s make the 2017 Blue Jays’ start one that they’re really never able to duplicate. 1-11 sounds good to me.

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Series Preview: Orioles (5-2) at Blue Jays (1-7)

Rogers Centre in Toronto with the roof open.

After splitting the two-night stand in Boston, the Orioles will travel across the border for the first time this season to take on the sleeping Toronto Blue Jays in a four-game set.

The Orioles (5-2) will be looking to keep up the pace after clubbing five homers last night at Fenway in a 12-5 win, while the Jays (1-7) will be looking to snap a five-game losing streak.

Kevin Gausman (0-0, 5.40) will take on Francisco Liriano (0-0, 135.00 ERA) in game one tonight.

After putting together a dominant second half of 2016, Gausman hasn’t quite hit the same run of form through his first two starts of 2017. The O’s flamethrower has registered a 2.00 WHIP over his first ten innings of the season along with seven walks to eight strikeouts and a .310 BAA.

Liriano will be hoping to erase the memory of allowing five earned runs over just a third of an inning versus Tampa Bay during his season debut last week.

Wade Miley (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will get the nod versus Aaron Sanchez (0-0, 1.29 ERA) for Friday’s contest.

Miley had an awkward season debut against the Yankees last week, as he threw five innings of one-hit, zero-run ball but allowed seven walks in the process. Still, the southpaw managed to rack up five K’s and didn’t allow the levee to break. That counts, right?

Sanchez picked up right where he left off last season by holding the Rays to just one run over seven innings in his season debut last week, and carries a perfect 4-0 record over five career starts versus the Orioles along with a 3.00 ERA. The Jays ace has allowed one run or fewer in 14 starts since April 2016, the most in the AL.

Alec Asher (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will be making his season debut versus Marco Estrada (0-1, 5.73 ERA) during Saturday’s matinee.

Asher, 25, was acquired from Philadelphia in March for cash considerations. In five starts for the Phillies last season, Asher put together an excellent line in the form of a 2-1 record, 2.28 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP. The Lakeland, Florida native also allowed just four walks to 13 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings.

Estrada will be taking the mound for already the second time against the Orioles this season after allowing just two runs over six innings against them on opening day.

Dylan Bundy (1-1, 2.70 ERA) will take on J.A. Happ (0-2, 5.40 ERA) in the series finale on Sunday.

Bundy has been outstanding to start the season, and will be looking to make it three straight quality starts to begin his campaign. He ranks first among Orioles starters in wins (1), WHIP (0.98), OBP (.260) and K’s (11). He also has allowed the fewest walks (2).

Happ has recorded an impressive 17 K’s over his first 11 2/3 innings of the 2017 season, but has been hindered by his tendency to give up the long ball. He’s allowed two dingers in each of his first two starts.

 

Notes:

Wellington Castillo has a career line consisting of a .316 batting average, two home runs and five RBI versus Liriano.

Adam Jones has also tagged Liriano to the tune of a .364 average, three homers and five RBI.

Chris Davis hasn’t had a problem tagging Sanchez in the past. He owns a .375 average to go along with three homers and four RBI against Toronto’s ace.

Jonathan Schoop is a career .386 (7-for-19) hitter against Sanchez.

– Castillo has had by far the most success amongst Orioles sluggers against Estrada, as he carries a .308 average along with four homers and eight RBI lifetime against the Jays work horse.

Manny Machado has the best numbers lifetime amongst Orioles batters versus Happ, as he owns a .292 average along with two homers and three RBI against the Jays veteran. Mark Trumbo on the other hand, is 0-for-14.

 

That’s it for now, O’s fans! Enjoy the series!

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Thursday Thoughts: Short Starts, Tillman’s Return, and Buck’s Shade

Chris Tillman of the Orioles prepares to pitch.

This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. This year, I’ll be cutting it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl WeaverBrooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.

1. A friend sent me a text message last night, immediately after the Orioles took a 9-0 lead in Boston. It read, “Bundy loses, Ubaldo wins in Boston. What do we know about the Orioles? Nothing.”

I chuckled at the notion that my pal was handing Ubaldo Jimenez a victory with a 9-0 lead, having only seen him throw two innings to that point. Sure enough, it wasn’t Jimenez that got the “win” after allowing five runs in 4.1 innings.

Mychal Givens mopped things up for Jimenez and improved to 2-0.

What baffled me even more than my friend’s assumption that Jimenez wouldn’t “Ubaldo” it up, was this notion of getting the “win.” I honestly thought we were over that stat. I thought fans didn’t really care, I thought broadcasters didn’t care, and I surely hoped Buck Showalter didn’t care.

I found it strange, however, that as he struggled through the fifth inning last night at Fenway Park, Jimenez remained on the mound while Showalter sat in the dugout. Eventually, after his starter loaded the bases, the skipper made his way out to the hill. Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer on the MASN broadcast continually talked about the notion that Jimenez was trying to get through that fifth inning to qualify for the win.

Meanwhile as I watched, all I could think about was the fact that the O’s were a swing away from having to worry about a team win.

There’s no question that the starting pitching (minus Bundy) has been the largest concern in this early part of the season. It’s a small sample size, but it’s a worry. The bullpen can’t continue to pull mop up duty, especially when the offense is clicking. Not only does it wear on the relievers, it makes for four-hour games which are no fun for anyone.

2. One thing that could, and I emphasize the word “could,” help some of the O’s rotation troubles is the return of Chris Tillman. That’s on track now as he’s set for his first rehab start Monday at Bowie. Tillman hasn’t felt any discomfort in his shoulder after throwing a bullpen session and making a start in extended spring training.

The fact that the Orioles now have a plan for Tillman, scheduling him tentatively for an outing with Frederick after Monday’s start at Bowie, means he’s on the right track. He still has to clear the hurdles before rejoining the big club in early May, but there could at least be light at the end of the tunnel.

The biggest trick is going to be making sure he returns to the rotation and is actually good. Thus far, the Orioles have two good starts through their first seven games, and they both came from Bundy. That’s not a very good percentage.

Having Tillman come back and contribute while also seeing improvement out of Kevin Gausman is going to be key to righting the ship that is this rotation.

3. There was quite a bit of outrage in the Twittersphere after the announcement of yesterday’s lineup. Everyone assumed, as did I, that with right-hander Steven Wright on the mound, left-handers Hyun-Soo Kim and Seth Smith would man the corner outfield spots. Instead, it was Trey Mancini starting over Kim in left field. It’s the third straight game Kim has sat on the bench with lefties on the mound for the previous two.

You can likely count on Kim sitting once again tonight as lefty J.A. Happ takes the bump for Toronto.

During the offseason, we heard Kim should expect a bigger role, but that also came before players like Smith, Mancini and Craig Gentry emerged as options in the corner outfield. With all that went into Kim’s rough start with the O’s last season, it would be nice to see him receive more opportunities to play.

It’s getting frustrating to see him sit, knowing that he has great capability to get on base. I’d at least like to see a bit of the “sink or swim” mentality take place over the next few weeks.

4. I’m already sick of “flu-gate” or whatever we are calling the latest spat between Buck Showalter and opponents. Showalter can claim he’s not taking a dig at the Red Sox with his recent comments about Boston’s flu outbreak, but I’m not going to believe it.

And guess what? That’s fine. I honestly have never minded Showalter taking those slight digs at other teams. He does it all the time when it comes to the Red Sox and Yankees about playing in big markets. The fact that Boston manager John Farrell said the comments didn’t surprise him should tell you all you need to know.

I don’t think Showalter was being malicious with his words, I think he was just pointing out that the Red Sox, like any other team, aren’t going to make excuses. The Orioles certainly aren’t going to be the team that counts a win over a depleted team as anything less than a victory.

During his time in Baltimore, Showalter has (whether he realizes it or not) taken on the mindset of the city in some ways. Baltimore is always that underdog that is overlooked. It’s just a stop between New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. Showalter loves to play that up with his team. No one ever picks them to contend, and all the attention goes to Boston and New York within the AL East.

That’s all this is. That’s all it ever is.

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5. Manny Machado isn’t off to the quickest start with his bat this season (.200/.310/.400 with 1 HR), but he sure did do some work with his words this week. Speaking to the “New York Post” while the Yankees were in Baltimore, Machado addressed the elephant in the room by discussing his impending free agency at the end of 2018.

Machado’s comments seemed to imply that he was totally open to the idea of joining the (gulp) Yankees for 2019, perhaps even bringing Bryce Harper along with him.

I’m not freaking out about all of this just yet. At least that’s what I’m continually telling myself as I cry myself to sleep each night. The Machado-Harper free agencies are going to be the hottest topic in all of baseball over the next 18 months, so they might as well be discussed. You’re going to grow tired of hearing about it, if you aren’t already.

It’s important to know though, that the Yankees aren’t going to be the only possible destination for Machado. Matt Gelb of the “Philadelphia Inquirer” joined ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” podcast with Buster Olney this week and seemed to think Machado was ripe to join the Phillies in 2019. There are also many that believe Machado could return “home” to Miami and play for the Marlins.

Until he signs on the dotted line elsewhere, I’ll believe Machado is with the Orioles. Call that foolish, tell me I have blinders on, whatever you want to do. I refuse to live the next 18 months fearing where Machado may go next rather than enjoying and embracing that he’s in Baltimore during that time.

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