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Thursday Thoughts: We’re Streaking!

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. The Orioles, like Will Ferrell in “Old School,” are going streaking. After seven straight wins, the Birds are right back in the thick of things in the AL Wild Card race, and I’m as surprised as you are.

No more than ten days ago, no one would’ve predicted they’d be in this spot. In fact, after Zach Britton blew a save last week to end his AL-record at 60, things looked pretty bleak. Britton was removed from a tied game and Miguel Castro came in and somehow kept things that way. The O’s would go on to win that game in the 12th and as it stands, they haven’t lost since.

This streak is their longest of the season and they are now three games above .500 for the first time since early June. It’s just the kind of run they need to get them back into the mix, but it still doesn’t make them a leading contender to grab one of the two Wild Card spots.

There is still a lot of work to be done in order to make that happen.

2. Dylan Bundy turned in one of the great performances in Orioles history on Tuesday night. A complete game shutout with a bunt single and two walks allowed, paired with 12 strikeouts.

While watching, I was also completing a fantasy football draft. To say I was distracted from my draft is an understatement. Watching Bundy pitch was like watching an artist paint. It was so crafty and designed. He used a great mix of his overpowering fastball and dazzling breaking pitches to keep the Mariners off-balance throughout the game.

To say the start of Bundy’s career has been tumultuous would be putting it gently, but this season he really has shown signs that he can live up to the hype of a first-round pick. I still have massive reservations about the way the Orioles have used him this year, but now that the team is in contention entering September, there’s no real holding back. It just makes me nervous going forward about how Bundy’s arm will hold up into 2018.

That there wasn’t any real plan for his innings entering this season is the larger issue. Bundy’s first half was spectacular, then his ERA ballooned up over 4.00. Now it’s back down under that mark and hopefully will continue to dip as the season rolls to a close.

3. Speaking of the season coming to a close, September really is upon us. It seems to have crept up, but call-ups are on the way and the stretch run is here. If you’d asked me a month ago, I would’ve expected the Orioles to be calling up a bunch of prospects and young kids to give a shot this month.

That’s no longer the case. It’ll be “all hands on deck” for sure, but I don’t expect players to just come up and sit on the bench. Buck Showalter has never shown a propensity for clogging up his clubhouse with players who don’t need to be there. There will be plenty of arms coming up to help out, and that’s important because every game in September must be treated like a playoff game.

Showalter can’t continue to allow starters to go deep in games while allowing big innings. He’ll have the depth in arms throughout the month to get by with short starts.

I’d expect some creativity in hiding struggling pitchers.

4. Just more than a week ago I wrote over at MASNSports.com that Trey Mancini’s season has been outstanding, but won’t get him in the winner’s circle for the Rookie of the Year honors. That may have been premature. Mancini still likely won’t garner the votes that Yankees slugger Aaron Judge is set to receive, but it should be closer than you think.

Judge’s gaudy home run totals are what will win him the race, along with his absurd number of walks and high on-base percentage. But he has also struck out at an obscene rate, and as an overall hitter, Mancini has proven more consistent. This is also not a two-man race. There are other players who deserve consideration, including the Astros’ Yuli Gurriel and Andrew Benintendi of the Red Sox.

But Mancini is showing up in a big way and is a large reason as to why the O’s are still in contention. It’s important to remember that the Rookie of the Year award, like all of them, is voted on by writers.

Most writers are going to have heard more about Aaron Judge than they have about Trey Mancini. That’s just the facts.

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Wednesday’s O’s Links: Dylan Bundy’s Near No-No

Adam Jones gives Dylan Bundy a pie.

Dealin’. Bundy.

What a performance, huh? Bundy’s third 10+ strikeout game THIS MONTH was also a complete game, one-hit shutout that gave the Birds their sixth straight win. The Mariners’ only hit was a bunt single, but it was early enough that there’s no unwritten rules silliness to go along with it. A no-hitter would have obviously been better, but we’re not complaining.

Let’s see what everybody is saying about Bundy & everything else today.

Castillo a Constant in Bundy’s Second-Half Success

Beef gets a lot of flak on O’s Twitter & message boards for his poor defense. Everybody knows that most of the O’s staff fare better with Caleb Joseph behind the plate. However, as The Sun’s Eddie Encina points out, that’s not the case for Bundy, who has fared much better throwing to Castillo of late.

From Suspect to Prospect: 10 Players Who Made the Leap in 2017

The bad news is that you need to subscribe to Baseball America to read this entire article. The good news is that you don’t need to read it all, as the important piece to O’s fans comes on page 1, where Austin Hays tops this list. “With legitimate defensive skills and a center fielder’s range as well as a right fielder’s arm, Hays looks like a future cornerstone in the Orioles outfield.” A prospect! Get excited, Birdland!

O’s Offensive Resurgence Has Been a Group Effort

The Birds still have baseball’s best offense since the All-Star break with a 121 wRC+. How have they been doing it? In short, EVERYONE has hit better. In long…well, click on over to Camden Depot for that.

Surging Offense Near Levels of Record-Setting June 2016

The last time the O’s hit like this was in the halycon days of June 2016, when it seemed like they were poised to mash their way to a World Series. Instead, they fell apart after June, a downturn that culminated in a wholly disappointing offensive showing in the Wild Card game in Toronto. The Sun’s Jon Meoli talked to some Birds about how this month compares to that one.

Bird’s Eye View Episode 215: Like Sands in the Hourglass

Jake & Scott discuss the Orioles’ little remaining time to make a run, with Jake taking the stand that it’s actually a GOOD thing that there isn’t much time left in the season. Ya know what? I like it.

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Series Preview: Orioles (65-65) vs. Mariners (66-65)

Ariel Miranda of the Mariners pitches.

After flying out of Boston with a three-game sweep over their bitter rivals in their back pocket, the Orioles will now look to keep the good vibes flowing versus a scrappy Seattle Mariners squad over a three-game set at Camden Yards.

The upcoming clash against the Mariners will kick off a three-legged, ten-game home stand for the Orioles. To say that this is the biggest home stand of the year would be an understatement. They’ll take on fellow wild card contender Seattle to begin the week, then host two AL East rivals in the form of the Blue Jays and the currently playoff-bound Yankees before departing for Cleveland.

It’s time to dig the cleats in, protect the house and reel off a bunch of notches in the win column.

The Orioles (65-65) are currently riding a four-game winning streak as they prepare to host the Mariners, and as a result of their recent surge, the Minnesota Twins and the second wild card slot are just two games out of reach. The Orioles should be buzzing at the thought of their upcoming home stand, as they boast an already impressive 38-26 record at home this season. They should also be buzzing after notching a drastically improved 23-16 mark over their last 39 games. Lastly, with a current 14-11 record in the month of August, the Orioles are having their first .500+ month since April.

Simply put, these resilient Birds have turned some heads as of late, and they seem to be hitting their stride at the right time.

The Mariners (66-65) roll into Birdland tied with the Angels for second place in the AL West and just 1.5-games behind the Twins for the final playoff spot in the AL. The Mariners have battled admirably all season long, and remain in the thick of the fight for the playoffs even after their starting rotation was ravaged by injuries. The Mariners have posted an impressive 23-17 mark since the conclusion of the All-Star Break and will be looking to state their case versus a fellow playoff contender as well.

This should be a great series to watch. However, the Orioles will be out for some revenge against the Mariners as they’ve gone just 2-8 against them since the beginning of last season.

Will the O’s continue their stellar run of form, or will the Mariners send their hosts crashing back down to earth?

Only time will tell. Let’s take a look at the starters.

 

Game One

Chris Tillman (1-7, 7.75 ERA) will take the hill against Marco Gonzales (0-1, 7.40 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

Tillman will be aiming to notch another win versus his former club and snap his fifteen-start winless streak tonight. Over ten career starts versus Seattle, Tillman has had to have stirred up second thoughts in the Mariners hierarchy as he owns a sparkling 7-1 record and 3.30 ERA (That Adam Jones guy has been pretty good, too.). Tillman will be looking to repay Buck Showalter‘s faith after the skipper re-installed Tillman into the starting rotation after an exile to the bullpen, and will be giving him the nod once again despite Tillman having allowed four runs over 5 1/3 innings during his last start versus the Angels.

Gonzalez, a once-promising top prospect in the Cardinals farm system, has went through a recovery campaign after missing all of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery. He turned in a decent outing during his last start versus Atlanta and allowed two runs on six hits over 4 2/3 innings. Acquired by Seattle in July, Gonzales is now 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA over his first four starts with the Mariners.

 

Game Two

Dylan Bundy (12-8, 4.18 ERA) will take on Erasmo Ramirez (5-4, 4.52 ERA) in Tuesday night’s contest.

Bundy turned in yet another impressive performance during his last start against Oakland and allowed three runs on seven hits over six innings. The Orioles in-form hurler is still undefeated since the start of the second half and owns a 4-0 record over six starts during that span. Over his last four starts, Bundy boasts a clean 3-0 record and a glittering 2.66 ERA. He’s also racked up 33 strikeouts over 27 innings of work during that span as well. Simply put, Bundy’s been dealin’.

Ramirez allowed just three runs despite ten hits over 5 1/3 innings during his last start versus Oakland, and will be looking to continue his good run of form versus the Orioles. Over his last eight outings (five starts) since the All-Star Break, Ramirez has gone 1-1 with an impressive 3.18 ERA. In sixteen career appearances (six starts) versus Baltimore, the former Tampa Bay Ray owns a 2-3 record and a sparkling 2.98 ERA.

 

Game Three

Ubaldo Jimenez (5-9, 6.57 ERA) will get the nod against former Oriole Ariel Miranda (8-6, 4.62 ERA) in the series finale on Wednesday.

Jimenez was tagged to the tune of five runs (three homers) on nine hits over five innings during his last outing versus Oakland, and has now lost back-to-back starts while posting a 10.61 ERA over that span. Over his last six starts, Jimenez has gone 1-3 with a 4.86 ERA. Over eight career starts versus Seattle, Jimenez has posted a 2-4 record and a 6.50 ERA.

Miranda battled through 4 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball during his last start against the Yankees, but the second half of the campaign hasn’t been kind to the former Orioles prospect. After lighting it up in the first half of the season with a 7-4 record and a 4.15 ERA over eighteen starts, Miranda has posted a 1-2 record and a 5.79 ERA over eight starts since the conclusion of the All-Star Break. He’s gone 1-2 with a 6.12 ERA over five starts during the month of August as he heads into his first career start against his former club.

That’s it for now, Orioles fans!

Can I get a let’s go O’s?!?!

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Monday’s O’s Links: Back at It, O’s Back in It

Hunter Harvey throws as Darren O'Day watches.

Greetings again, Birdland. After taking my birthday week “off,” O’s Links are back in effect. What’d we miss?

Oh, just a 5-1 week including a three-game sweep in Fenway to crawl back to within two games of the wild card?

Not bad!

Let’s see what else is up…

Red Sox Can’t Buy Key Hit as Orioles Complete Sweep

Oh yeah, drink it in.

After Weekend Sweep, O’s Back to Sniffing Postseason Spot

Writing in his weekly MASN guest column, our own Andrew Stetka marvels at the fact that the Birds have been able to maintain their relevance in the AL postseason chase. It’s had a lot to do with the overall mediocrity surrounding them, but let’s not look past how good they’ve been in August.

What’s Next for Miguel Castro?

Camden Depot’s Matt Kremnitzer takes some of the “Can Miguel Castro be a starter?” talk and dives into the numbers. Castro’s K rate is definitely cause for concern, but he looks to have some very solid potential. If nothing else, he’s a very intriguing option for 2018, and should *hopefully* be a useful piece in Baltimore for several years to come.

Tim Beckham, Free of High Expectations, Finally Hitting Like a Star

If even Dan Duquette told you he saw THIS coming from Beckham, you can rest assured that he’s lying to you. Timmy’s incredible start in Baltimore has gone a long way to making the aforementioned awesome August possible. And check this out!

Prospect Notes: Hunter Harvey

Remember him? He’s finally pitching again, and the results have been very promising.

 

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Week in Review: O’s Heat Up as Summer Cools Down

Well well well, what do we have here?

The clock may be ticking, but the Orioles have been doing a ton of knocking lately…

And it looks like this Orioles squad that just about everyone deemed dead in the water without even a fighter’s chance of making the postseason is out to shock the world once again.

And after an incredible sweep over the red-hot Bo’Sox at Fenway over the weekend, there is no doubt the Orioles are revving up the engine at the perfect moment in time.

The starters were almost flawless, the line-up did major damage and the bullpen was perfect. You couldn’t have asked for a better team performance than the one that we enjoyed over the weekend.

The current four-game winning streak has pulled the Orioles to an even .500 at 65-65, and as a result of their strongest showing on the road of the season, the AL’s second and final wild card spot is now just two games out of reach.

To add the cherry on top, this surging Orioles squad will now dig in their cleats and set their sights on taking down the Twins in the wild card standings over a lengthy ten-game stand at OPACY. If there was ever a time to pull off a major string of W’s, the time is now.

In the meantime, here’s to staying focused and hammering down versus fellow wild card contenders Seattle tomorrow.

That hammer’s getting pretty hot, by the way. Watch out, American League.

Let’s take a look at a few quick highlights from the past week of Orioles baseball.

– As we mentioned earlier, the Orioles starters were simply superb in Boston over the weekend and finished the three-game set with a sparkling 1.37 ERA over 19 2/3 innings. More of the same, please! Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy and Wade Miley have been doing a great job of carrying the load lately and have all been major catalysts in the Orioles resurgence.

– Once again, the Orioles bullpen was immaculate over 7 1/3 innings over the weekend, and as a result, relievers have posted a stellar 2.56 ERA over the last nineteen games and a 2.83 ERA over the last 29 contests.

– While it’s hard to top a twenty-hit, sixteen-run explosion like the Orioles pulled off on Friday, I like our chances of carrying the swagger over down the stretch. Mainly due to their fireworks display at Fenway, the Orioles are hitting .293 while scoring over seven runs a game (7.3 per game) on top of thirteen homers and an amazing .407 average with runners in scoring position over their last six ballgames.

– Over the last sixteen games, the Orioles are hitting a stellar .300 with 102 runs (6.4 per game) on 31 homers.

– Over the last 29 games, they’re hitting .289 with 166 runs (5.7 per game) on 51 homers as a unit.

Let’s go to the three stars of the week!

 

Third Star

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Trey Mancini. Talk about perfect timing. Right off the heels of a long-term slump, O’s star rookie Mancini broke on through to the other side by going 4-for-10 with a homer and three RBI versus Oakland. He then followed up by tagging the Sox over the weekend by going 7-for-13 with five RBI. His excellent showing in Boston included a four-RBI night on Friday and the game-winning RBI double on Sunday.

”Boom Boom” is on fire at the moment.

 

Second Star

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Wade Miley (Yes, THAT Wade Miley) gets the nod here over a red-hot Adam Jones and Tim Beckham. Miley pitched a great game versus the A’s during the former part of the week and allowed just two runs over six innings in the Orioles 7-3 win, and then battled relentlessly over five innings of one-run ball at Fenway over the weekend en route to a 2-1 sweep-clinching victory.

Miley has been in excellent form as of late, and as a result of his two well-earned wins this week, he’s now sparkled to the tune of a 4-1 record and a 2.76 ERA over his last six outings.

 

First Star

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Jonathan Schoop. The Orioles star second baseman has caught fire again lately, too. After posting his 27th home run of the season and five RBI versus Oakland, Schoop followed up by being a major catalyst in the dismantling of the Sox over the weekend by going 6-for-13 at the plate with four runs, one homer and two RBI.  His stellar display in Boston included a 4-for-5 night with three runs and an RBI on Friday and his 28th homer of the season on Saturday to tie Manny Machado for the club lead.

Over his last thirteen ballgames, Schoop is hitting an amazing .333 with three homers and ten RBI. In his last 38 games, Schoop is hammering down to the tune of a .331 batting average with ten homers and forty RBI.

Without a doubt, Schoop has been the O’s team MVP this season, and should garner some AL MVP votes.

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Get Your Players’ Weekend O’s T-Shirt Here

players-weekend-t-shirt

So Players’ Weekend was a blast! Not only did MLB teams showcase their players’ personalities with customized jerseys, cleats, and more, but most importantly, the Birds pulled off a huge sweep of the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

To commemorate the weekend, we’ve partnered with our friends at Breaking T to bring you this exclusive t-shirt!

players-weekend-t-shirt

Get yours here!

We chose five of the best nicknames on the Birds for the shirt – Adam “Pappo” Jones, Tim “Swaggy T” Beckham, Chris “Crush” Davis, Jonathan “Mamba” Schoop, and of course, Mr. Miami himself, Manny Machado.

We’ve partnered with Breaking T several times in the past, and they’ve put together some awesome shirts. Their products are super comfortable, soft, and look great. If you’re deciding between two sizes, we’d recommend the larger of the two. These shirts are fully approved by the MLB Players’ Association, so don’t worry about anybody knocking down your door with lawsuits or the shirts suddenly disappearing from the market!

So please get your Breaking T O’s players’ weekend shirt here, and commemorate this fun-filled, action-packed, and most importantly – SWEEEEEEP-tastic weekend!

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Series Preview: Orioles (62-65) @ Red Sox (73-53)

A shot from inside Fenway Park during a game.

After taking two of three against the A’s and finishing a six-game home stand at an even 3-3, The Orioles will now make a mini-road trip up to Fenway for the last time this season before returning home for a crucial ten-game home stand.

The Orioles (62-65) are pretty much light years behind the Red Sox for the division title at this point in the season, but they remain just three games behind the Twins for the final wild card slot in the American League. After earning two big notches in the win column versus a scrappy Oakland squad, the Orioles will enter the final week of August with an even 11-11 record this month. However, their struggles while on tour this season has proven to be the team’s Achilles heel. The O’s are 6-9 over their last fifteen contests away from Camden Yards and have gone 24-39 on the road in 2017.

The Red Sox (73-53) are set to host the Birds in sparkling form and will be looking to boost their already incredible 15-4 record since the turn of August. As a result of their stellar play, the ‘Sox now stand at a season-high twenty games above .500 and boast the AL’s second-best record. They have also stretched their lead to 4.5 games over the Yankees for the division title and trail the Astros by just four games for the AL’s top ranking.

The Orioles will be looking to stay alive and make up some valuable ground over their third and final trip to Fenway this season. The O’s own a slight 7-6 advantage over the ‘Sox this year, but the teams stand split at 3-3 over six games in Boston.

Will the hosts move closer to wrapping up the division title as we draw closer to September, or will the Orioles provide a massive spark to their wild card ambitions over the weekend?

We’re about to find out. Let’s go to the starters.

 

Game One

Jeremy Hellickson (7-7, 5.00 ERA) will take the mound versus Rick Porcello (8-14, 4.48 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

Hellickson was roughed up during his last outing versus the Angels and allowed seven runs on eight hits over just 4 2/3 innings. Over his first four starts as an Oriole, Hellickson has posted a 1-2 record and a 6.35 ERA. The former Tampa Bay Ray will be looking to bounce back against a familiar foe, as he’s gone 4-4 with a 4.78 ERA over fifteen career starts versus Boston.

Porcello turned in yet another good start by allowing just a single run on three hits over six innings versus the Yankees en route to his eighth win of the season last weekend. The former Cy Young award winner has hit top form as of late with a 3-0 record and a 2.84 ERA over his last three outings. He’s also posted a solid 4-3 record and a 3.77 ERA over seven starts since the All-Star Break.

 

Game Two

Kevin Gausman (9-9, 5.25 ERA) is set to take on Eduardo Rodriguez (4-3, 4.01 ERA) in Saturday’s contest.

Gausman wasn’t at his best during his last start versus Anaheim and allowed five runs on six hits over five innings, but he’s been really on his game for a while now. Over his last eleven starts, Gausman has posted an impressive 6-2 record along with a sturdy 3.69 ERA. Over his last seven outings, He’s notched a 4-2 record and a stellar 2.66 ERA.

Rodriguez turned in a decent outing during his last start versus Cleveland and allowed three runs on four hits over 5 2/3 innings. While he’s posted just four wins in seventeen starts this season, he’s been hit with a bout of bad luck as well. Over four starts this month, his record still stands at 0-0 despite the southpaw notching a stout 3.52 ERA. Rodriguez is also still undefeated at Fenway on the year with a 1-0 record and a solid 3.79 ERA over seven starts.

 

Game Three

All signs point to Chris Tillman (1-7, 7.75 ERA) getting the nod against Doug Fister (3-6, 4.78 ERA) in the series finale on Sunday, yet nothing is official at the moment.

Tillman returned to the rotation after a seventeen-day exile to the bullpen last Sunday versus the Halos and allowed four runs on four hits over 5 1/3 innings. The O’s veteran is currently on a fifteen-start winless streak, and hasn’t been in the win column since his season debut versus the White Sox on May 7th.

Fister turned in a gem of a performance en route to holding the Indians to just a single run on one hit over a dominant complete-game victory. Fister now owns a 2-1 record and a solid 4.12 ERA over his last three outings. Over eight career starts versus the Orioles, the veteran owns a 4-2 record along with a 4.47 ERA.

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The Rundown: The Remarkably Consistent Adam Jones

Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles prepares to swing.

The Orioles won their fifth straight series opener on Monday night against the Oakland A’s, but they have failed to win the series on each of the previous four occasions. This will come as no surprise, but that formula needs to change now if the O’s really want to get back in the playoff race.

It will begin tonight with Ubaldo Jimenez taking the mound and trying to bounce back from his Ubaldo-like performance against the Mariners in which he allowed six earned runs. Jimenez finished with 11 strikeouts and only allowed three earned runs the last time he faced the A’s and the team needs him to perform like that again.

 

Mr. Consistency

It is often said that you can just look at the back of a player’s baseball card to figure out how he will finish the season. It’s amazing how true that is for Adam Jones. Despite a little dip in average the last two years, we pretty much know Jones will finish with a batting average of .280 and home runs in the upper 20’s. After a four-hit performance on Monday, Jones is now batting over .280 and has a strong chance to finish the season with at least 30 dingers.

Jones continues to stay in the lineup even if he is clearly playing banged up and maintains the same approach whether he is batting first, second or fourth. I still marvel at Jones’ ability to hit for a strong average despite never walking 40 times in a season. Like Manny Machado’s three home run performance against the Angels, games like last night from Jones will need to be duplicated by the other hitters over the final six weeks in order for this team to be serious playoff contenders.

Baltimore Orioles shortstop <a rel=

GulfBird Photo/Craig Landefeld

 

The Ultimate Teammate

I’m probably looking too much into it, but it speaks to the atmosphere of the Orioles clubhouse that Buck Showalter has instilled and the person J.J. Hardy is when I see him helping Tim Beckham improve defensively before games. Beckham has clearly taken Hardy’s job, but the veteran has put his ego aside to pass on his knowledge in order for the team to win now.

Outside of a few games that he will play when he returns, Hardy’s very successful Orioles career has come to an end. It will be interesting to see if he latches on with another team next year, but I’m sure he will end up in some coaching capacity down the road.

Hardy will always be remembered for helping turn this franchise around and it’s just another reminder that the core that brought this team back to relevance is slowly breaking up. We have seen Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters leave in recent seasons and following this year, Hardy and Chris Tillman will more than likely follow with next year being another season in which many of the players we have watched the last few seasons departing.

The O’s may not win a World Series, but they did make baseball fun again in Baltimore.

Hardy was a huge reason for that.

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Series Preview: Orioles (60-64) vs. A’s (54-70)

Wade Miley of the Orioles pitches.

After failing to capitalize on a prime opportunity versus the Angels over the weekend, the Orioles will now look to recover in a hurry and try to build some momentum versus the lowly Oakland A’s over the next three nights.

For the Orioles, time is running out for them to state their case for a playoff spot in October. A favorable three-game set versus the second-worst team in the AL must translate to at least two wins in the back pocket, if not all three. It doesn’t help that Boston will be awaiting the Birds at Fenway for their clash in the latter part of the week.

The Orioles (60-64) Are just four games out of a wildcard berth, but they’re also currently enduring a fourth consecutive sub-.500 month (9-10 in August) after dropping another series versus Anaheim. The O’s have clawed their way back into playoff contention by notching an improved 18-15 record over their last thirty-three, but have stumbled a bit as of late with a 5-8 record over their last thirteen. To make matters worse, they’ve gone just 6-13 versus AL West opponents that are not named the Texas Rangers.

The Athletics (54-70) have gone through another rebuilding/learning season in 2017, and they’ll roll into Baltimore ranked as the second-worst club in the AL through the three-quarter mark of the campaign. The young A’s squad has played solid baseball at home this season, but they’ve let themselves down with a 20-39 mark on the road. The A’s are also in the middle of a rough 7-11 month of August.

The A’s were able to nab two wins and split the series with the Birds in the middle part of the Orioles recent West Coast swing. Will they be able to land another blow to the O’s playoff hopes this time around?

Only time and fate will decide.

Let’s go to the starters.

 

Game One

Wade Miley (6-10, 5.21 ERA) will take the mound versus Chris Smith (0-2, 5.26 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

Miley will be looking to bounce back from his last outing in which he allowed three runs on five hits over 4 2/3 innings versus Seattle. However, Miley has been in excellent form as of late with a 2-1 record and a stellar 2.91 ERA over his last four contests. He’s also dominated Oakland in the past and boasts a 3-1 record and a sparkling 1.33 ERA over four career starts versus the A’s.

Smith will be making another start after allowing three runs on three hits over 5 1/3 innings versus Kansas City. Smith was pretty solid in July with a 4.13 ERA over four starts, but has posted a 7.04 ERA over three outings so far in August. He’ll be making his second career start versus the Birds and owns a lifetime 6.30 ERA against them over three games (one start).

 

Game Two

Ubaldo Jimenez (5-8, 6.47 ERA) will square up against Paul Blackburn (3-1, 3.46 ERA) in the middle game on Tuesday.

Jimenez was back to his old ways during his last outing versus the Mariners as he allowed six runs on eight hits over just 4 1/3 innings. His latest outing came as a bit of a surprise as Jimenez had been in excellent form prior to his latest start. Jimenez is 1-2 with a solid 4.13 ERA over his last five contests.

Blackburn was tagged by the Royals during his last start and allowed four runs on eight hits over just four innings. He’ll also be facing the Orioles again after allowing four runs on ten hits over 5 2/3 innings against them on August 11th. After posting an impressive 2-1 record and 3.05 ERA over six starts in July, the promising rookie’s last two rough outings has seen his ERA rise to 4.41 over three starts in August.

 

Game Three

Dylan Bundy (12-8, 4.17 ERA) will take the hill versus Sean Manaea (8-8, 4.58 ERA) in the series finale on Wednesday.

Bundy was pretty impressive during his last contest versus the A’s as he allowed three runs on seven hits over six innings while striking out ten in the process. As a result of his latest stellar start, Bundy has now gone 3-0 with an amazing 2.14 ERA over his last three outings and has posted a superb 4-1 record and 3.62 ERA over five starts since the All-Star Break.

Manaea turned in a solid outing during his latest start versus Houston and allowed three runs on six hits over six innings, but sadly took the loss. It was a nice recovery from the A’s young hurler after he had given up six runs in just a third of an inning versus the Birds on August 12th. After posting a very solid 7-5 record and 3.76 ERA over sixteen starts during the first half of the campaign, Manaea will be looking to snap back into form and improve upon a 1-3 record and 6.96 ERA through his first seven starts in the second half of the season.

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Week in Review: Opportunities Squandered

Kevin Gausman walks off the mound as an Angels player rounds the bases after a HR.

Right off of the heels of a disheartening tenure on the West Coast, the Orioles had a prime chance to make up for it in a massive way but failed to seize the opportunity this weekend versus the Angels.

A series win would have been not only massive for the team morale coming into a lengthy stand at home, but a chance to cut into a 2.5-game deficit for the final playoff spot in the AL has come and gone. Instead, the Orioles now stand at four games out of the playoff picture and the sand in the hourglass is running out in a hurry.

Granted, 38 games is a long way to go in the course of a major league season. We’ve seen some crazy stuff go down during September in recent memory around the league, and it’s truly not over until the proverbial fat lady sings.

However, the sense of urgency must be doubled in Birdland. Not that these guys aren’t scrapping as it is, but the time to win and climb up the standings must be now if they want a chance to play in October. They still have a ton of games to play at home over the next few weeks, and they’ve got to take advantage of it.

The season may be 162 games long, but the Orioles time is now. As far as truly being in this for the home stretch, it’s now or never.

Let’s take a look at the highlights (and the lowlights) of the past week of Orioles baseball:

– After reeling off quite a surprising and excellent run of form lately, Orioles starters crashed back down to earth hard this week. A 6.18 ERA in the road trip finale, followed by a 10.28 ERA over fourteen innings of work versus Anaheim sums up just about all you need to know. As a whole, the O’s starting rotation ended the week with an 8.10 ERA over thirty innings of work. Giving up eleven homers to the Angels didn’t help matters much.

– Despite faltering (barely) on Sunday, the Orioles bullpen was otherwise magnificent versus Anaheim and finished the series having allowed just a single run over thirteen innings. They also allowed just two over nine innings versus the Mariners, and as a result own a sparkling 1.23 ERA over their last six contests.

– The bullpen has been sensational for a while now and boasts a stellar 2.52 ERA over their last eleven games and a 2.88 ERA over the last 23. On a larger scale, they own a 2.96 ERA over the last 36 games, and a superb 2.73 ERA over the past 43.

– Despite being silenced for a few nights this week, the Orioles sluggers put on a few impressive shows nonetheless. As a result, the O’s have now hit .304 while scoring 5.8 runs per game over their last ten contests. You’d think we’d be better than 4-6 with numbers like that, but I digress…

– The Orioles offense has been pretty impressive during the latter part of the summer. Over the past 23 games, the Orioles have hit .288 as a unit while scoring 5.3 runs per game during that span as well. Over the last forty ballgames, the Orioles are mashing .288 at the plate while driving in 5.6 runs a clip. Not to mention that they’ve hit 66 long balls over that span, too.

Let’s go to the three stars of the week!

 

Third Star

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Jonathan Schoop. While Schoop isn’t single-handedly carrying the line-up anymore, the O’s star second baseman is starting to rev back up again. Schoop finished the series in the Emerald City by going 4-for-13 at the plate with a homer and an RBI. He then followed up by having a huge game in a losing effort on Sunday and finished the series versus the Angels having gone 4-for-12 at the dish with a pair of RBI.

Over his last 32 games, Schoop is hitting a sensational .328 to go along with eight homers and 33 RBI.

 

Second Star

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Tim Beckham. Beckham was at it again in Seattle and went 6-for-13 with two home runs and three RBI to add to the folklore. He then played a huge part in the Orioles comeback win over Anaheim on Friday, and picked up three more hits and scored four runs over the weekend.

Through his first nineteen games in Baltimore, Beckham is clubbing an incredible .437 with 21 runs, eight doubles, five homers and twelve RBI. He’s been on an All-World level since joining the team.

 

First Star

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Manny Machado. Was there ever even any doubt? Machado crushed the Mariners with a grand slam in the series opener in Seattle, then torched the Angels upon returning home with another grand salami, this time of the walk-off variety, and the Orioles star third baseman has now been arguably the hottest player in baseball this month.

Over his last 33 ballgames, Machado is hitting an amazing .350 with eight homers and 33 RBI. Over his last eight, he’s gone 15-for-36 (.416) at the plate with five home runs and fifteen RBI.

Simply stated, he’s lighting the world on fire at the moment.

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#Staturday: Ain’t Manny Grand?

Manny Machado watches a home run fly.

Happy Staturday Birdland! So last night was pretty amazing. Due to Manny Machado’s awesomeness, I have a jumbo-sized Staturday filled with Manny stats. Enjoy!

Manny’s grand slam last night was glorious but he’s not the only grand Oriole:

Manny Machado and Chris Davis lead the majors in grand slams since 2013 with seven apiece.

The Orioles also lead the majors with 28 grand slams since 2013.

Recently, Manny Machado has been on an absolute grand slam roll:

Since April 28th, 2016, the Orioles have recorded 12 grand slams, 6 of which were hit by Manny.

In the last 11 days, Manny Machado has crushed three grand slams. The rest of the American League? Also three grand slams.

In his three-homer, grand slam game, Manny also made some history:

Manny Machado is the first Oriole to record multiple seasons with 3+ grand slams.

Manny is the third player in MLB recorded history (since 1913 via Baseball Reference) to have consecutive seasons with 3+ grand slams.

Manny Machado & A-Rod are the only two players in MLB history to have multiple seasons with 3+ grand slams prior to their age-26 season.

One last fact for this week’s Staturday:

Manny is good at baseball. Keep watching him.

Check out more stats like these at @BirdlandStats on Twitter!

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Series Preview: Orioles (59-62) vs. Angels (62-59)

Manny Machado and Mike Trout sie-by-side.

After capping off a topsy-turvy trip on the West Coast by dropping two out of three in Seattle, the Orioles will be looking to recover and bounce back from a bruising blow in the form of a 4-6 road trip over the weekend against the Los Angeles Angels.

On the sunny side of things, the Orioles will now dig in and try to rack up a haul of crucial wins at home. They’ll be playing in the friendly confines of Camden Yards for sixteen of the next nineteen contests. Winning at home hasn’t been a problem for the Birds this season, as evidenced by an impressive 35-23 mark at OPACY during the 2017 season.

In the meantime, the Orioles (59-62) remain just three games behind their current visitors for the second wild card slot in the AL. Despite a disheartening finale in the tour through the West Coast, the Orioles still own an 8-8 record thus far in August and a solid 17-13 mark over the past thirty contests.

On the other hand, The Angels (62-59) have burst into form as of late and thanks to a sparkling 11-4 record through the first fifteen games of August, they own a half a game lead over Kansas City for the second wild card spot in the AL. The Halos have posted an impressive 17-12 record since the turn of the season and to make matters worse for the O’s, they’ve gone 7-2 over their last nine games on the road. That includes a four-game sweep over the Mariners at Safeco Field.

The Orioles will be looking to level the score versus the Angels after winning just one of three in Anaheim two weeks ago. Since the start of the 2014 season, the O’s own a slight 11-10 advantage over the Halos.

Will the Orioles do some damage against the current wild card holders, or will the Angels continue their excellent form and distance themselves from the pack of challengers?

We’re about to find out. Let’s take a look at the starters.

Note: Due to Dylan Bundy‘s extended rest plan, the following is based off of projection. The plan itself seems to be working- Bundy’s gone 3-0 with a 2.14 ERA over his last three starts.

 

Game One

Jeremy Hellickson (7-7, 4.70 ERA) will take the mound in the series opener versus Andrew Heaney (0-0, 0.00 ERA).

Hellickson was tagged by the A’s during his last outing and exited after allowing six runs on five hits over five innings in a losing effort. The veteran now carries a 1-2 record and a 4.50 ERA through his first three starts as an Oriole. On the bright side, Hellickson owns a rock-solid 3-4 record and 3.02 ERA over seven career starts versus Anaheim.

Heaney will be making his comeback start after missing thirteen and a half months following Tommy John surgery. The 26-year-old southpaw flashed big time potential during his rookie season in 2015 and finished the season with a 6-4 record and a 3.49 ERA. A 3.18 ERA during his three-start rehab stint is a promising sign for Heaney and the Angels. He could provide a massive spark to a team trying to hang onto a playoff spot.

 

Game Two

Kevin Gausman (9-8, 5.08 ERA) is projected to take on J.C Ramirez (10-10, 4.26 ERA) on Saturday.

Gausman spun another gem during his last start by holding the Mariners to just two runs on six hits over seven stellar innings. As a result, Gausman has notched a superb 6-1 record and an impressive 3.18 ERA over his last ten starts. He also boasts an outstanding 4-1 record and a sensational 1.80 ERA over his past six outings.

Ramirez is coming off of back-to-back rough outings versus the O’s and the Mariners and has allowed nine runs over twelve innings during that span (6,75 ERA). Nonetheless, Ramirez has had a great season for the Halos and he still owns a solid 3.72 ERA over his last six starts. He’s also been a road warrior for the visitors this season, as he owns an excellent 7-4 record and 3.65 ERA over eleven starts away from home.

 

Game Three

Wade Miley (6-10, 5.21 ERA) is projected to get the nod versus former Orioles prospect Parker Bridwell (7-1, 2.88 ERA) in the series finale on Sunday.

Miley wasn’t up to par versus the Mariners and finished his last start having allowed three runs on five hits over 4 2/3 innings in a losing effort. However, Miley has been very good as of late and boasts a stellar 2-1 record and 2.91 ERA over his last four outings. He has also notched a perfect 2-0 record over three career starts versus the Angels while posting an outstanding 2.01 ERA, 0.71 WHIP and .147 BAA.

Bridwell dazzled yet again for the Angels during his last start by holding the Mariners to a single run on four hits over six innings en route to his seventh win on the year. Bridwell, 26, has been amazing for the Halos as of late and owns a clean 5-0 record along with a sensational 2.22 ERA over his last seven contests. He hasn’t lost a game since June 30th, and the Angels are 10-1 when Bridwell takes the mound. To make matters worse for the Orioles, Bridwell has notched an impressive 4-0 record and a phenomenal 1.74 ERA over five starts on the road this season.

 

That’s all for now, Orioles fans!

Enjoy the weekend!

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Friday’s O’s Links: Where Does Santander Fit?

Orioles' Anthony Santander prepares to hit.

The road trip came to a very disappointing 4-6 end the other day, and now the Birds have once again put themselves in a position of needing an outstanding homestand to keep pace. Despite winning the first game of the series in both Anaheim & Seattle, they ended up dropping two of three in both, as well as splitting four with the lowly A’s.

Brutal.

Hopefully home can cure what ails ’em, but the clock is ticking.

Let’s hit the links on a dreary day in Baltimore.

Chris Davis has Taken 8 Third Strikes Down the Middle

I usually very much enjoy when Jeff Sullivan writes about the Orioles. In this case though, he’s writing about the bane of O’s fans’ existence this year – Whiff Davis staring at strike three. Davis missed a bunch of time, and STILL leads the majors in backwards K’s. Sullivan found eight instances where Davis not only went down looking, but went down looking on a pitch that can be classified as middle-middle. Including, of course, the final out on Wednesday, with the bases loaded and his team down by a single run.

Bird’s Eye View Episode 217: Songs After Dark

Are the O’s still in this thing or what? Is there enough season left? Jake & Scott talk themselves into the Birds as contenders, out of it, then back into it again. They also get into some musical selections in an “Orioles Jukebox,” which I quite enjoyed.

Crowded House: How Santander’s Arrival Will Impact Lineup Decisions

Santander is here. How will that affect the lineup? Matt Cassidy of Camden Depot has some thoughts. In conclusion though, he thinks Buck will need a drink.

Ben McDonald Reminisces About 1992 Orioles

The REAL Big Ben joined Terry Ford on 105.7 to discuss the ’92 Birds, who will be celebrated on Saturday at OPACY. There will also be a home run derby featuring Chris Hoiles, Sam Horn, & others, so be sure to show up early.

Interview with Yefry Ramirez

Eric Himmelheber, who used to write for us (hey, Eric!) scored an exclusive interview with O’s prospect Yefry Ramirez, who the O’s acquired from New York in July for – of course – international bonus slot money. Hopefully the Birds can get some production out of the youngster. He certainly seems to be level-headed and have the right mindset.

 

 

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Thursday Thoughts: Missed Opportunity Punctuates Trip Full of Them

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. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player stare at more called third strikes that end up right down the heart of the plate than Chris Davis in 2017. The Orioles first baseman has been an absolute mystery at the plate this season. Actually, he looks like he’s attempting to solve a mystery (and he’s not doing well).

Yesterday’s strikeout to end the game in Seattle was the most egregious I think I’ve ever seen.

It’s fitting that 10 days of mostly missed opportunities (more on that below) would end in a missed opportunity like this – bases loaded, down by one, highest-paid player in team history at the dish…and he leaves the bat on his shoulder.

Despite the fact that he spent a month on the disabled list, Davis still leads baseball in strikeouts looking. When you combine the circumstances, it’s unfathomable that Davis was even allowed to hit. Adam Jones sat on the bench, having been given the day off, and watched all of that go down.

I don’t know what Buck Showalter was thinking, only that it made no sense to leave Davis in the game for that spot. It’ll be a week before I’m finished stewing over the absurdity of that non-move.

2. The west coast trip for the Orioles was, on the whole, very bad. Going 4-6 with three of those losses coming by one run and another by two runs is just excruciating. There’s no real way to sugarcoat what the Orioles left on the table. While there’s still six weeks left in the season, opportunities like the one the O’s just had on the west coast won’t be there much down the stretch.

Outside of games against Toronto and a few more against the A’s, the Birds will be playing other teams in contention from here on out. Being a handful of games under .500 already and with so many teams to climb over, the Orioles are basically already in the playoffs.

Don’t get me wrong, there are worse places to be in mid-August. They could be well out of it. The last ten days just feels like a massive missed opportunity.

3. Speaking of opportunity, Anthony Santander is up with the club after being reinstated from the DL. Don’t expect Santander to become any kind of a savior or immediately start taking up playing time, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in a limited role at some point over the next few weeks. Remember that he must remain on the roster the rest of this season and for more than a month of next season to shed his Rule 5 status.

Anthony Santander of the Orioles prepares to throw.

GulfBird Photo/Craig Landefeld

It should be easy for the O’s to hide Santander for the most part. They’ve successfully done it with Ruben Tejada over the last few weeks. I say that confidently because I had to double check that he was actually still on the 25-man roster.

Once September rolls around and the rosters expand, it’ll be even easier to hide Santander. What’s more interesting is that the O’s have already gambled to the point where they feel like he’ll be able to make the club out of spring training next year. This team is obviously starved for outfield talent still. Trey Mancini has developed himself into a great option, but there are still holes on this roster.

I’m not saying Santander is the definitive answer, but he could help fill in parts of the puzzle.

4. I’m a sucker for nostalgia, so hearing that members of the 1992 Orioles are coming back to Camden Yards this weekend to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ballpark has me giddy. Players like Cal Ripken Jr., Bill Ripken, Mike Mussina, Rick Sutcliff and Mark McLemore will be back for what I’m sure will be a good time.

Even better? There will be a home run derby! Brady Anderson, Mike Devereaux, Chris Hoiles, Sam Horn and Joe Orsulak will take part on Saturday in the event. I have no idea how that will play out, but I’m more than interested in hearing about it.

I’m of the age that my only real memories of Memorial Stadium were going to Ravens games there. I attended O’s games on 33rd Street, but was so young that I don’t remember them. I grew up at Camden Yards. I fondly remember being in attendance for the 1993 All-Star Game. I remember watching Cal trot around the warning track for 2131. I was there a year later when Eddie Murray slugged his 500th homer. I was at the game Felix Pie hit for the cycle. I also saw the big-league debut of Matt Wieters and the celebration of 60 years of Orioles baseball.

Camden Yards is 25 years old, and still has the charm of a new ballpark. It’ll always be home to me.

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The O’s Have MLB’s Best Second-Half Offense

Manny Machado follows through on his swing.

It’s mid-August, and once again the Baltimore Orioles find themselves right in the thick of a playoff hunt. While they don’t really have a realistic shot at the AL East title – barring an unforeseen dominant run coupled with collapses by both Boston and New York – they are within spitting distance of both wild card spots. As play started on Tuesday, they sat 2.0 games back of the second spot, and just four games back of the first.

Thanks to a nice little run of 17-11, they’ve recovered from their season low of seven games under .500, and have a chance to get back to even again tonight.

And they’ve had the offense to thank, for the most part.

While the pitching has indeed been better – their 4.37 ERA in the second half is good for seventh in the AL, a far cry from the 5.07 they put up in the first half, worst in the league – the offense has been nothing short of remarkable.

Here in the 2017 second half, Baltimore’s offense has the best wRC+ in MLB at 120. For a quick wRC+ primer, click here. If you don’t feel like getting into all that, here’s the gist – 120 means that the O’s offense has been 20% better than the average MLB offense in the second half.

Here’s where they rank in some more traditional measures (again, all in the second half):

Runs – 1st (176)
Home runs – 2nd (50)
Batting average – T1st (.289)
On-Base Percentage – 4th (.343)
Slugging percentage – 1st (.497)

And for the more Sabermetrically-minded among us:

wOBA – 1st (.355)
fWAR – T2nd (6.3)
ISO – 4th (.208)

In short, Birdland Power Company is back in action!

During the first half, for comparison’s sake, the O’s were 22nd in MLB in wRC+ (92), 22nd in runs, 11th in home runs, 17th in batting average (.254), 26th in OBP (.308), 14th in slugging (.425), 22nd in wOBA (.313), and 24th in fWAR.

In table form:

So, who have been the main contributors in the turnaround?

Of course, Tim Beckham leads the way with a ridiculous wRC+ of 278 over his 60 plate appearances since coming to Baltimore. Others who are raking have been Seth Smith (175 in 66 PA), Welington Castillo (157 in 68 PA), Manny Machado (142 in 139 PA), Jonathan Schoop (139 in 139 PA), Adam Jones (126 in 141 PA), Caleb Joseph (114 in 59 PA), and Trey Mancini (111 in 122 PA).

Again, a table:

This stands in stark contrast to 2016, when their bats went to sleep after the first half, dooming them from any dreams of a division title, dooming them to playing the AL wild card game on the road, and ultimately dooming them to a loss in said wild card game, in which they managed just two runs, and one baserunner over the game’s final five innings.

Last year, the offense started off hot, and then fell off the table. This year, it started cold, but has steadily heated up along with the summer temperatures.

Naturally, this comes with all the usual caveats – the “second half” has so far consisted of just over a month of baseball; there are still six-plus weeks of baseball to go, and we’ve certainly seen the Birds’ bats cool off as the leaves begin to fall before.

Still, let’s dream a bit, shall we?

Certainly Beckham won’t keep up this Best-Player-in-MLB pace (though matching his career 108 would be just fine!)…but what if Chris Davis were to rebound and put up a second half similar to the one he posted in 2015, with a wRC+ of 188? What if Mark Trumbo can even sniff his 2016 first-half wRC+ of 143?

There is no reason to think that this offense can’t carry the Birds to the postseason. As quiet as the bats were heading into last October, it would certainly be nice to enter the tournament riding a scorching hot attack for a change.

And if nothing else, it’s nice to see this team mashing again. To see them winning games they way they are built to win games.

It had been a long calendar year of anemic offense in Baltimore, and the drought, my friends, is finally over.

 

 

(stats via FanGraphs. “1st half” & “2nd half” is pre & post All-Star Break, per their definitions.)

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The Rundown: Beckham Rakes, Davis Heats Up, Roster Moves Loom

Anthony Santander of the Orioles swings.

The Orioles’ recent offensive surge continued on Monday night in Seattle with the O’s scoring 11 runs on 16 hits which included four home runs.

A victory in one of the next two games would guarantee at least a .500 road trip, a scenario most fans would usually accept when the team heads out west. However, at this point in the season, the O’s need to stack wins so it will feel a little disappointing.

 

Beckham Continues to Rake

Tim Beckham is just the latest in the “nobody saw this coming” department. It amazes me that Dan Duquette has pulled off moves like this throughout his tenure, finding lightning in a bottle again and again…and then makes other moves like giving away Parker Bridwell for nothing, signing Ubaldo Jimenez to a big contract and signing Yovani Gallardo period.

Win some, lose some, I suppose.

Beckham clearly had the talent, as evidenced by his first overall selection in the draft, but he has arrived at the perfect time for this team. He has been a clear spark plug that provides speed that the O’s have lacked and his energy is clearly contagious.

The biggest thing for Beckham will be his defense as he has made sensational plays already, but has also botched a few routine plays that we have been accustomed to seeing being made with ease by J.J. Hardy.

Duquette pointed out that Beckham just needed to get away from the ugly ballpark of Tropicana Field and he may be right. In Beckham’s career, according to BaseballReference.com, the shortstop has a .232 batting average playing in a dome compared to a .319 batting average playing outside.

Is it really just that simple? I’m not sure, but if it is, that’s impressive by whoever noticed that.

 

Davis Heating Up

It has been a rough two seasons for Chris Davis, and the slugger hit one of his low points in his Orioles career when Buck Showalter moved him down to seventh in the order.

It appears the mental day off along with the demotion may have woken Davis up, as he has collected six hits in the four games he has batted seventh. We know Davis can carry an offense when he is hot, the problem is those stretches have been few and far between over the last two seasons. Those stretches have also not lasted as long.

The offense is rolling right now, but it will go a long way if Davis can get hot for at least a month or find his stroke from August and September of 2015 when he was an absolute monster. This team needs to get on a roll and they need the players they are paying a lot of money to be part of that.

Roster Moves Coming

The Orioles were probably hoping they could avoid making these decisions until September 1st when rosters expand and they wouldn’t have to risk losing a player, but the timing did not work. Ryan Flaherty and Anthony Santander will join the Orioles when they return back home which means two roster moves will have to be made.

Ruben Tejada will more than likely be the corresponding move for Flaherty and he will have to pass through waivers to remain in the organization. There are many teams that would love to have a utility infielder, so Tejada could easily be claimed. I like Tejada and feel like he has a place in the organization, but in the end, he’s just a utility infielder.

The bigger question surrounds what player leaves when Santander is added to the roster. Craig Gentry is the likely choice, and as is the case will Tejada, he will have to clear waivers to stay in the organization.

Gentry is the quintessential September player with his ability to pinch run and be used as a late inning defensive replacement. In my mind, that means a team will scoop him up which will be a loss for the O’s, as he brings something to the table.

The question is, would the Orioles option Joey Rickard for two weeks to ensure Gentry remains in the organization?

I think that is a realistic scenario, one the organization has probably thought about. This could be more realistic if the team will be facing a string of right-handed pitchers.

It will be interesting to see what roster machinations are in store.

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Felix Pie, Cycles, and Things You’ve Never Seen Before

They say every time you go to a baseball game you’ll see something you’ve never seen before. This is my story about seeing three things I’d never seen before…all in the same night.

On August 14th, 2009, I went to Camden Yards, along with several dozen fellow Chief Petty Officers, for a night at the ballpark. A chance to mix and mingle outside the workspace. Most of the people in attendance weren’t baseball fans and, in fact, would spend the game on the concourse socializing and having a few (too many?) adult beverages. But I can’t go to a ballgame without paying attention to the game in front of me and it turned out this game provided a few reasons to pay attention. Even in the middle of a lost season on a hot and steamy Baltimore night in August.

Let’s not sugarcoat things. The Orioles of 2009 were bad and as August 14th dawned they were 47-67. In last place in the division. Twenty-four and a half games out of first place. On their way to the fourth straight year of losing more than ninety games. The Orioles lineup for the game was as follows.

Roberts 2b
Jones CF
Markakis RF
Huff 1B
Reimold DH
Wieters C
Mora 3b
Pie LF
Izturis, Cesar SS

Well, pass another beer and let’s see what happens.

The Angels, who entered the game leading the AL West by 4.5 games, put up 2 runs in the first inning, but the Orioles responded with 6 (SIX!) in their half against Jered Weaver. They sent 11 hitters to the plate and nibbled Weaver to death which, let’s face it, is what you do to Weaver. Three doubles, three singles, two walks. One of those doubles was from Felix Pie. One of those singles was from Cesar Izturis.

Time passes. Beers are drunk. Stories are told. In the bottom of the 3rd, Pie hits a home run. The Angels answer back in the top of the 4th with a Bobby Abreu home run and it’s 7-3. In their half of the 4th the Orioles mount a rally and tack on a run (goodbye Mr. Weaver) but Pie strikes out with the bases loaded and the inning ends with the Birds up 8-3.

The Orioles’ starting pitcher, who’s making his fourth MLB start, works a perfect 5th inning. Izturis leads off the bottom with a double and in turn gets doubled home by Roberts. 9-3.

The game bogs down. Not much happening. Conversations are becoming more important than what’s happening on the field. The O’s starter gives up a two out single in the 7th and gets pulled. Unfortunately, Matt Albers comes in from the pen (eight years later he’s still, somehow, in the majors) and promptly coughs up two runs. 9-5.

That’s when things got interesting. Pie singled to start the 7th and Izturis tripled him home. Roberts, Jones, and Markakis doubled in succession. A Wieters single and Mora Sac Fly made it 14-5. That brought Pie to the plate and as I always do when I go to the ballpark now that I don’t keep a scorecard, I looked at the scoreboard to see what he’d done so far. I noticed he needed a triple for the cycle.

I looked back at the game.

He tripled.

There have been 317 cycles in MLB history so I was pretty excited to see one. But most of the people around me didn’t seem to realize what they’d just seen because a cycle is unique among the rare MLB moments (and also because they weren’t really paying attention at this point). Many are instantly recognized. A triple play. A walk-off homer. The ones that require the entire game, a no-hitter or four-home run game, are so loud that nobody could fail to notice. But the cycle is different. How would the average fan in the park notice that Pie had a single, double, and home run so far? His most notable at bat of the game was the one where he struck out with the bases loaded. So there was a standing ovation but it wasn’t the whole park.

And then I looked back at the scoreboard. Izturis was next to the plate for the Orioles and if you’ve been reading carefully you know what I saw.

1st inning: Single

3rd inning: Popout

5th inning: Double

7th inning: Triple

I started pointing and yelling at nobody in particular. “Holy S&^%! Izturis needs a home run to do it too!” I’m really not sure anybody heard me or understood what I was saying.

There have never been two cycles in the same game, by teammates or opponents.

I’m not certain but I’m sure, at best, even having a second teammate come to the plate with the chance at a second cycle is exceedingly rare.

I’m absolutely certain this is the only time in baseball history somebody has come to the plate looking to complete the cycle immediately after his teammate has just done so AND they both had previous hits in the same inning.

Izturis tapped out to the first baseman because, you know, 17 home runs in 13 years. But I’d still seen something only done 300+ times in history. And another thing I knew had never happened.

And then when I was staring at the box score tonight while writing this I realized I’d seen one more thing. That young Orioles pitcher making his fourth start that night? He earned his first major league victory on August 14, 2009. His name is Chris Tillman.

Go to a game tonight, or next week, or next month. You never know when you’ll see something you never forget.

Felix Pie stands on third and celebrates his triple with the 3B coach.

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Series Preview: Orioles (58-60) @ Mariners (59-60)

A shot of Safeco Field in Seattle.

After dropping a series in Anaheim before splitting a four-game set versus the Athletics in Oakland, the Orioles will now head to Seattle to take on the Mariners to conclude their three-legged, ten-game tour through the West Coast.

And to say it is a crucial three-game set on the Orioles remaining schedule would be an understatement.

The Orioles (58-60) are just a half a game behind the Rays for third place in the AL East and trail the Angels by only 2.5-games for the second and final wild card spot in the American League. While their 3-4 record so far during the ten-game stint on the West Coast leaves much to be desired, the Orioles have pulled themselves right back into the fight after going 10-6 over their last sixteen contests and 16-11 over their last 27 ballgames.

The Mariners (59-60) have been through a roller coaster of a season as well, but just like the Orioles, they remain right in the thick of the chase for the postseason as we approach the 3/4 mark of the 2017 campaign. The Mariners are just two games out of a wild card spot, and they’ll be looking to close the gap versus the Orioles directly after getting swept by the Angels over the weekend at Safeco Field.

This series will mark the first Orioles-Mariners match-up of the season. The Orioles will be looking for some revenge after going 1-6 versus Seattle in 2016.

Will the Orioles come home in high spirits, or will their hosts send them home singing the blues?

Only time will tell. Let’s go to the starters.

 

Game One

Kevin Gausman (8-8, 5.21 ERA) will get the nod versus Yovani Gallardo (5-7, 5.38 ERA) in the series opener on Monday.

Gausman had an off day, allowing four runs on eight hits over 5 1/3 innings during his last start versus Anaheim, but he’ll be looking to shake it off and get back to his dominant ways in Seattle. Over his last five starts, Gausman has posted a 3-1 record and a phenomenal 1.64 ERA. Over his last nine contests, the O’s flamethrower owns a 5-1 record and an impressive 3.27 ERA.

Gallardo was tagged during his last start versus Oakland and allowed three runs on six hits over 4 1/3 innings. However, Gallardo has been much improved since re-joining the rotation at the start of the second half of the season. Over his last five games (four starts), Gallardo has gone 2-0 with a decent 4.29 ERA.

 

Game Two

The Mariners still have a TBD starter going up against Wade Miley (6-9, 5.19 ERA) on Tuesday.

Miley was incredible during his last start in Oakland and finished off his gem having allowed just a single unearned run on three hits over seven stellar innings. In fact, Miley has been heating up at the perfect time for the Orioles. Over his last three outings, Miley has notched a perfect 2-0 record and an amazing 2.12 ERA. Over two career starts versus Seattle, Miley has gone 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA.

As if it couldn’t get any worse for the Mariners with future hall-of-famer Felix Hernandez and veteran ace Hisashi Iwakuma already having missed the majority of the 2017 campaign due to injury, they’ve now lost their current staff ace James Paxton (12-3, 2.78 ERA) to a pectoral strain for what will probably be the bulk of the remaining schedule. As a result, the Mariners will run with a patchwork rotation indefinitely. Christian Bergman was called up recently, so he could fill Paxton’s slot in the rotation here.

Update:

 

Game Three

Ubaldo Jimenez (5-7, 6.25 ERA) will take the hill versus Marco Gonzales (0-0, 8.49 ERA) in the series finale on Wednesday.

Jimenez put in another impressive start during his last time out versus Oakland and allowed three runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings while recording a season-high eleven strikeouts, but had to leave the game early after being hit in the lower leg with a comebacker. Thankfully, he’s ready to rock and roll going forward. Over his last four outings, Jimenez has gone 1-1 with a superb 2.62 ERA and 32 strikeouts over 24 innings. In seven career starts versus Seattle, Jimenez has gone 2-3 with a 5.85 ERA.

Gonzales shook off a rough club debut and allowed just a single run on four hits over 4 1/3 innings during his last start against the Angels. Recently acquired from St. Louis, the 25-year-old southpaw will have a golden chance to become a staple in a major league rotation in the Emerald City. The Gonzaga alum was the Cardinals’ first-round pick in 2013 and is still recovering from the Tommy John Surgery that cost him the entire 2016 campaign.

Here’s to flying home on a high note!

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Monday’s O’s Links: Where Have You Gone, “Crush?”

A baseball player breaks his bat over his knee.

Jeremy Hellickson went full Oriole yesterday, going from absolutely cruising (26 pitches in three perfect innings to start the game) to blowing up (five runs in the fourth), denying his team the three-of-four they could have REALLY used in Oakland. Now they head to Seattle, which gives me nightmares, and has ever since Hisashi Iwakuma no-hit us a couple years back, needing two of three to salvage a 5-5 road trip. Not ideal!

Let’s see what’s up in the links.

Rotation Fixes Still Needed for O’s

Our own Andrew Stetka, writing in his weekly MASN guest column, reminds us that the Orioles’ rotation picture is quite murky heading into next season. Pitching isn’t cheap, so if the O’s plan to rebuilding the rotation using free agents, fans should get used to a whole lot more Ubaldo Jimenez clones, even as the original is set to leave town.

Another Fall for Chris Davis

Camden Depot’s Matt Kremnitzer has all the depressing details regarding Chris Davis’ lost season at the dish. It’s not just the staring at third strikes either; even when Davis makes contact, the ol “contact-to-damage ratio,” as Buck likes to call it, is not nearly what it’s been in the past. Yay for that huge contract, right?

Beckham’s Model at Shortstop is J.J. Hardy, the Man He’s Likely to Replace

Tim Beckham has some very astute & flattering things to say about J.J. Hardy. Maybe it’s just politics, but he really sounds as though he has been admiring Hardy’s game for years.

Tim Beckham May be the Orioles’ Spark Plug

As for Beckham’s hot start at the dish, his hitting streak came to an end yesterday. Therefore, Jake Ness of Charm City Sports Network OBVIOUSLY jinxed him with this post, right?

Orioles 2017 All-Prospect Team

The Orioles have prospects…no, really! Perhaps it’s stretching things a bit to construct an entire all-prospect roster, but if you’re looking for some optimism for the future, you could certainly do worse than this piece from Baltimore Sports and Life’s Greg Goldstein, who covers the minors for Baseball Prospectus.

 

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Week in Review: Treading Pacific Water

The Orioles' Tim Beckham.

Just as it seemed as if the Orioles were set to break on through to the other side… another week has passed, and it still hasn’t happened…yet.

But make no mistake about it: these Orioles are geared up for the home stretch, and they’re not going down without a fight.

After taking just one of three in Anaheim, the Orioles bounced back to split the four-game set in Oakland over the weekend. While a 3-4 record over the first seven games of their ten-game swing out on the West Coast could have been better, the Orioles will head to Seattle still very much alive in the wild card chase.

The Orioles’ main dilemma at the moment is that since nobody has ran away with the wild card spot, they’re now locked into a six-horse race for one playoff spot. Not only do they need to keep the notches in the win column coming, they’ll need some help as well.

44 games remain on the schedule, and the promise land is just 2.5-games out of reach. If the bats remain hot, the starters stay in-form and the bullpen remains sturdy, there’s no reason to doubt that these Orioles will at least be right in contention until the fat lady sings.

But this is not the time to look too far ahead into the future.

Next on the calendar is a prime match-up versus another playoff contender, the Seattle Mariners. These head-to-head match-ups against the teams that you’re trying to knock out of the playoff picture always seem to be the toughest of challenges.

The Orioles must find a way to bury their demons on the road this season and come away with a few critical wins if they want to keep banging at the door.

Here’s to returning to Birdland on a high note…

Before we get too carried away, let’s take a look at the O’s West Coast trip so far.

– The  starting rotation has gone through one heck of a turnaround over the last few weeks. After putting in a solid effort in Anaheim and an impressive showing in Oakland, the Orioles starters have posted a stout 3.06 ERA over their last sixteen games and 97 innings of work. Over the past 27 games, the starters own a decent 4.09 ERA over 158 1/3 innings.

– The bullpen wasn’t bulletproof over the weekend versus the A’s, but they have been lately. The Orioles relievers have recorded a rock-solid 3.36 ERA over the last thirty ballgames and a 3.66 ERA over the last seventeen.

– After finishing the series in Oakland with an outstanding .333 average, 26 runs (6.5 per game), six homers and a .341 average with runners in scoring position, it seems as if the Orioles dynamic offense is hitting top-form at exactly the right time.

– Over the last seventeen games, the Orioles are hitting .290 as a unit while scoring 5.3 runs per game (90 total) along with 26 homers and a .336 average with runners in scoring position.

– Over the last 34 contests, the Orioles are hitting .288 at the plate while scoring 5.6 runs per game (191 total) to go with 54 home runs and a .315 batting average with runners in scoring position.

Now, let’s go to our ”three stars” of the week!

 

Third Star

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Manny Machado. From slugging a grand slam in the opening game of the West Coast trip to ending the series in Oakland having gone 7-for-19 (.368) with a home run and four RBI, Machado has been on fire for quite some time now.

Over his last 27 contests, Machado is hitting a sensational .342 at the dish with four home runs and 21 RBI. Over his first thirteen games in August, the Orioles superstar is hitting a ridiculous .351 with ten runs, four doubles, four homers and sixteen RBI.

Second Star

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Dylan Bundy. Not only did Bundy silence the Angels to just two runs on five hits over seven stellar innings, he then followed up by allowing three runs on seven hits over six innings versus the Athletics to pick up his third straight win. Oh, and he racked up ten strikeouts in each of his starts this week. Not common for the O’s!

Over his last three outings, Bundy has gone 3-0 with a stellar 2.14 ERA while racking up 25 strikeouts in 21 innings.

 

First Star

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Tim Beckham. Sure, his twelve-game hit streak came to an end on Sunday…and the negatives stop there. The newest member of the Orioles is having the biggest impact on the team in recent times, and has given new meaning to the phrase “hit the ground running.”

Beckham went 4-for-11 versus the Angels and then followed up by crushing Oakland and finishing the series having gone 8-for-18 at the plate with six runs, three doubles and three RBI.

Over his first thirteen games as an Oriole, Beckham has gone an astronomical 26-for-53 (.491) at the dish with fourteen runs, seven doubles, two triples, three homers and nine RBI.

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