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Wednesday’s O’s Links: A Boston-Baltimore Bidding War?

J.J. Hardy of the Baltimore Orioles attempts to check his swing.

The Orioles won one of the weirdest baseball games in memory last night, 13-11 over the Detroit Tigers in 13 innings. The Birds took a 7-1 lead in the fourth inning only to cough it up and trail 8-7  and down to their last out. Mark Trumbo hit a solo home run with two down in the ninth to knot things at eight.

Then, things got even weirder.

The O’s took an 11-8 lead in the 12th inning, only to watch their bullpen cough it right back up. The teams were again tied, this time at 11-11, after 12. The good guys pushed two across and held on this time, but the bullpen is an absolute mess. Fun times.

To the links…

Bird’s Eye View Episode 201: Go Buck Yourselves

Jake & Scott pass their bicentennial and keep right on rolling. This Mother’s Day episode features the annual handing-over-of-the-mics to the baseball widows, and the guys doing the unthinkable – complaining about Buck.

How is Dylan Bundy Doing This?

Joe Wantz of Camden Depot hems and haws on Dylan Bundy’s start, pointing out that some of his numbers point to potential regression on the horizon, while others don’t. More strikeouts would be cool, I guess.

The Orioles vs. the Rest of the League at Each Position

Camden Chat’s Alex Conway compiles the fWAR of every team at every position and tells us where the O’s fall at each.

The Coming Red Sox-Orioles Bidding War

Speaking of FanGraphs, here’s Nicolas Stellini looking into his crystal ball to later this summer, when Boston and Baltimore could be in the market for an upgrade at the same position. I don’t buy it, because of the inherent premise of moving Manny.

Adam Jones Q&A: On Race, America, and Why He Continues to Speak Out

Our Cap10 is awesome, y’all. (Don’t read the comments – ugh).

 

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Some Fans Need an Orange Chill Pill

man standing up in stands with arms out to side yelling

The Orioles just lost their 4th game in a row, getting swept by Kansas City. Trust me, I get that losing four games in a row sucks. Yes, every single game matters BUT there’s a fine line between getting upset over a loss & acting like it’s the end of the world.

I’m not a fan of comparing football and baseball, but let’s humor ourselves a little. Football has 16 regular-season games, which is I guess more of a reason to throw your remote at your TV or punch a hole in the wall after your team loses. With each loss, that’s one less chance & hope to watch your team play in the Super Bowl. When their team loses, fans pretty much mope around that whole following week before, hopefully, getting over that loss with the next scheduled game. If you’re a Cleveland Browns fan, of course, it’s usually just going from one disappointing loss to the next…but I digress.

This isn’t football! I get it – the Ravens were pretty much the only game in town from, oh, 2000 until 2011 or so. They were pretty much always good, while the O’s were always bad. As a result, a generation of fans learned – and older fans had their brains rewired – to treat everything like a 16-game season.

In baseball, there are 162 games in the regular season so each day is basically a new day. While every game does matter, some of you are going to give yourselves a heart attack before the season even ends if you continue to overact after every single loss – or every single out!

I’d be a hypocrite if I said I didn’t have a few choice words after a tough loss, but like I said before, there’s a fine line between being angry over a loss & acting like the Orioles are the worst team in the league. (Spoiler alert, they’re not).

We’re all passionate about our sports, about our teams & about our players, but let’s be realistic here. Is it really worth going on a Twitter rant or posting in an Orioles Facebook fan page & rambling on about how Buck needs to be fired or how Manny needs to be traded for a starting pitcher?

Most of us have been through the dark times with the Orioles, which, if you remember, was way worse than a few losses in a row.

If you were lucky enough to not be old enough to remember those times, God bless you & don’t ever google “Orioles season record 1998-2011.”

Everybody, just chill out! It’s May. We’ll see who the Orioles really are over the next few months. Live and die with your team, hang on every pitch, sure. But don’t forget to sit back and relax a bit, and enjoy the games.

As Earl Weaver famously said…”this ain’t a football game. We do this every day.”

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Series Preview: Orioles (22-14) @ Tigers (18-18)

Tiger statue at Comerica Park in Detroit.

After suffering through a rough weekend in Kansas City, the Orioles will look to bounce back quickly over a three-game set in the Motor City.

The Orioles (22-14) will also be looking to snap a season-high four-game losing streak tonight in the series opener. To make matters worse, they have gone just 3-8 over their last eleven games away from Camden Yards.

The good news is that the Orioles have gone 17-15 versus Detroit since the start of the 2012 season, and they’ve posted a solid 9-6 clip at Comerica Park during that span as well.

The Tigers (18-18) find themselves in third place in the AL Central and two games off the pace of the division-leading Twins as we enter the second half of May. Detroit has been steady all season long so far, but will be aiming to kick it up a notch upon returning home after a nine-game road trip.

Their offense has done their part by owning the sixth-best offense in the AL (4.7 runs per game), but their bullpen (5.60 ERA) is the worst in the majors and has immensely hindered the Tigers 2017 efforts in the early goings this season.

Will the Orioles recover from their slip-up in Kansas City before returning home, or will the hosts send the O’s home on an even lower note? Let’s hope for the former.

Let’s take a look at the starters:

 

Game One

Wade Miley (1-1, 2.45 ERA) will take on southpaw Matt Boyd (2-3, 3.89 ERA) in the series opener tonight.

Miley has posted a 3.18 ERA over two starts in May after recording a stellar 2.32 ERA over five starts in April. Despite notching just a single win to date, Miley has been quietly incredible this season, and the O’s are 4-3 on the year when the southpaw takes the hill.

Boyd is quickly becoming a staple in the Tigers rotation. The southpaw is enjoying a breakout campaign in which he’s gone six-plus innings in four of his seven starts and has allowed three runs or fewer in six of his seven outings. In fact, after allowing five runs over 2 1/3 innings in his 2017 debut, he’s posted a superb 2.91 ERA over his last six starts.

 

Game Two

Ubaldo Jimenez (1-1, 6.15 ERA) will get the nod versus Tigers ace Michael Fulmer (4-1, 2.54 ERA) on Wednesday.

Jimenez was impressive upon his return to the rotation versus the Nationals, and after allowing just four runs over 10 2/3 innings to date in the month of May, the O’s veteran hurler has lowered his ERA from 7.43 to 6.15.

Fulmer has been a beast for the Tigers this season, having allowed three runs or fewer in all seven of his starts on the year while also going six-plus innings in all seven. He’s posted a perfect 3-0 record and a stellar 2.25 ERA over his last four outings, while he also owns a 2-0 record and a ridiculous 1.20 ERA over his first two starts of May.

 

Game Three

Orioles ace Dylan Bundy (5-1, 2.26 ERA) will take the mound against Jordan Zimmermann (3-2, 6.28 ERA) in the series finale on Thursday.

Bundy has gone 2-0 with a solid 3.32 ERA in three starts this month after going 3-1 with an incredible 1.65 ERA in April. Still, Bundy has been the driving force in the Orioles rotation all season long, and he’s posted a clean 4-0 record and an impressive 2.11 ERA over his last six outings.

Zimmermann on the other hand, will be looking to hit the erase button on his first six weeks of the season. He’s allowed four runs or more in five of his seven starts to date. After posting a dreadful 6.18 ERA in the month of April, Zimmermann has recorded an even higher 6.55 ERA over his first two starts in May. If the Tigers have any hope of reaching October, they’ll need the two-time All-Star to live up to his contract.

 

Notes

Manny Machado (1-for-6), Chris Davis (0-for-5), and Mark Trumbo (0-for-4) are a combined 1-for-15 versus Fulmer. Adam Jones (2-for-6) and Jonathan Schoop (2-for-5, 1 HR, 4 RBI) have had some success facing the Tigers rising star.

– Jones (.211, 2 HR, 3 RBI) and J.J. Hardy (4-for-16) have faced Zimmermann the most on the team, but Davis (4-for-7, 2 HR, 3 RBI) has “crushed” the former National in the past. Look for him to have a big day on Thursday.

– Zimmermann won’t be looking forward to facing the Orioles again. He’s gone 2-4 with a 5.82 ERA over seven outings versus Baltimore.

– Boyd will be making his first career start against the Orioles powerful line-up on Tuesday. Quick factoid: Boyd (along with Daniel Norris) was dealt by the Blue Jays to Detroit for David Price at the deadline back in 2015. Talk about an expensive rental.

– Over their last ten games, Davis (11-for-33, 3 HR, 5 RBI) and Trumbo (13-for-41, 2 HR, 5 RBI) have combined to hit .324 with five home runs and ten RBI. It looks like the bash brothers are back.

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

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The Rundown: O’s Need More from Manny Machado

Manny Machado trots around the bases.

The Orioles return to action tonight against the Detroit Tigers hoping to snap a four-game losing streak. Wade Miley will take the mound and try to get the O’s back on track while also looking to regain his command. Not counting the White Sox start that saw him get nailed with two line drives in the first, the left-hander has walked at least four hitters in his last three starts. To Miley’s credit, he has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of starts this season, but he is definitely walking a fine line by allowing all these hitters to reach base.

 

Bullpen Woes

The Orioles bullpen continues to struggle and it’s only a matter of time before the team finally returns to having seven relievers. We knew the loss of Zach Britton again would be a major blow, but I was hoping the team wouldn’t start feeling the effects for at least a few weeks. Darren O’Day hasn’t pitched since May 8 as he was dealing with an unknown injury, but it should be noted that he would have been available if the Orioles had a lead in the late innings over the weekend.

The combination of being overworked already (Mychal Givens and Donnie Hart have both appeared in 18 games and Brad Brach has appeared in 19), along with the lack of depth is why the Orioles find themselves in the position they currently are.

The O’s can’t continue to use pitchers like Alec Asher in the late innings and obviously they can’t always use the relievers mentioned above on a nightly basis. Dan Duquette needs to find another late-inning arm that can bridge the gap until Britton finally returns.

The options in Triple-A appear to be Stefan Crichton or Jimmy Yacabonis, who don’t exactly scream confidence. They could dip down into Double-A and promote Tanner Scott who is currently being used as a starter. The other option is obviously outside the organization, but the fact remains, the team needs to do something soon.

This would also mean a position player would get sent out and we can debate all day long on who that should be. I will also mention Michael Bourn is back playing for the Norfolk Tides. The organization could decide that Bourn can do what Hyun-Soo Kim and Craig Gentry can do, but he takes one roster spot instead of two. This would also mean they are committed to playing Trey Mancini everyday.

As always when it comes to the roster, as soon as we think we know, we find out that we don’t.

 

Machado Needs To Step Up

Outside of hitting three home runs in the Boston Red Sox series to start the month of May, it has been a very pedestrian start to the season for Manny Machado. Here’s the bottom line: Machado is the best player on the team and he should be held to that type of standard. Is that fair? Maybe not, but when players like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are playing at MVP status once again, and Machado is not, he should be called out for it.

We, and I will lump myself in this, continue to say Machado belongs in the same conversation as those guys and that he will get paid A LOT of money after the 2018 season. He needs to play at a level that is warranted for that conversation.

We’re only 36 games into the season, it can turn around quickly and it can all begin tonight, but it needs to do just that. It should be noted that Machado did struggle in the month of September as well. Here’s to Machado finding the groove that saw him bat .318 with 19 home runs in the first half of last year.

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Monday’s O’s Links: We Get Knocked Down, but We Get Up Again

Dylan Bundy looks in for a sign.

Well that was quite an ugly weekend, huh? While it wasn’t quite the “Mother’s Day Meltdown” of 10 years ago in Boston, it was still pretty bad. Back in 2007, the O’s blew that 5-0 lead in the ninth inning, while yesterday Kevin Gausman figured he would just give it all away in the fourth instead.

Then, of course, the O’s had to make things as painful as possible in the ninth, getting the tying and go-ahead runs into scoring position with one out, only to strand both.

Woof. Moving on!

J.J. Hardy Needs to Make an Adjustment

Camden Depot’s Nate DeLong points out that pitchers aren’t throwing J.J. Hardy inside fastballs much these days. They’re typically the pitches he does his damage on. That, combined with his age, means that Hardy needs to do what I’ve been asking him to: embrace that slap-hitter life.

Mora a Bright Spot During Otherwise Dark O’s Years

Melvin Mora became a US citizen last week – congrats MelMo! The O’s teams he was on were so bad that it’s easy to look back and think that some players were better than they actually were – see: Penn, Hayden; Bigbie, Larry. With Mora, that’s not the case. We tend to underestimate him, I think. Anywho, Andrew Stetka, in his weekly guest column at MASN, talks about Melvin.

Now It’s Time to Find Out Who the Orioles Really Are

Mark Brown of Camden Chat puts this recent skid into perspective. We could all use that right now.

Dylan Bundy and His Odd Success

Anthony Rescan of Beyond the Box Score looks into Dylan Bundy’s metrics. Bundy’s lack of strikeouts is definitely something to keep an eye on, and Rescan wonders if Bundy isn’t just valuing soft contact more than Ks at this point. I’ll choose to believe that this is all part of Dealin’s master plan until he proves me wrong, thank you very much.

Trey Mancini Has a Different Feel Than Recent Orioles Surprise Sluggers

FanRag’s Jon Bernhardt talks Trey.

 

Enjoy the off day, Birdland. Our boys try to get off the schneid tomorrow beginning with three in Detroit.

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Week in Review: Fly High, Crash Hard

Kevin Gausman hands the ball to Buck Showalter as he walks off the mound.

Man, talk about getting the rug pulled out from under you.

Let’s flashback to last Tuesday. The Orioles rallied versus the Nationals in a 5-4 win to extend their winning streak to a season-high six games. That win also propelled the Orioles to a season-high twelve games above .500 and to first place in the division.

How bad can things get in a span of five days?

It turns out, pretty freaking bad. The Orioles coughed up a win late on Wednesday to Matt Wieters and the Nationals before getting rained out on Thursday, and then proceeded to get swept out of Kansas City over the brutal weekend.

Kauffman Stadium has become a house of horrors for the Orioles in recent years, and this year was no different. The Orioles are 5-15 versus the Royals at The K since the start of the 2013 season.

The Orioles now trail the Yankees for first place by a fraction, but have also let their rivals below them close the gap on the table. The Red Sox are just 3.5-games behind the Orioles in third, while the Blue Jays are slowly turning heads with a strong run of form. They’ve won five in a row and eight of their last ten.

To top it all off, the Orioles will have to sit on a season-high four-game losing streak on their off day on Monday before making a three-game stop in Detroit.

Hopefully, the Orioles can turn it back around this week before the guys in the rear-view mirror get any closer, and hopefully those Jays cool off a bit before the weekend.

Let’s take a look at a few takeaways from the past week of Orioles baseball:

– The offensive output versus Kansas City was pretty sporadic but not all terrible. The Orioles ended the series with a .264 average and scored 13 runs on five homers.

– Over the last nine games, the O’s have hit .284 as a unit while scoring 44 runs (4.9 per game) on 15 homers. They’ve also gone an incredible 26-for-68 (.382) with runners in scoring position during that span.

– A bump in the road…or should we worry? After being fairly stellar for most of the season, Orioles starters have posted a 4.86 ERA over the last six games. The Orioles record in those six? 2-4.

– The bullpen seems to be the bigger concern at the moment. Usually as sturdy as steel, the Orioles bullpen has seen a dip in form without their leader Zach Britton and has posted a 5.40 ERA over the last six games.

– Road struggles. After starting the season 6-3 away from Camden Yards, the Orioles have gone 3-8 on the road since and are just 9-11 while on tour this season.

– F%%K May: Since the start of the 2014 season, the Orioles are just 49-50 in the month of May.

Let’s go the three stars of the week!

 

Third Star

Pena Francisco Pena. Pena gets this week’s third star after sticking it to his former club by crushing two home runs on Saturday. He should be higher on this list after dedicating those two homers to his Mother. Sometimes it’s the little things in baseball that count.

 

Second Star

Chris Davis. Finally, the O’s star slugger is starting to catch fire. After cranking a home run in back-to-back games over the weekend versus the Royals, ”Crush” is now hitting a stellar .333 (11-for-33) with six runs, three homers and five RBI over his last ten ballgames.

 

First Star

Caleb Joseph. Yes, that’s right! The man of the hour himself, Caleb Joseph, has won the first star award after burning up everything in his path over the past week. He finished the series versus the Nationals 6-for-13 with a pair or RBI’s and then followed up by lighting up Kansas City.  Joseph finished the weekend series 5-for-8 with three doubles, one triple, one home run and four RBI.

Over the course of a current five-game hitting streak, the O’s scrappy backstop is hitting a phenomenal .524 (11-for-21) with three doubles, one homer and six RBI.

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#Staturday: O’s Finally Hit Some Triples

Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy bats.

Happy Staturday Birdland! Another week of baseball, another avalanche of stats. Let’s get to em!

The Orioles & Nationals played in the annual “battle of the beltways” this week. The battle has been pretty lopsided:

Since 2012, the Orioles are 19-8 versus the Nationals. They haven’t lost a season series against the Nationals since 2007.

Friday night, Dylan Bundy had another solid outing, extending an impressive streak:

Dylan Bundy has pitched eight consecutive quality starts – the longest streak since Miguel Gonzalez did the same in 2013.

Speaking of streaks, Jonathan Schoop has one of his own:

On Friday, Jonathan Schoop went 1-4, extending his on-base to 26 games –  the longest streak since Adam Jones did the same in 2012.

The Orioles have a distant relationship with triples but on Friday they hit two:

J.J. Hardy and Caleb Joseph both hit triples against the Royals, ending the Orioles’ 53-game triple-less streak.

Have any stat questions? Send them to @BirdlandStats on Twitter!

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Series Preview: Orioles (22-11) @ Royals (13-21)

Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium.

After the annual MASN Cup was put on hold due to Thursday’s rainout, the Orioles will now head to Kansas City to take on a familiar foe over the weekend.

Still, after taking two of three from the National League’s best, the O’s should be feeling pretty good going into the middle point of their three-legged, eight-game road swing.

The Orioles (22-11) reclaimed their slim lead over New York for first place in the division as a result of their efforts versus Washington. They now boast an impressive 7-3 record over the first ten games of May.

The Royals (13-21) have gotten off to a woeful start this season and are set to host the O’s as the cellar-dwellars of the AL Central. They also own the AL’s worst record through the first 34 games of the season. However, the Royals seem to be recovering from a brutal month of April and have posted a respectable 6-5 mark thus far in May.

While this clash between the second-best and the worst team in the American League seems to slant heavily in favor of the Orioles, the history between these two clubs makes it more of an illusion.

Since the start of 2013, the Orioles are just 5-10 at Kauffman Stadium. And that’s not including a few brutal October losses at “The K” back in 2014.

In other words, this building doesn’t hold a high place in the Orioles’ “Favorite places to visit” list.

Will the Orioles make history irrelevant, or will the hosts pull off an upset?

Let’s take a look at the projected starters:

 

Game One

Dylan Bundy (5-1, 2.17 ERA) will take on southpaw Danny Duffy (2-3, 3.50 ERA) in the series opener tonight.

Bundy has been incredible for the Orioles so far this season, and doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. He’s gone 4-0 with a superb 1.95 ERA over his last five starts.

Duffy has lost his first two starts of May after posting a 2-1 record and a stellar 2.81 ERA in April, but has allowed one run or fewer in four of his seven starts to date. He’s also gone six-plus innings in five of seven. Other than the sensational Jason Vargas (5-1, 1.01 ERA), Duffy has been KC’s best starter in 2017.

 

Game Two

Chris Tillman (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will take the mound versus Nate Karns (2-2, 4.58 ERA) on Saturday.

While Tillman is still on his way back to being in vintage form, the Orioles veteran ace battled admirably and came up with a win on his season debut after shutting out the White Sox over five innings on May 7th. In eight career starts versus Kansas City, Tillman is 3-3 with a 5.29 ERA.

Karns has been outstanding this month, winning both of his starts while allowing just two runs on seven hits and striking out an impressive 17 batters over 12 1/3 innings. The former Ray stuck it to his former club in his last start by allowing just two runs over 6 1/3 innings while recording ten strikeouts in a winning effort.

Game Three

Kevin Gausman (2-3, 6.63 ERA) will get the nod against presumably Chris Young (0-0, 5.93 ERA) in the series finale on Sunday.

While Gausman’s 2017 season has been anything but smooth sailing, he turned in his finest performance yet versus the Nationals, allowing just two runs on five hits over seven innings with just one walk and eight strikeouts on May 8th. Here’s to hoping that this was the return of the real Kevin Gausman.

If given the nod, Young will be filling in for the injured Ian Kennedy for the second turn in a row. He allowed four runs on seven hits over three innings during his first start of the season in Tampa on Tuesday.

 

Notes

– The Orioles offense has finally sprung to life. After posting a .283 average with 17 runs on seven homers versus DC and their diamond-studded pitching staff, the Orioles are now hitting .276 as a team over their last 13 games while scoring 70 runs (5.4 per game) on 17 home runs during that span.

– The O’s have also been killing it with runners in scoring position. They finished the clash with the Nationals with a stellar 8-for-20 clip in that department, and are now hitting a ridiculous .333 (35-for-105) with runners in scoring position over the past 13 games.

– However, the O’s red-hot bats have a stiff test on their hands this weekend. Duffy has gone 2-2 with an impressive 2.37 ERA over five career starts versus Baltimore while holding them to a .183 batting average in the process. Karns is 1-1 with a solid 3.72 ERA in five career starts against the Orioles, and has also held them to a lowly .194 average.

Adam Jones (1-for-15), Manny Machado (0-for-11) and Chris Davis (1-for-10) probably won’t be too excited about facing Duffy. Jonathan Schoop (3-for-9) and Mark Trumbo (3-for-8, 1 HR, 2 RBI) could be in line for a good night.

– Machado (1-for-13) and Jones (3-for-12) won’t be thrilled about facing Karns again, either. Davis (3-for-10, 2 HR, 3 RBI) and Schoop (3-for-4) could have a firework or two in store, though.

– While he seems to be flying under the radar, Seth Smith has been lighting it up lately. He’s 10-for-19 with five runs, two doubles, one homer and four RBI over the course of a current five-game hitting streak.

– After returning from a brief stint on the sidelines, Schoop has picked up right where he left off: on absolute fire. The O’s star second baseman finished the series against the Nationals 4-for-10 with three doubles, two runs and one RBI. He’s now hitting a sensational .347 (17-for-49) with one home run and eight RBI over his last 14 games.

– After a big week, Trumbo seems to be getting close to top form. After going 4-for-13 with a pair of home runs and four RBI versus Washington, the O’s in-form slugger is now hitting an incredible .379 (11-for-29) with five runs, two homers and five RBI during a current seven-game hitting streak.

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

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Friday’s O’s Links: Jonathan Schoop Breaks Out

Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop gets ready to defend.

The final game of the MASN Cup was rained out in DC last night, so the O’s got an unexpected (but likely not unwelcome) night off. Dylan Bundy and Chris Tillman get an extra day of rest, as does the taxed bullpen. With Bundy, Tillman, and Kevin Gausman scheduled to go up against a Royals offense that has been putrid this season, you’d expect runs to be a premium in Kansas City.

So we’re likely in store for three slug-fests.

To the links!

Well, the Orioles are Doing it Again

Hey, three of my favorite things! 1. Jeff Sullivan. 2. Jeff Sullivan writing about the Orioles. 3. An article about the O’s thumbing their noses at the nerds’ projections…again!

Schoop’s Great Start Fueled by More Contact

Jonny Beisbol is on fire. Camden Chat’s Alex Conway looks into why.

The Secret to Success for MLB’s Seven Unexpected Winners

The O’s aren’t the only team defying projections so far. The Ringer’s Ben Lindbergh looks at how all seven squads are doing it.

Pedro Alvarez – A Pleasant Surprise in Right Field

Well I’ll be darned. Add him to the list of outfielders we don’t have room for.

A Closer Look at Dylan Bundy’s Big Improvement in 2017

Melewski is using Brooks Baseball now? What?!

And on that note, happy weekend, and more importantly, happy BunDay Birdland!

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PiR: Orioles Defying the Nerds’ Projections Yet Again

Buck Showalter stands with his hands on his hips.

REALITY: The Baltimore Orioles are defying new-age baseball stats.

PERCEPTION: Outside of our Editor-in-Chief Tony Lombardi, I am the oldest regular writer on this site, and I’m okay with that. But I’m probably, also, the one guy who can’t stand the new-age stats. Frankly, half of them I don’t even understand. I couldn’t care less how fast a bat was hit out of the park, or what a players RC, RC27, ISOP, SECA, WAR, or any other abbreviation for a stat might be. I care about what I see. I care about results.

I’m old-school. I want to see their Batting Average, their On-Base Percentage, and… oh yea… if they win.

And right now, the Orioles are doing just that. I don’t care how they do it, as they as they keep doing it. “A Win is a Win.” “That’s Why They Play The Game.”

REALITY: The Orioles are tied for the best record in Major League Baseball at 22-11.

PERCEPTION: Think about this. The Birds have: baseballs best closer on the Disabled List; the team’s “ace” on the DL until last week; the reigning AL HR King has just four home runs; the team’s two top power-hitters are hitting under .240; and the team’s defense has been uncharacteristically iffy.

With all that going on, the O’s still have the best record in baseball. What happens when Chris Tillman is leading the rotation, Zack Britton is shutting down the 9th inning, and Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis start hitting the ball?

For now, enjoy the ride, Birdland!

REALITY: Hyun-Soo Kim has only played in 16 games this season.

PERCEPTION: Kim has the 3rd fewest at bats (from players on the opening day roster). He is only 10-for-44 and has 10 strike outs. I’m a big fan of Kim and I believe he should be given an opportunity. We saw last year that when he was given the chance to play, he made the most of it. It’s hard to make the most of it when you don’t get the opportunities.

Buck Showalter has his work cut out for him, trying to maneuver the 25-man roster each night, especially with outfielders. Adam Jones is playing every day and Seth Smith is showing that he deserves to play every day. With Trumbo as your everyday DH, that only leaves one position available for Trey Mancini, Joey Rickard, Craig Gentry, and Kim. There is simply not enough room.

I am a firm believer in not platooning. You need to give players the opportunity to get into a groove and playing one night and then having three nights off is not helpful at all. Gentry has become solely the late-inning pinch runner for this team, and even that spot will get more crowded if Michael Bourn every returns.

You would have to believe that someone would have to go, maybe via a trade. Mancini is too good with a great future in Baltimore, so he’s not going anywhere and I think Buck likes Rickard too much. So that could mean that Kim is the odd man out, especially if they need to make room for Bourn (without someone going on the DL).

Oh, and by the way, the O’s still have Pedro Alvarez in Norfolk.

REALITY: The O’s bullpen has been very inconsistent.

PERCEPTION: Do Orioles fans realize now how much Britton means to this team? Last year, many fans thought trading Britton while his value was high would be a great option because the team had Brad Brach and Darren O’Day waiting in the wings. I think we are seeing this year that would not have been a good choice.

It’s amazing the O’s record when you look at how inconsistent this team has been, at the plate and on the mound. The bullpen is nowhere near the “shut down” status they had last year. Last season, starters just needed to get through 6 innings with the lead and the game was over. This year, no lead is safe, no matter the inning.

REALITY: Keeping Ubaldo Jimenez over Yovani Gallardo was an important decision and Tuesday’s start might have been a reason why.

PERCEPTION: If you take out the 8th inning, Ubaldo pitched an absolute gem. He has started 6 games this year and has a 6.15 ERA, but when you look at his starts, you see the massive roller coaster that he is.

In his first two starts, he pitched just 4 innings and gave up 5 runs both times. But then he comes out and pitches 7.2 innings of 2-hit, shutout baseball. Then he pitches two more stinkers before pitching another gem.

The other similarities in the two good games this season is that they were both against NL teams.

When you watch him pitch, you can probably see that he is a really good pitcher who just has terrible control. In his two good starts he had great control. When he is on, he is nearly unhittable. But when he has no command, he is just awful.

I think Showalter and Dan Duquette knew this and hoped that they could help him find his command. His mistakes are more easily correctable than those of Gallardo. So when they had the chance to unload a pitcher this year, they choose the right one.

REALITY: Kevin Gausman has had his own control issues this year.

PERCEPTION: Gausman, like Jimenez, has control issues. This season he has also gone up and down. The inconsistent patterns that Ubaldo has had over his career seem to be rubbing off on Gausman. But maybe it’s not just him. Think about the Orioles starters over the last 5 years. They go through spurts where they have incredible and have streaks of no earned runs. But then a week later, the staff can’t make it through five innings. That has been, and will continue to be, the biggest issue in whether or not the O’s can take the next step in the Post-Season.

As of now, maybe Gausman and Ubaldo should pay more attention to Wade Miley and Dylan Bundy.

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Thursday Thoughts: O’s Feeling Zach Britton’s Absence Already

Chris Davis walks away as Nationals players celebrate behind him.

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. Well, that sure didn’t go as planned. I try not to be too “immediate” in this weekly piece, but Wednesday night’s Orioles’ loss sure stunk. It wasn’t just that Brad Brach blew a two-run lead in the ninth, it was that Matt Wieters came through with the deciding hit for the Nationals. That stings a bit more than the normal loss.

The bullpen is proving leaky once again, just as it was early in the season. Regardless of reputation, the bullpen is going to have to be better in the absence of Zach Britton.

2. Let’s talk a little more about Britton, shall we? I wrote extensively about how Britton’s absence will impact the Orioles over at MASNSports.com this week. What’s more concerning is the way this injury developed. It stems from his oblique injury in spring training. Just like Welington Castillo’s injury stems from spring training. Just like Chris Tillman’s shoulder injury stemmed from something that started last season and carried into the offseason. That’s a disturbing trend of ailments that it appears weren’t properly handled.

I was accused in the comments section of that piece for MASN of pointing blame to the training staff, but that’s hardly what I’m attempting to do. I’m merely pointing out a trend that seems negative. Every team deals with injuries. Not many teams deal with three injuries in the way that the Orioles have seem them go down.

Britton’s absence stretches a bullpen that really only has four proper pieces to it. Brad Brach, Darren O’Day, Mychal Givens and Donnie Hart are the stalwarts behind an array of practical nobodies. Dan Duquette has done a very nice job with the so-called “Norfolk Shuttle” and making sure there are healthy arms up each day behind those four relievers, but I’m concerned it’s not going to be enough over the long haul.

3. Okay, I’ve had enough doom and gloom. The Orioles have been one of the best teams in the American League, let alone all of baseball. Prior to Wednesday’s loss, they did indeed hold the best record in MLB. One thing I’ve noticed already early in this season is that there have been “signature wins.” These may not be victories that are talked about two years down the road, but at the end of the season, they’ll be looked at as key factors.

I wrote a few weeks ago about the 6-3 win over the Rays on April 24 as being enormous. It came right after the emotion of Manny Machado being thrown at by the Red Sox the day before. It also came in a nasty rain storm with virtually no one in the stands against Chris Archer. I thought that would be one of the better wins of the season, but days later, the Orioles went out and beat the Yankees on the road in extra innings after losing two awful games earlier in the weekend. Then the O’s did it again that week in Boston, amid all of the Machado-beanball nonsense.

Tuesday’s win over the Nationals goes into the category as well. With Ubaldo Jimenez on the mound and up against Max Scherzer, the O’s battled back late for a 5-4 win in 12 innings. That’s the kind of win that can be looked back on at the end of a season with a smile.

The Orioles have faced a ton of adversity this season, and they are only six weeks in. The fact that so much has been thrown at them and they are still sitting near the top of the standings is a positive way to look at things.

4. Hyun-Soo Kim has turned into a hot-button issue in Baltimore.

Why doesn’t he get more playing time?

Why does Buck Showalter hate him?

Do the Orioles really value his on-base potential?

The Orioles certainly have more depth in the outfield than they have in years past. I am pretty sure that’s a good thing, but the way some people would act, you’d believe it’s an issue. Except…it may actually be an issue.

The rub right now with the Orioles’ outfield depth is that it’s creating bullpen scarcity. The O’s have done a decent job of hiding the fact that they’ve been going with a five-man bench and six-man bullpen for some time now, but those chickens may be coming home to roost. This isn’t Kim’s fault. It’s no one’s fault, really. The fact that Kim is in a crowded outfield mix along with Trey Mancini, Joey Rickard, Seth Smith, Craig Gentry and even Mark Trumbo, is just a matter of roster manipulation.

Let’s not forget that there are names like Michael Bourn and even Pedro Alvarez looming in Triple-A. Something probably has to be done in order to make all of these puzzle pieces fit, whether it’s trades or outright releases. But the Orioles are going to struggle to maintain a six-man bullpen, which is really just a four-man bullpen with two rotating “Norfolk Shuttle” arms at this point.

They need someone else to step up in that department.

As for Kim, there’s really not much more he can do at this point. He’s going to be challenged to step up in the few spots he gets and play well. It feels very similar to last year. Right now, Mancini also deserves a chance to prove himself against right-handed pitching. The way he’s hitting the ball, I’d find it hard to put him on the bench as well.

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Is Matt Barnes’ Suspension a Gift for Buck Showalter?

Boston Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes walks off the mound.

In his foreword to Harry Sheehy’s book, Raising A Team Player, Joe Torre wrote, “The fundamental lesson, and that I now teach my players, is that for a team to win on a consistent basis, players need to exhibit unselfishness.”

Sports coaches will routinely tell you that they look for any advantage they can gain, no matter how small. Torre learned about selflessness, putting the team first. As he went on to say, it’s not about who does best individually; it’s better to win as a team than be a star in a defeat.

Selflessness takes many forms. Torre compared the feelings of four strikeouts in a win to four hits in losing; the former was something he learned to love more than the latter. They are the tangibles but equally as important is keeping discipline, not handing an advantage to your opponents that they can use in that moment and in future times.

Matt Barnes, the Red Sox relief pitcher, did just that and Buck Showalter is a gem in player psychology.

It seemed a cut and dried case of Barnes taking revenge on Manny Machado for his earlier hard slide on Dustin Pedroia. The third baseman denied any involvement and that may be true but given Barnes’ pitch at Machado’s head, it might also be about saving his own skin. Barnes’ four-game ban underlines there was a lot of skin to save.

view of brick building directly behind camden yards with scoreboard

In the short-term, the 2 and 2 result of the four-game series against the Red Sox last week showed little advantage to the O’s, although the two wins keep Boston at bay, three behind the Orioles 20 – 10 with a 17 – 14 record. The small advantage at this stage of the season can easily be wiped out inside one series.

It’s the hand you’re dealt.

But the incident also serves several purposes for Showalter. First and foremost, Barnes identified himself as a possessing a livewire temperament. It’s a chink in the armour of the pitcher, one that others will seek to exploit. Maybe it won’t take a hard slide next time; it could be something else but if you want to wind Barnes up, the trigger is there to be pulled.

That’s in the short-term. With a little twist of the knife, and interpretation of events, Showalter can use it as a motivational tool if Machado needs one. His average this year is down; .237 against a career average of .287 – and last year’s .294.

Need something to get Manny to focus? “Y’know, Manny, remember Barnes? He did that because he wanted revenge? The hell he did! He wants to get at you; you the man!”

Buck will be subtler – and not want to pull off such a wretched impersonation of the Duke – using the incident to hoist Machado’s averages up. Plenty of time remains in the season to do that; the sooner it starts though, the quicker the advantage accrues.

These are the weapons in a coach’s armory. Forging a siege mentality when the decisions go against them; nobody likes us, everybody hates us; they’ll fix every game to make sure we don’t win. It’s a simplistic interpretation of the machinations behind the scenes.

At the moment, the O’s are in pole position in the wild card. At the moment, 1 game and .23 per cent is the difference. These are the small advantages we seek in every match. At the moment, the O’s are everyone’s favorite outsiders to make the play-offs. Hope rather than expectation in the bleachers but some think differently; 11/1 according to sports bookmaker, Bet Way, as of May 7th and those odds are only shortening.

Showalter knows about the little advantages and what they can cost. His Seinfeld appearance fees loses money every time it is re-run; the IRS thanks him for his acting career. If Barnes follows his lead, he’ll be in the next Bourne film, as a ‘baddie’, killed off in the first reel. Showalter, in turn, will hover, taking the satisfaction of incremental win he’s achieved.

There’s an ethical side to all of this. Where do the boundaries between fair play and foul lie? In professional sports, do moral stances over-rule winning at any cost? They have to and when a pitch flies toward the batter’s head, that’s never revenge, it’s about taking out a player, shaking him up at worst.

Do morals have a part to play in sport? Absolutely, Albert Camus underlined the link and the positive effect of sport, not just in morality but also in how minds work: “Everything I know about morality and the obligations of men, I owe it to football (soccer).”

Winning is everything but winning in the ‘right way’ is more. That runs across any sport and if coaches can claim any advantage to get into the play-offs, why not take those incidents which seem inconsequential and use them to their advantage.

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Wednesday’s O’s Links: Bundy, Britton, Jones, & More

headshot of two baseball players with jersey and helmets on

The Orioles have not only won six straight games to move back into first place in the AL East, but they also currently own the best record in baseball. Only two other times have the Birds won at least 22 of their first 32 games – 1970 and 1997.

They won a game in which Max Scherzer was starting against Ubaldo Jimenez, a game in which they trailed 4-1 going into the bottom of the eighth inning, and in which they still trailed 4-2 with two outs in the ninth.

Magic is in the air, Birdland.

To the links.

Dylan Bundy Blossoms at Last

Some Baseball America notes on Dealin’ Bundy.

Britton Surprised to Read “60 Days” for his Return

Reports are that Zach Britton will be out 45-60 days, but Zach isn’t buying it, and says nobody ever told him that figure. Quotes via Dan Connolly of Baltimore Baseball.

Ranking the Best Baseball Towns in (North) America

I’ll take it.

Will Pedro Alvarez Rejoin the Orioles?

Zach Spedden of Baltimore Sports and Life reminds us that El Toro can opt out of his minor-league deal this month. He’s switched to OF (or tried), but in case you haven’t noticed, the Birds have a LOT of outfielders already.

Adam Jones is Playing Deeper, but is it Helping?

This, from Patrick Dougherty of Camden Depot, is more about the process of moving Jones and the conversations he had (or didn’t have) with the front office about the move than it is about on-field results.

 

To two more nights of swatting the Gnats!

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The Rundown: Kevin Gausman & the Return of the Splitter

Kevin Gausman of the Orioles pitches on the mound.

The Orioles continued their winning ways on Monday night which is a good thing since they will now have to square off against Max Scherzer in game two of the Beltway Series with Ubaldo Jimenez taking the mound for the O’s. The way this season has gone, it shouldn’t surprise any of us if somehow the Orioles found a way to win even though on paper it appears that they are already at a disadvantage.

 

The Return of the Splitter

It’s amazing what happens when you actually throw your best pitch. It has been noted that Kevin Gausman has not been using his split-fingered fastball this year and it’s probably not a coincidence that he has struggled. However, the right-hander relied on that pitch 18 percent of the time last night (according to FanGraph) and was able to get many swings and misses off it.

Monday’s performance was vintage Gausman and if what we saw last night is a sign of things to come, look out. It should be noted that it all starts with fastball command and getting ahead of hitters. Gausman is throwing first pitch strikes 58.1 percent of the time this season which is more to blame than not throwing the splitter. That’s below league average, but he was able to flip the script last night as he threw first-pitch strikes 77.8 percent of the time. To put that in context, New York Yankees starter Michael Pineda leads the league with 71.7 percent first pitch strikes.

Gausman won’t pitch that to much success in every start, but if he can be in the 60 percent threshold like he was numerous times in the second half of 2016, it bodes well moving forward.

 

Mancini Continues To Rake

Trey Mancini continues to make the case that his name should be in the lineup on an everyday basis. As of now, Mancini continues to start the majority of the time against left-handed pitchers, which I think is a mistake. It’s a small sample size, but Mancini is currently batting .417 with five home runs and 14 RBIs against right-handers and .256 with two home runs and six RBIs against left-handers.

A guy that is having that much success should not be limited to a platoon role. This obviously would impact Hyun-Soo Kim the most as he is already having a difficult time finding his name in the lineup. Buck Showalter has a good thing going right now with the Seth Smith and Joey Rickard combo at the top of the lineup depending who is on the mound and Craig Gentry entering the game late as a defensive replacement on a nightly basis.

Kim’s appeal is that he works the count and can get on base. Mancini does both of those as well plus he has the ability to hit the long ball and is more athletic. If Mancini does what Kim can do, but better, why shouldn’t he be playing?

That is the question Showalter is probably asking himself nightly. This will continue to be a storyline to follow, especially if Mancini continues to hit and if the Orioles have to finally return to a four-man bench.

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Word on the Street: A “Fake” Rivalry, but a Fun One Nonetheless

Mascots of the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals.

The Orioles and Washington Nationals play their annual series this week, and while it’s not a “real” rivalry, it’s still a fun one for fans. Press play or read below for more.

It’s one of my favorite weeks in Birdland, where the Orioles and Nationals compete for the MASN Cup, or the “Battle of the Beltways” or whatever you want to call it. And yes, for those of you from outside the Mid-Atlantic region, it is “beltways,” plural. There are indeed two of them.

These two teams have met 60 times over the past decade in what is obviously one of the more manufactured “rivalries” in baseball. This one doesn’t have the same meaning as Giants-Dodgers or Cubs-Cardinals. It doesn’t have the history of Yankees-Red Sox, but it’s still fun in its own right.

Part of what makes the Orioles and Nationals so unique is the fact that they share a television network, and all of the controversy that surrounds MASN’s revenue. The Nats’ relocation from Montreal as the Expos in 2005 also led to a uniform change, not just for them, but the Orioles as well. In 2009, the O’s put “Baltimore” back on their road jersey for the first time in decades. I think there’s a reason for that.

The Orioles and Nationals have also followed similar paths to their relative success in the last five years. The Nats made their first-ever postseason appearance in 2012, the same season the Orioles ended a 14-year playoff drought. Each team has had high expectations over the last few years, but neither has been able to break through for a pennant. In this particular series, the O’s own a 36-24 record against the Nats and are 7-1-3 in series.

There’s also the added storyline this week of seeing Matt Wieters return to Baltimore as a member of the Nationals. Here’s hoping the fans stand and applaud before he goes 0-for-4 in each game of the series (seriously, don’t make the O’s pay, Matt).

Look, after everything the Orioles went through last week with their real division “rivals” from Boston and New York, it’s nice to have a little bit of fake rivalry to sink your teeth into this week. I for one, enjoy the manufactured rivalry, as long as the O’s continue to swat the (G)Nats the way they have in the past.

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Monday’s O’s Links: Matty Backstop Back at the Yard

Matt Wieters of the Nationals throws in his catcher's gear.

Our resilient Birds continued their impressive run of bouncing back from all the stupidity in Boston with a three-game sweep over the Chicago White Sox, who had come into Baltimore red-hot. The O’s now welcome the Washington Nationals to town for two before heading to DC for two in the annual MASN Cup.

To the links…

Britton’s Injury Latest in a Disturbing Trend

Writing in his weekly MASN guest column, our own Andrew Stetka says that Zach Britton’s injury is just the latest in a weird trend that the Orioles seem to have with players not letting nagging injuries fully heal in spring, which then turn into bigger issues later. Chris Tillman and Welington Castillo also fit this mold.

Matt Wieters Suits Up for His First Game Against Orioles

Another recently-departed Oriole will have his homecoming tonight, in what seems to be an annual thing these days. Where are you guys on the EMOSHUNZ scale for tonight? I’m at about a 2/10, whereas I was a 7/10 for Nick Markakis coming back with Atlanta, and a 15/10 when Brian Roberts returned in pinstripes. Brian Pinter collected some O’s fans’ thoughts on the Baltimore Wire.

Thoughts After 30 Games

Baltimore Sports and Life’s Chris Stoner gives a laundry list of Orioles musings today. Save this one for your lunch break.

Video: Why Manny Machado Isn’t the Bad Guy This Time

It’s nice to hear someone else say it, even if that someone else is just some portly Yahoo! “comedian.”

The Night Seth Smith Turned Into Mike Trout

Probably should have included this one on Friday, but better late than never. A fun little article on FanGraphs.

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Series Preview: Orioles (20-10) vs./at Nationals (21-10)

map showing nationals park and orioles camden yards

After mowing down the White Sox over a three-game sweep at Camden Yards over the weekend, the Orioles are all set and locked in to kick off this year’s version of “The Battle of the Beltways.”

This could turn out to be the best match-up between the two clubs of all-time, as both clubs are in sparkling form at the moment and make up two of MLB’s top three clubs to date in 2017.

The Orioles (20-10) trail the New York Yankees by a hair in the chase for first place, while the Nationals enter on a four-game winning streak and having won six of their last eight contests. The first two games of the series will be played at Camden Yards, where the Orioles boast a stellar 11-3 record.

The Nationals (21-10) have been practically untouchable in the NL East over the early goings this season and already own a 6.5-game lead over the New York Mets for first place. After rattling off a stellar 17-8 record in April, the Nationals have gone 4-2 to begin the month of May and will begin the series boasting a superb 12-4 road record.

The Nationals offensive output has been simply incredible this season. Washington leads the league in runs (194), OPS (.852), OBP (.362), AVG (.285) and ranks second in HR (50). Ryan Zimmerman (.435, 13 HR, 34 RBI) is on pace to win the triple crown, Bryce Harper (.376, 9 HR, 27 RBI) is back to his MVP form, Daniel Murphy (.341, 5 HR, 28 RBI) is tearing the cover off the ball and Anthony Rendon (.288, 5 HR, 23 RBI) has come back with a bang. Simply put, these guys are on top of the world at the moment.

In a match-up that is pretty much like fighting fire versus fire, it’s anyone’s guess as to how this one will turn out. We just know that this will be a must-watch series.

Let’s take a look at the probables:

 

Game One

Kevin Gausman (1-3, 7.55 ERA) will take the mound versus Gio Gonzalez (3-0, 1.64 ERA) on Monday.

Gausman will be hoping for better luck after being ejected in the second inning during his last start versus Boston after hitting Xander Bogaerts with the slowest pitch he had thrown all season.

Gonzalez has been magnificent for the Nationals. The southpaw has recorded six-plus innings in five of his six starts while allowing two earned runs or fewer in all six. He’s also allowed one run or less in four of his six outings to date.

 

Game Two

Ubaldo Jimenez (1-1, 6.58 ERA) will take the hill against Max Scherzer (4-2, 2.66 ERA) on Tuesday.

After posting a 12.15 ERA over his previous two starts, Jimenez recorded three scoreless innings in the wake of Gausman’s ejection versus Boston and will be looking to pick up where he left off.

Scherzer has been ruthless this season. He’s gone six-plus innings in all six of his starts to date while allowing four hits or fewer and two runs or fewr in four of his six outings. To top it off, he’s recorded seven strikeouts or more every time he’s touched the mound this season.

 

Game Three

(Writers Note: Game three and four will be played at Nationals Park in DC)

Wade Miley (1-1, 2.27 ERA) will get the nod versus Stephen Strasburg (3-1, 2.66 ERA) on Wednesday.

Miley will be looking to bounce back after leaving his last start against Chicago due to two line-drives hitting him and one of them leaving him with a swollen wrist. However, he should be thanking his lucky stars that it wasn’t worse. When he’s not getting drilled with comebackers, Miley has been stellar this season for the Orioles.

Strasburg has been on fire all season long for the Nationals. He’s gone seven-plus innings in five of his six starts while allowing six hits or fewer and three runs or fewer in all six of his outings to date. He’s allowed two runs or fewer in four of six.

 

Game Four

Dylan Bundy (5-1, 2.17 ERA) will get the ball against presumably A.J. Cole (1-0, 1.50 ERA) in the series finale on Thursday.

Bundy has been remarkable for the Orioles this season and leads the league in quality starts (7) and is tied for the league-lead in wins (5). He’s also allowed two earned runs or fewer in five of his seven starts this season.

Cole was impressive during his season debut versus the Phillies last Sunday, allowing just a single run on six hits over six innings en route to picking up his first win of the season.

 

Notes

-Since the beginning of the 2015 season, the Orioles are 7-3 versus the Nationals.

Adam Jones has went a decent 6-for-25 (.240) with a homer and two RBI versus Gio Gonzalez, but Mark Trumbo (3-for-16) and Chris Davis (2-for-15) won’t be looking forward to facing the two-time All-Star.

– Jones, however, owns Max Scherzer. He’s gone 12-for-28 (.429) with three homers and four RBI against the Nationals ace. Chris Davis (8-for-24) has also fared well versus the former Cy Young Award winner. J.J. Hardy (6-for-35), Manny Machado (1-for-18), Jonathan Schoop (2-for-12) and Mark Trumbo (1-for-11) will be hoping for the best.

– Machado has somehow gone 3-for-3 against Stephen Strasburg. The rest of the team doesn’t even have three hits against him over two meetings.

– Machado will be looking to stay hot. He’s hitting .311 (14-for-45) with five homers and eleven RBI over his last eleven contests.

– Trumbo has also started to catch fire as of late. He’s gone 7-for-16 with three runs and an RBI over the course of a four-game hitting streak and is hitting .333 (9-for-27) over his last seven.

– Davis could finally be warming up. He’s went 6-for-16 at the dish with a homer and two RBI over his last five ballgames.

Trey Mancini has brushed off a 2-for-24 slump in a big way by going 8-for-13 with two doubles, one homer and six RBI over the span of a four-game hitting tear. He’ll look for more fireworks versus DC.

 

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

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Week in Review: O’s Laugh in the Face of Adversity

Baltimore Oriole Manny Machado laughs as he rounds the bases.

Sheesh, what a week that was, eh?

We all know how much of a roller coaster a 162-game season is, but it feels like we’ve been through about a dozen loops and twists in the span of seven days.

First, there was Adam Jones versus a few classless ‘Sox fans on Monday, followed by the Manny Machado versus Chris Sale incident on Tuesday, Kevin Gausman versus Sam Holbrook on Wednesday, and finally, Machado’s ”Slow trot heard around the world” on Thursday.

Long story short, things got stupid in Boston- to the point where you questioned if you were watching MASN or the WWE on TNT.

But wait! It finally gets better.

In the aftermath of a rough week, the Orioles were able to brush off the four days of media-crazed madness in Boston and come up with a huge sweep of a red-hot White Sox squad at home over the weekend.

The good vibes have been restored in Birdland. We’re back to focusing less on the nonsense drama and you know, more on baseball. And that’s always a good thing.

You know what’s even better? Ending the week at a season-high ten games above .500 at 20-10. Now that’s more like it.

The motto of the week? All’s well that ends well. Especially when it ends on a season-high four-game winning streak.

Let’s look at a few takeaways:

-The O’s will also carry a sparkling 11-3 record at Camden Yards with them into Monday night’s clash versus Washington.

– The Orioles are 13-2 when scoring four runs or more, and they are 14-4 when they hit at least one home run in a game.

– After a rough trip to the Bronx which resulted in an 8.16 ERA last weekend, the Orioles starters have responded well by recording a 3.41 ERA over the past week. Their ERA versus Chicago was a stellar 2.31.

-The bullpen was also tagged in New York, but like the starters, have responded superbly. The bullpen ended the week with a stout 2.12 ERA over the last seven games, and posted a 2.30 ERA versus the White Sox.

-The offense seems like they are finally starting to break out. After hitting .305 as a team versus Chicago while scoring 14 runs on three homers, the O’s are now hitting .273 as a team over their last ten games while scoring 53 runs (5.3 per game) on ten home runs.

– In addition, after going a ridiculous 11-for-26 with runners in scoring position versus Chicago, the Orioles are now hitting .318 (27-for-85) in that category over their last ten games.

Now it’s time for the ‘three stars of the week:

 

Third Star

Trey Mancini. The new kid on the block is catching fire again. After going 3-for-6 with a pair of RBI versus the Red Sox, Mancini played a pivotal part in the sweep of the White Sox over the weekend by going 5-for-7 with a home run and four RBI. Add it up, and he’s now 8-for-13 at the plate over a current four-game hitting streak. The O’s star rookie now ranks second on the team in home runs (6) and RBI (18) and third in batting average (.297).

 

Second Star

Dylan Bundy. After impressing the world again with a pair of wins versus Boston and Chicago, Bundy is now tied for the league-lead in wins (5), leads the majors in quality starts (7) and ranks seventh in the AL in ERA (2.17).  The Orioles rising ace has been simply remarkable over his last five starts, going 4-0 with a sparkling 1.95 ERA.

Simply put, where would the Orioles be without this guy?

 

First Star

Manny Machado. Aside from all the nonsense, Machado did his best to stick it to the Red Sox by cranking three homers and driving in six runs at Fenway. He then was a major catalyst in the sweep of Chicago by going 4-for-11 with three runs, one homer and two RBI.

Machado has been sensational as of late, going 14-for-45 (.311) with twelve runs, five homers and eleven RBI over his last eleven contests. He’s also 6-for-16 with two homers and five RBI over a current four-game hitting streak. As a result of his efforts, he now leads the team in home runs (8) and RBI (21).

Watch out, MLB. Machado’s on fire.

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O’s Fans Should be Encouraged by Tillman’s First Outing

Chris Tillman of the Baltimore Orioles pitches.

All things considered, it was a successful first outing for Chris Tillman. The former All-Star tossed five innings of shutout ball, limiting the White Sox to three hits while throwing 93 pitches in his return to big league action.

The Orioles couldn’t have asked for much more from their veteran starter, who missed all of spring training with a nagging shoulder injury that first presented itself last August, and then re-appeared in December.

Tillman would eventually require both a platelet rich plasma injection and a cortisone injection before the discomfort subsided. Four rehab starts later and Tillman found himself leading the Orioles to a three-game series sweep of the Chicago White Sox on Sunday.

There were concerns heading into Tillman’s 2017 debut, mainly over his 7.16 ERA and seven home runs surrendered in his four rehab starts.  Though he did his best to quell those concerns, he and the Orioles aren’t out of the woods yet as it remains to be seen how he feels the day after his start.

One of the other concerns was about the down-tick in his velocity over the rehab starts. Usually topping out in the mid-90’s with his fastball, Tillman routinely sat in the 88-91 MPH range on Sunday. He velocity should head north as his season progresses and he reaches mid-season form.

Tillman lacked the usual command of his fastball, as evidenced by the seven three-ball counts and three walks he pitched himself into in the game’s first three innings. His secondary pitches kept him out of trouble, and he did finally settle in as he registered zero walks or three-ball counts over his final two innings. He retired 14 of his final 18 hitters on the day.

People often make mountains out of molehills when it comes to spring training numbers, or in Chris Tillman’s case, rehab stats. The bottom line is that Tillman is a veteran, and he knows how to pitch when the lights come on. The Orioles and their fanbase should be enthused by his first start.

And if he makes in through tomorrow without any discomfort, he should add quite a bit to what has already become a fun season.

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Chris Tillman Battles for Win in First Start of 2017

Chris Tillman winds up to pitch.

Chris TIllman’s first start of the 2017 season got off to a shaky start. The workhorse would walk the first two hitters for the White Sox on nine pitches while mixing in a mound visit from Francisco Pena. Jose Abreu would follow with an eight-pitch at-bat that ended with a pop-out to first baseman Chris Davis. The bases were loaded up on a fielder’s choice in which Manny Machado‘s throw to second was late, allowing Avisail Garcia to reach.

Tillman, however, managed to wiggle out of trouble, getting a lineout to short from Todd Frazier and a groundout to first from Cody Ashce. All told, Tillman threw 23 pitches in the first inning but did not surrender a run.

In the bottom half of the inning, Jose Quintana was equally wild, walking Adam Jones and Machado after getting Joey Rickard on a popout to start the frame. Mark Trumbo would reach on an infield hit to load the bases after a successful manager’s challenge overturned the ruling of “out” on the field. Chris Davis would drive in the Orioles first run on a sacrifice fly to right, and Trey Mancini capped the scoring for the inning with an RBI single to right before J.J. Hardy struck out to end the inning.

Tillman settled down a bit in the second inning, retiring the side on 18 pitches while allowing a 2-out single. Quintana, however, struggled again. After a 28 pitch first inning in which he allowed two hits, two walks, and two runs, Quintana would throw 32 pitches in the second inning, allowing two more runs on four hits while walking one.

Tillman would go on to pitch five scoreless frames, leaving the game with a 4-0 lead and a chance to win his first game in his first start of the year. His final pitching line read: 5 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 4 K, 0 ER.

Alec Asher replacedTillman and pitch 3.1 scoreless innings before giving way to Brad Brach with one out in the ninth. He would allow five hits and walk none while striking out two. For Brach, it was his team-leading seventh save.

For the Orioles, the offensive showing was a welcomed sight considering the pitcher they were facing. Viewed as one of the top young southpaws in the game, the Orioles made Quintana  look very pedestrian, as he was bounced after five innings, allowing four runs on nine hits and three walks. The Orioles entered the game batting just .232 as a team against left-handed pitching, but went 9-23 (.391) vs. Quintana.

The offense was paced by Trey Mancini and Joey Rickard, both of whom collected three hits, the former adding his 18th RBI in the first inning. Pena recorded two hits in his first start behind the plate before exiting the game with an injury, later revealed by Buck Showalter to be simple cramping of the arm.

Notes:

  • White Sox manager Rick Renteria was ejected by home plate umpire Paul Emmel in the third inning for arguing balls and strikes.
  • Francisco Pena left the game after suffering a thumb injury during 8th inning warm-ups. Caleb Joseph took his spot.
  • Joey Rickard had an 11-pitch at-bat before singling in the second inning.
  • Trey Mancini’s RBI in the first inning was his 18th, putting him just two behind team leader Manny Machado.
  • The 4-0 victory was the team’s third shutout and first since 4/21.
  • This was the fourth consecutive win for the Orioles and first three-game series sweep.
  • Time of game was 3:04.
  • Attendance for today’s game was 31,806.
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