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The Rundown: Trumbo Heats Up, Davis Returns

Mark Trumbo is heating up at the right time as he has hit five home runs since June 17. At this point, the Orioles need every veteran playing at the top of their game in hopes to showcase them in trades. Obviously, Manny Machado is the franchise changer, followed by Zach Britton, but the organization can still get something of value in return for the other veterans with Trumbo being in that mix.

 

Davis Returns

Chris Davis returned after missing eight games to work on getting back to the basics. The results have been mixed as Davis did hit a home run and just missed another in the Braves series while also walking twice. However, he only collected two hits and struck out four times.

I think the only way we will really know if this has worked is if Davis is driving the ball more consistently. We all know the strikeouts won’t vanish, but it was the consistent weak ground balls into the shift that became worrisome. At least seeing Davis hit a homer un to the opposite field and then pulling the ball off the wall was encouraging.

That is what we need to see more of and that is the only way to grade the newest reset for the first baseman.

 

Showalter to Front Office?

The rumor mill will continue to be out of control involving the Orioles due to their record and uncertainty of many in the organization. The latest rumor involving Buck Showalter comes from Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs. He says Showalter would like to move to the front office and be head of baseball operations, likely with a President title. McDaniel also says if things don’t go Showalter’s way, he could return to his alma mater Mississippi State and be their head coach.

It’s no secret Showalter seriously considered moving to the front office prior to the organization hiring Dan Duquette, so I’m sure he is once again thinking about it. If it does happen, does the ever-loyal Showalter make John Russell manager?

Not sure I want to think about that right now, but I think it’s clear that as we see the final days of Machado, Britton and Adam Jones in orange and black, the same can be said for the skipper as well.

 

Down on the Farm

The hope of this organization not only relies on the players they get in return for Machado and more, but also their top prospects. I’m still frustrated with how they handled Chance Sisco as I was on record that if he was going to be used as a platoon, he needed to play everyday in Triple-A. That wasn’t the case and Sisco failed to hit consistently and his defense regressed. Sisco did show the ability to get on base which was nice, but at 23 years old, the future is still bright and an offseason hitting the weight room will do him a lot of good.

As for some of the other top prospects, third baseman Ryan Mountcastle continues to show his bat will play at every level. The 21-year-old had a monster weekend as he collected six hits in a double header and is now batting .303 with an impressive .840 OPS. There’s a chance we see the youngster in Baltimore before the year is over and depending on what players come back in trades and the outlook of Tim Beckham, Mountcastle could be on the hot corner as soon as next year.

Centerfielder Cedric Mullins seems to have settled in with the Norfolk Tides as he has raised his average from .188 on June 19 to .224 on June 25. Outfielder D.J. Stewart continues to be consistent with a .372 on base percentage and .827 OPS to along with seven home runs and eight stolen bases. Both players should make their debuts later this summer even though I’m not sure why we still have to watch Colby Rasmus play right field.

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Series Preview: Orioles (21-52) @ Braves (43-30)

After dropping two of three against the Nationals in DC, the Orioles will now head to Atlanta to take on the Braves for a three-game set over the weekend.

The Orioles (21-52) are still stuck in a rip tide as they prepare to take on the Braves, and help doesn’t seem to be coming anytime soon. They’ve won just four times through seventeen games in June and have gone 4-22 over their last 26 contests.

The Braves (43-30) are still holding a firm grip on first place in the NL East as we near the All-Star Break, and will be looking to stay in-form against the Orioles. They’ve gone 7-3 over their last ten games and are on pace for their third straight .500+ month with a 10-7 record in June.

Alex Cobb (2-9, 7.14 ERA) will take on Braves ace Sean Newcomb (8-2, 2.70 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

It was another rough day at the office for Cobb during his last start as he allowed five runs over seven innings against the Marlins. It was the sixth time in 12 starts in which he’s allowed five runs or more. Since holding the Mets to one run over six innings earlier this month, he’s allowed 14 runs over 10 2/3 innings in his last two starts combined.

Newcomb earned his eighth win of the season after holding the Padres to two hits over six shutout innings during his last start, and will look to maintain his dominance against the O’s. The southpaw went 5-0 with a sparkling 1.54 ERA over six starts in May and has followed up by going 2-1 with a 2.60 ERA over his first three starts in June.

Dylan Bundy (5-7, 3.81 ERA) will match-up against Julio Tehran (5-4, 3.97 ERA) on Saturday.

Bundy wasn’t at his best during his last start against the Marlins, but still notched his fifth win of the season despite allowing four runs over six innings. The O’s staff ace has been red-hot in recent times however, as he’s gone 3-1 with a superb 1.85 ERA over his last five outings.

Tehran picked up his fifth win of the campaign after no-hitting the Padres over six shutout innings. His no-hit bid was cut short due to a high pitch count, but he still managed to punch out eleven batters while walking three in a tremendous performace. He’s also held opponents to two runs or less in seven of his 14 starts this season.

The Braves still haven’t named a starter to take on David Hess (2-3, 4.82 ERA) in Sunday’s series finale.

Hess was tagged for five runs over 4 2/3 innings during his last time out against the Nationals, and will be looking for a bounce back display in Atlanta. After recording four quality starts in his first five outings in the show, he’s now allowed ten runs over eight innings in his last two starts combined.

 

That’s it for now, folks!

Here’s to coming home on a positive note.

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Friday’s O’s Links: A Day Late & A Dollar Short, Just like the Birds

Good morning, Birdland. The O’s narrowly avoided getting swept in the MASN Cup this season, losing just two of three in D.C. after getting swept by the Gnats at OPACY a few weeks ago. They’ll now head to Atlanta (where I’m waiting! See ya jerks soon!) for three against the Braves and old friend Nick Markakis. I had an awful day of traveling yesterday, so this week’s second set of links is getting pushed to Friday. My apologies – I know you’re going nuts without something to read about these friggin’ Orioles.

Get Cedric Mullins up here.

This Isn’t the Alex Cobb the Orioles Hoped They Were Getting

Alex Cobb will be on the bump in tonight’s opener in Atlanta. I was just driving by SunTrust Park on Cobb Drive, so maybe that bodes well! But probably not! Because Cobb has been crap! Camden Depot’s Matt Kremnitzer has the gory details.

(Also, ICYMI, earlier this week, Camden Depot head honcho Jon announced that he was retiring from writing about the O’s & baseball, and that CD will be shuttering its doors after the season. That sucks. There may be a silver lining for ESR fans though, but I won’t spill any beans just yet.)

Could Padres be Surprise Entrant in Machado Derby?

Jon Heyman hears that San Diego is suddenly kicking the tires on a potential trade for Manny Machado. That would be…weird. But hey, the more bidders, the merrier!

This, That, and the Other – Roch Notes

Apparently Chris Davis is expected to be in the lineup tonight, despite Atlanta starting a left-handed pitcher who holds lefties to a .167 batting average. Setting him up for success.

Ryan McKenna is Owning the Carolinas

Frederick Keys OF Ryan McKenna, a 2015 fourth-round selection, currently leads the Carolina league in batting average, runs, SLG, OBP, OPS, wOBA, and wRC+. Read more about him in David Laurila’s latest on FanGraphs.

Trade Candidate: Zach Britton

Over on MLB Trade Rumors, Steve Adams examines Zach Britton and concludes that – surprise! – the Orioles really did miss the boat on trading him at anything resembling peak value. Rest assured that other clubs have noticed all the concerning peripherals that Adams points out here, and remember that when the return for ZB – much like the return for Manny Machado – is very meh.

 

Happy first weekend of summer. Maybe the Boys of Summer will finally show up?

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Thursday Thoughts: Prepare for Disappointment in Machado Trade

Manny Machado follows through on his swing.

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. As of last year, I cut it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver/€“Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.

1. The Orioles finally went and did it this week. They benched Chris Davis, and there’s no real clear-cut path to playing time for the first baseman. Davis’ benching comes at a time where it doesn’t really matter. It’s more of a message being sent by Buck Showalter than anything. Davis will likely find his way back to the plate at some point in the coming days.

Showalter says Chris has been working hard since his benching on figuring out what is going wrong. Aside from just pointing to “everything” there must be a lot there.

A quick reality check for those clamoring for Davis to either be cut or traded – neither of those things is happening. He’s making too much money to be cut, and no team would want to take on that contract in a trade. The Orioles are simply stuck with him. He’s their first baseman going forward, even if he doesn’t play all that much.

I don’t anticipate him getting the bulk of the playing time even when he does make a return to the lineup. What’s important to realize in all of this is that the Orioles have absolutely no problem with just sticking Davis on the bench and playing with 24 men, even if they have to do that for the rest of this lost season.

I mean, after all, they did start the season with three Rule 5 players on the roster, so it’s almost like they’ve gained a few spots since then.

2. Over the next few weeks, you’re going to hear a TON of rumors surrounding Manny Machado. The hug watch is officially on for perhaps the most talented player to ever come out of the Orioles organization. There are going to be many rumors about a bunch of teams that are interested, but when it comes down to it, there are probably only three to four suitors for Machado.

The rumor mill within the AL East is churning because both the Red Sox and Yankees will be linked. That’s mostly media-driven if you ask me. I don’t think there’s a chance in this lifetime that Peter Angelos sends Machado to a team within the division. I think a National League team is much more likely, and there are plenty of rumors on that side as well.

The latest involves the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team that would be highly-motivated to acquire Machado. They did something similar in getting J.D. Martinez last season from the Tigers as a rental. The D-backs are leading the NL West, but doing all they can to fight off the Dodgers. Arizona has also gotten little production out of the shortstop position this season. The St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves are also sure to be teams brought up over the next few weeks as potential suitors.

As a fan, it’s also super important to remember that you WILL be disappointed by the return for Machado. They are not going out and pulling off a deal like the Yankees did with Aroldis Chapman a few years ago to net Gleyber Torres. Something like that isn’t in the cards. It’s not in the cards for any player the Orioles are about to trade.

These players are rentals, and the return won’t be close to what you expect.

3. Trades are certainly going to be part of the near future for the Orioles, but the question remains – who is making those trades? Reports surfaced last week that the O’s interviewed former Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti. It could be the first indication that the Orioles are actually planning for the future, but it’s also made a bit more awkward by the fact that he’s interviewing for a position that is currently occupied by Dan Duquette.

Look, no one expects Duquette to be back next season. I don’t even think Duquette expects it deep down. But is he going to be the one making the calls on trades in the coming weeks? All signs would point to yes. What’s more, how are the Orioles going to set themselves up going forward with a new regime in place, if that’s something they want?

What needs to be understood is that any new GM that enters the picture will likely still have to answer to Brady Anderson, or at least have him in the fold. Anderson basically has a job for as long as he wants one with the Orioles, so long as the Angelos family is in charge.

The Orioles will have a tough time convincing someone, much less someone with experience in the industry, to take that kind of role.

view of mostly empty seats with few fans standing watching

Tim Anderson

4. We’re nearly halfway into the 2018 season, and the Orioles aren’t just seeing fewer wins this year, they are also seeing fewer fans at the park. Attendance is way down for the worst team in baseball, which shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Experts claim the biggest issue is that many fans from counties that surround the city aren’t coming in for games. They aren’t spending money before or after games like they have in the past.

While much of this can be attributed to safety concerns that have grown over the last few years, a larger part of it has to do with the fact that going to a baseball game is much more involved than it used to be. The almighty entertainment dollar is being spent in other places these days, and people can just as easily watch the games at home. MASN’s ratings haven’t taken a hit over the last few years. And while the Orioles have made an effort to get more fans out this season by promoting more events, theme nights and promotions, I don’t think they really care how many butts are in the seats.

That’s especially true when it comes to THIS team and as bad as the product has fallen off. The O’s would like there to be more people there, but they are still making their money through their TV deal.

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Having Benched Him, Buck Now Throws Some Shade at Chris Davis

Chris Davis & Buck Showalter.

It may have taken him just a bit longer than it took some of us, but it seems that Buck Showalter has reached the end of his patience with Chris Davis.

Davis has already been sitting for a week, having last stepped to the plate on June 11 against Boston, when he went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts.

When asked yesterday if his return was imminent, Buck was quite non-committal:

“It’s getting close,” Showalter said. “I know he didn’t have an off-day yesterday. Trust me. He worked on a lot of things. He worked at Camden Yards.

“It has nothing to do with who’s pitching. Nothing at all. When Chris and we all think that it’s time and he feels like he’s ready, it doesn’t matter who’s pitching, whether it’s a left-hander or a right-hander. When they and we decide that, then he’ll be in there regardless of who’s pitching. It has nothing to do with who’s pitching.”

This morning, FanGraphs posted an article in which David Laurila had sat down with Showalter and got some quotes on the changing game of baseball in general. Now, it’s not exactly clear when Buck said these things, but it seems safe to assume that it was some time over the past week or so.

When speaking about the way front offices have shifted in recent years, Buck dropped this little nugget (emphasis mine):

“But I’ll tell you one thing that did change. This offseason was the first time I saw front offices not do something they’ve done in the past. There was no collusion, no whatever. It was all about looking analytically at a player and saying, ‘He’s not worth X.’ And they stuck to it. Front offices are smarter with their contracts than they had been. Some of these that are held over… I guarantee you, if you sign a guy to a seven-year contract, you’re going to be lucky if you’re happy for four of those seven.

Davis, of course, was signed to a seven-year $161 million contract following the 2015 season. The Orioles were happy with that contract for what looks to have been about one and a half years of the seven.

Is it a coincidence Buck used seven years as his example, and not six or eight? Possibly. But I’ll choose to believe that a certain seven-year contract is gnawing away at him just the way it is at us, as we all think about the future of the franchise, and where Buck may – or may not – factor in.

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Tuesday’s O’s Links: Where We Only Win on “Holidays”

Jonathan Schoop takes a swing.

The Birds can’t even manage to win two of three from the “hey, we got rid of all our good players and we’re openly trying to be awful!” Miami Marlins at HOME over the weekend, so the season of misery rolls on as scheduled. The O’s did win one game, on Sunday, Father’s Day. In a nice bit of dark symmetry, that was their first home win since MOTHER’S DAY! In between, they lost 11 straight at OPACY, tying a franchise record.

And how are things going in the front office? Well, let’s hear from one guy who has toiled under the Angelos regime in the past:

DogSayingEverythingIsFineWhileHisHouseBurns dot gif.

To some links.

Love, Loyalty, Family, Connect a Legendary Mexican Baseball Team to the Orioles

Let’s start with something uplifting, shall we? Álvaro Enrigue penned a gorgeous piece in ESPN the Magazine about his time growing up in Mexico, losing his favorite baseball team when he was 10 (many old Baltimore Colts fans can relate), and then falling in love with the Orioles of 1983 and passing that love onto his son. Take some time out of your day and remember why baseball is great.

Back to your regularly scheduled darkest timeline…

Chance Sisco Deserves to be in the Majors

The Birds’ former top prospect was scratched before Sunday’s game. We heard at the time that he was ill. Then, after the game, he was demoted to AAA Norfolk. Camden Chat’s Tyler Young tries to make sense of it, but there really is no good explanation. If we’re just trying to get a photo op of the Joseph brothers playing together, demote Austin Wynns for a few days. Has Sisco’s bat been disappointing? Sure. But he is hardly alone in that regard. Get him as many ABs as possible in this lost season.

Shocking Names Who Could be Available at the Trade Deadline

Maybe some team will overwhelm the Birds with an offer for Dylan Bundy, but I’d be shocked – and sad – if he were to be dealt. Jim Palmer said it better than I can:

What Happened to Jonathan Schoop?

Slightly lost amidst the “Is Chris Davis Having the Worst Season Ever” talk is just how awful Jonathan Schoop has been in 2018. He isn’t hitting the ball as hard, he’s walking less and swinging more, and the best we can hope for is that his oblique injury is simply lingering. Matt Kremnitzer of Camden Depot has the gory details.

Bird’s Eye View Episode 242: Off the Bench

Jake asked me to pinch hit for Scott on BEV this week, but unfortunately I was unable to. Lucky you! Instead of listening to me, you can hear our own Andrew Stetka on this week’s show. I’m jealous I wasn’t able to participate in Ghosts of Orioles Past – Fond Memories Edition.

 

Please don’t get swept by the Gnats…again. Please?

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Tides Recap: Wilkerson Does it All as Norfolk Takes 3 of 4

Steve Wilkerson of the Frederick Keys.

Utility man Steve Wilkerson made his presence known during a weekend series against the Charlotte Knights, playing three different positions, making sparkling defensive plays, and contributing clutch hits as the Tides took three of four games against last-place Charlotte.

 

TIDES SEASON TO DATE

The Tides (36-30, 2nd in the IL South through Sunday) entered the series with Charlotte having lost two out of three games to the Gwinnett Stripers (Braves’ AAA club) and scoring just four runs in those three games. Starting pitcher John Means (6 IP, 0 R, 8 K) and center fielder Cedric Mullins (4-for-11, 4 doubles) had standout performances for the Tides in the Gwinnett series. Norfolk currently features three of the Orioles’ top 30 prospects: outfielders Mullins (6) and D.J. Stewart (11) and pitcher Yefry Ramirez (17).

 

SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION: CHARLOTTE KNIGHTS

It hasn’t been an easy homestand for the Tides: After dropping two of three to a Gwinnett team featuring some of the best players in the Braves’ minor league system, Norfolk had to turn around the next day and play the first of four games against the Charlotte Knights, the top farm club of the Chicago White Sox. The Knights have no shortage of highly touted players themselves, highlighted by hard-throwing right-hander Michael Kopech – the No. 8 prospect in all of Minor League Baseball. To put into perspective how talented the White Sox system is, Kopech isn’t even No. 1 in the organization – that honor belongs to Double-A outfielder Eloy Jimenez, the No. 3 prospect in MiLB.

The Knights also feature pitchers Spencer Adams (No. 14 in the White Sox organization), Jordan Stephens (20), and Thyago Viera (27). Charlotte entered the series with a record of 29-35, but had won 11 of their last 16 games.

 

TOP TIDES PLAYERS OF THE SERIES

RHP Jimmy Yacabonis: 4.2 IP, 5 K, 2 R

Yacabonis continued his recent hot streak on the mound, going 4.2 innings in his start on Thursday night and striking out five. The righty has a 1.27 ERA and 3-0 record in his last six starts over 28.1 innings.

2B/3B/LF Steve Wilkerson: 7-for-16, 2 2B, HR, 6 R, 3 RBI, 2 BB

The switch-hitting Wilkerson reached base ten times in four games and played stellar defense at second base, third base, and left field. He’s hit safely in 14 of 16 games this year after serving a 50-game suspension to begin the season and has been an invaluable piece at the top of the Tides lineup.

 

INDIVIDUAL GAME RECAPS

Tides 6, Charlotte 4

The Tides took advantage of poor command from Knights’ starter Kopech on Thursday night, sending nine hitters to the plate and scoring three times in the bottom of the third en route to a 5-4 victory. Drew Dosch had three RBIs, including a two-run double, to pace Norfolk’s offense.

Starting pitcher Jimmy Yacabonis threw four and two-thirds innings for the Tides, striking out five and giving up two runs. Joely Rodriguez took over for Yacabonis and threw 2.1 innings of scoreless relief.

The Knights shaved the deficit to 5-4 in the top of the eighth inning when rehabbing White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia launched a long two-run homer off of Andrew Faulkner. Jhan Marinez entered the game with two outs in the bottom of the eighth and proceeded to record the final four outs for his eighth save.

Kopech walked eight hitters in three-plus innings of work and gave up two hits for Charlotte, surrendering five runs while throwing five wild pitches.

Wilkerson – playing Thursday’s game in left field – went 2-for-3 at the plate while reaching base four times and making a difficult catch at the left field wall to end the top of the sixth. First baseman Garabez Rosa added a pair of RBI singles.

Charlotte 7, Tides 2

Norfolk was unable to take advantage of several early run-scoring opportunities on Friday night, as they fell to Charlotte by a score of 7-2. Tides designated hitter Jaycob Brugman reached base four times, stole two bases, and drove home a run.

Charlotte struck first in the top of the second inning, as a base hit and two walks loaded the bases with one out. Knights catcher Dustin Garneau then singled to left field, scoring two, and shortstop Eddy Alvarez ripped a double into right field to score another run and make the score 3-0.

A bloop single by Brugman in the second and a double by Steve Wilkerson in the fourth scored the only two Tides runs of the game. Norfolk stranded ten runners on base.

Tides starter Tim Melville struggled with his command, walking four hitters and allowing six runs in three and two-thirds innings. Though he got the Knights to go down 1-2-3 in the first inning, he allowed three runs in the second and needed to rely on a beautiful diving grab by Mullins in center field to wiggle out of a bases loaded jam in the third. Four hits and a walk in the Knights’ fourth inning extended Charlotte’s lead to 6-1 and ended Melville’s night.

Reliever Paul Fry threw three scoreless innings for the Tides, striking out three. Wilkerson, playing second base in Friday’s game, went 1-for-4 at the plate.

Tides 4, Charlotte 3

Matt Wotherspoon threw five innings of one-run ball in a spot start and Renato Nunez and Steve Wilkerson blasted solo home runs in a 4-3 Tides victory that saw Charlotte and Norfolk trade the lead four times.

The Knights scored the first run of the game for the third straight night, using a double, two walks, and an RBI single in the top of the first to jump ahead 1-0. Wotherspoon settled down after the first frame, retiring 14 straight hitters and striking out a total of 5 hitters.

A night after leaving 13 runners on base, the Tides left the bases loaded again in the bottom of the first against Knights starter Spencer Adams. The game remained 1-0 Charlotte until the fourth inning, when Nunez launched a line drive that cleared the wall in left field for a leadoff home run.

Wilkerson led off the bottom of the sixth by crushing a 3-2 offering from Adams over the right field fence, giving Norfolk a 2-1 lead. In the top of the seventh, he put his defense on display – first bare handing a bunt and firing a strike to first base for the out, then snagging a hard-hit grounder on the third base line and throwing across the diamond for another out.

Reliever Andrew Faulkner got into trouble in the top of the eighth after surrendering a two-out walk and allowing the next hitter to reach on an error by Garabez Rosa at first base. Manager Ron Johnson elected to bring in closer Jhan Marinez, who immediately allowed back-to-back RBI singles to give Charlotte a 3-2 lead.

The Tides offense refused to go quietly in the eighth. Singles from Adrian Marin and Wilkerson put runners at first and second with one out, and a D.J. Stewart double scored Marin to tie the game and put runners at second and third. Nunez then floated a bloop single to the edge of the left field grass over the drawn-in Charlotte infield, scoring Wilkerson to take a 4-3 lead. Marinez remained in the game to shut the door in the ninth inning.

Tides 11, Charlotte 4

The Tides rode an eight-run eighth inning to come from behind and tally a 11-4 win on Sunday afternoon. Right fielder D.J. Stewart went 3-for-5 to lead the offensive effort.

The Knights once again used a first-inning rally to take a quick lead. Two singles and an RBI double from Avisail Garcia put Charlotte up 2-0 before the Tides came up to bat, and Knights pitcher Jordan Stephens breezed through the first three innings while holding Norfolk scoreless. The Knights added a third run in the fourth inning on an RBI single.

Stewart got the Tides going in the bottom of the fourth, lining a single to center field to lead off the inning. The next hitter, Renato Nunez, dribbled a ball to shortstop that forced the Knights to take the out at first and allowed Stewart to advance to second. After Drew Dosch walked, a trio of RBI singles from Garabez Rosa, Caleb Joseph, and Marin tied the game.

Charlotte reclaimed the lead in the fifth after a run scored on a two-out throwing error by Dosch. Three relievers – Ricardo Pinto, Gregory Infante, and Aaron Bummer – shut the Tides down in the 5th, 6th, and 7th innings, while Norfolk’s D.J. Snelten and Joely Rodriguez combined to post scoreless innings in the 6th, 7th, and 8th.

Bummer remained in the game to begin the eighth inning, but was lifted for righty Rob Scahill after allowing the first three Tides hitters to reach base. Scahill immediately walked Marin to tie the game and then gave up a two-run single to Mullins as the Tides took a 6-4 lead. Subsequent RBI hits by Wilkerson, Stewart, Dosch, and Jaycob Brugman swelled the lead to 11-4. Rodriguez remained in the game on the mound and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to seal the win.

 

UP NEXT

Norfolk begins a six-game road trip to play the Indianapolis Indians (Pirates) and Louisville Bats (Reds) on Tuesday. The Tides return to Harbor Park on June 25.

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Series Preview: Orioles (19-48) vs. Marlins (26-43)

Kevin Gausman pitches in Sarasota.

After getting swept against the Red Sox, the Orioles will now conclude their home stand by taking on the Miami Marlins for a three-game set over the weekend.

The Orioles (19-48) nightmare campaign continues to fall deeper into the abyss. Their current seven-game losing streak is the sixth time that they’ve lost five-plus games in a row and the third time that they’ve lost seven-plus straight. They’ve also won just twice over their last sixteen contests.

The Marlins (26-43) should be coming into town feeling good after taking three of four from their latest series against the Giants. They’ve also won six of their last ten ballgames and will look to continue to rack up the wins at Camden Yards despite being in the cellar of the NL East.

Kevin Gausman (3-5, 4.58 ERA) will take on Jose Urena (1-8, 4.59 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

Gausman turned in a quality start by holding the Blue Jays to three runs over 6 2/3 innings during his last outing, but has been struggling in recent times. He’s gone 0-3 with a 7.37 ERA over his last five contests.

Urena took the loss his last time out after giving up three runs over six innings against the Padres, and will continue to search for his second win of the season against the Orioles. He’s gone 1-2 with a 4.97 ERA over his last five outings.

Alex Cobb (2-8, 7.23 ERA) will match-up against Wei-Yin Chen (1-3, 6.13 ERA) on Saturday.

Cobb was tagged for nine runs over just 3 2/3 innings during his last start versus Toronto, and will be looking for a quick bounce back against the Marlins. Things seemed to be turning around for Cobb as he had allowed just four runs over thirteen innings in the two starts prior to his last, but is now back to square one after his fifth start of allowing five runs or more.

Chen coughed up four runs over just 4 1/3 innings in his last start against San Francisco, and will be looking to end the misery against his former ballclub. Over his last three starts, Chen has allowed ten runs over just 10 1/3 innings combined.

Dylan Bundy (4-7, 3.66 ERA) will go up against Trevor Richards (1-3, 4.41 ERA) in Sunday’s series finale.

Bundy was outstanding during his last start against Boston and allowed just three hits over eight shutout innings, but was no-decisioned in the Orioles eventual loss after the offense let him down yet again. Bundy has been tremendous over his last four starts, going 2-1 with a sparkling 0.96 ERA.

Richards earned his first career major league win after holding the Giants to one run on two hits over six innings, and will be looking to notch another against the Orioles struggling line-up. Over his last three contests, Richards has posted a superb 2.30 ERA over 15 2/3 innings of work.

That’s it for now, folks!

Here’s to ending the losing skid.

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Worst Part of All This? O’s Seem Happy with Status Quo

dan duquette and buck showalter sitting at press conference

The Orioles are the worst team in baseball, and it’s not even close. Having lost 14 of their last 16 games and mired in a seven-game losing streak, the Orioles’ record sits at 19-48, worst in all of baseball by 2.5 games (the Royals, losers of 9 of 10 games, are 22-46). What doesn’t sit well in Baltimore isn’t the poor record so much as the lack of action taken.

Offensively, the team is in the bottom third of the league in every major category except for home runs. In fact, out of 30 teams, the Orioles rank either last or next-to-last in average, OBP, OPS, runs, and RBI. They are 27th in hits, and 28th in slugging.

Suffice it to say, the offense has been putrid. So putrid, in fact, that nobody is talking about just how bad the pitching staff has been. The Orioles’ 4.92 ERA ranks dead last in all of baseball. So does their .282 BAA and 1.53 WHIP despite allowing the ninth fewest walks. They’ve allowed the fourth most home runs in the league (93), and their 19 wins and 13 saves are last in the league, though you need only look at the standings to figure those last two numbers out.

Individually, a number of players are having the worst years of their careers. Brad Brach and Mychal Givens are posting the highest ERA of their careers. Pedro Araujo and Mike Wright continue to pitch out of the bullpen despite ERAs of 7.71 and 6.11. Alex Cobb has a 7.23 ERA and 1.768 WHIP.

Trey Mancini is experiencing a severe sophomore slump that has left his average at .229 after batting .293 as a rookie in 2017. Jonathan Schoop has regressed so much this season that his numbers look eerily similar to those of his rookie 2014 campaign when he hit .209 with a .244 OBP.

Chris Davis has been so bad that a local Baltimore bar is offering free shots any time the former slugger records a hit. Not a home run; a hit. Even Manny Machado, who could do no wrong through the season’s first two months, is stuck in a 3-24 slump that has dropped his average from .329 to .307 in a matter of just 12 days.

Yet here the Orioles stand, 19-48 on June 15. Davis still starts more often than not. Mancini still plays left field despite defensive metrics that would make Manny Ramirez blush. Scott Coolbaugh still has a job leading the worst offense in baseball, while Roger McDowell still has a job leading one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball.

Buck Showalter is still managing under the stress of an expiring contract. Dan Duquette, who tried using his shiny new Executive of the Year award as leverage to leave for Toronto following an ALCS appearance in 2014, is still employed by the ball club.

We have no idea who oversees baseball activities in the ownership group. Is it Peter Angelos, or is it his sons, John and Lou? Does Dan Duquette even have a role in the franchise? Reports suggest that Brady Anderson was the one pulling all the strings in the offseason and would seem to be the heir apparent.

As bad as this season has been, and as daunting a task as 95 more games may seem to be, the biggest frustration amongst the Baltimore fan base is the lack of action and transparency within the organization. Fans could get on board with a rebuild if ownership were to come out and say that’s the path the team is taking.

Baltimore just wants a visible plan in place.

In a season filled with ugliness, saying and doing nothing may be the ugliest of all.

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“AAAA” Players Can’t be Any Worse than “MLB” Players O’s are Using

Renato Nunez of the A's poses with his bat.

It’s been no secret that the Orioles have been terrible this season: The Birds have the worst record in the major leagues, and Chris Davis has had the worst season of any hitter this year by several measures. The farm system is noticeably lacking strong prospects, especially at Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. Everyone expects Manny Machado to be traded at some point before August. Put simply, there hasn’t been a whole lot to cheer for this year.

So where should the Orioles go from here?

I wrote a few weeks ago about how it would be interesting to see the Orioles join the Rays in using an “opening pitcher.” But there’s another strategy I’d like to see them try, and it’s much less radical: giving MLB playing time to veteran minor leaguers performing well with the Tides and Baysox.

These types of players are known as “Quad-A” – guys who excel in the minor leagues but for whatever reason have struggled heavily in the majors or have never really gotten an opportunity because scouts and GMs think they’ll struggle at the highest level. They’re caught in a sort of purgatory, consistently putting up big numbers and earning playing time at Triple-A but never quite getting a consistent opportunity to prove themselves in the major leagues.

Some teams who take a flyer on Quad-A players are rewarded many times over. The Blue Jays acquired a little-known journeyman third baseman named Jose Bautista in 2008 from the Pirates in exchange for a player to be named later. Bautista went on to establish himself as one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball and a six-time All-Star outfielder, twice leading the American League in home runs.

But for every Jose Bautista, there’s a mountain of Quad-A players like Bryan LaHair or Russ Canzler who never pan out. A 2012 article from Baseball Prospectus looked at reasons for why Quad-A players are often unsuccessful, quoting an unnamed scout who notes that while the minor leagues are about player development, the major leagues are about winning. Major league hitters are analyzed much more carefully by opposing teams than minor leaguers, meaning that it’s easier to expose a hitter’s weaknesses, and better pitching means that hitters don’t get as many mistake pitches to capitalize on.

All of those points are true, but let’s be honest with ourselves. The 2018 Orioles are not winning. They don’t have any chance of making the playoffs. With fan and industry expectations this low, Camden Yards in 2018 is about as low-pressure a Major League environment as a player could find. It’s the perfect chance to turn Quad-A hitters loose, giving them consistent MLB playing time and seeing if any of them run with it.

By watching the Tides play (I go to most games and watch from the press box), I’ve noticed several hitters whom I’d love to see get a chance in Baltimore – even if they aren’t “prospects” in the traditional sense of the word. One hitter in particular, Renato Nuñez, sticks out to me as someone to whom the Orioles should consider giving a serious shot.

Although he’s just 24 – younger than the prototypical Quad-A hitter – Nuñez has spent parts of the last three seasons in the big leagues, playing a total of 30 games and hitting a combined .167/.222/.273 with two home runs for the Athletics and Rangers. Despite that dismal showing, he’s put up big numbers in the minor leagues, having hit 123 MiLB home runs from 2014-2017. While he’s hit just one home run this year for the Tides, his OBP is up 51 points from last year for the Athletics’ AAA team in Nashville and he’s on pace to hit more doubles than he’s ever hit in a single season.

It might be alarming for some people to see that a hitter who averaged almost 25 home runs a year for five straight years has only hit one as of mid-June, but part of that likely stems from moving from the infamously hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League to the much more pitcher-friendly International League while playing half of his games in Norfolk’s Harbor Park – one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the IL. Nuñez might even be a more complete hitter in 2018 than he’s been in any previous season, as he’s getting on base much more consistently even while moving to a difficult hitter’s environment.

It’s clear what types of players Danny Valencia, Tim Beckham, and Chris Davis are from the years all three have spent in the big leagues. We know what we can realistically expect from all three. But what can Renato Nuñez provide the Orioles? Is he the 30-home run threat he was in the Pacific Coast League? Probably not, but he’s likely not a .167 MLB hitter either. In a season that’s been lost almost from the start, the only way to answer that question is to give Nuñez – and other players like him – a chance.

It certainly can’t hurt.

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Thursday’s O’s Links: The Worst Team Ever?

Trey Mancini of the Orioles dives as the baseball bounces by.

It just gets worse…and worse…and worse. After being swept by Boston, the Birds have now lost seven straight. Again. Their pace is something to behold…more below.

/holds nose

To the links…

Davis has Struck Out in 21 Straight Games – Personal & Team Records within Reach

Let’s check in with Matt Taylor over at Roar from 34, shall we? Matt chronicles Chris Davis’ latest strikeout streak, which is about to break his own ridiculous strikeout streak, and which is catching up to the Orioles’ all-time record.

Appreciation for Jim Palmer in the Booth

Hey, Milton Kent! Old heads like me who read The Baltimore Sun back in the day will remember Milton, who is now contributing over at Baltimore Sports & Life. Here, he praises Jim Palmer for his criticisms of the fella we talked about in the first link.

O’s Struggles Reaching Historic Levels

Yay.

How bad can it get? As Jon Meoli of The Sun points out, the Birds are flirting with some uncharted territory here, so nobody really knows.

Current State of the Orioles: Really Bad

So now that we’ve gone over how bad the MLB team is, let’s talk about how there’s no hope on the Farm, shall we?

Well, perhaps not NO hope, but not much! Matt Kremnitzer of Camden Depot explains.

With Winning Out of the Question, the Orioles Have Two Choices Moving Forward

Alright, so. Things are bad. We know that. So how can the Birds fix it? Well, they can go about it in one of two ways, as Camden Chat’s Alex Church tells us. Which will they choose? Likely not the one that fans would prefer!

 

Uh…at least they can’t lose today? And tomorrow is Floppy Hat night!

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Tides Recap: Cedric Mullins, Doubles Machine

Cedric Mullins in the batter's box.

Despite four doubles from center fielder Cedric Mullins, the Tides dropped two of three games to the Gwinnett Stripers to open a seven-game homestand. The Tides welcome the Charlotte Knights to Harbor Park on Thursday for a four-game weekend series.

 

TIDES SEASON TO DATE

The Tides (33-29, 2nd place in the IL South through Wednesday) finished a six-game road trip prior to this homestand with a record of 3-3. Third baseman Renato Nunez hit .346 with three doubles over those six games, while catcher Caleb Joseph has hit .370 with a home run and six RBI over his past seven games. The Tides currently feature three of the Orioles’ top 30 prospects: pitcher Tanner Scott (No. 5) and outfielders Mullins (6) and D.J. Stewart (11).

 

SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION: GWINNETT STRIPERS

The Gwinnett Stripers – known before the 2018 season as the Gwinnett Braves – are the AAA affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. Three of the top 30 prospects in Atlanta’s stacked farm system currently play for the Stripers: left-handed pitchers Kolby Allard (No. 6) and Max Fried (7) and outfielder Dustin Peterson (15). Gwinnett has struggled this season, entering the series with the Tides with a record of 26-34 after a large portion of the top talent in the Braves’ minor league system graduated to the major leagues earlier this year.

 

TOP TIDES PLAYERS OF THE SERIES:

John Means, LHP: 6.0 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 8 K

Means earned the win in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader by throwing six shutout innings, striking out eight and walking none. He gave up just three hits – all weakly-hit singles – and struck out the first four Stripers hitters he faced. Means was able to work around a jam with runners at the corners and one out in the fifth inning by getting Gwinnett DH Rob Brantly to ground into a 6-4-3 double play.

Cedric Mullins, CF: 4-for-11, 4 2B, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 SB

Mullins, the Orioles’ No. 6 prospect, provided a spark from the leadoff spot in the order in all three games after an initial slow start following his call-up to Triple-A. Though he scored just one run, he hit three doubles during the two games on Tuesday and added in a stolen base in Game 2 for good measure. He followed the previous day’s performance with another double and an RBI in the final game of the series.

 

INDIVIDUAL GAME RECAPS:

Norfolk 1, Gwinnett 0 (7 innings, Game 1 of a doubleheader)

Left-hander John Means struck out eight Stripers and yielded just three hits, while Caleb Joseph’s second-inning home run was all the Norfolk offense needed to notch a victory in the first game of Tuesday night’s doubleheader. Mullins and Stewart, each among the Orioles’ top prospects, combined to go 2-for-6 with two doubles. Jhan Marinez entered the game in relief of Means in the seventh inning and pitched around a leadoff walk to earn his seventh save of the year.

Gwinnett 2, Norfolk 1 (7 innings, Game 2 of a doubleheader)

Tides pitchers Paul Fry and Ryan Meisenger held Gwinnett’s offense scoreless through five innings in the second game before the Stripers pushed across a run in the sixth on an inning-opening home run from Danny Santana. Though back-to-back doubles from Mullins and Steve Wilkerson tied the game in the bottom half of the inning, the Tides were unable to score again. The Stripers scored the eventual winning run in the top of the seventh, when Santana scored former Orioles outfielder Xavier Avery on a sacrifice fly.

Mullins and Wilkerson each went 2-for-4 at the top of the Tides’ lineup, combining for three doubles.

Gwinnett 10, Norfolk 1

A pair of early Stripers home runs coupled with a four-run seventh inning doomed pitcher Asher Wojciechowski and the rest of the Tides on Wednesday, as Norfolk dropped the rubber match of the series by a score of 10-1.

Gwinnett’s Michael Reed launched a two-run homer to left-center field in the first inning and Sal Giardina followed with a three-run blast of his own in the top half of the second inning to put the Tides in an early 5-0 hole.

Wojciechowski went five and two-thirds innings, allowing six runs on eight hits while striking out four and walking one.. D.J. Snelten allowed four runs (two earned) in an inning of relief.

The Tides offense was stifled all game long by Stripers starter Max Fried, who struck out a career-high 11 hitters in seven innings. Left fielder Mike Yastrzemski drove in the first Tides run of the game, singling home first baseman Garabez Rosa in the second inning. Mullins notched the team’s other RBI in the bottom of the eighth after grounding into a 6-4-3 double play.

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Thursday Thoughts: Richard Bleier Goes Down with Lat Injury

GulfBird Photo/Craig Landefeld

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. As of last year, I cut it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver/€“Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.

1. Everyone in the Twitterverse or the blogosphere continues to talk about the Orioles like changes need to be made. Changes on the field, changes off the field, and changes in the dugout have been speculated upon for weeks, if not months.

At this point, I’d be shocked. I don’t see any scenario where Buck Showalter or Dan Duquette aren’t finishing out this season in their current positions. The Orioles aren’t the type of team to make extreme changes in-season. They know this season is going nowhere. They also probably know who is in control going beyond this season. But they aren’t giving up that information.

The rest of us will just have to sit and wonder how long this misery will last beyond this season.

2. The Orioles continued to pour gasoline on their season over the past week, and as the flames rose higher, an old friend emerged from them. Zach Britton made his return to the mound Tuesday night, after rupturing his Achilles in December. Britton did not impress in his first outing, walking three of the first five Red Sox hitters he faced. That marked the first time in his relief career (spanning 246 outings) that he walked more than two hitters.

Still, he managed to get out of the inning unscathed. There’s a lot riding on Britton’s next few weeks of appearances. The more he can build up his value to potential trade suitors, the better off the Orioles may be.

The main target to me remains the Houston Astros, who thought they had a deal in place for the left-hander last year. They could use another arm in their bullpen, which may be the closest thing they have to a weakness.

3. Richard Bleier left yesterday’s game with what the Orioles are categorizing as a lat injury, which is very bad news. Bleier was among the few Orioles having a good season and because of that, was a top trade target for teams looking for bullpen help. His emergence this season was pretty much from out of nowhere. He’s allowed just seven earned runs in 32.2 innings, good for a 1.93 ERA. That includes 15 strikeouts to just four walks.

With just under seven weeks until the trade deadline, there’s virtually no chance a team will be able to deal for the injured left-hander now.

4. As the Orioles have become more and more of a laughing stock this season, one Baltimore bar is taking advantage. Edward Lee of The Baltimore Sun reports this week that Bartenders Pub on Boston Street is handing out free shots every time Chris Davis gets a hit. The shooters are a “Dr Pepper” shot, a mix of amaretto and Miller High Life. Apparently they taste like the soft drink, not that I’d know anything about that.

It’s gotten to the point with Davis that seeing him get a hit really is reason to celebrate. Actually, seeing him make contact with the ball is reason to celebrate. I’m always surprised at this point when Davis doesn’t strike out. Hell, I’m encouraged when he doesn’t strike out looking. “At least he swung,” is something I’ve caught myself saying this season.

This is a genius idea by the folks at Bartenders Pub. It’s not like they will be losing a lot by doing it, and it can create conversation if nothing else. It’s sad, but it its own little way, it’s endearing. Baltimore really is embracing the awfulness of the Orioles.

5. If you are an Orioles fan that is interested in watching (or perhaps pulling for) a good story this season, might I interest you in the Seattle Mariners? The M’s are very 2012 Orioles-esque this season. They’ve gone 21-9 in one-run games this season, get timely hitting, and have a lights out bullpen.

Sound familiar? Seattle is playing well above its “expected” win total, and some are calling them lucky. Sound familiar? Oh yeah, and they are 6-0 in extra inning games. Sound familiar?

Let’s also not forget to address the fact that the Mariners have the longest current playoff drought in all of the big four North American sports. They haven’t played in a postseason since 2001, which was Ichiro’s rookie year. That mark had belonged to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills before they made the playoffs last year.

Right now, the M’s are in a dogfight with the Astros in the AL West, but even if they aren’t able to hold on to the division, the playoffs look very plausible. Assuming one of the Red Sox or Yankees take one of the two Wild Card spots, there isn’t really another AL team that is a massive threat. The Angels are probably the best bet, but they’ve just lost two-way star Shohei Ohtani to injury. I’m going to pull for the Mariners this season to end that long drought, not only because I have friends that are long-suffering fans, but because it’s a good story.

In a season of awfulness for the Orioles, I’ve afforded myself that luxury. Deal with it.

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Tuesday’s O’s Links: Just One Game Ahead of the 1988 Team

Zach Britton pitches for the Orioles.

Every time we think perhaps the Orioles have reached “rock bottom,” they just plunge through the floor and reveal that there is somehow, still another, lower, level. After sweeping the New York Mets in a short two-game set at Citi Field, the Birds have now lost five straight. Last night, they wasted eight shutout innings from Dylan Bundy, losing 2-0 to Boston in 12 innings.

(This was about Adam Jones missing the cutoff man in the 12th yesterday on the sacrifice fly that gave Boston a 1-0 lead. Because he missed, a runner went from 2nd to 3rd, and that runner scored on a sac fly just a play later. Would it have mattered? Most likely not at all. But it was still bone-headed, and helped turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-0 deficit. Ross Grimsley was not a fan either:)

To some links, I suppose.

The Orioles’ Outfield Defense is Brutal

Let’s stay with that theme for a moment. Jones made a bad play – and he’s made his share of late – but he is, yet again, being asked to cover for some horrendous outfielders on both sides of him. Camden Depot’s Matt Kremnitzer has the gory details (and GIFs) of just how terrible the Birds’ OF defense has been.

Bird’s Eye View Episode 241: Duck and Cover

Jake and Scott join me in trying to find Rock Bottom. They asked O’s fans to give them their Rock Bottom moments, as our season theme of “misery loves company” rolls on.

The Way Buck Showalter Organizes the Orioles Lineup is Confusing

If you’re forced to organize the deck chairs on the Titanic, shouldn’t you at least put them as far away from the listing edge as possible? As Tyler Young points out at Camden Depot, Buck has routinely set the chairs up in a silly, haphazard, and entirely indefensible manner.

Sunday Notes: Mancini a “Thoughtful Slugger”

David Laurila talked to Trey Mancini (scroll down) about getting in his own head, exceeding expectations, and how he quiets the naysayers both internal and external.

Zach Britton is Back

Buck said he didn’t want Britton’s first appearance to be a save opportunity. Last night would have been perfect then, right? I guess Buck should have said he wanted Zach’s first outing to be in mop-up duty, because he had several good chances to bring Britton in last night – even “dry humping” him twice – but instead left Mychal Givens out there to wither yet again. Buck has learned nothing.

 

Today is Dylan Bundy bobblehead day at the Yard. Somehow I’m thinking they might have some left over.

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Series Preview: Orioles (19-45) vs. Red Sox (44-22)

baseball players trot around the bases as the pitcher watches.

After getting swept during a gut-wrenching four-game set in Toronto, the Orioles will now return home and take on the Red Sox over the next three games at Camden Yards.

The Orioles (19-45) will be looking to break out of the darkness at home, but it won’t be easy as they’ve gone 1-9 over their last ten games against the Red Sox. To make matters worse, they’ve also gone just 2-11 over their last thirteen contests.

The Red Sox (44-22) will continue battling the Yankees in the two-horse race for division supremacy, and will be looking to bounce back after losing two of three at home to the White Sox. However, the ‘Sox come into Baltimore in fine form with a 16-8 record over their last 24 ballgames.

Dylan Bundy (4-7, 4.04 ERA) will take on Steven Wright (2-0, 1.57 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

Bundy earned his fourth win of the season by holding the Mets to just three hits over seven shutout innings in his last start, and will look to extend his superb run of form against the ‘Sox. Over his last three starts, Bundy has gone 2-1 with an outstanding 1.23 ERA. During that span, he’s allowed just three runs over 22 innings of work while notching 25 strikeouts in the process.

Wright will be making his second start of the season against the O’s, and will be looking to impress again. He shut down the Tigers and allowed just two hits over seven scoreless innings during his first start on June 5th.

David Hess (2-2, 3.07 ERA) will match-up against Eduardo Rodriguez (7-1, 3.68 ERA) on Tuesday.

Hess turned in yet another impressive performance in Toronto and allowed just a single run on five hits over six innings, but was robbed of the win due to the Jays ninth-inning comeback and eventual victory.

The Orioles red-hot rookie owns a spectacular 0.96 ERA over his last three outings after allowing just two runs during his last 18 2/3 innings on the mound.

Rodriguez continued his own red-hot streak during his last start by holding the Tigers to one run on five hits over 5 2/3 innings. He’s now won four straight contests and has recorded a sparkling 1.90 ERA over 23 2/3 innings during that span while racking up 26 strikeouts.

Andrew Cashner (2-8, 4.98 ERA) will go head-to-head with Chris Sale (5-4, 2.83 ERA) in the series finale on Wednesday.

Cashner turned in his second straight quality start against the Jays by allowing three runs on nine hits over six innings, but still ended up in the loss column. He’s ended up in the win column just once since April 5th, mainly due to a lack of run support.

Sale was outstanding against the White Sox and allowed just a single run on six hits over eight innings, but still took his fourth loss of the season. The Red Sox ace is in the middle of another stellar campaign as he’s held opponents to three runs or less in twelve of his fourteen starts while notching eight-plus strikeouts on ten separate occasions.

That’s it for now, folks!

Here’s to ending the losing skid.

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Series Preview: Orioles (19-41) @ Blue Jays (26-35)

Rogers Centre in Toronto with the roof open.

After sweeping the Mets during their two-day stay in New York, the Orioles will now fly north of the border and take on the Blue Jays for a four-game set before returning home.

The Orioles (19-41) may still own the worst record in the big leagues, but they’ll be feeling good coming into Toronto after winning consecutive games for just the fourth time this season.

The Blue Jays (26-35) have seen their season derail in a hurry, and will be looking to get back on track against the Orioles. After getting swept in a two-game set versus the Yankees earlier this week, they’ve now gone just 5-17 over their last twenty-two contests.

David Hess (2-2, 3.47 ERA) will take on Jaime Garcia (2-4, 6.08 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

Hess took a tough-luck loss in his last outing after giving up just one run on four hits over six solid innings against the Nationals. The rookie has been impressive to start his career in the bigs and has recorded three quality starts in his first four attempts. He’s also allowed just a single run on eight hits over his last 12 2/3 innings of work.

Garcia was tagged to the tune of four runs on seven hits over just 1 2/3 innings against the Tigers, and will be looking to snap out of a rough patch against the Birds. He’s gone 0-4 with a 7.26 ERA over his last seven starts.

Andrew Cashner (2-7, 5.09 ERA) will match-up against J.A. Happ (7-3, 4.08 ERA) on Friday.

Cashner turned in a solid outing during his last start, but took the loss after giving up three runs over six innings against the Yankees. It was just his second quality start over his last eight attempts and he has posted a 6.19 ERA over his last seven starts.

Happ struggled during his last start in Detroit, allowing four runs over five innings, but has been otherwise excellent for the Jays this season. He’s allowed two runs or less in six of his last ten starts. He’s also gone 3-0 with a stellar 2.81 ERA over his last four contests.

Kevin Gausman (3-5, 4.63 ERA) will go up against Aaron Sanchez (3-5, 4.48 ERA) on Saturday.

Gausman was hit hard against the Yankees and allowed five runs on nine hits over 5 1/3 innings en route to his fifth loss of the season, and will be looking to snap out of his recent funk in Toronto. He’s gone 0-3 with an 8.53 ERA over his last four starts.

Sanchez notched his third win of the season by holding the Tigers to one run on two hits over six innings during his last start, and will be hoping to stay in form after his prior struggles. Sanchez went 0-3 with a 5.96 ERA over five starts in May.

The Blue Jays haven’t named a starter to take on Alex Cobb (2-7, 6.19 ERA) in Sunday’s series finale.

Cobb was impressive during his last outing against the Mets and earned his second win of the season after allowing just a single run on two hits over six innings. Cobb has now posted quality starts in five of his last seven contests and has allowed three runs or less on six separate occasions during that span.

That’s all for now, folks!

Here’s to coming home on a high note.

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Thursday Thoughts: Schoop’s Struggles Put O’s in Tough Spot

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. As of last year, I cut it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver/€“Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.

1. The 2018 Orioles won’t go the whole season without sweeping a series. Okay, it was just a two-game series. And okay, it was just the Mets. But it still counts. The Orioles needed just three runs to win two games this week in New York, and they officially have a win streak, their first one in almost two weeks.

It’s just their fifth series victory of the season and their second on the road. Incredible. I am over the idea of getting excited over wins this season, because they really don’t mean anything. But I will at least try to enjoy them as few and far between as they may be.

It’s all we have at this point to keep from slipping into the deep, dark void.

2. The Orioles capped their draft yesterday, selecting a total of 40 new players. Some will sign, some won’t and none of it will really matter to the big league club for a few years. What’s more important than who the Orioles DID draft this week, is who they DIDN’T draft.

Oregon State pitcher Luke Heimlich was not among the 1,214 players drafted. For those living under a rock, Heimlich is the talented prospect who is also a convicted sex offender. He pleaded guilty to a felony count of molesting his six-year-old niece when he was just 15. The guilty plea included admissions from incidents in 2009 and 2011, but he has since denied that anything happened. What’s more is that according to Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan, the first-round talent was apparently being watched closely by the Orioles.

The piece revealed that the O’s had discussions with Heimlich about signing him as an undrafted free agent months after the details of his case were disclosed by “The Oregonian.” This would’ve been an obvious PR nightmare for the Orioles, who have already had no shortage of those in recent years. Many teams said Heimlich was not even on their draft boards this year, and that’s obvious by the fact that he went undrafted.

But it leaves questions for what could happen going forward for the 22-year-old. The fact that the Orioles were involved in any kind of discussions with Heimlich in the past should raise big questions and it unveils just how deep the dysfunction inside The Warehouse may be.

3. Don’t look now, but maybe the Alex Cobb signing wasn’t an unmitigated disaster like some thought it was looking to be a month or so ago. The overall numbers look awful, but if you exclude Cobb’s disastrous three April starts, he’s pitched to a 4.20 ERA. No one is claiming that’s great, but it’s certainly capable of holding up as a fourth or fifth starter in the AL East.

If you remove one of Cobb’s May starts, his May 23 outing against the White Sox, he’s pitched to a 3.16 ERA since April over 37 innings. Cobb’s latest outing on Tuesday night was six innings of one-run ball with seven strikeouts. He allowed just two hits and one walk against the lowly Mets.

I don’t think they would ever consider it after signing him to a four-year deal this past offseason, but the Orioles should seriously think about floating Cobb in a trade. If they aren’t going to be competitive for a few years, there’s no real reason to have him around. He’s an asset as a veteran pitcher and could be helpful to a potential playoff team. There’s also a big question as to what the O’s could possibly get for him in a deal, seeing that there’s a decent amount of money on his contract.

But the team control is there and the trade market for pitching could be somewhat thin this July. It’s something to think about.

4. Jonathan Schoop should be thanking Chris Davis each day for distracting people from his awful season. While Davis has been the worst hitter in baseball at the plate this season, Schoop isn’t following up his All-Star campaign very well either. The second baseman spent a little more than three weeks on the disabled list with an oblique injury, but his time spent on the field has not impressed.

Schoop’s hitting just .232/.257/.375 this season with five homers and a 41/4 K/BB ratio. The Orioles are in a very weird place with Schoop. He’s a free agent after next season, and I can’t imagine he has any trade value at this point. I also can’t imagine they’d be enthused about giving him an extension (or that he’d want one at this point with his value so low). Schoop is obviously capable of being a big league second baseman, and a pretty good one. But there’s also a very good chance we’ve seen Schoop’s peak season already.

That’s not to say he can’t be a valuable contributor going forward, but his .293/.338/.503 season with 32 home runs last year might be his best offensive campaign. Schoop is also perhaps the biggest and best example of why the Orioles should be spending on the international market. He could be a lasting reminder as to the gold that can be found when you actually look for it.

Because he still has a year after this one left on his contract, I don’t think the Orioles will look to trade him this year. But they have to come up with a plan for him. If they have no designs on giving him a contract beyond next season, he should be traded immediately.

As much as Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Zach Britton are question marks for this year’s trade deadline, Schoop will be next year’s problem.

And the Orioles are so bad this year, that they should already be looking to address next year’s problems.

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A Case for Signing Hanley Ramirez

After sweeping a two-game series from the Mets at Citi Field, the Orioles are now 5-1 in “The Big Apple” … and 14-40 everywhere else.

Though the Birds might be flying high after winning back-to-back road games for just the third time this season, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that the same issues still abound for the ball club, as the team combined for just three runs on 11 hits (all singles) in the series.

The Orioles rank last in the American League, and next-to-last in the majors, in runs scored (218). Their .230 team average is better than just three teams in all of baseball, while their saving grace from seasons past — the long ball — ranks 14th out of 30 teams (68).

Former home run champions Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis have combined for just six home runs and 23 RBIs in 2018, and the season is more than two months old. Jonathan Schoop, a 2017 All-Star and team MVP, is hitting .232.

Trey Mancini, the second runner up for AL Rookie of the Year in 2017, was hitting .284 on April 20th when he exited the game against the Indians after smashing his knee into the fence attempting a sliding catch in foul territory. Since the injury, Mancini is hitting just .200 (28-140), dropping his average to .231.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. The Orioles are offensively challenged in 2018, and there doesn’t appear to be any help on the horizon. As Buck Showalter likes to say, these guys all have track records, and their numbers should be better by season’s end. The problem is that the numbers have been so bad to this point that a team that had legitimate playoff aspirations in March is now the worst team in baseball in June.

And now rumors are swirling that the team could be on the cusp of signing Hanley Ramirez, who was recently discarded by the rival Red Sox when Dustin Pedroia returned from offseason knee surgery. That possibility has left many scratching their heads of as to why the Orioles would even consider such a move when the season is basically over.

In fact, I questioned the move myself when I first heard the rumors, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Now put down your pitch forks and torches and hear me out.

The Red Sox are on the hook for Ramirez’s $22 million salary this season, meaning that any team that chooses to sign him would only have to pay a prorated portion of the league minimum salary, which at this point would be roughly $343,000 (give or take a few grand).

While a last place ball club with the worst record in baseball should be focusing on the future, they are still a business, and the main priority should always be winning ball games, first and foremost. Also, good luck getting a bunch of veterans and former All-Stars on board with tanking the rest of the season in the hopes of bettering the future of an organization most of them will no longer be playing for in the coming years.

With those things in mind, signing Hanley Ramirez absolutely makes sense. His .254 BA would rank third on the Orioles amongst players with a minimum of 150 PA. His 29 RBIs would rank second, and his six home runs would rank fifth, ahead of the likes of Schoop, Trumbo, and Davis.

For $343,000, the Orioles would be getting a cleanup hitter that would actually make pitchers think twice about walking Manny Machado, which would mean more pitches for Manny to hit, and ultimately improve his trade value (if it could conceivably get any higher).

Ramirez is versatile and can also play first base, third base and left field in a pinch. In addition, falling just behind the effect on Manny in terms of importance, a Ramirez signing should mean significantly less playing time for Davis, who, when it is all said and done will go down as the worst contract signing in the history of Major League Baseball.

Yes, the fans are correct, the Orioles need to get younger and start planning for the future. Everybody knows that. There just isn’t any help on the horizon in the minor leagues. Cedric Mullins is the only viable option as Austin Hays has struggled at Double-A Bowie and he, along with D.J. Stewart, is currently on the disabled list.

The team has no middle infield depth at any minor league level, and the best arms are all in low-A Delmarva and High-A Frederick, save for Hunter Harvey, who isn’t exactly thriving at Bowie (5.57 ERA in 9 starts), and Keegan Akin, who is only in his second full season of pro ball.

Signing Ramirez doesn’t mean that the Orioles expect to get back into contention, nor does it mean that they aren’t looking towards the future. Ramirez simply gives the team a viable chance to play better baseball than they have to this point. At this juncture in his career, the risk is greater for the player than it is for the team anyway.

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Series Preview: Orioles (17-41) @ Mets (27-30)

Jonathan Schoop and Adam Jones celebrate while Manny Machado looks on.

After losing both games of a rain-shortened series against the Yankees, the Orioles will now head to Queens to take on the Mets for a quick two-game set before traveling to Toronto.

The Orioles (17-41) are looking to snap a seven-game losing streak tonight at Citi Field, but wins have been hard to come by on the road this season. The Birds went just 4-13 while on tour in May and have compiled a woeful 7-23 record away from Camden Yards.

The Mets (27-30) came into 2018 with high hopes but now face a possible fire sale after a disappointing first two months. After getting handed a four-game sweep by the visiting Cubs over the weekend, the Mets have lost six straight contests at home and own a dismal 3-11 record over their last 14 games.

Alex Cobb (1-7, 6.80 ERA) will take on Jason Vargas (2-3, 8.53 ERA) in the series opener.

Cobb took the loss against the Nationals despite allowing just three runs on five hits over seven solid innings. He has been getting progressively better as the season rolls along. Cobb has posted quality starts in four of his last six attempts and has given up three runs or less on five separate occasions during that span.

Vargas notched his second win of the season after holding the first-place Braves to two hits over five shutout innings during his last outing, and will be looking to build on that going forward. Like Cobb, Vargas has shrugged off a nightmare start to his campaign by going 2-0 with a stout 3.46 ERA over his last three starts.

Dylan Bundy (3-7, 4.46 ERA) will match-up against Zach Wheeler (2-4, 5.14 ERA) in Wednesday’s series finale.

Bundy battled hard during his last start against the Nationals and allowed just three runs over six innings despite giving up 11 hits. After going through a rough stretch that has resulted in a 7.05 ERA over his last seven contests, Bundy looks to be back on mend as of late. He owns a solid 3.60 ERA over his last two starts while striking out 20 over 15 innings of work.

Wheeler held the dangerous Cubs lineup to just two runs on seven hits over six innings his last outing, but took the no-decision in the Mets eventual loss. Bad luck has been the story of Wheeler’s season. He’s held opponents to two runs or less in three of his last five starts, but doesn’t have a win during that span to show for it. He owns an impressive 3.50 ERA over eighteen innings of work during his last three starts.

Notes:

— Adam Jones is simply crushing it at the moment as he’s posted multi-hit contests in five of his last eight contests. During that span, he’s gone 14-for-34 (.412) at the dish with five runs, two doubles, one homer and four RBI.

Manny Machado comes into Queens on a seven-game hitting streak. He’s hitting .321 with five runs, two doubles, three homers and three RBI over that stretch.

— Mets highly-touted shortstop Amed Rosario is starting to heat up with the weather. He’s posted four multi-hit contests over his last 10n games and is hitting .303 with four runs, one double and three RBI during that span.

— Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo is red-hot at the moment. Over his last 10 games, he’s hitting a solid .270 with eight runs, three doubles, four home runs and eight RBI. He’s also posted four mutlihit performances during his current streak of excellence.

That’s all for now, folks!

Here’s to ending the losing skid.

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Tuesday’s O’s Links: Welcome to the O’s, Grayson Rodriguez

Grayson Rodriguez pitches.

It’s very likely that the only thing that kept the O’s from getting swept in a four-game home series against the New York Yankees was the weather. Two of the four games were postponed, which is, apparently, all the mercy we can expect from the baseball gods here in 2018. The Birds now head to Queens to take on the other New York team for two before going up to Toronto. Maybe they’ll surprise us and win some games on the road trip?

Now that the team is on the road, the forecast in Baltimore is quite pleasant. There’s some poetry there, if you care to find it.

To the links.

O’s Take Grayson Rodriguez & Cadyn Grenier in Draft

The Orioles nabbed Grayson Rodriguez, a high school pitcher from Texas, with the 11th overall pick in last night’s MLB Draft, and Oregon State shortstop Cadyn Grenier with pick 37. Rodriguez was only ranked 22nd on MLB Pipeline, which had some O’s fans upset last night. It’s high school pitchers – it’s the MLB Draft…nobody knows. Don’t get too worked up over prospect rankings. The draft continues today with Rounds 3-10.

Bird’s Eye View Baltimore Episode 240: Swinging in the Rain

Jake & Scott won’t let a little rain slow them down. They fight through some less-than-ideal conditions to bring us another show, with some depressing predictions, upsetting stats, and downright miserable lack of insight and baseless opinion. Misery loves company, so give them a listen.

Signing Hanley Ramirez Would be a Smart Move

I’ve never heard of WBLZ Media before, but here’s an article someone over there wrote about the O’s and Hanley Ramirez. It’s worth reading just to point and laugh at, I suppose. We O’s fans can use any smiles we can get these days.

Machado vs. Harper & the Frenzy for the Largest Contracts in Pro Sports

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! reminds us just why – in addition to the standings – we’re so depressed as Orioles fans: because the one thing good about this franchise right now is going to be gone very soon. But hey, Manny may have passed Bryce Harper as far as value heading into free agency, so…good for him.

Buck Showalter Likes his Guys Too Much

Camden Chat’s Brice Young takes Buck to the woodshed a bit, focusing on his continued use of Craig Gentry, and his insistence on putting Chris Davis in the middle of the lineup even as he proves again and again that he’s the worst hitter in baseball. Throw in Buck’s refusal to give Chance Sisco even a sniff against left-handed pitching, and I’m right there with ya, Brice.

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