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Friday’s O’s Links: Wade Miley? More Like Weird Miley!

Wade Miley of the Orioles pitches from the mound.

Yesterday’s make-up game with the Gnats saw their JV beat our JV in a boring lopsided affair. Alec Asher threw 41 pitches in the damn first inning as Washington took a 4-0 lead, and the Birds bats’ made Joe Ross look like Max Scherzer.

The O’s now head off on a seven-game road trip to the Bronx and the south side of Chicago. They’re gonna need to start winning some games away from the Yard at some point (they were 3-12 on the road in May) if they want to stay in this thing. Now would be a good time to start.

To the links.

Wade Miley’s Weird Year

Camden Depot’s Joe Wantz tries to make sense of Weird Wade. The other night’s disaster aside, he’s been pretty reliable on one hand, but maddening to watch with all the walks on the other.

Orioles Have Played Most Difficult Schedule So Far

It’s not just your imagination.

Venue Matters as Yankees Host Orioles

A series preview over on Fox. The home team is 55-30 in this series since 2013.

Ryan Mountcastle Impressing at Frederick

Baltimore Sports and Life’s Zach Spedden with a very positive update on one of the top Baby Birds in Frederick. Could Mountcastle be ticketed for Bowie soon?

Adding Tejada Creates Questions in Orioles Infield

Andrew Stetka touched on this a bit in his Thursday Thoughts column here. In his weekly MASN guest column, Dillon Atkinson dives a little deeper into what Tejada means for the infielders around him.

 

Here’s to a great (or at least, not terrible) weekend in the Bronx, Birdland!

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Coming Up Clutch: A Look at the O’s Extra-Inning Success

Mark Trumbo crosses home plate as his teammates douse him in water to celebrate.

If you’re still pumped up about the Orioles pulling off a second walk-off win in as many days last night, you have every right to be.

On the grander scale, the Orioles will now begin their eight-game road trip with some much-needed swagger after notching an impressive 6-3 record over their latest home stand.

But a lot of the discussion as of late is this: how are the Orioles dominating in extra-innings like they have been this season?

In short, the Orioles’ sparkling 9-1 record in extra-inning games has nothing to do with luck. It’s a skill that they’ve crafted over the years as a club. Since the start of the 2012 season, the Orioles have posted an amazing 59-23 record in extra innings. They went 16-2 in extra frames in 2012 and 14-6 in 2014. Coincidentally, the Orioles were playing in October in both seasons. They haven’t had a losing record in extra innings once in the Buck Showalter era.

But what’s making this team so successful when the game goes into “free baseball?”

 

Clutch Pitching

The Orioles bullpen has been steady at times, but not up to their usual standards for stretches this season.

In extra innings however, they’ve been superb.

Brad Brach has allowed just a single hit over four scoreless innings, while Mychal Givens has allowed the same over two shutout innings. Alec Asher (2.2 IP/ 1 ER), Richard Bleier (1.2 IP, 0 ER) and Logan Verrett (5.0 IP/ 0 ER) have also shined in extra innings this season, allowing just seven hits and one run combined over 9 1/3 innings of extra-inning relief work.

While the Orioles pitching staff has obviously held their own with a 3.44 ERA allowed over 18 1/3 innings of overtime, the Orioles bats seem even more fond of the overtime spotlight.

 

Clutch Hitting

As a unit, the Orioles are hitting an incredible .375 (30-for-80) in extra-innings this season. They’ve also outscored their opponents 19-7 and out-homered them 5-to-1 during that span.

Mark Trumbo has led the way when the game goes into extras, going a stellar 7-for-11 with five runs, one homer, four RBI and four game-winning hits. Adam Jones has also come up big by going 4-for-9 with an RBI and two game-winning runs. Chris Davis (3-for-9, 2 HR, 3 RBI) single-handedly won a May game in Detroit for the Orioles by cranking two extra-inning homers, as did Welington Castillo (4-for-6, 1 HR, 3 RBI) in mid-May versus Toronto.

Now you can add Trey Mancini (3-for-7, 1 HR, 3 RBI) to this season’s list of Orioles clutch overtime performers after the star rookie hit a game-tying homer in the ninth before walking it off with a three-run shot in the 11th last night.

 

Timely Trumbo

Before we end this thing, let’s go back to Trumbo for a second and marvel at his excellence during the extra frames this season. Starting with his opening day walk-off homer versus Toronto, he’s also:

– Scored the game-winning run in the tenth inning on a J.J. Hardy RBI single versus the Reds on April 20th.

– Had an eventual game-winning RBI single in the 11th inning versus New York on April 30th. Castillo would add two more later in the inning to make it a 7-4 Orioles victory.

– Notched a 12th-inning walk-off single to score Adam Jones in the Orioles 5-4 win over the Nationals on May 9th.

– Scored Adam Jones (again) with a 10th inning walk-off single to beat the Pirates 6-5 on Tuesday.

Now THAT is clutch.

Maybe this will be the year that the ”Orioles magic” carries us into late October. Crazier things have (and will) happen.

Just don’t call the Birds’ late-inning success “luck.”

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Manny Machado Injured by Andrew McCutchen’s Slide

Andrew McCutchen slides into Manny Machado's wrist.

While last night’s O’s-Pirates short two-game series finale was awesome in the end, there were plenty of bumps along the way. In addition to Wade Miley being ineffectively wild and getting beat around when he did manage to find the strike zone, and new bullpen addition Edwin Jackson being less-than-inspiring, there was an apparent injury to Manny Machado.

During Miley’s second-inning implosion, the Pirates pulled off a double steal, with Andrew McCutchen taking third base and Elias Diaz swiping second.

McCutchen, though, should have been out. Caleb Joseph threw from his knees, and delivered a strike to Machado low and right in front of the swashbuckler’s slide. McCutchen was dead-to-rights. Walking the plank.

However, his spike hit Machado in the wrist, and appeared to get tangled in Manny’s wrist wrap. McCutchen’s leg twisted awkwardly, Manny fell backwards equally awkwardly, and in the process dropped the ball.

Safe.

McCutchen grimaced for a moment, but got up without the Pirates trainer needing to come out. Machado, though, sat on his rear end in the grass, examining his forearm and waiting for Richie Bancells to make his way out. Bancells appeared to pour some sort of liquid on Manny, probably a disinfectant, and Machado stayed in the game.

In the bottom of the third though, when Machado was due up, Ruben Tejada came out onto the on-deck circle instead. Manny was out.

After the game, Buck Showalter said that X-Rays on Manny were negative, and that the team was trying to set up an MRI for sometime today, just to “be on the safe side, see what we’re dealing with.”

It was an unfortunate play, but nothing that can be blamed on any sort of malicious intent, which Buck made sure to point out as well. Dan Duqutte happened to be in the MASN booth with Gary & Mike at the time the incident occurred, and mentioned that the slide might have been a bit high, but we’ll forgive him for being a bit upset in the moment, watching his star player in pain.

It’s also notable that the Orioles made zero effort to “retaliate” by throwing baseballs at McCutchen or any other Pirate, OR that the O’s beat writers didn’t go on Twitter and encourage such ridiculous behavior.

As for Manny, obviously the hope is that his wrist was just sore and that, at most, he’ll miss a day or two. Any time that Machado spends on the DL could be detrimental to the Birds, as he’s obviously their most talented player despite his up-and-down (mostly down) 2017 campaign to date.

On the other hand, let’s look at the bright side: maybe a few days (no more!) off will be good for him. We saw what happened when Adam Jones was forced to sit for a couple games due to minor injury just two weeks ago – he came back mashing.

Here’s to Manny doing just that, no later than say…Saturday?

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Thursday Thoughts: Can Magic Provide O’s with Some Momentum?

Orioles players pour gatorade on Trey Mancini.

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. It’s been quite a few nights for the Orioles, winning back-to-back games in extra innings after tying each in the bottom of the 9th with a two-run homer. The script couldn’t have been written in a more dramatic way for the Birds. I also couldn’t have been more satisfied to see one of my fantasy closers (Tony Watson) crash and burn in the way he did.

I am certainly not one to make a big deal out of two emotional victories, but the Orioles definitely have the potential to gain something from them. That something is momentum.

The old cliché that “you’re only as good as your next day’s starting pitcher” is a bit tired in my eyes. This team doesn’t have much by way of starting pitching, but they can still find ways to win ballgames. It’s mostly going to be by the home run and mostly going to come from a strong bullpen performance, but it can happen just as it has in years past.

2. There certainly was bad news stemming from last night’s game, and it involves the injury to Manny Machado. Perhaps it’s mostly nothing, but Machado left the game after being injured by a slide from Andrew McCutchen. Buck Showalter made it a point to say the slide was not malicious and that there would be no need for retaliation, which is how things are supposed to be handled (looking at you, Boston).

The slide was “unfortunate” though, as Showalter put it. It’s left the Orioles with an injury to their most talented player. No one really knows if this means the disabled list is in the future for Machado, but it’s obviously not ideal to have this hit to the depth. I’ve been very vocal about Machado’s struggles this year. He simply hasn’t been the player he’s capable of being, and I’d guess he’d be the first to admit to that.

If Machado has to miss even just a few games, the O’s are going to be tested in replacing their #3 hitter.

3. This week’s acquisition and subsequent call-up of Ruben Tejada told me a few things about where the Orioles stand in the infield. By no means do I think Tejada is going to step in and play as well as a certain other infielder by the same last name did for the Orioles more than a decade ago. But I do think Tejada now plays a crucial role.

First it tells me that Ryan Flaherty is going to be out for some more time. It doesn’t seem like there’s a quick fix in place for the utility infielder, so Tejada can be that in the interim.

Looking ahead a bit further, I feel like the Orioles could be viewing Tejada as a possible stopgap at shortstop. If J.J. Hardy fails to reach the 600-plate appearance mark this season, it’s very unlikely that he’ll be back in Baltimore next year. Tejada could be a player the O’s view as a plug for that spot. He could also very well be a player that helps to prevent Hardy from getting to that benchmark needed to vest his $14-million option for next season.

I don’t think anyone believes the Tejada acquisition was a major one, but it could end up starting a ripple effect in the O’s infield.

4. The other roster shakeup the Orioles made this week was calling up Edwin Jackson ahead of his opt-out from the team. Jackson is going to work out of the bullpen after replacing Donnie Hart on the 25-man roster. What’s confusing to me is that I really have no idea how the O’s plan to use Jackson, a veteran and former starter.

Is he now the team’s long-man out of the bullpen? Where does that leave Ubaldo Jimenez? How is Jimenez still actually on the roster? Will Jackson simply be a three-out type of pitcher?

The 33-year-old made a less-than-promising debut last night by allowing two runs in 2.2 innings of relief.

It was interesting that the O’s didn’t make a move to keep Michael Bourn around ahead of his opt-out last week. Bourn went on to sign a minor-league deal with the Angels. Instead, they’ve made room for Jackson, who appears to be “just another guy” in a bullpen that certainly needs all the help it can get.

5. The 2017 MLB Draft gets underway on Monday, and the Orioles will have the 21st overall selection. Dan Duquette has indicated the Orioles will be looking for pitching that can impact the team sooner rather than later, but isn’t that always the case? Last year the Birds selected Cody Sedlock out of the University of Illinois.

Baseball’s draft is an incredible crapshoot, but you may be surprised to realize that in the last decade, five of the O’s top picks have actually turned into contributing players on the big league roster. That’s not a bad percentage. Obviously it’s tough to even take players like Sedlock or 2015 picks D.J. Stewart and Ryan Mountcastle into consideration at this point. It’s simply too early. But the O’s had Matt Wieters, Brian Matusz, Manny Machado, Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman all turn into big league players from that crop.

Where the Orioles must improve is in the deeper parts of the draft, and in development. With such a depleted farm system, the Orioles can’t just make great picks. They also have to mold those picks into talents that can contribute.

Otherwise, the whole operation simply gets thrown out of whack.

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Series Preview: Orioles (29-26) vs. Pirates (26-31)

Kevin Gausman vs. Ivan Nova.

After breaking even against the Red Sox over the weekend, the Orioles will now host the Pittsburgh Pirates for a quick two-game set to conclude their nine-game stand at Camden Yards.

While some may not consider this to be as bad-blooded as the other historic Baltimore vs Pittsburgh rivalry, Birdland veterans will beg to differ. This is still the same club that snatched two titles away from the Orioles back in the golden era of the 1970’s.

The Orioles have only played the Pirates sixteen times since 2005, but when I talk to my parents, relatives or fans that still remember the Pirates winning game seven at Memorial Stadium in the 1971 World Series or coming back from 3-1 down (and again winning game seven at Memorial Stadium) to snatch the 1979 World Series title away from the Birds, there’s a lot of resentment that still lingers.

I think it’s safe to say that the Orioles don’t consider the Pirates as “Family.”

The Orioles (29-26) find themselves in the middle of a five-horse race for the division title and trail the first-place Yankees by 3.5-games. The second place Red Sox are just 1.5-games out of reach, but the fourth-place Rays are just two games behind the Orioles and the cellar-dwelling Blue Jays are only 2.5-games back. It’s going to be an intense summer.

They’ll be looking to build upon their sparkling 19-10 record at Camden Yards before hitting the road for an eight-game stretch.

The Pirates (26-31) find themselves in the cellar of the clustered NL Central division, and only trail the first place Cubs (29-27) by 3.5-games as they roll into town. The Pirates have notched a dismal 12-18 record away from PNC Park on the year.

However, things have started to look up for the visitors as of late. They’ve gone a respectable 5-5 over their last ten games, including taking two of three from the Mets in New York over the weekend.

For the Orioles’ sake, hopefully the Pirates cool down a bit after their red-hot weekend in NYC. They notched twelve runs in Friday’s 12-7 win and then followed up by posting eleven runs in Sunday’s 11-1 dismantling of the Mets at Citi Field.

Let’s take a look at the starters that will be faced with said task:

 

Game One

Kevin Gausman (3-4, 5.92 ERA) will take on former longtime Yankee Ivan Nova (5-4, 2.92 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

After going through a nightmare month of April, Gausman has steadily turned his season around and has posted an impressive 2-1 record and 3.50 ERA over his last three starts. In six starts at Camden Yards this season, Gausman is 2-1 with a 4.54 ERA.

Nova hit the ground running this season with a 3-2 record and a stellar 1.50 ERA over five starts in April, but has come down a bit since, going 2-2 with a decent 4.17 ERA over six starts in May. Still, Nova has posted quality starts in nine of his eleven outings on the year. He’s 2-2 with an impressive 3.09 ERA in six starts on the road in 2017.

 

Game Two

Wade Miley (2-3, 2.82 ERA) will take the mound against Chad Kuhl (1-5, 6.02 ERA) in the series finale on Wednesday.

Miley has been superb for the Orioles as of late, and after holding the Red Sox to just a single run over seven stellar innings in his last start, he now owns a sparkling 2.37 ERA over his last three starts. The Orioles southpaw has also been incredible at Camden Yards this season and owns a 1.01 ERA over five starts in front of the OPACY faithful.

After breaking into the Pirates rotation last season, Kuhl has hit the sophomore slump in his second season in the bigs. However, the Delaware alum has posted a decent 4.40 ERA over his last three outings and owns a solid 3.80 ERA over four starts away from PNC Park on the year.

 

Notes

– Since 2011, the Orioles have gone 7-3 versus Pittsburgh. They’ve also gone 5-0 versus the Pirates at Camden Yards during that span as well.

– The Pirates five-time All-Star and 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen (.232, 9 HR, 28 RBI) will be at Camden Yards this week. While he might be having a down year by his standards, he’s still a joy to watch play baseball and has a good shot at ending up in Cooperstown when it’s all said and done.

– In eleven career inter-league starts, Gausman has posted a 3-6 record and a 5.31 ERA. He’ll be making his first career start versus Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

– Look for Wade Miley to continue his red-hot run of form on Wednesday. He’s gone 2-2 with an impressive 3.11 ERA over six career starts versus the Pirates.

– In sixteen career starts versus the Orioles, Ivan Nova has notched a 8-4 record despite owning a 5.01 ERA. He owns a 3-1 record and a 5.44 ERA through eight career starts at Camden Yards.

Adam Jones (9-for-46) and Manny Machado (5-for-25) have struggled against Nova in the past, but J.J. Hardy (11-for-39), and Jonathan Schoop (4-for-10) have done well versus the former Yankee while Chris Davis (.281, 3 HR, 10 RBI) and Mark Trumbo (.476, 3 HR, 5 RBI) have done some major damage.

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The Rundown: Can Gausman Slow Down Pirates’ Pillaging Offense?

Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop gets ready to defend.

After taking the first two games against the Boston Red Sox, the Orioles dropped the final two even though both were winnable games. The O’s begin a two-game series against the last place Pittsburgh Pirates which should be good news, but due to their struggles outside the American League East, maybe it isn’t.

The Pirates have scored at least 11 runs in two of their last three games so Kevin Gausman will get the first crack at slowing down a red-hot offense. Even though it hasn’t looked pretty, the right-hander hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in each of his last three starts and four of his last five.

The next step for Gausman is to begin striking hitters out again as he is currently striking out 6.4 hitters per nine innings which is a career low. To put it in perspective, Gausman struck out 8.7 hitters per nine innings last year. He would also do well to stop putting so many guys on base – his WHIP is an unseemly 1.84, highest among qualified MLB starters and well above his 1.37 career average.

 

Schoop Continues to Hit

After two more doubles on Sunday, the second baseman has 17 for the season which ranks third in baseball at his position. Jonathan Schoop will never be confused with a patient hitter, but he at least is on pace to set a career high in walks and on-base percentage. The 25-year-old is also on pace for a career high in slugging percentage.

The key for Schoop is avoiding a second half slump like last season. If we look at the first half of last year, Schoop was actually better than he is now and a lot of that has to do with a monster June so we will see what happens over the next month. Schoop finished the first half of 2016 with a .304 batting average to go along with 14 home runs, 52 RBIs and 23 doubles. He also had a .338 on base percentage.

Like the rest of the offense, Schoop slumped in the second half as he only hit .225. I still think Buck Showalter needs to rest his starters more often to avoid the struggles in the second half that we have seen over the last few seasons so that is something worth monitoring.

If Schoop can put together a full season and stay consistent, there’s no telling how much better he can get over the next couple of years.

 

A Look at Some Former Orioles

I watched a lot of baseball over the weekend (too much to admit) and saw plenty of former Orioles in action. Zach Davies of the Milwaukee Brewers had a strong start on Sunday as he pitched six shutout innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers while striking out six. For the season, the right-hander has a 4.69 ERA, so he’s not exactly pitching lights-out.

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GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

The one pitcher who continues to get better is Seattle Mariners starter Ariel Miranda as he pitched a complete game on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays. The left-hander struck out nine and now has a 3.74 ERA for the year.

The biggest shock came on Saturday when I saw a lanky left-hander enter the game for the Arizona Diamondbacks. T.J. McFarland pitched 1 2/3 innings and struck out two in his appearance. For the season, the lefty has appeared in 11 games and has a 0.55 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and has picked up three wins as a reliever. McFarland has also struck out 11 in 16 1/3 innings.

The fact McFarland is actually pitching well blows my mind. I’m not sure what to make of any of this, but thought it was worth sharing.

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Tuesday’s O’s Links: Darren O’Day Using His Slider Differently

Darren O'Day pitches.

It was a bit of a frustrating weekend, as the Birds lost the final two games of their four-game set with Boston after taking the first two. Still, we’d have all gladly accepted 4-3 against New York and the Red Sox after losing seven straight, right? Now, the O’s really need to start winning games against non-AL East opponents, especially sub-.500 teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are in for two starting tonight.

To the links.

Machado Presents Greatest Conundrum in Years for O’s

Our own Andrew Stetka, writing in his weekly MASN guest column, talks about Manny Machado and the dilemma he presents to the organization. They probably aren’t going to sign him long-term, but they also aren’t going to get full value for him if they trade him. Perhaps the best thing for us fans to do is not worry about it, but to instead just enjoy him while he’s here.

Darren O’Day’s Small Change in Slider Use

Camden Depot’s Nate Delong noticed that Darren O’Day has been using his slider differently against left-handed batters so far in 2017. He’s been better against lefties overall than we’re used to seeing, so perhaps the two are related.

Bird’s Eye View Episode 204: Bye Bye, Big Boy

Scott is back in studio this week, and he and Jake talk about the Birds pulling out of their recent tailspin. They also bid adieu adieu to Fred Manfra.

It’s Time for the Orioles to Move on From Ubaldo Jimenez

Ah, the ol’ evergreen article. Finally, here in 2017, it makes at least a bit of financial sense for the team to part ways with their big 2014 free agent pitching acquisition. After he blew up out of the bullpen on Saturday night, Camden Chat’s Mark Brown has finally seen enough Ubie.

Orioles Fact/Opinion

Rob Shields’ latest fact/opinion column on the Birds over at Baltimore Sports and Life is a few days old, but I missed it in last week’s links and I always enjoy it, so consider this my mea culpa, Rob.

 

Let’s keep that Jolly Roger in storage over the next two nights!

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Week in Review: Bouncing Back in Birdland

Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop tags a Yankee runner as he goes by.

Say it with me.

Anything is better than a seven-game losing streak.

Despite allowing the Red Sox to slip away from Camden Yards with a pair of wins over the weekend, the Orioles showed true grit by taking two of three from the first-place Yankees and two of four from the second-place Red Sox right after their week from hell ended in Houston.

This team still has a pulse, and they’ve shown that they won’t go out in the race for the division title without a fight. First place is still just 3.5-games out of reach, and there’s still 107 games left on the schedule. Get your popcorn ready.

While it would have been groovy to take the series from the ‘Sox after winning the first two games of the four-game set, all I’m asking is can we really complain?

The answer is no. Not after how fast the Orioles pulled themselves out of a slumber and turned it around. Things could have gotten a lot worse against the division’s top two teams if the O’s had any type of hangover from their losing skid, but instead, they played great baseball (for the most part) and now that ugly two-week stretch in Mid-May seems like ancient history.

Don’t worry, be happy Birdland. This team’s pulse isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and they’re in the fight for the long haul.

Buckle up.

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

– Dominating the back yard: After going 4-3 this week at Camden Yards, the Orioles’ 19-10 record at home is good for fourth-best in the majors.

– The noisy neighbors: The Orioles have now gone an impressive 21-13 versus the AL East this season, including a 12-10 combined record versus the Yankees and Red Sox and a 14-7 mark against in-division rivals at OPACY.

– A resurgence? After hitting an off-key run of form in late May, the Orioles offense is starting to rev up again as we enter the summer months. Over the last five ballgames, the Orioles are hitting .286 as a unit while scoring 25 runs (5.0 per game) to go along with nine homers. They’ve also gone 11-for-39 (.282) with runners in scoring position during that span.

– What gives? Despite owning a stellar 2.85 ERA as a unit over the previous 14 games going into the Boston series, the Orioles bullpen was tagged to the tune of a 6.94 ERA over 11 2/3 innings against the Red Sox. Here’s hoping this was just a minor blip on an otherwise smooth sea.

– A turnaround? Orioles starters haven’t been able to find long-term consistency this season, but after notching a horrid 6.85 ERA in the previous nine games before the clash with the Red Sox, they recorded a stellar 2.96 ERA versus Boston, allowing just eight earned runs in 24 1/3 innings. Wade Miley and Alec Asher turned in sparkling gems as well, so hopefully they can help Dylan Bundy carry the torch down the stretch.

– Good times on the horizon? The Orioles seem to always kick it into high gear in the month of June. They went 19-9 last June, 18-10 in June 2015, and 16-12 in June 2014. Let’s hope for more of the same this year.

– Hanging the socks:  Whether it’s due to the drama that transpired earlier this season or not, Manny Machado loves to stick it to Boston. He finished the series against the Red Sox having gone 6-for-15 (.400) at the dish with five runs, two homers and two RBI. Considering that Machado snapped into form right after going 0-for-14 against the Yankees makes his performance versus Boston even more impressive.

After not giving out any awards last week due to the nightmare on Eutaw Street, we’re getting back to it after a pretty promising week in Birdland!

Let’s announce the stars of the week already…

Third Star

Trey Mancini. The Orioles star rookie doesn’t seem to be cooling down. After going 4-for-11 with an RBI versus the Yankees, Mancini followed up by going 4-for-12 with two doubles and another RBI versus Boston. In total, he finished the week hitting a stellar 8-for-23 (.348). Over his last 24 games, Mancini is has gone a sensational 28-for-83 (.337) at the plate with two homers and 13 RBI.

 

Second Star

Jonathan Schoop. While his six-game hitting streak came to a halt on Saturday, Schoop followed up a solid performance against the Yankees by going 6-for-15 (.400) with two doubles, one homer and four RBI versus Boston. The Orioles second baseman is now hitting .355 (11-for-31) with four doubles, three homers and nine RBI over his last eight games. Over his last 13 contests, Schoop has gone a sparkling 16-for-48 (.333) at the plate with three homers and ten RBI.

 

First Star

Chris Davis. After coming to life versus the Yankees (3-for-12, 1 HR, 3 RBI), Davis stayed dialed in and finished the series versus Boston having gone 4-for-15 with a homer and three RBI. It seems as if “Crush” is starting to awaken, and that’s always a good thing for the Orioles. And a very, very bad thing for the rest of the American League. Over the course of his current-six game hitting streak, Davis is hitting .304 (7-for-23) with two home runs and six RBI.

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So Long, Fred Manfra

Fred Manfra in the Orioles broadcast booth.

Fred Manfra stepped away from the Orioles broadcast booth for a final time yesterday and I hope you’ll join me in a toast for the man behind the mic.

Say what you want about digital media, but you’ll never have a relationship with a tweet like you’ll have with that guy or gal on the radio. I have been fortunate in my life to work with several people who have been called the “Voice Of” the team that they have called games for. These folks (and the ones on TV) become your friends and in a lot of cases their call is the soundtrack to many visual highlights.

Manfra is the anti-John Sterling and I have greatly appreciated it.  Sure there have been Trum-bombs, but not every home run call was scripted. There were often unpredictable surprises. Adjustments on the fly were required.

Manfra has been a stable voice and one that did exactly what you’re supposed to do…give the score as often as you can and tell people what is happening on the field in front of you. Seems simple, but also seems lost on many folks I hear in the broadcast booth these days. How many times have you sat in your car and listened for what seemed like an hour before finally hearing what the score was?

Baltimore is not an easy town in which to do radio play-by-play. Like no shortstop will be Cal Ripken, no broadcaster will ever be Chuck Thompson – or Jon Miller for that matter. Every Oriole victory gets a tweet from this very website that quotes the aforementioned Thompson. He was a guy that made us want to go to war with Miss Agnes in the worst of times and drink the coldest of beers during the good ones.

Miller was the voice of my formative years and an incredible broadcaster before becoming a bit of a caricature of himself while at ESPN. Either way, both were great and an unfair measuring stick for those who have followed.

Manfra will live on differently in our minds than Chuck and Jon, but because of his longevity, his voice is one that has become synonymous with Orioles baseball for many.

Fred, we could tell that you were right there with us rooting for The Birds, but you did it without being a homer and without crazy crutch catch phrases.

Your voice will be missed, but not forgotten.

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#Staturday: Congrats to Adam Jones!

Adam Jones sunglasses.

We’re back in the win column and dang does it feel great. Along with a few wins, come a few stats. Let’s get to ‘em!

Earlier this week, Adam Jones made Orioles’ history:

On Wednesday night, Adam Jones hit an infield single in the 8th inning, notching his 1,500th hit as an Oriole.

Although they haven’t quite been the sluggers of the past, the Orioles are still pretty good at hitting home runs:

On Thursday, the Orioles blasted four home runs against the Red Sox. This marks their fifth four-homer game, tied for the MLB lead in 2017.

The Orioles’ submarine reliever has started showing signs of life of his old, lights-out self:

Darren O’Day over his last twelve appearances:

12.0 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 20 Ks

Wade Miley racked up another impressive start Thursday night, moving himself to the top of the Birds’ list:

Oriole performances of 7+ IP with 0 or 1 ER in 2017:

Wade Miley – 3
Dylan Bundy – 2
Ubaldo Jimenez – 1

For more stats like these, follow @BirdlandStats on Twitter.

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Friday’s O’s Links: Pedro Alvarez Hanging Around…For Now

Pedro Alvarez of the Orioles prepares to hit.

Things may be looking up a bit, Birdland. The sun finally cracked through the clouds for more than a few hours, and the O’s have won three of their past four. For the second straight night, they built a 7-1 lead over a team currently ahead of them in the AL East standings. It won’t be easy this weekend, but this is a different team against divisional foes.

To the links.

Two Little Birds

The Ringer’s Michael Baumann penned the article that would have made O’s fans swoon back in 2011 or so. He details the rise of both Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy, and man is it a fun read. Not as fun as watching Manny play every night for the last five years or Bundy pitch every fifth day this season has been, but close.

Does Manny Machado Have a Contact Problem?

Matt Kremnitzer of Camden Depot is the latest to try to figure out what the heck is wrong with Manny. Matt noticed that his lack of contact across the board could be part of the problem.

Machado’s Weird Contact

Expanding on the above point is Andrew Perpetua of FanGraphs, who says that when Manny DOES make contact, odd things are happening. Take heart, however, as he thinks we are just saying some extreme random variation, as opposed to anything that throws up red flags.

O’s & Pedro Alvarez Reach “Temporary Resolution”

El Toro had an opt out in his contract yesterday, but reached an agreement with the club to stay on for a bit. How long “a bit” is, nobody really knows, reports Dan Connolly of Baltimore Baseball.

Bird’s Eye View Episode 203: Things Look Pretty Bleach

Jake and Scott….er, Jake and Charlie Hoppes of Orioles Spastics fame recorded a bit late this week. If you stopped checking for a new BEV episode on Wednesday, get on over and listen to the new one now!

Have a great weekend, Birdland. Hopefully we’re talking about another series win on Monday.

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Series Preview: Orioles (27-24) vs. Red Sox (29-23)

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

After picking up two huge wins against the first-place Yankees, the Orioles will be looking to do more of the same against the second-place Red Sox.

I know it’s only June 1st, but since the Orioles came into the series against the Yankees on a seven-game skid and mired in a 3-13 slump, the two wins notched against a surging Yankees squad was surely the shot in the arm that the Orioles needed. Their season was starting to sing a somber tune in a hurry.

There’s still 111 games left on the schedule if you were wondering, folks. This probably won’t be the last time that we hit some turbulence.

The Orioles (29-23) come into the four-game set against the Red Sox just 1.5-games off the pace of the visitors for second place in the division. A few satisfactory results will put the Orioles right back on the Yankees heels’ in the chase for first. The top of the table is just 3.5-games out of reach, and with the Yankees going to visit the red-hot Blue Jays this weekend, the Orioles have a golden chance to move back up the early-season standings.

The Red Sox (29-23) will also be looking to make a challenge for first place this weekend as they trail the Yanks by just two games. A late-May surge resulted in the ‘Sox ending the month with a 16-12 mark, while they’ve also really hit top gear as of late with eight wins in their last ten ballgames.

The Orioles have posted a stellar 59-44 record versus Boston since the start of the 2012 season, but they saw their run of five straight season-series wins against the ‘Sox snapped last season. The O’s are up 5-4 in this year’s edition so far.

Will the Orioles keep the good vibes flowing this weekend, or will their long-time rivals spoil the party?

It should be fun to watch. Let’s go to the starters:

 

Game One

Wade Miley (1-3, 3.02 ERA) will take the mound in the series opener tonight versus Eduardo Rodriguez (4-1, 2.77 ERA).

Miley was tagged for four runs on eight hits over five innings in his last start versus Houston, but still ended the month of May with a solid 3.97 ERA over five starts despite going winless. Miley has been sensational at Camden Yards this season and owns a sparkling 0.92 ERA over four starts in front of the home crowd.

Rodriguez has been stellar for the Red Sox this season, and will be confident going forward after shutting down the dangerous Seattle Mariners lineup over six scoreless innings during his last outing. The southpaw concluded the month of May with a perfect 3-0 record and a superb 2.81 ERA over five starts. The former Orioles prospect also owns an impressive 3-1 record and 3.32 ERA in six starts on the road in 2017.

 

Game Two

Alec Asher (1-3, 3.77 ERA) will take on reigning Cy Young winner Rick Porcello (3-6, 4.21 ERA) in Friday’s matchup.

Asher will be making his fourth start of the season, but will be hoping for a better outcome after getting drilled for six runs on six hits over just two innings in his last outing versus Houston. However, Asher will finally be making his first start of the year at Camden Yards where he owns a miniscule 0.87 ERA over 10 1/3 innings to date.

Porcello hasn’t hit his CY Young-form just yet this season, but let’s hope he waits at least one more start to flip the switch. He ended the month of May with a rock-solid 2-3 record and 3.79 ERA over six starts. Like Rodriguez, Porcello has also impressed away from Fenway this season and has notched a 2.77 ERA over four starts.

 

Game Three

Orioles ace Dylan Bundy (6-3, 2.89 ERA) will get the ball against David Price (0-1, 5.40 ERA) on Saturday.

After shutting down the Yankees to the tune of just two runs on seven hits over seven innings, Bundy has now allowed two runs or fewer in eight of his eleven starts on the year. His joint MLB-best ten quality starts on the year are only matched by Michael Fulmer of the Tigers. Bundy has also been sensational at Camden Yards this season and owns a 4-1 record and a 2.23 ERA over six starts.

Price was forced to miss the first two months of the season after suffering an elbow injury in Spring Training, but the former Cy Young winner looked pretty sharp in his season debut against the White Sox on May 29th. A three-run home run to Melky Cabrera was his only mistake as he allowed just two hits over five innings in a losing effort. The O’s will be hoping that all of the rust didn’t come off as Price owns a stellar 11-5 record and 2.88 ERA over 24 career starts versus Baltimore.

 

Game Four

Chris Tillman (1-2, 5.87 ERA) will take on Chris Sale (6-2, 2.77 ERA) in the series finale on Sunday.

Making his sixth start of the 2017 campaign, Tillman will be looking to erase the memory of his last time out. He allowed five runs on seven hits over 2 2/3 innings versus the Yankees and now owns a dismal 5.79 ERA over four starts at home. The good news is that Tillman has shredded the Red Sox over twenty career starts and owns a 10-3 record and a stellar 2.95 ERA versus Boston.

After recording a phenomenal 1.19 ERA over five starts in April, Sale posted a mortal 4.24 ERA over six starts in May and still finished the month with a 4-0 record. Over six career starts against the Orioles, Sale has gone 3-2 with a 3.19 ERA. Over four career starts at Camden Yards however, Sale has been more Cy Young-caliber with a 2.49 ERA.

 

Notes

– The balanced Red Sox make up yet another tough task for the Orioles. They rank fourth in the AL with a 3.84 team ERA while also boasting the fifth-best offense in the AL (4.8 runs per game).

– Rodriguez has posted an impressive 3.46 ERA over eight career starts versus his former parent club, but he’s been absolutely lights out at Camden Yards with a 1.34 ERA over six starts. What might have been…

– As if it wasn’t hard enough to beat him, David Price has recorded an immaculate 6-0 record and a 3.14 ERA over ten career starts at Camden Yards.

– The Orioles sluggers haven’t fared well versus Rodriguez. Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Chris Davis have all gone 4-for-19 (.211) against him, Jonathan Schoop is 2-for-13 (.154) and Mark Trumbo has gone 0-for-14. That’s a combined 14-84 (.166) among the big guns.

– The Orioles have mixed results versus Porcello. Seth Smith (9-for-22), J.J. Hardy (11-for-30), Trumbo (.310, 3 HR, 7 RBI) and Machado (9-for-30) have all drilled him in the past. Jones (.229, 3 HR, 9 RBI) and Davis (.205, 3 HR, 7 RBI) have done decent against him as well despite the low batting averages.

-Despite Price’s excellence against the Orioles, there are a few on the team that have seen him well over the years. Hardy (14-for-51), Davis (10-for-35), Machado (10-for-34) and Trumbo (9-for-34) are all .265+ hitters against the ‘Sox superstar. Jones (16-for-66) has seen him the most out of anyone on the team.

– Trumbo (5-for-17), Machado (4-for-12) and Hardy (4-for-15) have held their own against superstar Sale. Jones (4-for-17), Schoop (2-for-10) and Davis (1-for-12) cannot say the same.

 

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

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O’s Stock Report – May

Dylan Bundy winds up in a spring training game.

We all know that May was a rough month for the Orioles. In a month consisting of a horrid seven-game losing streak and a 3-13 skid, the Orioles finished the month with their worst record in a single month since they went 11-18 in August of 2015.

After posting a joint MLB-best 15-8 record in April, the Orioles ended the month of May with a 12-16 mark.

Still, even after going through their roughest skid in years, the Orioles (27-24) remain in the thick of the pennant chase as we approach the one-third mark of the season. The Yankees are just 3.5-games up at the top of the table, while the Red Sox own just a 1.5-game advantage over the Orioles for second place.

While letting an early-season grip on first place slip was disheartening, it’s in the past now. From here on out, it’s game on.

But before June baseball officially kicks off tonight versus Boston, let’s take a quick look back on the squad and see how they’re all trending.

We’ll kick this off with the positional players.

Chris Davis of the Orioles rounds the bases.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

 

Positional Players

Welington Castillo: After coming back from a nagging neck injury in mid-May, Castillo exploded back onto the scene with a .320 average, three homers and eleven RBI in just 12 games. However, Castillo is now back on the DL with a ”groin” injury. Get well soon, Welington!

Stock: Up

Caleb Joseph: Joseph filled in superbly while Castillo was sidelined with a neck ailment earlier this month and finished the month of May with an impressive .277 average, six doubles, one homer and eight RBI over 19 games. He’ll look to keep his bounce-back season going in June now that Castillo is sidelined again.

Stock: Up

Chris Davis: While off-key for most of the month, Davis ended the month with eight homers and 16 RBI. He also hit just .222 and struck out 46 times in 99 at-bats. The Orioles need more from their big-money first baseman.

Stock: Down

Jonathan Schoop: Schoop did go through a lengthy home run drought, but still ended the month with a respectable .263 average, two home runs and eight RBI to go along with a whopping ten doubles.

Stock: Up

J.J. Hardy: Hardy put a nightmare month of April behind him by posting a decent .240 average to go with three doubles, two homers and eleven RBI in May. He’s still steady at shortstop, though his range has clearly declined.

Stock: Even

Manny Machado: Machado will not look back on May of 2017 fondly. While the Orioles superstar ended the month with five doubles, six homers and twelve RBI, he hit a dreadful .191 at the plate and struck out 31 times to just six walks in 115 at-bats. Hopefully Machado will start to heat up with the summer months.

Stock: Down

Seth Smith: A late-May skid derailed a stellar start to the month of May for the Orioles newcomer, but Smith still finished the month with a .289 average, two doubles, two homers, six RBI and a .345 OBP.

Stock: Up

Adam Jones: Jonesy went through a roller coaster of a month. He started out the month on a wicked cold streak, then went on a seven-game hitting tear, picked up a knock that sidelined him for four games, and then came back to club a homer and post five RBI versus New York in his first game back. While he finished May with a lowly .228 average, he also posted five homers and 15 RBI.

Stock: Even

Trey Mancini: Mancini kept his stellar rookie season going by hitting an incredible .342 at the plate with four doubles, two homers, 12 RBI and a .398 OBP over 22 games in May.

Stock: Up

Mark Trumbo: Trumbo snapped into a red-hot run of form at the turn of the month and stayed there all month long. The O’s star slugger posted a stellar .324 average to go along with 21 runs, six doubles, five homers, 15 RBI and a .385 OBP. He was also the only player on the squad that stayed in the line-up for all of the 28 games in May.

Stock: Up

Joey Rickard: While criticized for a few defensive miscues in centerfield, Rickard posed a solid .278 average along with three doubles, one homer, five RBI and a .316 OBP through 23 games last month.

Stock: Up-ish

Hyun Soo Kim: Kim appeared in just eleven games this month for reasons unknown. He saw only 26 at-bats in May and hit .231.

Stock: Down (buy low candidate!)

Onto the pitchers:

Kevin Gausman of the Orioles pitches on the mound.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

 

Starters

Dylan Bundy: Bundy continues to lead the way among Orioles starters, and it would be scary to imagine where the O’s would be without him this season. He finished the month of May with a 3-2 record and a 3.92 ERA over six starts.

Stock: Up

Kevin Gausman: It would have been easy for Gausman to roll over this season after such a brutal month of April, but he showed true resilience this month by posting a solid 2-2 record and 4.30 ERA over six starts in May.

Stock: Up

Chris Tillman: Tillman did not find his groove during his first month back with the squad and finished the month of May with a 1-2 record and an alarming 5.87 ERA, 1.87 WHIP and .323 BAA over five starts.

Stock: Down

Wade Miley: Miley didn’t light it up like he did in April, but he still posted a solid 3.97 ERA over five starts in May despite going 0-2 in the box score.

Stock: Even

Alec Asher: Asher supplanted Ubaldo Jimenez as the fifth starter in the rotation after a stellar run of form in the bullpen. While his last start against Houston didn’t go as planned, things are still looking up for the Orioles newcomer. He finished the month of May with a 4.37 ERA over nine games (two starts).

Stock: Even

Brad Brach looks in for a sign from the catcher.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

 

Bullpen

Brad Brach: It was an up-and-down month for the Orioles de facto star closer as he finished it with a 5.40 ERA over eleven appearances, but he still finished the month with a career-high six saves out of eight opportunities.

Stock: Even

Mychal Givens: After struggling through the first half of May, Givens began to bounce back as the month rolled along and finished it with a 4.73 ERA over 13 contests.

Stock: Even

Ubaldo Jimenez: He’s back in the bullpen after losing his spot in the rotation to Asher. Jimenez didn’t help his sky-high ERA by posting a 5.96 ERA over five games (three starts) in May.

Stock: Down

Darren O’Day: After knocking off the rust of a lost season in April, O’Day was sensational through 11 appearances in May and finished the month with a stellar 1.64 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and a .158 BAA. The long-time fan and clubhouse favorite also racked up eighteen Ks in eleven innings.

Stock: Up

Richard Bleier: Another Orioles newcomer, Bleier impressed after being called up in early May and has notched an impressive 2.84 ERA and 1.26 WHIP over his first nine games as an Oriole.

Stock: Up

Looking above, we see more ups than downs – so how does the team finish 12-16 in that case? Well, the downs are guys that the Birds are really counting on – Machado, Davis, Tillman – to lead the way. Some other guys may have turned it on, but with those three being so off their respective games, the margin of error was slim (lots of close losses), but too much to overcome on most nights.

Here’s to those three righting the ship, and the supporting cast continuing to do their part.

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Chris Davis Made An Adjustment

It’s no secret that Chris Davis has been having an awful 2017 campaign. Other than a couple few-game stretches where he got hot, he’s been abysmal, driving O’s fans crazy with his constant strikeouts (far too many of which come with him never taking the bat off his shoulder). He is striking out in 38% of his at-bats, over 6% above his career average. His 109 wRC+ would be his second-lowest as an Oriole, better than only his somehow-even-worse 2014 campaign.

So yeah, Davis hasn’t been good.

But what makes things even more frustrating, at least for this Orioles fan, is that Davis never seems to make any adjustments to his approach. His stance is the same. He keeps using a bat the size of a large tree branch (which, if I remember correctly, he learned to do from Jim Thome back in 2012). He seemingly makes zero effort to fight off pitches with two strikes, or to exploit the shift that teams employ against him.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then perhaps Davis’ locker should be moved from Oriole Park at Camden Yards to Sheppard Pratt Hospital.

Last night though, a glimmer of hope.

Here is Davis getting ready to hit a couple weeks ago against Detroit:

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And now, last night:

Chris Davis stands in the batter's box against the Yankees.

The difference is subtle, but it’s there. His stance is noticeably more closed in the second photo. Here, let’s take a look at another from a recent home game, to account for the difference in CF camera angle between the two stadiums.

Chris Davis gets ready to swing against the White Sox.

Ok, now it’s more obvious, right? His right foot is definitely further from the plate in the older photo, resulting in a more open stance. Last night, he had closed things up significantly.

Regardless of whether or not this new stance works out for him, I give the adjustment two thumbs up. While I don’t expect Davis to be Cal Ripken Jr. up there trying out every ridiculous stance in the book, it’s nice to see him accepting that something is broke, and thus needs fixing.

 

First-Pitch Swings

That wasn’t the only change Davis appeared to make last night, however. In his four at-bats, he swung at the first pitch twice. For those of us used to watching Davis simply stand idly by as he falls down in the count 0-1 (then fouling off strike two before watching strike three), this also came as a breath of fresh air. While there are plenty of Orioles who we’d like to see be LESS aggressive at the dish, especially early in counts, Davis’ career-low Z-swing% of 56.1% suggests that he could certainly benefit by ambushing some of these pitchers who think they can just throw any get-me-over pitch early in the count to get ahead of him.

Right now, Davis is walking 12.5% of the time, the same clip at which he did so in 2015, when he swung at 67.8% of the strikes he saw. This suggests that he can certainly stand to swing at a few more strikes and still get on base via the free pass at an acceptable clip.

No longer can I complain about Davis not making any adjustments. If the results don’t come, I’ll certainly still find something to moan about there, but at least it’s now obvious that he’s trying new things out.

So, how were the early results?

Last night, for the first time since May 14, Davis did NOT strike out, breaking a streak of 14 consecutive games with a K.

Will the adjustment help over the long term? Of course, only time will tell. I’m resigned to the fact that Davis is now just Chris, The Artist Formerly Known as Crush. But if he can get that wRC+ back up in the 140 range of 2015, it will go a long way to helping this team get back on the winning track.

Here’s hoping these adjustments go a long way toward doing just that.

(Hat tip to Matt Perison for pointing this out)

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Thursday Thoughts: Don’t Expect O’s to Sell at the Deadline

Manny Machado swings.

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. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that watching your favorite team lose a bunch of games stinks. The Orioles have seen their fair share of losing recently, and it does indeed stink. The recent seven-game losing streak caused many O’s fans to have flashbacks to what is commonly referred to as the “Dark Ages” (1998-2011), and with good reason.

Each game looked a lot like any example of a game from that era. It is important to remember though, that this isn’t that era. There’s been quite a bit of talk recently about blowing things up and starting over. That’s not in this team’s mindset. It’s not something the Orioles are inclined to do, because they believe they can contend this season.

For the record, they aren’t wrong. This is a team that is not all that different from the one that went to the postseason a year ago. A few changes have been made here and there, but, the core remains intact.

If you are anxiously awaiting a big fire sale at the trade deadline, you may be left disappointed.

2. There’s a big issue with the Orioles removing Ubaldo Jimenez from the rotation. It’s not the fact that it was based on performance. In no way does Jimenez’s performance warrant his inclusion. Instead, it’s the replacement that the O’s came up with. To be completely fair, there isn’t a suitable replacement for Jimenez right now. Alec Asher isn’t that player. I’m not just basing that on his awful turn at replacing Jimenez’s spot. Asher isn’t a great option based on what we’ve seen from him overall.

It’s just like Gabriel Ynoa or Tyler Wilson aren’t suitable replacements. Mike Wright, Vidal Nuno and Jayson Aquino aren’t good options either. The biggest issue with all of this requires playing revisionist history and realizing that the Orioles didn’t adequately upgrade their pitching this offseason in order to make up for poor performance by players like Jimenez.

In fact, the Orioles downgraded the depth of their starting staff by shipping Yovani Gallardo away. In no way am I arguing that Gallardo would fix everything, but he’s another arm that would’ve been thrown into this mix of players right now.

3. I’ve heard this one in the past, but it certainly received more bluster this week – “It’s time to fire Buck Showalter.” The arguments are plentiful, but none garner all that much merit. I’ve heard things like his history of being fired after bringing a team to the edge of glory. I’ve also heard about how little he’s done to “control” Manny Machado, which isn’t really something I thought needed to be done.

Showalter is not immune from criticism, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been the first to jump on the chance to take a stab at Showalter when he mismanages a situation or sits on his hands too long. The biggest problem with firing Showalter would be the same issue that arises when moving Jimenez out of the rotation – Who replaces him?

I’m sure you could rattle off a number of candidates, and I’m sure that list would include Brady Anderson. No one has the experience or the “know-how” that Showalter does. None of the candidates you could name have the clout that Showalter brings to the table, and simply put, none of them would be an improvement right now.

There’s no murmurs about the message being lost among players right now. Everyone is buying in to what Showalter is selling in that clubhouse.

Until any of these things happen, Showalter is going to have a presence with the Orioles.

4. Speaking of Machado, we can no longer just call what he’s going through a “slump.” We are past Memorial Day, so we can confidently say that he’s simply not been very good this season. The man is leading All-Star voting among third basemen and is struggling to keep his batting average above the Mendoza line. Some of the power numbers are still there, and when you dig a bit deeper you realize that some of Machado’s struggles can be attributed to bad luck.

But sitting in a current 0-for-18 slump, Machado simply looks lost at the plate. I wrote a while back about how Machado’s 2017 season is shaping up to be very similar to Bryce Harper’s 2016 campaign. It may simply be a down season for the Gold Glove winner, and that would obviously be very bad for the O’s hopes in staying competitive. Aside from all of the talk about whether or not Machado will stay in Baltimore long-term, while he is in town, the Orioles need him to play up to his potential.

It’d be crazy for the Orioles to think about trading Machado THIS season, even though that idea has been floated by some. There’s no way they will consider it, unless they were to lose every game between now and the deadline. Even then, they’d only consider it.

For now, the Orioles have no option but to hope that their best player starts acting like it.

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Ain’t That a “B?” – Thanks to Terps, Dumb Boston Shirt has New Meaning

Boston in Baltimore t-shirt.

If you see some Boston fans wearing a tee-shirt with a big “B” in the familiar Red Sox old English-style font colored with the pattern and colors of the Maryland flag this weekend, don’t get angry. Congratulate them on their graciousness and willingness to publicly accept defeat.

Seriously.

I think the original idea was for the shirts to become a badge to identify to each other as a show of solidarity that there are Red Sox fans in Maryland. The garments would be a nonverbal rallying cry for the visiting team at Camden Yards this weekend with the June 3 giveaway for Boston fans that were lured in by the team on its website.

As if there wasn’t already enough leftover drama from the beanballs and headhunting — not to mention the overall verbal ugliness of their peanut-chucking fans — in Fenway Park last month! Their t-shirts with their treasured “B” in red, black, white and gold is cute, really. Maryland fans should want them, even to commemorate something historic, even more grand.

To any locals who sees these shirt, a sense of pride and victory should overwhelm them, thanks to the Maryland lacrosse teams who made Foxboro, Mass., their home last weekend in sweeping the Division I NCAA men’s and women’s lacrosse championships. Foxboro is sort of the offseason home of Fenway folks, right?

The Maryland Men's lacrosse team poses for a photo.

The letter symbol of “The Nation,” combined with the Maryland flag. It all makes sense now. … Isn’t it marvelous how things work out?

The Maryland women even beat Boston College — pretty much in a road game, even though Foxboro was a designated neutral site — to complete their undefeated regular season and their third title in four seasons and 14th national crown overall.

For the men, they ended more than four decades of torment with their first national crown since 1975, fitting in the same short span that saw the Chicago Cubs end more than a century of consistent heartbreak. Heck, even Cleveland got their first championship in any major sport since the 1950s with the Cavaliers, and a historically long slump of Triple Crown winning Thoroughbreds finally came to an end in 2016.

Why not the Terps? (Sure the Washington Capitals could have joined the “This is finally our year” parade, but that’s another rant.)

But for those Maryland lacrosse teams, New England will always hold a special place in those titles. Those wearing the “B” adorned with the Maryland flag pattern will always serve as a reminder.

Thanks, Boston-area fans, and welcome to Camden Yards, where the Orioles boast one of the best home records in the majors…Now, see if you can keep John Ferrell in check and not just focused on trying to get exponential revenge for a hard slide two months ago.

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Wednesday’s O’s Links: Players O’s Count On Keep Struggling

orioles player sitting in dugout with towel around neck

The O’s managed to pull out of their tailspin, at least momentarily, on Monday, thanks to Dylan Bundy and some superb relief work. However, they got right back on the losing track last night as Chris Tillman wasn’t able to get through three innings and the Yankees evened the series with an 8-3 laugher. Tonight’s game is big, at least symbolically: winning this series could really go a long way to putting the May skids behind them. Lose it, and the June sun that’s rising doesn’t look any brighter than the May version that’s setting.

To the depressing blog O’sphere.

Lack of Arm Strength Behind Tillman’s Struggles?

Baltimore Baseball’s Dan Connolly wonders if a lack of arm strength is the cause for Tilly’s poor performance. Dan muses that perhaps Chris could have spent some more time rehabbing his shoulder and regaining said strength before being penciled into the rotation every fifth day.

Orioles Finally Exposed as Flawed Team

I think we all knew that the Birds were a flawed team; it’s just that they have been, in recent memory, able to mask those flaws by mashing and by shutting teams down late in games. The bullpen has been…better, but the mashing just isn’t there.

Everyone’s Available: Going for it in 2017

As Birdland turns our collective eye toward potentially selling at the trade deadline (due to recent events – a winning streak could obviously stem that tide), Camden Depot’s Nate DeLong throws out the contrarian’s approach: What if the O’s made every minor league player available? What if they just went all-in on winning in 2017? His main point being that, if things are really going to get bad after 2018, then none of the Birds’ “untouchables” in their system are going to prevent that.

The Orioles Have Stayed Afloat without Their Best Players

It was true when the team was 12 games over .500, and it’s true now that they’re two games over – they’re doing all this without any notable contribution from guys like Manny Machado, Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, or Kevin Gausman. Hey, good players: PICK IT UP!

Manny Machado is Hitting Too Many Ground Balls

We’ve talked a lot about Manny’s struggles. Why won’t his damn BABIP come up? Well, it doesn’t help that he’s hitting so many balls on the ground – over 50% in May!

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Down O’n the Farm: Checking in on O’s MiLB Pitchers

Jimmy Yacabonis of the Orioles pitches.

Now that we’ve looked at the potential future of the Orioles lineup, let’s take a look at some of the guys that could be toeing the rubber at Camden Yards in the near future.

We’ll kick it off with a look at a few future starters.

 

Starters

Cody Sedlock– (1st round, 2016)

Currently ranked as the Orioles’ second-best prospect and top pitching prospect, the sky is the limit for Sedlock. The promising 21-year-old out of Illinois has gone through a learning curve with the Frederick Keys so far during his first full professional season. Sedlock owns a 4-2 record on the year despite a high 6.80 ERA over nine starts.

Hunter Harvey throws as Darren O'Day watches.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Hunter Harvey– (1st round, 2013)

Despite a myriad of injuries since getting drafted, Harvey is still ranked as the Orioles’ third-best prospect and #2 pitching prospect. Still just twenty-two years old, if he can come back strong after undergoing Tommy John Surgery this off-season he should fly up the minor league ranks.

Keegan Akin– (2nd round, 2016)

Like Sedlock, Akin is going through the learning curve of professional baseball during his first full season and owns a 3-4 record and a 5.95 ERA over nine starts for the Keys this season. The 22-year-old southpaw out of Western Michigan is currently ranked as the fifth-best prospect in the Orioles system, and will be a name to watch out for soon.

Chris Lee– (Acquired from Houston, 2015)

The 24-year-old southpaw was phenomenal last season before getting injured, but has seen his form go up-and-down for AAA Norfolk in 2017. Over ten starts this season, the Orioles sixth-best prospect owns a 2-3 record and a 6.86 ERA.

Matthias Dietz– (2nd round, 2016)

Another highly-touted hurler from the 2016 draft class, the 22-year-old Dietz is also going through the learning curve of pro baseball during his first full season. He owns an 0-4 record and a 5.62 ERA over nine starts for the Delmarva Shorebirds this season.

Alex Wells– (International Free Agent, 2016)

The native Australian has been turning heads since debuting for Aberdeen last season, and has been just as impressive this season. The 20-year-old southpaw owns a 3-2 record with a 2.01 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP over nine starts for the Keys this year.

Brian Gonzalez– (3rd round, 2014)

After a stellar 2016 campaign, Gonzalez proved to be a name to keep tabs on for the future. The 21-year-old lefty has notched a 2-3 record and a 4.89 ERA over nine starts for the Frederick Keys this season.

 

Bullpen

Tanner Scott– (6th round, 2014)

The 22-year-old flame-throwing southpaw came into this season as the #10 Orioles prospect, but he will shoot even higher if he can continue his stellar season all the way through. Over ten games for AA Bowie, Scott boasts a stellar 1.80 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and an incredible 12.9 K/9.

Garrett Cleavinger– (3rd round, 2015)

Cleavinger turned heads during his sparkling 2016 season and cemented his status as a top-tier relief pitching prospect. Over 14 games for AA Bowie this season, the 23-year-old flamethrower out of Oregon University owns a sky-high 6.86 ERA, but that 10.5 K/9 is impressive.

Jimmy Yacabonis– (13th round, 2013)

The 25-year-old has had to grind his way to AAA, but after passing every level of the O’s minor league system with flying colors, the St.Joesph’s alum just a step away from the bigs. He could be there soon if he can maintain his sensational 1.09 ERA and 0.85 WHIP over 19 contests (six saves) down in Norfolk for the rest of the season.

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The Rundown: Did Orioles Let Another Good Pitcher Walk?

Parker Bridwell of the Orioles pitches.

Did the Orioles really need to get back to playing against the American League East to snap their losing streak and look like the team that was one of the best in April?

I don’t think it’s that easy and things can quickly change tonight when Chris Tillman returns to the mound. All the credit must go to Dylan Bundy for continuing to look like the ace we have always envisioned. I just can’t get over how much of a veteran he looks like every time he toes the rubber. It continues to be a pleasure to watch and is much needed in a time when a number of Orioles are struggling.

One other note about Bundy; I have never been worried about his velocity as he is able to keep hitters off balance with his secondary pitches, but it was good to see his fastball have some extra juice. According to FanGraphs.com, Bundy’s average fastball velocity was 92.5 MPH yesterday, which was the second highest of the season. (he averaged 92.8 MPH in his first start).

 

Machado and Davis Continue to Struggle

There’s not much you can do when your best player and your highest-paid player look completely lost at the plate. It’s also extremely discouraging to hear Chris Davis says he can’t even identify what pitch is coming his way until it’s too late. This explains why he has so many strikeouts looking.

We have seen this numerous times with Davis and we know it just takes one swing for him to get back on track. It happened earlier this season and it will again. I would just like for the hot streak to last longer than a week this time (and we know it can).

However, when he is in a funk like this, it’s hard to watch.

Manny Machado is a different story as this is now a mental thing. He’s swinging at pitches he never does, he is slamming his equipment routinely and he never runs out a ground ball. Even when Machado wasn’t getting hits earlier this season, his outs were loud and he was among the leaders in exit velocity. Though he’s only slid down that particular list to sixth, you can see that his struggles are affecting him mentally.

If we want to look back to the second half of last season, here are Manny’s batting averages by month:

July – .204

August – .312

September – .241

April – .224

May (still two games left) – .210

The recent losses and the pitching struggles are most certainly causing Buck Showalter to lose sleep at night, but Machado’s brutal few months have to be close to the top of that list as well.

Former O’s Prospect Returns to the Bigs

The Orioles traded pitcher Parker Bridwell to the Los Angeles Angels in April for a player to be named later or cash considerations after previously designating him for assignment.

Parker Bridwell of the Orioles holds a baseball near his cap.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

The 25-year-old returns to the big leagues tonight as a starter after being converted to a reliever in the minors by the Orioles last season. Bridwell has only given up four earned runs while striking out 26 in 28 2/3 innings between the Angels Double-A and Triple-A affiliates.

We all know the recent arms the Orioles have parted ways with over the last few seasons that have gone on to have success with their new teams. We’ll see if this is a spot start for Bridwell or if he will be up to make multiple starts.

While the Orioles refuse to release Ubaldo Jimenez and continue to give Tyler Wilson numerous opportunities, they traded away a good arm in Bridwell for nothing after making him a reliever and another organization is now using him as a starter in the big leagues.

Bridwell struggled in the minors for the Orioles, but had immediate success with the Angels. The question is: why does that continue to be a common theme?

Even with all the success the Orioles have had in recent seasons, I think it’s fair to question their handling of pitchers. It’s even more legitimate to question their stance on international spending, but that’s a debate for another day.

We’ll see how Bridwell does, but the fact that the Angels thought enough of him to make him a starting pitcher again and he has found his way back to the big leagues in only a month after being acquired is enough to question what the Orioles have been doing with the right-hander since he was drafted in 2010.

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Down O’n the Farm: Checking in on O’s MiLB Bats

Chance Sisco swings in the batter's box.

Sure, we’ve all grown to love this Orioles squad. But we also know that baseball is a business, elite-status players are harder to keep around now more than ever, and that a trade can happen at any second.

With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the prospects in the Orioles minor league ranks position-by-position, and see who could be playing in Camden Yards sooner rather than later.

 

Catcher

Chance Sisco– (2nd round, 2013)

Currently ranked as the Orioles’ #1 prospect, the highly-touted 22-year-old has made the jump to AAA this season and has recorded a .252 average with eleven doubles, two homers, 19 RBI and a .329 OBP through 38 games for Norfolk.

Alex Murphy– (6th round, 2013)

Taken in the same draft as Sisco out of Calvert Hall High School, Murphy has a good chance at becoming the Orioles long-term back-up behind Sisco going forward. Coming off a promising 2016 season, Murphy has continued to show flashes of potential this year with high-A Frederick. He’s hitting .196 with five doubles, five homers, 16 RBI and a .319 OBP this season. Just twenty-two years old, he is also learning the ropes at first base this year.

 

First Base

Randolph Gassaway– (16th round, 2013)

Gassaway is an exciting 22-year-old prospect who has already advanced to AA Bowie after posting a stellar .316 average with eight doubles, two homers and 28 RBI with Frederick earlier this season.

Preston Palmeiro– (7th round, 2016)

The son of Rafael, Palmeiro has shown flashes with class-A Delmarva this season. The 22-year-old NC State alum is hitting.242 with nine doubles, one triple, three homers, 17 RBI and a .320 OBP through 43 games on the year.

 

Second Base

Adrian Marin– (3rd round, 2012)

The Orioles lack depth at second base throughout the system, but Marin is a name that is at least worth keeping tabs on. After bursting onto the scene as a teenager, the now twenty-three-year-old hit a snag in his development, but seems to be back on the up-and-up this season.

He’s hitting .282 with six doubles, three triples, 13 RBI and a .321 OBP for AA Bowie on the year. Marin has also demonstrated his versatility by playing 28 of his 39 games at second base in 2017 after primarily playing shortstop for his entire professional career.

Steve Wilkerson– (8th round, 2014)

A name that is probably familiar amongst college baseball fans, the Clemson alum has had a stellar 2017 campaign so far and has already made the jump from high-A ball to AA Bowie. He hit an impressive .323 at the plate with ten doubles, two homers, 15 RBI and a .407 OBP for the Keys before getting promoted.

The 25-year-old Georgia native hasn’t skipped a beat since moving up a class and already has two home runs and five RBI through his first six games for AA Bowie.

 

Shortstop

Ryan Mountcastle– (1st round, 2013)

While the O’s also lack depth at shortstop in their minor league system, at least part of the future could be bright with Ryan Mountcastle. Currently ranked as the Oriole’s fourth-best prospect, the electric 20-year-old is hitting a stellar .332 with sixteen doubles, eleven homers and 35 RBI down in Frederick on the year. A call-up to Bowie seems imminent.

Irving Ortega–  International Free Agent, 2015)

He doesn’t have much of a track record and he is only starting out with class-A Delmarva, but those in the loop seem to think highly of Ortega. Just twenty years old, he is a very raw prospect but one to keep an eye on in the future.

 

Third Base

Jomar Reyes– (International Free Agent, 2014)

A disappointing 2016 campaign saw Reyes fall from third to ninth on the Orioles prospect chart, but at just twenty years old, Reyes seems to have a big-time future. He’s hitting .321 at the dish with six doubles, one homer and ten RBI for the Keys this season. A broken right pinky finger sustained in late April will keep him sidelined until late June, but here’s to hoping he can end the year with a bang.

Drew Dosch– (7th round, 2013)

Like Marin, Dosch had seen his stock fall among scouts going into the season, but seems to be trending upwards once more after posting a solid .265 average with nine doubles, four homers and 21 RBI down in AAA Norfolk so far. The 24-year-old Youngstown State alum was promoted from AA Bowie to Norfolk after lighting it up during a nine-game stint in April.

 

Outfield

Austin Hays– (3rd round, 2016)

Currently ranked as the seventh-best prospect in the Orioles organization, the twenty-one-year-old out of Jacksonville University seems to be on the fast track to Camden Yards. He’s crushing it in high-A Frederick with a superb .319 average, nine doubles, three triples, ten homers, 26 RBI and a .356 OBP. He’ll be in Bowie soon.

Cedric Mullins (13th round, 2015)

Before getting injured, the highly-touted Mullins was shining for AA Bowie this season. If he can build upon his .367 batting average, five doubles, four home runs and eleven RBI upon his return, he’ll be with the Tides in no time. The 22-year-old has been dealing with a troublesome hamstring injury as of late.

After picking up the knock in late April, he was expected to be back in two weeks’ time, but a setback has seen him sidelined for over a month now. The Orioles will not rush one of their prized prospects back onto the field until he is 100%.

DJ Stewart (1st round, 2015)

After seriously disappointing for the majority of his first two years of professional baseball, Stewart has looked rejuvenated this season and is hitting a solid .254 at the dish with eleven doubles, eight homers, 28 RBI and a .345 OBP with the Baysox. If he keeps it up, the 23-year-old Florida State alum should finally receive his long-awaited promotion to AAA Norfolk.

 

Later today, we’ll look at the pitchers in the Birds’ minor-league system.

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