Baltimore Orioles: Former Bird Gerardo Parra spearheads Washington’s title hopes

The Baltimore Orioles acquired Gerardo Parra at the trade deadline in 2015 from Milwaukee. The hope was that he would provide an additional bat in the lineup as the Orioles contended for the American League East pennant. Unfortunately for the O’s, Parra only hit .237 for the Orioles for the remainder of the year, with five home runs.

Parra’s numbers prior to coming to the Orioles were better. They were also better after he left Baltimore – which was the following season when he signed with Colorado. He ended up with the Washington Nationals in the middle of this season, and has helped to propel them into the Fall Classic.

Parra changed his at-bat song to “Baby Shark” earlier this year, and it caught on in the clubhouse and amongst the fans. Everyone knows the story by now. While Parra’s numbers in Baltimore could have been better (or more on par with the rest of his career at least), he is a former Oriole. And the only former Oriole in the World Series at that.

Anyone who noticed Washington’s rise in the standings had to notice Parra’s part in it. His Baby Shark routine acted as a spark – for both his teammates and the team’s fans. I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of grown men prancing around to Baby Shark, however you’d be hard pressed to argue it didn’t have an affect. Time will tell if it carries Parra’s current team to a world title.

Baltimore Orioles: Could Anthony Rendon come to Birdland?

As we know, 2019 was all about finding out what the Baltimore Orioles had, and learning a few hard lessons. The 2019 Orioles exceeded expectations as set forth on this column when they won more games than the 2018 team. So more is expected next season.

The World Series-bound Washington Nationals are right down the pike, and they enter the fall classic with pieces of their future still in doubt. Mainly, third baseman Anthony Rendon is a free agent after the season. Could the Orioles be in play for Rendon, and would he be willing to come here?

First off, Rendon’s a stud. He’s a career .290 hitter who smacked 34 home runs this year. He’s also well worth the price of admission as a third baseman, and he’s a team leader. Any team would be lucky to have him.

My prediction is that he remains in Washington. He seems very happy there, and by various accounts the franchise has attempted to sign him long term. Yet he’s neglected to accept a deal, presumably because the Nationals haven’t quite reached the number that he and agent Scott Boras want. But make no mistake that Washington is the front runner for Rendon’s services past this season, as well they should be.

However…what if the unthinkable were to occur? What if Washington were to not come up to Rendon’s number? Could he be in play – for the Orioles?

It would stand to reason that a team such as the Orioles would have to blow Rendon away with an offer for him to even consider them. He’s tasting a World Series right now (or he’s about to do so). He’s going to want to go to a contender; obviously a contender who’s capable of paying him his due.

However IF the opportunity to sign a player of his caliber were to come along, I’d say that it’s one that the Orioles should consider. Those same Washington Nationals did something like that when they signed Jayson Werth in 2011. Did they overpay? By all accounts, yes. But Werth helped to put the franchise on the map, and onto a trek that’s now landed them in the World Series in 2019.

That isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison, mind you. Washington was a better team in 2011 than the Orioles are now. But you get the point. Werth at the time was a guy who had been a winner in Philadelphia, and who knew how to win. He also provided veteran leadership to a young crop of players.

Again, would Rendon come here? Probably not…at least without a contract with terms well over and above what other teams are offering. But that might be something for the Orioles to consider. You put someone like him in the order with the likes of a Mancini, and that might accelerate your rebuilding process just a bit.

Baltimore Orioles looking to end FanFest?

The news came out yesterday that the Baltimore Orioles we’re considering putting an end to their annual FanFest celebration. It’s usually held towards the end of January at the Baltimore Convention Center, and by my account it’s always been a beloved event by fans. Last year the Orioles said that approximately 8K people came through the turnstiles. There have been years where there’ve been more, and years where there’ve been less.

I think this is a very bad idea. I tell people all the time that FanFest is all of the excitement and amenities of an actual Orioles’ game, without the game. It’s always been a great event for families and kids, and I fail to see the logic in ending it.

Word is that GM Mike Elias and the Front Office is considering another way to engage fans during the off season. So I would reserve rendering final judgement on this until the formally announce that FanFest is officially ending, and then announce what replaces it. However in general, I think that playing with fan outreach events like this is playing with fire.

FanFest is a very old event. It dates back a long way, and it’s something that’s very traditional in Baltimore. Lots of other teams do similar events as well. So ending it would be cutting deep in terms of what’s important to this fanbase. But time will tell what happens. I seriously doubt that they’ll just end it and have nothing to replace it.

Baltimore Orioles: Looking at free agent pitchers

Yesterday I asked whether or not the Baltimore Orioles should consider signing a free agent pitcher. My deduction was that it was something they should consider. And here’s another point to that ends; the Orioles played musical pitchers all season last year. Wouldn’t it suit them better to have at least one or two guys who they know will be mainstays in the rotation?

So today I wanted to throw some names out there. While it’s attractive to look towards the Strasburg’s and Odorizzi’s of the world, do we really think that’s feasible? Those are pitchers who will look for big money deals with longevity. The Orioles probably aren’t in a position to hand out a contract of that nature to a pitcher right now.

But there are more veteran pitchers out there who might come cheaper and for shorter contracts. The Orioles obviously traded Andrew Cashner to Boston last year – might both sides consider a reunion? Whether or not the Orioles would want that is another story. Cashner’s ERA ballooned when he went to Boston last year. Whereas with the Orioles he had a .383 ERA, with Boston that went up to .620. But he would be an option if he were willing to sign a team-friendly contract.

And there are other guys out there, such as perhaps Marco Estrada, or Gio Gonzalez. Ultimately the goal wouldn’t be to sign a pitcher who would be a big name so as to put people in the seats. While that would be a great addition, it isn’t the idea behind getting someone on the free agent market.

The goal would be to get an innings eater, and someone who could anchor the Orioles’ rotation and help some of the younger guys along. They did this in 2010 when they signed veteran Kevin Millwood to the staff. And he served his purpose very well. That’s the type of move the Orioles might consider making in the form of a Gio Gonzalez (among others).

And there are other names out there as well. Clay Buchholz, who could be an option. Again, the idea isn’t to get someone who might be an automatic ace. The Orioles are trying to grow their own ace in a sense. But someone to eat innings and to help show some of the younger guys the ways and means of being a big league pitcher. Someone who can perhaps be an extension of the manager and pitching coach on the field. Guys who are willing to do that are the types of guys you need when you’re building a team from the ground up as the Orioles are.

Baltimore Orioles: Should the Birds go after a free agent pitcher?

There are lots of pitchers who will be on the open market in 2019, in theory all pitchers that could be available for the Baltimore Orioles. The question is whether or not the Birds would be in a position to sign a free agent pitcher. Would it make sense?

Tough to say. This isn’t so much about who they might look to sign or who might be available and in play. It’s more about whether or not they should delve into signing one.

First off we need to look at who the Orioles already have that might be penciled into the rotation. I would say that Dylan Bundy, John Means, and Alex Cobb are in line to be starters going into spring training. That’s right, Alex Cobb…remember him? He’s still under contract with the Orioles until 2022. Unless he retires or is traded, expect him to be in the starting rotation. (Although keep in mind that he’s also coming off of season-ending surgery in 2019.)

I think there’s also a legitimate chance that Asher Wojciechowski will get a shot to compete for a starting job also. If his second half from this year continues into spring training, he’ll be in line as a starter. But is there anyone else on the roster who jumps out as a potential starter?

To me, the closest other person on the roster now might be David Hess. He’s started before, obviously. But it’ll take a great spring for him to earn his way onto the roster. So with all of this in mind, there could very well be space for the Orioles to get themselves a free agent pitcher going into the season…

…but who? That’s another discussion for another day.

Baltimore Orioles: Revisiting the sign stealing issue

The Baltimore Orioles should probably consider themselves lucky that they aren’t mired in some of the recent sign stealing controversies of late. And once again this issue is coming up and involving the Houston Astros, who according to George King‘s article in the NY Post, are once again resorting to various tactics in terms of stealing signs. And apparently using a whistle to do so.

According to the article, the New York Yankees are frosted at what they interpreted as sign stealing in the form of a whistle. According to some players, sometimes they also do things such as bang pipes. Apparently much of this starts in the bullpen. The article also points out that Houston had a league-best 60-21 record at home this year.

As I’ve said in the past, we’re kidding ourselves if we think this type of thing isn’t going on in almost every big league game. Playoffs, regular season – heck, probably even in spring training. This is now the second team in a short period of time that’s accused Houston of stealing signs. Where there’s smoke there’s usually fire.

I’ve also said in the past that foreign devices cannot be used to steal signs in games (that’s actually in the rule book). And quite frankly, that leads to the part of this which quite frankly ticks me off the most. By using a whistle, banging on pipes, etc, they’re actually outsmarting the system in a sense. They aren’t using an electronic means to steal signs – as the ChiSox did years ago with lights on the scoreboard. In accordance with the rules, what they’re doing is legal.

But as readers know, I’m old school. I believe in the unwritten codes of the game. Now to their credit, New York is handling the situation in the proper manner by changing up their signs. According to the aforementioned article they even relay signs with nobody on base so as to make it tougher for Houston to steal the signs. But I’m not going to lie…if I were in charge someone would be wearing a pitch at some point.

Baltimore Orioles: Bucking the trend in Philly?

Former Baltimore Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter interviewed with the Philadelphia Phillies for their managerial opening on Monday. Philadelphia also reportedly interviewed Dusty Baker. The meetings took place in New York.

Both men are qualified. And the Philadelphia Phillies would be lucky to have either one manning their dugout. However in reviewing my twitter feed over the past few days, I’ve noticed something – about Orioles’ fans. A lot of them seem to be taking a jilted at the altar view towards the idea of Buck returning to the dugout. Mainly because at one point while in Baltimore he said that the Orioles would be his final managing job.

First off, people change. When he said that he may well have meant it. To his credit, Buck’s never been the type of guy to give lip service. He wouldn’t have said that just to endear himself to fans. But that isn’t to suggest that his view on the matter couldn’t have changed between then and now. I suspect that if he had his way he would still be managing the Orioles, perhaps also acting as the GM. But that’s not something that’s on the table for him.

So he has two choices: either stay out of baseball, or try to get back in. It appears that he’s taking the latter route. Whether it’s in Philadelphia or elsewhere, I personally believe that Buck Showalter will be managing in 2020. And to be honest, Philadelphia should have a certain appeal to him…

…their GM is Andy MacPhail He of course was the GM who hired Buck in Baltimore. Numerous other former members of the Orioles’ front office and scouting department have also migrated north to Philadelphia. So Showalter would find a group with which he was familiar if he were offered the job, and if he took it.

He would also find a city with many quirks – much like Baltimore. Buck always said I get Baltimore during his time here. Philadelphia is similar in that the city has it’s ebbs and flows, and the people are passionate about their city and their region.

One challenge would be that Showalter famously does things his own way. At almost every turn of the way, teams eventually soured on that way of doing things. So…were the Orioles any different? I would say yes. Showalter wasn’t fired; his contract expired. And if a franchise is ever in a spot to go in a different direction, it would have been the Orioles at that point of time. So I’m not sure that the Orioles actually soured on Buck as much as they opted to go in another direction. Either way he ceased to be here.

However again, Orioles fans shouldn’t feel jilted if he goes to another team. My hope would be that they’d be happy for him. Anyone who observed the dynamic Showalter had with the city, the fans, and the players while he was in Baltimore is going to know that Baltimore will always be special to Buck. And needless to say, he’ll always be special to the fans of Baltimore.

Baltimore Orioles: Sympathy for St. Louis fans

The Baltimore Orioles felt that they had a legit shot at a World Series title in 2014. After Delmon Young‘s bases-clearing double to in effect win game two of the ALDS and an anti-climactic win in game three to close out Detroit, they had momentum. Then they ran into a buzz saw in Kansas City.

In the Kansas City Royals, they found not only an opponent who equaled their belief in themselves, but one who wanted to do everything in it’s power to squash their opponent. As Buck Showalter would often say, some days you’re the windshield and some days you’re the bug.

In watching this year’s NLCS, I see some similarities. St. Louis won a big game five in Atlanta to get to that stage. A game in which they put up ten runs in the first inning to win. They felt they had momentum, and they believed. Now they’ve run into the Washington Nationals.

Now this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison by any means. First off, the 2014 Orioles were a power-hitting team, and Kansas City won games on broken bat and bloop singles. In this case it’s Washington who’s more of the power-hitting team. However they’re also the team who’s seemingly got more pep than a high school cheerleading squad. That’s part of what carried Kansas City in 2014 and 2015.

So I suppose what I’m saying is that Orioles fans know what St. Louis fans are doing through right about now. I remember getting read to cover Game Four of that ALCS with Kansas City up three games to zero. My attitude was almost is there really a point to playing this game? Obviously that’s probably a bad attitude to have, but you get the point.

There is one other area in which these situations differ. Kansas City made sure that the Orioles knew they were going down, and they made sure that the Orioles saw their celebrations. Down the stretch there were numerous gestures made towards the Orioles from the Kansas City dugout in those games. I’ve seen nothing that indicates Washington’s team has guys capable of that sort of disrespect.

However the point is that Orioles fans probably get St. Louis fans in this instance. Of course you want to believe it’s possible that you can come back and so forth. However in the back of your mind you know it’s all but a done deal. And ultimately if St. Louis is able to pull off what the 2014 Orioles couldn’t (and win a game in the series), it’ll feel almost like a one-day stay of execution.

Baltimore Orioles: Deterioration of officiating

The Baltimore Orioles have had their share of mishaps involving umpires. All you need to do is look back to the 1996 ALCS against New York to know that. But even since then there’s been controversy in games – no different from any other team in any other sport.

If you’re a consumer of sports across-the-board as I am, you know that officiating seems to have deteriorated in all sports. I maintain that the worst is still college basketball. Anytime Coach A or Program A gets obvious preferential treatment over Coach or Program B, that’s a huge problem. But obviously on a daily basis we see #umpshow from any given fan base. It’s turned into a real problem.

Some people are starting to say that NFL games are becoming unwatchable. And you might have similar sentiments in baseball when an umpire decides to make himself the main attraction. In yesterday’s Dallas Cowboys vs. NY Jets game there were six consecutive plays on which officials threw flags. And they occurred at the end of the games. You know, when it’s thought that the refs aren’t going to call ticky-tack things.

And that right there might be one of the keys in terms of the crisis we see in sports when it comes to officials. There’s a total lack of situational awareness on the part of referees or umpires. If you’re an umpire it should be understood that you’re a “baseball guy.” Same is true with refs in football or basketball – you’re a “football/basketball guy.” That means it should stand to reason that you know the game and you understand how things ebb and flow in the game.

The majority of games across sports seem to come down to the wire nowadays. And that’s a good thing. However it also puts a larger emphasis on officials because they know in the backs of their heads that calls they make at key moments could affect the outcome of the game. If it’s blatant, absolutely it should be called. But if it’s borderline, is it really worth erring on the side of calling holding in an NFL game in the latter moments of the fourth quarter? Or a balk against a big league pitcher in the eighth or ninth inning?

Now one thing that we hear a lot in baseball is that if it’s a strike in the first inning it should be a strike in the ninth. And that should go without saying. But I’m not necessarily talking about balls and strikes. I’m talking of less tangible things such as holding or yes even balks. Ticky-tack things which can in fact turn games.

Under no circumstances am I suggesting that sports are fixed. I just think that certain people get more leeway to complain in some circles, and while others don’t. So what’s the solution? Beats the heck out of me!

Baltimore Orioles: Opioid epidemic hits MLB

The Baltimore Orioles and the rest of MLB were shocked and devastated earlier this season when Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitcher Tyler Skaggs turned up dead in his Dallas-area hotel room. The entire league justifiably seemed to take pause to honor and remember Skaggs. These sports are all brotherhoods, and players stand by one another.

We’re now hearing that an Angels’ PR employee had been supplying Skaggs with various opioid drugs for a few years, and had even been using the drugs with Skaggs. Just as a reminder, opioids are a narcotic. Short of heroin or crack cocaine, we’re talking the worst of the worst when it comes to drugs.

President Donald Trump has spoken on numerous occasions about wanting to combat the opioid epidemic that’s facing our country. In fact, it’s been slowing creeping up on us for 30 years or so. Whatever else you may think about President Trump (positive or negative), you should be behind that initiative. Again whatever else your view is of him, keep in mind that he had a brother who died as a result of drug and alcohol abuse. He’s in a position to know the endgame for people mixed up with opioids.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that this was going on. Opioids has seemingly touched every other aspect of our society, so why shouldn’t it hit MLB also? But I suppose I would say that it shocked me to an extent. But it shouldn’t have; athletes have access to drugs such as pain killers that the general public does not.

The issue for the Angels and for MLB is that a team employee was supplying the opioids. Now while Skaggs was paying for the medication, that could leave the team and/or the league open to lawsuits. Possibly as harsh as wrongful death litigation.

Orioles’ GM Mike Elias and his counterpartsall need to grab the bull by the horn on this. They need to ensure that nothing of this nature is occurring throughout their organizations. Because if there are, jobs, money, and even freedom from jail could be at stake.

Baltimore Orioles: Matt Wieters finally in the LCS

The Baltimore Orioles drafted catcher Matt Wieters. They developed him as a homegrown player, and he made his MLB debut in 2009. He left the Orioles after the 2016 season, which of course culminated with the Orioles falling in the Wild Card Game.

However he was a member of the 2012 team which went to the ALDS. He was also a member of the 2014 team which went to the ALCS. However Wieters’ season was cut short due to having to undergo Tommy John’s surgery. After leaving the O’s Wieters spent two seasons as a member of the Washington Nationals, and this year signed with the St. Louis Cardinals.

And Wieters has now finally made it to the LCS round as a result. St. Louis is playing Washington in the National League Championship series (which Washington now leads 1-0). Wieters has primarily been a backup this year, but he’s on the roster.

It’s always good to see a former Oriole having success. Wieters was never the same after the aforementioned surgery, but he’s still a solid major league catcher. And I suspect he’s thrilled to finally have the opportunity to compete for a championship given that he had to watch it from afar the last time around.

Baltimore Orioles: How rampant is sign stealing?

Baltimore Orioles fans want to believe that their guys don’t steal signs. And in fact, the Orioles have rarely been mentioned as a team that engages in that sort of thing. This as opposed to other teams such as the ChiSox, who used lights on the scoreboard to relay signs to hitters. Or the famed “man in white” in Toronto who would supposedly tip pitches.

Last night via twitter, former MLB pitcher Seth McClung delved into sign stealing while watching the ALDS between Tampa and Houston:

For the record, if in fact a camera was in use to steal signs, that’s blatantly against MLB rules. We have no way of knowing if signs were truly being stolen or not. However as a former big league pitcher, McClung’s in a position to know what he’s talking about.

Unfortunately I think there’s more sign stealing that goes on in baseball than what people want to believe. It is against the unwritten codes of the game, but we’re kidding ourselves if we think it doesn’t go on. And in every major league game, on both sides.

I’ll take it a step further; I would bet guys are even trying to steal signs in spring training. You play like you practice. If you can steal signs in spring games you aren’t doing it because you so direly want to win that game. You’re doing it so that when and if you face that team in the regular season you know what to look for.

I’d like to believe that if I were a big league player or coach I wouldn’t do that. However I’d also suggest that there’s a vast difference between a runner at second tipping off the hitter on pitches, and what McClung is alleging above. Using a foreign device to tip pitches is particularly wrong. However in today’s world if you get away with it that means it didn’t happen.

Baltimore Orioles: Is MLB trolling the O’s?

Yesterday was a day of infamy in the history of the Baltimore Orioles. On October 9, 1996 Derek Jeter hit what went down as a homer in game one of the ALCS. According to the box score, that is. As all Orioles fans know, it was only a home run because a young fan named Jeffrey Maier reached over the wall and took the ball out of the reach of Orioles’ right fielder Tony Tarasco.

For the record, modern instant replay would have overturned that very quickly. It wasn’t even a close call. It’s a moment that lives on, as I said in infamy. While Orioles fans have never forgotten, they yesterday received a stark reminder of it in the form of a tweet from MLB:

People often tease Baltimore because there’s a school of thought out there which says that the city has an inferiority complex. Well things such as this could be one of the reasons why. This didn’t have to happen.

First off, why would MLB be so ready to celebrate a moment which is based on a call that they got wrong? I mean this seriously – is there anyone out there who thought this was the appropriate call? Secondly, why was NBC’s Jim Gray on the scene interviewing the kid, thus raising him up as a cult hero, only minutes after the incident happened?

Similarly, why exactly did George Steinbrenner give the kid tickets to Game Two in a suite? There’s not one person who saw that play that didn’t think it was fan interference. That moment changed the course of both franchises involved for the next 15 years or so. And you can imagine who got the short end.

You can’t change history. This moment happened, and it’s set in stone. But what exactly does tweeting it out in a celebratory manner achieve for MLB? The Jeffrey Maier incident is memorable for all of the wrong reasons. Sure if you’re a Yankees fan perhaps you take the well nobody really got a great look at the play attitude. But again ask yourself, if that play happened today in the exact same manner, would replay not overturn it?

One more thing on this; the umpire on the spot who made the call that day was Rich Garcia. Obviously neither he nor the rest of the crew had the benefit of instant replay as umpires do today. After the game he saw a television replay of the home run, and immediately said that he had blown the call. He publicly admitted it in the news media.

It has to make Rich Garcia cringe everytime this replay is shown. However very little blame should fall on him in this. Sure he made the bad call, but keep in mind that these plays happen very quickly, and it’s easy to not see something along those lines. However to his credit, he admitted the mistake (much like umpire Jim Joyce, who a few years ago cost someone a perfect game with a bad call at first base).

To my knowledge, he’s the only person affiliated with MLB who’s every admitted that the call was incorrect. And he’s certainly not tweeting the play out to celebrate it on it’s anniversary. Rich Garcia is a stand-up guy. Can the powers that be in the league today say the same?

Baltimore Orioles: Should Buck Showalter return to baseball?

It’s been just over a year since we came to find out that Buck Showalter would not be returning to the Baltimore Orioles. Just a point of semantics, Showalter wasn’t fired. His contract was up, and the Orioles decided to move on. There is a difference.

Respected Orioles’ beat writer Rich Dubroff of wrote this piece this morning surrounding Showalter and the various job openings around the league. First off, I agree with Dubroff’s main theme in that baseball is a better game with Buck Showalter in it. And by in it, I mean in the dugout managing. As you may remember Showalter did some in-studio work for the YES Network on New York Yankees games in the second half of the season. But I’m talking in the dugout – baseball’s a better game with Buck in the dugout.

There are a wide array of jobs open as Dubroff lays out in his article. He seems to believe that Philadelphia’s job may be in play, which is of course possible. It would be interesting to see how Buck would fit into that environment. With a rabid fan base and a tough media; how would his “Buckisms” faire?

Obviously the Chicago Cubs would be a job he might consider, if only for the fact that it might offer him the best chance at winning a World Series. What would really be interesting is if he ended up signing with a team who comes through Oriole Park at Camden Yards next year – which Chicago does. I suspect that Orioles fans would love the opportunity to have Buck come back into Camden Yards as a visitor.

I think it boils down to what Buck wants to do. He became a grandfather for the first time in 2017, and my personal opinion is that something along those lines is probably a game changer. Once you’re into “the grind” of grandparenting, maybe some of the other things in your life aren’t quite as important. However if Buck wants to manager again, I suspect that there would be no shortage of teams who would be interested.

Baltimore Orioles: How will spring training 2020 be different from 2019?

Next year’s spring training should have a slightly different vibe for the Baltimore Orioles. 2019 was all about finding out what the Orioles had. Next season will be different.

In some instances the Orioles now know what they have. This past season brought a new manager in Brandon Hyde, and a slew of new players. Nobody really knew what to expect of anyone – including the fans. This time around we’ll have a better idea. We know the ebbs and flows of how Hyde manages a game. We know who the leaders are.

The question will be will this team be able to take a greater step next year. They took a good step this past year by winning more games than they did in 2018. But they need to build on that in 2020. And that process starts in spring training.

Actually it starts before spring training. Hyde told each player what he needed to continually work on in the off season. Regardless of what that was for each individual player, the message was loud and clear. You shouldn’t begin working on these things in the Florida Grapefruit League. That process needs to begin in the off season.

In effect, if your assignment was to cut down on your swing, that should be perfected by the time you report to camp. That right there should tell folks that the Orioles intend to be more competitive in 2020. That doesn’t mean that the playoff race is a reasonable goal, because it isn’t. But they intend to be more competitive. And that starts in spring training.

Baltimore Orioles: The passing of Andy Etchebarren

Another Baltimore Orioles’ legend passed away over the weekend. Former catcher Andy Etchebarren, passed away on Saturday evening. Etchebarren was drafted by the Orioles, and made his debut in 1962. He played 15 full major league seasons, 12 of which were with the Orioles.

Etchebarren was only a career .235 hitter, but keep in mind as I said that he was a catcher. 1975 was one of his best year at the plate, a season in which he hit .280. Defensively he fielded at a career .987 clip behind the dish. Not too shabby.

Etchebarren loved being an Oriole, and he was a part of two World Series championship teams. He was often overshadowed in a sense because he played with Frank, Brooks, Palmer, et al. But make no mistake that he was a huge part of all of those great Orioles teams. And he’ll be missed.

Baltimore Orioles: Tips happen

Over the course of the 2019 season I often questioned whether Baltimore Orioles’ pitchers were tipping their pitches. In fact, at times during various seasons I’ve thought that. Obviously it wouldn’t have been happening purposely or consciously, but it could have happened over the course of time. Perhaps various pitchers in various games.

After defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday and evening the ALDS at 1-1, Washington third baseman Anthony Rendon at the very least insinuated that LAD starter Clayton Kerrhaw was tipping his pitches. There’s some discrepancy as to whether or not it was actually Kershaw tipping pitches or another pitcher. But that’s irrelevant to the purpose of this discussion in a sense.

The point is that teams do very much have to be careful. Because opponents are always watching. If in fact you do something which indicates what you’re going to throw, opposing teams are going to find it.

Many might suggest that it’s immoral in relation to the rules of baseball to look and see if someone’s tipping their pitches. I would disagree – and nobody cares about the unwritten codes of the game like I do. Stealing signs – THAT’S against the unwritten rules. But there’s nothing wrong with studying your opponents to see if they’re doing something to tip their pitches.

This just means that players need to study themselves. And coaches need to study their players. Because if things are going on which indicate what’s coming, someone’s going to find it.

Baltimore Orioles part ways with Josh Wasdin

The Baltimore Orioles made one further change to their coaching staff yesterday. Bullpen coach Josh Wasdin was informed that he would not be retained for 2020. Wasdin has been working on a one-year contract.

The rhyme or reason behind the changes that have been made to the coaching staff are unclear. But the fact is that the Orioles are making them. They’ll begin interviewing for replacements next week.

Baltimore Orioles: Coaching changes

The Baltimore Orioles will not re retaining first base coach Arnie Beyeler or hitting coach Howie Clark next year. Both coaches were working on one-year deals, which expire at the end of October. These moves were announced yesterday, however more are expected.

It’s unknown whether these are mutual decisions or if the Orioles just wanted to move on. Whether or not the positions are filled immediately or after the World Series also remains unknown. However both positions will probably be filled sooner rather than later. More as it comes.

Baltimore Orioles: Too many statistics is hurting the game

While recently they’ve embraced analytics more, the Baltimore Orioles are a fairly traditional team. You hit the ball, you run to first base, etc. That’s how the game has always been played – until now. Recently there’s been a push to embrace every available stat and every available trend to use it to one’s advantage. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But purists aren’t fans.

During a twitter exchange with a fan once I was told that purists are ruining baseball. That somehow doesn’t exactly make much sense given that purists do things the way they’ve always been done. It’s the new age analytical thinking which is in fact new. These people’s idea is that the new age thinking is keeping younger viewers into the sport.

ESPN encompassed this last night in their coverage of the AL Wild Card Game. They had a traditional broadcast, which is where I found myself watching. on ESPN2 they also had a Statcast Broadcast with three different announcers. Those who care about things such as launch angle and exit velo were presumably watching there.

Unequivocally, no it’s not purists such as I who are hurting baseball. In my view it’s the over-abundance of stats such as what I wrote above. There are some teams who go way over-and-above what’s necessary. If there’s a stat which says that a specific batter hits at a steeper launch angle against a specific pitcher while he’s wearing a pink tutu on the mound, teams would consider bringing him in wearing just that. (Steeper launch angle meaning that the ball would have a better shot at being caught in the outfield as opposed to a home run.)

I suppose my point is that you can’t leave these things up to stats – totally. Stats and trends are important for sure, and they don’t lie. But they also remove the human element from the game. They remove the manager or players having a feel for what’s going on. And there’s no substitute for that.

This is spreading to other sports as well. When I heard that John Harbaugh of the Ravens was going for two-point conversions because the analytics said that was better, I hit the roof. Again, there’s no substitute for a coach or athlete having a feel for the game. As a purist, that’s not something that we should let die.

Baltimore Orioles parting ways with Brady Anderson

Former Baltimore Orioles’ star Brady Anderson is now former Baltimore Orioles’ front office employee Brady Anderson. (But he’s still obviously former Orioles’ star Brady Anderson – you get the idea.) Multiple outlets have reported that the club and Anderson are parting ways.

Anderson of course was very active in baseball operations under former VP Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter. Once that regime was gone, Anderson’s role became a bit less defined – in effect once VP Mike Elias took over. Anderson apparently was on a leave of absence dealing with family issues for much of this season. With that said, it sounds as if this is a mutual decision.

Elias has now turned over pretty much the entire front office. Many fans will see that as a good thing, and many will raise their eyebrows. However the Angelos family gave Elias the power to mold the organization in the manner he wished. And he’s doing just that. More as it comes.

Baltimore Orioles: We go beyond the end of the line!

Today’s the day after for the Baltimore Orioles. The team returned to Baltimore last night after the season finale in Boston, and today guys will report to Camden Yards to clean out their lockers for the winter. While 2019 is over and done, it’ll be a busy day at the yard. And always with an eye on the future.

Rumor has it that manager Brandon Hyde met with each player over the course of the final two or three weeks or so. Each player’s future was discussed, and Hyde went over what each player had done well this year – and how each player is expected to improve going into spring training. And the point was driven home that the expectation was that said improvements and adjustments were expected to have been begun going into spring training. They weren’t to begin in spring training, but they were to have been worked on throughout the off season.

So it’ll be interesting how things look once we get to spring games next year. And we will get there – if you can believe that, here on the first full day of the off season. Time will in fact pass!

In the mean time however, the season never really ends here at Birdland Crush. We’ll have daily coverage of any Orioles’ news, including opinions and analysis. In the immediate future, I always take a couple of days to “digest” the season in it’s entirety. But sometime towards the end of this week I’ll provide a season recap. We’ll also look at the MLB playoffs as they go along, perhaps chronicling the progress of former Orioles, or players with ties to the Orioles.

Off seasons tend to drag on in baseball; they can be trying. But before we know it, Orioles’ FanFest will be upon us, and pitchers and catchers report two weeks after the Super Bowl. And then we begin anew. But in the interim, it never stops here at Birdland Crush!

Baltimore Orioles: Played until the end of the line

Chandler Shepherd started the season finale at Fenway Park for the Baltimore Orioles this afternoon. The Birds were going with a bullpen game, however Shepherd went five innings. Shpeherd’s line: 5.0 IP, 3 R (2 earned) 1 BB, 6 K.

The Orioles took the lead in the third with RBI-singles by Hanser Alberto and Austin Hays, and a fielder’s choice-RBI by Trey Mancini. Even on the last day, they were still fighting. And they led 3-0.

However while I’m sure they were ready for the season to end as well, Boston wasn’t going quietly into the night. They put two across in the last of the third, and tied the game at three on Vasquez’s RBI-single in the sixth. One inning later Bogaerts’ RBI-single gave Boston a 4-3 lead.

But again, the Orioles fight until the end. Jonathan Villar, who played in all 162 games this year, smacked an RBI-single which tied the game at four in the eighth inning. But in the bottom of that inning it appeared that Boston was going to take the lead back. Bradley Jr. sent a towering fly ball to right field towards the corner of the Orioles’ visitors bullpen at Fenway Park…

…it was a home run. It was flat out a home run. Until it wasn’t. Until Stevie Wilkerson leapt at the wall, brought the ball back into the field of play, and spun around the wall and back onto his feet. He flat out robbed Bradley of a two-run homer.

However it would be and RBI-single by Devers in the last of the ninth that would walk Boston off as winners, ending the season for both teams. The Orioles finished the year at 54-108. As I’ve said however, that shows progress. Maybe seven games better than last year in the win column isn’t a heck of a lot of progress to some people. But it’s progress. And that’s what this season was supposed to be all about.

Going back to that Wilkerson catch for a moment, I can’t stress enough how amazing of a play it was. But it goes deeper than that. It symbolizes that this team never quit. It would have been easy enough to have let that ball go over the wall. The game probably would have been over earlier, and nobody would have thought Wilkerson or the O’s any worse for doing it.

But the fact that Wilkerson spent so much effort in making that play, in effect a play that was meaningless in the grand scheme of things, speaks to his character. And it speaks to the character of this organization, which obviously teaches it’s players to always play hard. And they typified that attitude until the last out on the last day, and until the end of the line. Up until the end.

Just for laughs…the Orioles’ next game will be Florida Grapefruit League Opening Day on Saturday, February 23, 2020 against Atlanta at CoolToday Park. Starters for both teams are still to be determined. (As soon as I’m able to get information about potential starters I’ll pass that along!) Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

And THAT, folks, is the end of the line!

Baltimore Orioles: Final game of this decade

Today the Baltimore Orioles close not only the 2019 season, but also a decade that will forever be special in Birdland. The next time the Birds take the field it will be 2020, and thus a new decade. (The Roaring 20’s?!) So today ends the 2010’s.

And what a memorable decade this was. First off, the Orioles and the rest of the league all play at 3 PM EST this afternoon. The league took note of the closing act of 2011, in which the Orioles savagely beat Boston in walk off fashion, and five minutes later Tampa did the same to NY – the combination of the two acts sending Tampa to the post season and sending Boston home. So at some point the league decided to have the last day feature games at the same time so as to potentially have something along those lines occur again.

Obviously the success of this past decade can be traced back and attributed to Buck Showalter. His leadership propelled the likes of Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Manny Machado, Nick Markakis, J.J. Hardy and others to greatness. Some of you reading this will point out that the O’s never won a World Series in this timeframe, and that’a undebatable. However after 14 consecutive losing seasons and multiple embarrassments in that span, are you really going to let the lack of a World Series define that era?

The 2012 Orioles shocked the world. And it was literally a season-long process – shocking the world, that is. They took the momentum garnered after bouncing Boston from the playoffs in 2011 and paid it forward. There were people who didn’t truly believe in the Orioles having a shot at the post season until they had actually clinched. But they made it, and won the inaugural AL Wild Card Game in Texas.

We all know the rest. Two years later the O’s were AL East Champions, and two years after that they returned to the post season as a wild card team. However all good things must come to an end. And the 2010’s-era Orioles has their fall from grace as well. They were competitive in 2017 until the final month, when they just fell off. Then 2018 obviously was a disaster, causing wholesale changes across the board.

But when fans think back on this decade of Orioles baseball, my hope is that they remember the good times. Because the fact is that they far outweigh the bad. By a long shot. Think back to moments such as this oneDelmon Young‘s bases clearing double in the 2014 ALDS against Detroit.

Incidentally, as a writer I try my best to call things down the middle. Sure I cover the Orioles and thus write from the Orioles’ perspective, but I try not to cheerlead. But watching that clip still sends shivers down my spine (in a manner that only baseball can induce). You can hear the crowd, and hear the announcer straining just to have his voice heard over the fans. And that’s very consistent with my own memories of that moment.

That was not only the loudest I had ever heard Camden Yards, but the loudest I had ever heard any stadium. It was one of those moments that you just won’t ever forget. Nary one person in the park that day didn’t feel that Baltimore was collecting penance in that moment for all of the losing and embarrassments over the years.

It was unforgettable. And personally I think it’s the moment which personifies and symbolizes this decade of Orioles baseball. Again, it’s easy to look at that and say wow look how far they’ve fallen. But the fact is that this was one of the most successful decades in some time for the Orioles. Never forget that.

And yes folks, it closes today. But I think most fans believe that the organization is headed in the right direction. Those days could be returning in the future. Oh and there’s one other thing people should keep in mind when thinking of the 2010’s and Orioles baseball. The price of admission? ONE BUCK.

Baltimore Orioles: John Means closes his season in fashion

John Means was one of the biggest surprises of the 2019 season for the Baltimore Orioles. Not that it matters, but he probably goes into spring training next year as the staff ace. That aside, he closed his 2019 season this afternoon with a decent outing against Boston at Fenway Park. Means’ line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 5 K.

The Birds took an almost immediate lead in this one. Jonathan Villar got aboard almost right away with a base hit, and he scored a moment later in a two-run homer by DJ Stewart. And the O’s appeared off to the races…

…save for the fact that Means surrendered a two1run homer to Bogaerts in the last of the first. Immediately following that homer Martinez would give them the lead at 3-2 with a solo shot of his own. But this day belonged to Means and the Orioles, and that brief blip on the radar wasn’t about to stop them.

Sure enough, Richie Martin‘s solo homer in the second tied the game back up at three. One inning later Renato Nunez‘s solo homer gave them the lead back. Incidentally, Richie Martin is another success story of this season. Of course the Orioles got him in last year’s Rule 5 draft. He had to be on the roster all season, and now moving forward he’s a member of the Orioles in full, meaning they can move him up and down the organization. Whether he’s a major leaguer next year or not remains to be seen. But I think he has a bright future at this level.

The O’s blew the lead open in the sixth. Austin Wynns‘ RBI-single extended the lead to 5-3. Martin would smack an RBI-double, making it 6-3. Jonathan Villar and Trey Mancini would each add RBI-singles as well, giving the Birds an 8-3 lead.

Boston would put up an additional run, and they threatened in the eighth. They had the bases loaded and one out, but the O’s turned a double-play to end the inning. Trey Mancini would also hit his 35th homer of the season to cap off the Birds’ 9-4 victory.

And that brings us to tomorrow – the end of the line. It’s kind of hard to believe that we’ve been doing this since spring games began – back on February 23rd. But the Orioles have now played 161 regular season games. And I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for following along to this point…

…and beyond. And yes folks, there is a beyond – Birdland Crush covers the Birds 365 days a year! The world certainly doesn’t end tomorrow. Just the season. The Orioles are already closing 2019 in a positive manner by taking a series from Boston at Fenway Park. Tomorrow they’ll try to make it a sweep.

So for the last time this season…the O’s will close the year tomorrow at Fenway Park. It’ll be a bullpen game for the Orioles and they’re yet to announce a starter, however whomever he is will be opposed by Boston’s Eduardo Rodriguez. Game time is set for just after 3 PM.

Baltimore Orioles win at Fenway behind Asher Wojchiekowski

When the Baltimore Orioles pocked up Asher Wojchiekowski this season on waivers, I figured that it was just one of those moves that teams make for depth. But to his credit Wojchiekowski proved to be a competitor. And a tough one at that. At the very least, he cemented his status as a potential starter going into spring training next year last night at Fenway Park. Wojchiekowski’s line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K.

GM Mike Elias has to feel good about picking up Wojchiekowski during this season. That isn’t to say that he’s guaranteed a starting role next year. However I think he’s won the right to compete for a starting job.

Renato Nunez smacked a three-run homer in the top of the third. It was a deep line drive-type shot, which barely made it over the green monster in left field. But it made it over, giving the O’s a 3-0 lead.

Nunez is a guy who may well fall into the same category as Wojchiekowski (although Nunez has been here all year). He’s exceeded expectations, and has earned the shot to compete for a starting job next year. And this is true of a lot of people.

Nunez would also smack an RBI-single in the ninth inning, and the Birds took the series opener, 4-0. Speaking of spring training, back in spring training 2019 I made note of the fact that the Birds seemed to tack on insurance runs in games here and there. That struck me at the time…

…mainly because it was something with which the 2018 Orioles struggled. Obviously there’s no stat out there which measures how often a team tacked on a late run with a lead, but it’s something that this year’s team would do from time to time – again, dating back to spring training. And at the time I remember writing that it wasn’t something that would be necessary every game (last night’s game, for example). However it was a good thing to do her me and there.

The series continues this afternoon at Fenway Park. John Means gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Jhouly’s Chacin. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: 158 down, three to go

We’ve almost come to the end of the line for the 2019 Baltimore Orioles. Mind you, the goal that I set forth for this team in my season preview back in March was for them to better the record of the 2018 Orioles. Standing now at 52 wins, they’ve done that by five games already.

So in that sense this was a successful season. Granted the bar was set very low, but the fact is that it had to be. As time wore on over the course of the final five to six weeks however, this team turned it up a notch. Maybe that wasn’t necessarily seen in the win/loss column, but guys really seemed to come together. That’s a good sign going into spring training next year.

However that’s irrelevant – for now. There are still three games to play, and the Orioles find themselves closing the season in Boston at “the Fens.” Surprisingly, this series is meaningless. It was a given that it would be meaningless for the Orioles. However I’m quite frankly surprised that Boston’s in a position whereby it’s meaningless for them as well.

Nevertheless, the series begins tonight at Fenway Park. Asher Wojciechowski gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Nathan Eovaldi. Game time is set for just after 7 PM this evening.

Baltimore Orioles battle but fall is in Toronto

Gabriel Ynoa made his penultimate start of the year for the Baltimore Orioles last night in Toronto. It was a short outing and far from perfect, but it’ll serve as our last look this year at Ynoa, a pitcher who had his struggles but also surprised a bit this year. Ynoa’s line: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K.

Ynoa will finish the year at 1-10, but didn’t pitch horribly in all of those ten losses. Last night he gave up a solo homer to McKinney in the first inning, giving Toronto a 1-0 lead. He also gave up a solo homer to Tellez in the fourth. He was lifted after four.

Tellez would homer again in the sixth, extending the Toronto lead to 3-0. But the Orioles battled back in the eighth inning. One thing led to another, and suddenly the bases were loaded…

…and the O’s tried to take advantage. Rio Ruiz grounded for into a fielder’s choice-RBI. That cut the Toronto lead to 3-1. It also left a base open with two outs. That is until Toronto hit a batter, re-loading the bases.

And with the bases loaded again, DJ Stewart walked. That cut the Toronto lead to 3-2. Unfortunately however, that was the furthest the Orioles would get. They ended up falling 3-2 and dropping two-of-three in Toronto.

The O’s are off today before they open up a three-game set in Boston tomorrow night. That will be the final series of the year. The Orioles are also guaranteed not to finish with the worst record in baseball, as Detroit has clinched that dubious honor. So the Birds will pick second in next year’s draft.

Baltimore Orioles: Trey Mancini spearheads win with five hits

The Baltimore Orioles evened the series in Toronto last night behind a five-hit effort by 2019 Most Valuable Oriole Trey Mancini. Dylan Bundy left his mark as well, tossing a gem for the O’s. Bundy’s line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K.

The Birds hit the bats early and never looked back. Renato Nunez‘s two-RBI double in the first gave them a 2-0 lead. Tack on an RBI-single by Dwight Smith Jr, and it was 3-0.

Fisher’s solo homer in the third got Toronto on the board, however this was the Orioles’ night. Toronto’s made a habit of coming back against the Orioles. Not on this night. The Birds ended up building an insurmountable lead.

The O’s got that one run right back in the fourth when Dwight Smith Jr. smacked a solo homer. Austin Wynns followed suit with one of his own. And the rout was on. DJ Stewart hit a two-run homer in the sixth, and Mancini added an RBI-single. The Birds would also put three runs up in the eighth inning.

As I said, Toronto seems to love coming back against the Orioles. They were able to put a few runs across in the ninth, but it was too little too late. End of the day, the Birds defeated Toronto 11-4.

The end of the season should give Orioles fans hope. No, not because the season’s over which ends the pain of the 2019 season. But because some of these young players really started to gel, and made some big time contributions in games. That includes Mancini, who while only having three full big league seasons under his belt, is the team leader.

However plenty of guys have made big splashes – the Hays’, Nunez’s, and Alberto’s of the world. This franchise is in a much better position going into spring training in 2020 than it was going in this year. That should give Orioles’ fans a lot of hope.

The series in Toronto concludes this evening at Rogers Centre. Gabriel Ynoa gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Jacob Waguespack. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Austin Hays is a keeper

Chandler Shepherd got the start for the Baltimore Orioles last night in Toronto. However no pitcher on either side was worth the price of admission last night. Shepherd’s line: 3.0 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 1 BB, 2 K.

The Orioles trailed 5-0 before they could even get started. However once they got started, they were really in business. And that was due to the efforts of Austin Hays – among others.

Hays smacked a three-run homer in the third to cut the Toronto lead to 5-3. While Toronto would extend the lead to 6-3 later on, Hays also took extra bases away from them with a leaping catch at the center field wall. He would add a solo homer in the fifth, which followed a solo shot by Jonathan Villar. Add on a two-run shot by Rio Ruiz, and the O’s had a 7-6 lead.

After Toronto tied the score at seven in the seventh, the O’s got RBI-singles from Hays and Villar in the eighth to take a 9-7 lead. However Toronto would tie the score back up in the ninth inning at nine, and to extra innings we went. Yet again.

This game showcased the future for the O’s in Austin Hays, as well as a bit of the past. Chris Davis homered in the twelfth to give the Orioles the lead back. However Toronto came back with a sac fly-RBI in the last of the twelfth, and we played on. Finally Alford’s walk off homer in the 15th won it for Toronto.

The Birds walked off losers last night, but the real story of the game was Austin Hays. The guy’s done nothing but play hard and make big plays since he’s been called up. Now I will caution fans that often times you don’t want to put too much stock in both Spring Training stats and those from September. They can be very deceiving.

However as deceiving as those stats can sometimes be, the effort Hays has put in can’t be questioned. Neither can the results. He’s been a shot in the arm to the team and to the fan base. All they can hope is that it continues.

The series in Toronto continues this evening at Rogers Centre. Dylan Bundy gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Anthony Kay. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Chris Davis homers Birds to a win in home finale

Baltimore Orioles’ fans got to see John Means on final time at home this year in the last home game. While we still have a week to go in the season itself, it’s kind of amazing that we’ve now completed 81 home games. Then again, it’s amazing that we’re almost to the end of the line. And Means this afternoon reminded Orioles fans about why he was the biggest surprise of the season. Means’ line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K.

It’s been a long road in those 81 home games. A lot of bad baseball, learning experiences, and even a dugout fight. However while I shouldn’t get too far into this type of mode given that we still have a week to go, Orioles fans should also be proud. Towards the end, this team really started to come together. And that was the sentiment today.

The O’s did briefly have to play from behind however, as Crawford’s first inning RBI-single gave Seattle a 1-0 lead. But things got tied up fairly quickly; Renato Nunez‘s RBI-double in the last of the first tied the game at one. And there it remained for quite awhile.

The fans were treated to a pitching duel in the final home game. John Means was spectacular in mowing Seattle hitters down. The Orioles really may have found something in Means. Speaking for myself, I’m excited to see him going into spring training next year.

Chris Davis is a question mark heading into spring training however. Many fans seem to think that he’s going to retire, however that would forfeit him a lot of money. He has three years left on his deal. GM Mike Elias said before the game that he expects Davis to be back.

However at least for one day, Davis got to play the hero once again. You have to respect the guy’s work ethic and the fact that he never seems to give up. And it was that never say die attitude which propelled Davis to smack a solo homer in the seventh inning.

That was the go-ahead run, and it propelled the O’s onto victory in the final game at home this season. This is a year that hasn’t been easy on Chris Davis. We all remember the slump in which he started the season. But at least on this day, he directly won the game for his team.

The O’s now embark on their final road trip which will close out the season, as they head to Toronto tomorrow night. The Birds are yet to name a starter, but they’ll face Toronto’s Clay Buchholtz. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Austin Hays continues to impress for the Birds

Asher Wojchiekowski got the start last night for the Baltimore Orioles. However he didn’t figure into the final outcome for the most part. Wojchieowski’s line: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R (2 earned), 2 BB, 4 K.

The Birds took a 3-0 lead in the second on two RBI-doubles. One by Stevie Wilkerson, and then a two-RBI double by Richie Martin. One inning later Seattle would get on the board with a solo homer by Long, cutting the Birds’ lead to 3-1.

But Seattle kept the pressure on. Crawford’s RBI-single in the fifth cut the Orioles’ lead to 3-2. An additional run scored later in the inning on a passed ball. And we were tied.

But we weren’t tied for long. Hanser Alberto‘s RBI-single in the last of the fifth gave the Orioles the lead back. However the Orioles’ bullpen coughed up the lead again, this time in the eighth. Crawford smacked a three-run homer, and for a moment Seattle led 6-4.

But the Orioles’ newest potential star came to the rescue. Austin Hays smacked a two-run homer to tie it up at six in the last of the eighth. While the game went to extras, it just wasn’t meant to be last night for the Orioles. Reliever Tanner Scott committed an error in the top of the 13th, which led to Lopes’ run-scoring single. And Seattle won this one 7-6.

However the takeaway should be Austin Hays. He’s been with the team since early September, and at the very least he’s earned himself a solid look in spring training next year. Whether it’s been in the field or at the plate, Hays has brought positive energy, solid play, and a great attitude to Baltimore with him.

The series concludes this afternoon in the Orioles’ final home game of the season at Camden Yards. John Means gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Seattle’s Marco Gonzales. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: The opener worked

The Baltimore Orioles used Richard Bleier as an opener last night against Seattle. I’m not a fan of the concept, as I’ve said previously. However last night it worked flawlessly. Bleier’s line: 2.0 IP, 3 H 2 R, 0 BB, 1 K.

Aaron Brooks then proceeded to pitch seven innings of one-run ball. However Bleier had somewhat of a rough start before settling in. He gave up a two-run homer to Lewis in the first inning. However the O’s trailed for a very short time. Anthony Santander‘s three-run home run in the last of the first gave the Birds a 3-2 lead.

Later in the inning Austin Hays would ground into a fielder’s choice-RBI, extending the Orioles’ lead to 4-2. Nola would cut the lead to 4-3 in the fourth with a fielder’s choice-RBI of his own, however that didn’t rattle the O’s. The bottom of that fourth inning brought a solo homer by Hanser Alberto, extending the lead to 5-3.

And as I said, Brooks was superb in relief of Bleier all night. But again, I’m not a fan of this strategy. People ask me why not all the time.

First off it goes against the grain of traditionalism in a traditional sport. However pitching has always been about trying to get complete games. This makes it nary impossible to do so.

It takes the emphasis off of starting pitching. It also takes emphasis off of the concept of relievers. It devalues both roles in a way. However needless to say, it worked for the Orioles last night.

This was the Orioles’ 50th won of the year. While this far they’re only three wins better than next year, that does show progress. I would submit that getting out of the 40’s and into the 50’s in terms of overall wins is a psychological benefit for the O’s. And that’s one of the goals.

The series with Seattle continues tonight at Camden Yards. Asher Wojchiekowski gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Seattle’s Justus Sheffield. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Austin Hays dazzles in the field in Birds’ loss

Baltimore Orioles’ starter Gabriel Ynoa did what he could to put the O’s in a spot to win last night. He ended up taking the loss, however he also pitched well enough to win. Ynoa’s line: 6.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 1 K.

The Birds took a 1-0 lead in the third o. Trey Mancini‘s RBI-double. However back-to-back homers by Toronto one inning later would give Toronto a 2-1 lead. The O’s would tie the game back up at two in the fifth when Anthony Santander hit into a fielder’s choice with a runner on third. Which is also scored as an RBI.

However Toronto’s trademark this entire series has been the big inning. Last night they won the game with a six-run seventh inning. And the scary thing is that this is as young a team as the Orioles.

It seems that no matter who’s played for Toronto over the years, they’ve always had big innings against the Orioles in them. They could get shut out by any other team, but they’ll have a big inning in them to beat the O’s. Trey Mancini would smack ah RBI-double in the seventh, and Austin Hays would homer in the ninth to cut the deficit to 8-4 as the final.

But the big story of the game was Austin Hays in center field. I mentioned above that Toronto smacked back-to-back home runs in the fourth. That was almost back-to-back-to-back homers. And it probably should have been. In fact, it definitely should have been.

Guerrero (Jr.) sent a deep shot to center field – this after two straight home runs. Hays tracked the ball all the way to the wall, timed his jump perfectly, and brought the ball back into play as it sailed over the wall. He flat out robbed Guerrero of a homer.

To his credit, Guerrero tipped his cap to Hays as he ran off the field. As they say game recognizes game. That was one of the best catches of the season, league-wide. And Hays knew immediately that he had done something special, as he pumped his chest with his fist. Now I’m not a huge fan of that sort of thing, as I feel like it could be deemed as showing up the opponent. (Which is part of why I was almost surprised to see Guerrero tip his cap.) However I digress – it was a special moment, and one that we’ll see again on highlight reels in the coming years.

The Orioles will now welcome Seattle into Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the final hike series of the season. Richard Bleier will get the start out of the bullpen, and he’ll be opposed by Seattle’s Felix Hernandez. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles cough up big lead

Toronto’s always been a bit of a bugaboo for the Baltimore Orioles. No matter what the stakes, circumstances, or odds, they seem to find a way to beat the Birds. Dylan Bundy got the start last night, and put the Orioles in a spot to win. Bundy’s line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 5 BB, 8 K.

The O’s took an early 2-0 lead in the first two RBI-doubles; one by Rio Ruiz, and the other by Austin Hays. Toronto immediately cut that lead in half in the second on Bichette’s RBI-single. But in terms of scoring, we didn’t hear from Toronto again for awhile.

Trey Mancini‘s two-RBI double in the second extended the lead to 4-1. The Birds then proceeded to get homers in the fourth from Jonathan Villar and Anthony Santander, and when the smoke cleared they led 7-1. Seemed like a safe lead, right? Not against Toronto.

Bichette tacked on a run with an RBI-single in the sixth. However a seventh inning three-run homer by Hernandez should have put the Orioles on alert that Toronto wasn’t going away. In truth, it did.

The O’s tacked on two runs on sac flies in the seventh and eighth. So if you’re an Orioles fan you’ve seen the Birds all but take their foot off the gas, allow Toronto back into the game, and then tack on a couple more runs to extend their lead back to four. But there was one problem…

…Toronto put up six runs in the ninth to take the lead. Including a dramatic grand slam by Grichuk. The Birds would tack on one more in the ninth, but ended up falling 11-10.

Toronto usually finds a way against the Orioles. It’s almost uncanny how much they have the Orioles’ number. Last night they came back from a six-run deficit. It just doesn’t matter how tough things look, they find a way against the Orioles.

The series concludes tonight at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Gabriel Ynoa gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Wilmer Font. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Mental lapse haunts Birds late

The Baltimore Orioles claimed Chandler Shepherd off of waivers earlier this year. They called him to the majors last night to start against Toronto. It was a so-so outing, and one in which he was in essence on a pitch count. Shepherd’s line: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 4 K.

Trey Mancini gave the Orioles the lead in the first inning with a two-run homer in the last of the first. It was Mancini’s 34th home run of the season. It’s undeniable that Mancini’s had such a great year, and it stands to reason to me that he’ll be voted the Most Valuable Oriole for 2019. Just a prediction – obviously you never know.

Toronto bounced right back in the second with a solo homer by Grichuck, that cut the Orioles’ lead in half at 2-1. The issue was that one inning later Biggio smacked a two-run homer which gave Toronto the lead at 3-2.

But once again it was Mancini who brought the Orioles back. His sac fly-RBI in the fifth tied the game at three. Two innings later, Mancini gave them the lead back. His RBI-single in the seventh put the Birds ahead 4-3.

The Orioles brought Shawn Armstrong onto pitch the eighth in a setup role. He recorded a quick out, before allowing Biggio aboard with a double. However that didn’t immediately indicate doom for Armstrong and the Orioles, as Armstrong’s pitched out of numerous jams since joining the Birds. And what happened tonight aside, I think he’s a keeper going into spring training next year.

However Armstrong allowed Biggio to time him in a sense. Biggio timed his timing to home plate, and was able to successfully steal third base. He later scored on Gurriel’s sac fly-RBI. And the game was tied.

Those are the types of things that the Orioles need to work on. As close as most games are (they had a one-run lead which was in essence surrendered on that play), that’s the type of thing that can make a huge difference. Again this isn’t to say that Armstrong doesn’t have a spot with the Orioles moving forward – because I think he does. It’s just something that he has to work on.

Unfortunately for the O’s, Toronto our four runs up in the ninth inning. Jonathan Villar smacked a solo homer in the last of the ninth, but it was too little too late. The Birds fell to Toronto on this night, 8-5.

The series continues tomorrow at Camden Yards. Dylan Bundy gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Clay Buchholtz. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles show that unwritten codes are alive and well

John Means had his struggles this afternoon for the Baltimore Orioles’ series finale in Detroit. Call it a so-so start, in the wrap-around game of a four-game set. Means’ line: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 3 K.

Means gave up a two-run homer to Mercer in the first. And in reality, Detroit never really looked back. Reyes would double in two runs in the fifth, giving Detroit a 4-0 lead.

Trey Mancini would smack his 33rd homer of the season in the top of the sixth, which cut the Detroit lead to 4-1. A half inning later in the last of the sixth Lugo would tack on a sac fly-RBI, and Austin Hays‘ RBI-single in the seventh cut the lead to 5-2. The O’s would load the bases in the ninth, however Mancini would strike out to end the game, sending the O’s down to defeat by the score of 5-2.

They split this wrap-around series with Detroit, two games a piece. Therefore Detroit still has a worse record than the Orioles, which is fine by them. Make no mistake that while some fans think it’s funny or fashionable to want to finish dead last to get the top pick in the draft, the players and coaches take issue with that attitude. You want to win as many games as you can.

This game did have a brief controversial moment towards the end. Renato Nunez was hit by a pitch on the hand in the eighth inning. Nunez would eventually exit the game, and x-rays were negative. However he didn’t appear happy about the HBP.

In the last of that eighth inning the Orioles’ Ryan Eades hit Detroit’s leadoff hitter. Both benches were warned. As it turned out, there was no further conflict in the game.

Was that a purpose pitch? Needless to say, it looked suspicious. But if it was keep in mind that it was a matter of Eades thinking that Nunez shouldn’t have been hit, and taking up for his teammate. We can argue until we’re blue in the face that the game’s unwritten rules are good or bad. But the fact is that they exist – like it or not.

People often take about players needing to just scrap these unwritten codes. I have no issue with them – the game polices itself. However there’s only one way to totally get people to stop hitting opposition players intentionally: make ANY HBP an automatic ejection. And I can guarantee you the players association would never allow that, as the fact is that sometimes players get hit. Sometimes pitches innocently have pitches get away from them. That happens, and guys would end up getting tossed for it.

So unless you’re willing to take draconian measures like that (which would never fly), baseball’s unwritten codes are here to stay. They’re part of the fabric and the present of the game – like it or not.

The Orioles now head home to open their final home stand of the season against Toronto at Camden Yards. The O’s haven’t yet named a starter, while Trent Thornton will start for Toronto. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles prompted to victory by Hanser Alberto’s squeeze

The Baltimore Orioles handed Asher Wojchiekowski the baseball this afternoon in the Motor City, and got exactly what they needed. They got a starter who put them in a position to win the game. And in the process they’re finding out more and more that Wojciechowski could be a keeper going into next year. Wojchiekowski’s line: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 2 K.

Detroit took an early 1-0 lead on Wojchiekowski and the Birds, on an RBI-double by Mercer in the last of the first. However an inning later the O’s bounced back and tied it on DJ Stewart‘s RBI-single. Detroit briefly had the lead back on Greiner’s RBI-single in the last of the second. But the Orioles weren’t about to let this one get away from them after blowing two late leads and losing in walk off fashion in the twelfth last night.

They took control for good in the third. Hanser Alberto tied it with an RBI-single. The great thing about that was that it was a bunt RBI-single. The Orioles put on the squeeze play and Alberto bunted for a base hit. And…it worked!

And as I’ve been saying all year, sometimes things happen when you get traffic on the base paths. Because later in the inning with two runners on, Rio Ruiz stepped to the plate and smacked a three-run homer. That gave the Orioles the lead for good at 5-2.

Jonathan Villar‘s two-RBI single in the sixth rain the score to 7-2, however the game was interrupted by a 40 minute rain delay as some storms passed over Detroit. But the O’s didn’t let up once play resumed. In fact, they racked on an insurance run. Anthony Santander‘s RBI-single in the eighth ran the final to 8-2.

The Alberto squeeze play was the catalyst for the win. That’s a play on which the Orioles normally aren’t able to deliver. However it’s possible that the fundamentals that the coaching staff have been preaching all season are finally starting to kick in. While many fans will say that’s too little too late, it helps the O’s going into spring training next year. It’s a rebuild; the future is everything.

The series concludes tomorrow afternoon at Comerica Park. John Means gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Detroit’s Tyler Alexander. Game time is set for just after 4 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Nibbling doesn’t work

The Baltimore Orioles sent Gabriel Ynoa to the mound this evening in Detroit, although he ended up being one of many. One of many in a twelve inning game, that is. Ynoa’s line: 4.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K.

Ynoa yielded Castro’s solo homer in the third, giving Detroit a 1-0 lead. After Ynoa has left the game Reyes’ RBI-single in the fifth extended the lead to 2-0. And at various points it appeared that’s how the game was going to end. Boy was that an incorrect prediction.

That 2-0 Detroit lead held until the top of the eighth. The Birds got two runners on, and Trey Mancini strode to the plate. And Mancini smacked a three-run homer into the stands. That gave the O’s a 3-2 lead in later innings.

However that lead wasn’t about to hold either. Reyes came to the plate once again with Detroit down to their final out. And Reyes sent a pop fly to right, which just barely made it over the fence for a solo game-tying homer. Was it a cheapie? Yes. But it still counts.

The game went to the twelfth, where Rio Ruiz gave the Orioles the lead back with an RBI-single. The Orioles were in good shape, but they still needed to close out the twelfth inning. Detroit had to hit again.

Michigan native Paul Fry walked a batter, recorded an out, and then gave up a double to put two runners in scoring position. He then intentionally walked a guy to load the bases and set up a double-play. The Orioles then turned to Ryan Eades.

Eades struggles from the get-go. He walked away in a run to tie the game on four straight pitches. There went the Orioles’ lead. He then gave up a game-winning walk off grand slam to Detroit’s Hicks, which sent the O’s to defeat.

Eades didn’t have the eye of the tiger from the beginning. He tried to nibble his way into outs. This is part of why being a big league pitcher is so tough; you don’t want to get too much of the plate, but you just can’t nibble. All that does is record balls and drive your pitch count up.

Fry took the loss, but make no mistake that the game was lost when a Eades started nibbling. Now it’s also a team effort – you can’t put it all on one guy. The Orioles lost the lead in one other occasion in the game as well. But nibbling shows no confidence, and it’s a sure way to help your opponent in getting more confidence.

The series continues tomorrow at Comerica Park. Asher Wojchiekowski gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Detroit’s Edwin Jackson. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles are better year-over-year

The Baltimore Orioles came into tonight’a game in Detroit with 47 wins on the year – which is where they finished 2018. So behind starter Aaron Brooks tonight, they had an opportunity to cement themselves as better than they were last season. Brooks’ line: 5.1 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 0 K.

Trey Mancini got the Orioles on the board off the bat with an RBI-single in the first inning. The lead remained at 1-0 through the fifth inning, when DJ Stewart smacked a two-run home run. Mason Williams‘ RBI-groundout would tack on an additional run later in the inning. And with that, the Birds took a 4-0 lead.

Two RBI-singles in the last of the fifth got Detroit on the board. Those RBI-singles also cut the Orioles’ lead in half at 4-2. But the Orioles weren’t done.

Trey Mancini smacked a two-run homer in the seventh gave the Orioles a couple of weeks insurance runs, and ran the final score to 6-2. Incidentally for what it’s worth, nearby Pontiac, MI native Pail Fry pitched a scoreless seventh for the Birds, striking out two. Fry’s parents were in attendance at tonight’s game, and their son didn’t disappoint when getting the opportunity to pitch in his hometown. As I’ve said before, that has to be a thrill for players.

And with that, the Orioles have 48 wins on the year. Not anywhere near the threshold the organization will eventually demand of manager Brandon Hyde and his players. However in the here and now, bettering your mark from the previous year will do.

Make no mistake that there’ll be nobody popping champagne because the Birds won more games this year than they did last year. But when you’re rebuilding you have to celebrate and take the good along with the bad. I think that this does mean a lot, contrary to what some people (including Brandon Hyde) say.

Before the season I said that success in 2019 would resemble winning more games than they did in 2018. The Orioles have now done that. Even if they don’t win another game this year (doubtful), that means something. Or at least it should – to both players and fans.

The series continues tomorrow night at Comerica Park. Gabriel Ynoa gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Detroit’s Daniel Norris. Game time is set for just after 6 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: To the victors go the spoils

Dylan Bundy pitched another decent game for the Baltimore Orioles again this evening. He battled and then battled more. That’s what you want out of a starting pitcher. That’s what you want out of any player. Means’ line: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R (two earned) 2 BB, 6 K.

The Orioles drew a walk and had to HBP’s in the first to load the bases. Austin Hays would then walk with the bases loaded, giving the O’s a 1-0 lead. However an RBI-single by Lux in the second would tie the game at one. But the Orioles took the lead back in the fifth with a solo homer by Pedro Severino.

After that, things got strange. First off, Rio Ruiz allowed the bases to get loaded with a fielding error in the sixth, bringing Martin to the plate (with two outs). Martin appeared to offer at a two-strike pitch, but on appeal first base umpire Jim Wolf said he checked in time. That kept the at-bat alive.

Bundy then proceeded to strike Bundy out swinging, which in theory preserved the Orioles’ lead. However Severino let the ball go right by him behind the plate, and it went to the backstop. Not one, but two runs scored on a passed ball. An oddity for sure.

The check swing is a judgement call. Plays as such also happen very quickly. Umpires have to make snap decisions. However the Orioles’ dugout was up in arms when that call was made. As was Dylan Bundy.

And that may well have made him dig just a little deeper to strike Martin out. However that extra sauce on the ball may well have led to Severino’s passed ball, which lost the game for the Orioles. Mind you folks, it’s never one thing that causes a win or loss. It’s the sum of the parts. But those two things stand out in this game.

I don’t believe that quirky things like that are gifted to you when you’re a “good team” such as Los Angeles. It would be ludicrous to suggest that. But good teams bound for the playoffs always take advantage of the opportunities they’ve been given. The game’s based on failure – either the hitter or pitcher is going to fail. And again, a good team will take advantage of your failures.

The O’s now head to Detroit for a four-game set at Comerica Park. Aaron Brooks gets the call for the O’s tomorrow, and he’ll be opposed by Detroit’s Jordan Zimmerman. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles equal 2018

With tonight’s win, the Baltimore Orioles equaled their 2018 mark of 47 wins. They did it tonight behind a fine effort by John Means. He tamed one of the best lineups in baseball for all intents and purposes. Means’ line: 6.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 6 K

Dwight Smith Jr’s RBI-double gave the O’s a 1-0 lead in the last of the second. And that lead held up until the sixth when Pollock smacked a two-run homer. Los Angeles is one of the best teams in baseball; you can’t totally shut them down.

However the Birds weren’t going to be stopped. Dwight Smith provides an additional RBI-single in the bottom of that second inning to tie the game at two. Right when it looked like we might end up in extra innings, Oriole bats came to life.

Jonathan Villar gave the Orioles the lead back in the seventh. He hit a no doubter into the stands, which opened up a 5-2 lead for the O’s. The record will also show forevermore that Villar hit the 6,106th home run of the 2019 big league season – a new major league record. Again, forevermore the record will show that said record was broken by an Oriole.

Pedro Severino would add a two-run shot in the eighth, and LA would add a run in the ninth. However when all was said and done, the Orioles had a 7-3 victory. Their 47th of the year.

As I said, that ties last year’s win total. My goal at the beginning of the season was for the Orioles to win more games than they did in 2018. So tonight they equaled that mark. Incidentally, they only reached 47 wins on the last day of the season last year.

The prevailing odds are that they’ll achieve my goal. Many people say that’s setting the bar too low. Maybe it is. But at the end of the day they’ll be able to say they did better year-over-year. And that’s an important sentiment to take into spring training next year.

The series with Los Angeles concludes tomorrow evening at Camden Yards. Dylan Bundy gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by LA’s Rich Hill (himself a former Oriole). Game time is set for approximately 7:15 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Outdone by a contender

Baltimore Orioles’ starter Ty Blach found himself grossly overmatched this evening. However that’s true of the entire Orioles squad up against the Los Angeles Dodgers. With their win tonight, Los Angeles clinched the NL West Division crown.

Bellinger’s RBI-single in the first inning got things going early on. LA would later put two runners on with Seaver coming to the plate. And Seager’s three-run homer opened the game up wide in the first inning with the O’s trailing 4-0.

The third inning would bring Seager back up to bat, and with that another home run. Seager’s two-run homer ran the score to 6-0. Lux’s solo shot in the fifth topped things off at 7-0.

The Orioles would get on the board in the eighth when DJ Stewart would smack his first homer of the season. But perhaps the best thing you can say about these Orioles is that they keep playing regardless of the situation. Renato Nunez‘s RBI-single in the eighth, combined with an errant throw, cut the lead to 7-3.

As I’ve said previously, you get people on base and things can happen. Even against a team as good as Los Angeles. The O’s were far outmatched this evening by a team in serious contention. But it also gives the O’s something to shoot for. Their aim and their belief is that they’ll get back to that stage at some point down the line.

As I said, this game was Los Angeles’ clincher for their division. With the win, they’re NL West Champions. So the normal array of champagne, beer, etc. was wheeled into the visitors’ clubhouse at Camden Yards this evening for their use. Now their goal will be to win a World Series.

The series continues tomorrow night with the Los Angeles Dodgers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. John Means gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Los Angeles’ Ross Stripling. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Changes in the organization

The Baltimore Orioles let go of several scouts a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday we found out that they weren’t finished making changes in the front office or throughout the organization. The O’s are apparently not renewing the contracts or parting ways with several people, but most notably former Orioles Scott McGregor, Calvin Maduro, Ryan Minor, and Jeff Manto – again, among others.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of this. I feel that former players should be taken care of. As much as Buck Showalter (who’s son was one of the scouts let go) was criticized for being overly loyal to veterans, I’m right there with him. And that also extends to former players. I think that there should be a place in the organization for those who want to remain a part of it after their playing days.

Obviously it goes without saying that the person has to be doing good work – and there was never any indication that any of the aforementioned alumni were falling short of their duties. This move is more about GM Mike Elias wanting to shape the front office in the manner he prefers. And I do understand that – and I understand it in full. But I also see Scott McGregor, who was on the mound for the final out of the 1983 World Series, who’s now sent packing from the only organization he’s ever known.

At the end of the day, if Elias can mold the Orioles into World Series champions down the line this will have had little to no effect on it. I just wish there were a way that they could have kept former Orioles in the organization. But these are the things that happen when you rebuild. You have to trust the process.

The O’s open a three-game set at home this evening with the Los Angeles Dodgers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. John Means gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Los Angeles’ Ross Stripling. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: MLB needs to re-think it’s interleague strategy

The Baltimore Orioles will open a three-game set with the Los Angeles Dodgers tomorrow night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Los Angeles of course comes in with an eye on the post-season, while the Orioles are in effect playing out a string. However that wasn’t always the case at this time of year.

As we know, the Orioles won more regular season games than anyone in baseball between 2012-2016. They were always very much in contention at this point. So you, the Orioles fans, know what that’s like. You obviously want things to go as smoothly as possible for you.

Interleague games can sometimes throw a wrench into that armor. From the Dodgers’ perspective, that’s what they’re having to deal with right now. However from the perspective of an American League team, it’s even worse – you surrender your DH. And there have been plenty of times when the Orioles of the aforementioned era have had to do that in these all-important September games.

This is symptomatic of MLB wanting to have an interleague game on every day of the season. Literally from Opening Day until the season concludes. So whenever your team has an interleague game at what could be deemed an inconvenient moment, just keep in mind that someone had to play interleague today.

But I think it made much more sense to do interleague games in blocks, which is how it used to be. Normally the weeks leading in and out of Memorial Day weekend (and Memorial Day weekend itself), and the last couple of weeks in June would be interleague games. So whether you were home or away, that’s when you would be playing games against the opposite league.

MLB moved away from that, however I think it’s something they should reconsider. Once you get to September it should be about one of two things; the playoffs, or playing out a string. I suppose if you’re the Orioles and you’re playing out a string, it’s not that big a deal. However the L.A. Dodgers have to get used to a style of play with which they’re not familiar, at a very sensitive moment.

Again, the Orioles have had to do that in the past as well. However if the league went back to the former rules on interleague play, that would cease to be an issue.

Baltimore Orioles swept away by Texas

The Baltimore Orioles gave the ball to Asher Wojchiekowski in this afternoon’s series finale in Texas. And unfortunately, the net result was about the same as what we had been seeing in the first three games of this series. Wojciechowski’s line: 2.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 2 K.

RBI-singles in the first and second innings gave Texas a 2-0 lead. The backbreaker for Wojciechowski was Solak’s two-RBI single later in the second inning. And that ended Wojciechowski’s day.

The O’s however did try to make a run of things. Renato Nunez smacked a solo homer in the last of the second to get the Orioles on the board. However Texas just kept piling on run after run. Solo homers in the third and fourth innings gave Texas a 6-1 lead. Pedro Severino‘s RBI-double would cut it to 6-2.

Again however, Texas kept piling runs on. When the smoke cleared, they beat the Orioles 10-4 this afternoon. This while sweeping this series at Camden Yards.

Obviously you never want to get swept at home, but this series gave the Birds a chance to see some additional players that might make a difference going into spring training next year. Part of rebuilding is the evaluation process. And the O’s have their work cut out for them.

Baltimore Orioles need to reverse-scout their own pitchers

The Baltimore Orioles did a bit of a number on themselves this evening. Not by what they did in the game, but by what they didn’t do. It was obvious that Texas had studied and scouted Orioles’ starter Aaron Brooks ad hoc. And the Orioles played right into the trap of not scouting their own people. Brooks’ line: 2.2 IP, 6 H, 7 R (6 earned), 1 BB, 3 K.

Brooks loaded the bases in the first inning before even recording an out. He managed to induce a comebacker, but his throw home was wide of the bag. Now the good news was that Brooks retired the final three hitters in the inning 1-2-3. The bad news was that came after an RBI-single, and a grand slam which gave Texas a 6-0 lead.

However the O’s tried to battle back. Anthony Santander‘s RBI-single in the last of the first cut the lead to 6-1. Trey Mancini would later score on a wild pitch, and Mason Williams‘ sac fly-RBI would cut the lead to 6-3. It looked like a night for the offenses.

Texas would tack on three additional runs before the game ended. Rio Ruiz would also smack a solo homer. The Birds would end up falling in this one, 9-4 – due in large part to a wild first inning.

But what happened in that first inning which causes me to talk about scouting or lack thereof? Brooks has actually been fairly solid of late in the past couple of weeks. That’s been due in large part to his changeups being so deadly. He’s really mastered the art of the changeup very well.

But the problem is that he’s gone to the well too many times. Texas obviously felt that Brooks was going to rely on his changeup early in the game; that’s probably what their scouts told them. They trusted their scouting, and it paid off with a big inning right out of the gate.

So again, would it not behoove the Orioles to in effect scour their own players? Maybe have their scouts look at games as if they were scouting another team for the O’s, but in essence to have them report on what they’re noticing about the Orioles? Because dipping into the well once too often on changeups is something that a scout would have noticed. Texas’ game plan was to expect the changeup early. Their hitters did just that, and the Orioles did their part to ensure that the changeups came in early and often.

The series concludes tomorrow afternoon at Camden Yards. Asher Wojchiekowski gets the call for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Texas’ Mike Minor. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles battle but fall to Texas

The Baltimore Orioles’ bullpen was unable to hold the lead for Dylan Bundy this evening. Bundy didn’t get credited with a quality start, but he put the Birds in a position to win. And he left with the lead in the seventh. Bundy’s line: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 5 K.

One thing I’ve noticed out of numerous Oriole pitchers (including Bundy) this year is that many of them are actually getting too much of the plate at times. Bundy’s one walk evidences that in a way. Pitches were in the zone, and many hitters took advantage of that – starting with Texas’ Calhoun, who smacked a solo homer in the first inning.

However they didn’t lead for long. Trey Mancini hit his 30th homer of the season (a solo shot) in the last of the first, tying the game. And Richie Martin provided a three-run homer in the second inning, giving Bundy and the O’s a 4-1 lead.

However Texas rallies twice in this game – the first time being in the wake of the Martin homer. Texas put two men on in the third, and Calhoun was coming back to the plate. And he would connect again, tying the game at four.

But the Orioles has a rally of their own in them in the fifth. With a guy on base, Anthony Santander put the Birds back in the driver’s seat with a two-run home run to give them a 6-4 lead. However the lead’s only as good as the bullpen staff trying to protect it, and the Birds’ ‘pen couldn’t get the job done this evening.

The seventh inning found Bundy chased from the game, and back-to-back RBI-singles gave Texas three runs. It also gave them the lead at 7-6. Which turned into a 7-6 victory over the Orioles.

End of the day, Texas rallied twice, and the Orioles only once. Most of these games are tight, and you have to be able to rally. The O’s couldn’t do it tonight.

The series continues tomorrow at Camden Yards. Aaron Brooks gets the start for the O’s, and Texas has yet to name a starter. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: John Means a hard-luck loser

The Baltimore Orioles got another great start out of John Means last night against Texas. However the bats were quiet, making Means a hard-luck loser. It’s unfortunately part of being a starting pitcher sometimes in baseball. All Means can do is his job and handle the things he can control. He did that last night, it just didn’t work out. Means’ line: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 4 K.

Means is going through a bit of a situation in his personal life, as his father was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. You may remember awhile back when he was placed on the family emergency list – he had traveled home to the Kansas City area to be with his Dad and his family. The Orioles then arrived in Kansas City, where Means turned in one of the best starts of his career in his hometown surrounded by his family. Needless to say, baseball’s a nice distraction for him right now.

The Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the last of the sixth, after playing to a 0-0 tie to that point. Renato Nunez pushed a run across on a sac fly-RBI. However one inning later Solak smacked a two-run homer for Texas, giving them a 2-1 lead. Forsythe’s ninth inning RBI-single in the ninth gave them an insurance run, and Texas beat the O’s 3-1 in game one of four.

Manager Brandon Hyde on Means’ outing (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

I didn’t think he was especially sharp in the first, but he really settled down and had a really good changeup going. He was just cruising into the seventh inning. He was throwing the ball really well and just left a changeup out over for the two-run homer. But that really wasn’t the story. He did a great job, but we just didn’t hit with runners in scoring position. We didn’t do a very good job with situational hitting tonight. We had our opportunities. He definitely deserved better, but we just didn’t get it done offensively tonight.

The O’s were 0-for-13 with RISP last night. While it begins and ends with starting pitching, that right there was the game. Had even one of those runners scored, the game unfolds differently.

The series continues tonight at Camden Yards. Dylan Bundy gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Texas’ Brock Burke. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Season’s success is on the line

The Baltimore Orioles open a four-game set with Texas this evening at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. To be blunt, the series is meaningless in terms of this season. Or is it?

The O’s currently stand at 46 wins on the season. Last year they won 47 games; and incidentally, win 47 came on the last day of the season. But I digress. This is about this year.

In my season preview back in March I said that if the Orioles can improve year-over-year 2019 will be a muted success. They stand on the doorstep of equaling last year’s mark. That will come with their next victory, which could be tonight for all we know.

I think it’s obvious that the O’s will reach that plateau at some point. They would have to lose the rest of their games to NOT equal last year’s mark, and in order to simply tie the mark they’d have to win one more game and that’s it. I think you’d have to try to do that, so it’s going to happen – even if by default.

Some of you are reading this saying to yourself, how could he declare this particular season a success? It’s a fair question. But when you’ve admitted since day one that the season was going to be a tough one, you have to set the bar low. Beating last year’s record was always about as high of a bar as this team was going to have. Even if only incremental improvement, they’ll have shown improvement…if they get there. Which they will

The series with Texas opens this evening at Camden Yards. The Orioles haven’t yet announced a starter, but whomever he is he’ll be opposed by Texas’ Kolby Allard. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

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