Baltimore Orioles avoid arbitration with Trey Mancini

The Baltimore Orioles of course were without Trey Mancini for the entirety of the 2020 season. Well, save for perhaps a few spring training games – if you count that. Mancini of course underwent treatment for colon cancer, keeping him away from baseball activities for the entire year. Or the semblance of the year, at least.

But now that we’re in 2021, he’ll be back. The Birds tendered him a contract last month, however they still had to agree on a salary for the season, unless they wanted to go to arbitration. Luckily, it appears that neither side wanted that.

Mancini and the Orioles agreed earlier today on a salary of $4.75 million for 2021. As I’ve said in the past, I would submit that arbitration is one of the most damaging and ridiculous processes through which a player and a team can go. It causes nothing but ill feelings on both sides, and generally the sides are only arguing in principle over a couple hundred thousand dollars. Chump change in the baseball world.

But the good news is that Mancini and the club decided to stay away from that route. Hopefully that makes for a smooth camp for Mancini, and an even smoother transition back into the regular season.


Baltimore Orioles: Welcome to this year

Happy anew Year to Baltimore Orioles fans across the globe! Starting today we can officially talk about 2021 as “this year.” And to me that’s always meant something.

We all know what 2020 was, and luckily the book’s closed on that. Needless to say, a 60-game season with no fans was strange. But hopefully as COVID vaccines ramp up, “this year” will be different.

We don’t know what “this year” will bring in the way of a season. Or in the way of fan admittance. But there’s only one way to find out. Happy New Year, Birdland!


Baltimore Orioles hire Tony Mansolino as third base coach

The Baltimore Orioles yesterday hired former Cleveland infield instructor Tony Mansolino to be their third base coach starting in 2021. Mansolino is a former career minor leaguer, and has managed at the minor league level as well. Along as I said with being the infield instructor in Cleveland.

Mansolino coached and is friends with former Oriole Ryan Flaherty, who gave his friend a rousing endorsement (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports:

He’s good, he’ll be a good add. From my own personal standpoint, I was fortunate to have Bobby (Dickerson) as an infield coach and then the year I spent in Atlanta I had Wash (Ron Washington). From an infield standpoint, he preaches a lot of the same things that both Wash and Bobby preach and he coaches hard. And I say that in the most respectful way.

The year I was in Triple-A and having a friendship with him, he’d still be getting on me about my secondary leads at third, and I think he pushed me extremely hard even when we had that relationship. And he’s worked in the Cleveland organization that I think is just extremely well run from the top all the way to the bottom.

From a data standpoint, coaching standpoint, I think they do a really good job of blending all the aspects. And he grew up in the game.

Third base coach has been a semi-controversial spot for a few years. Many fans think that the aforementioned Dickerson, for example, was too happy in sending guys. But you can go too far the other way also. The fact that a former Oriole (that’s a fan favorite) gave such a rousing endorsement should speak volumes. Time will tell once the Birds get to spring training and into game action.


Baltimore Orioles: Newly named opponent?

The Baltimore Orioles are slated to take on Cleveland seven times in June of 2021. Three times at Camden Yards, and four at Progressive Field. The teams didn’t meet during the truncated 2020 season. But what will Cleveland be calling itself at that time?

It was announced last night that the Cleveland Indians will cease to be the Cleveland Indians. The franchise is dropping it’s name, similar to the NFL’s now late Washington Redskins. It’s unclear exactly how this process will work. They might go the route of Washington and become the “Cleveland Baseball Team” for 2021. Or they could play as the Indians for one “farewell season.” Odds are against them having a new permanent name for 2021.

Personally I think that any of those options are fine. The Cleveland Indians are a very historic franchise. I think that giving the fans one last year under that name (whereby they know it’s the last year) is a fair move. Obviously just dropping the name and going with Cleveland would be an option also.

One thing I hear occasionally in regards to the Washington Football Team is why couldn’t they just change the name and move on? Why the temporary name? Well in that specific case, someone had trademarked literally every potential name the franchise could have ever considered. So that’s a problem, and it wouldn’t shock me if the same ended up being true for Cleveland. People can be very resourceful when it comes to something that could make them money.

However generations of fans are going to root for this team – both in Washington and in Cleveland. They need to get this right. From picking a good name and mascot, to designing a new logo. Furthermore they’ll want to do it in a way that still pays homage to the franchise as the Cleveland Indians. This for the sake of the throngs of fans who won’t like the change. You have to find a way to keep those people engaged.

So they should take their time. Get it right, and pick a name that people will like. Granted it’s not my place to say anything, but I’d go with the Cleveland Spiders. That was the name of the team before it was the Indians. It was a long time ago, but that was what they called themselves. It taps into the history of the franchise, and they could probably still keep their colors. Just a thought.


Baltimore Orioles: Some people rock the world

The Baltimore Orioles drafted a pitcher out of Spring Arbor University in 1965 named Don Roth. He was an eighth round draft pick, and never made it out of the minor leagues. An alumnus of George Mason High School in Falls Church, VA, he played in Bluefield, WV, Aberdeen, SD, and Stockton, CA. All of which were Orioles’ farm teams at the time.

Roth also played some outfield, and was a career .951 fielder in the Orioles’ system. As a pitcher he had a 3.45 ERA over three seasons. Over his five seasons in the minor leagues, he was a career .247 hitter.

Roth isn’t unsimilar to a lot of guys who even today never make it out of the minor leagues. He gave it a shot, and unfortunately didn’t make it. But obviously looking at his competition in the Orioles’ system at the time, most guys wouldn’t have made it. But he certainly got further than I and most people reading this would have gotten.

Roth later became the varsity Baseball and Golf coaches at James Madison High School in Vienna, VA. He also taught Phys Ed and Driver’s Education. And it just so happened that in the mid to late 1990’s, a future author of a Baltimore Orioles’ column was attending school there.

Mr. Roth was my P.E. and Driver’s Ed teacher. When I entered his class I knew who he was because he was already a legendary coach at the school. He was kind of an institution in those hallowed halls. What I quickly found out was how nice of a person he was. Anyone who ever came through his class was treated in as honest and genuine a manner as one could possibly be. That always spoke very loudly to me.

Since graduating, I’ve always maintained that my high school was special. And Mr. Roth was one of the people who made Madison special. Certainly his various championships as a coach didn’t hurt. But the care he gave to every student who was privileged to come through his classroom was second to none. It sounds cliche to suggest that a teacher made the content come alive in a sense. But when the content is Phys Ed, it naturally comes alive. However they say you’ll never forget how someone treated you or made you feel in a certain situation. And to this day I’ve never forgotten how Mr. Roth treated my fellow students and I.

His gentle hand was a guiding force during what are shall we say complex years in anyone’s life. Teenage years can be rough. He understood that, and speaking for myself the manner in which he handled his students was always appreciated.

As I said, I knew who he was when I went into his class because he was a Madison legend. What I found out on day one was that he had been an Oriole. Not included in his minor league stats was the fact that he started one spring training game – his only start at the big league level. I remember him telling me that. And if I recall it didn’t exactly go according to plan. But as I’ve written many times in February and March, that’s why those games are played!

I was in his class during the famed Jeffrey Maier incident, when the then-youngster robbed Orioles’ outfielder Tony Tarasco of a ball in right field at Yankee Stadium in the playoffs. I remember stopping by his classroom the next morning, and both of us were fit to be tied. He called it one of the most atrocious things he had ever seen let go in a sporting event. But it doubly hurt him because it hurt his former team. He never forgot that he was an Oriole, and while I haven’t seen or spoken to him in years, I suspect it was a lifelong affiliation.

I came to find out that Don Roth passed away this week. Through the grapevine I had heard he was sick awhile ago. I would simply say that he was one of the most decent gentlemen one would ever have the pleasure of knowing. He retired from teaching soon after I graduated in 1999 as I recall, but I’d still bump into him here and there as a substitute teacher/faculty member given that my sister was still at Madison. I’ll always remember him fondly, and to his family I send my deepest of condolences. Don Roth may have never been a major league ball player, but there’s no question he was a big league guy in the grand scheme of the world. May he forever rest in peace.


Baltimore Orioles lose Frederick

According to MASNsports’ Steve Melewski, the Baltimore Orioles will no longer have the Frederick Keys as their Single-A affiliate starting in 2021. As of now, this will leave the Birds with Aberdeen and Delmarva as their Single-A affiliates. Of course they also have Double-A Bowie, and Triple-A Norfolk. Not to mention the Sarasota Orioles of the Gulf Coast League.

Frederick is expected to join new MLB Draft League, which is a new amateur league starting next summer. They would be the sixth team to join. So the Frederick Keys will exist moving forward, just not affiliated with the O’s. And I for one am happy about that.

Minor league teams are integral to the local economies of their areas. Frederick may not be a huge place, but the Keys are huge there. I know people in Frederick who aren’t necessarily baseball fans. But they love the Keys and they enjoy going to the games.

The Frederick Keys became an Orioles’ affiliate in 1989. It was one of the longest-standing relationships in baseball. It’s been a desirable relationship on both ends. And again, I feel it’s a shame that it’s coming to an end.

Keep in mind, Major League Baseball is trimming the number of minor league teams that are out there. So this isn’t the result of the Orioles or the Keys souring on the relationship. It’s been mutually beneficial. This is an initiative by MLB. And in my view a very poor one. But like it or not, this is apparently what’s happening.


Baltimore Orioles Trade Jose Iglesias

Yesterday the Baltimore Orioles traded SS Jose Iglesias to the Anaheim Angels. The move came as a surprise, seeing that the Birds had re-upped Iglesias for at least another season. In return for Iglesias, the Orioles received RHP’s Garrett Stallings and Jean Pinto.

GM Mike Elias spoke to the local media after consummating the trade, and attested to the importance of getting young talent into the system:

He’s not a player that we would have traded lightly, but we knew there were some open shortstop jobs around the league, we knew he was very attractive for his offensive and defensive and leadership skills that he put on display here with the Orioles. And I think we got two quality arms from the Angels. One of whom, in particular, is somebody that we’ve been focused on since he was in the 2019 draft, Garrett Stallings, one of the best pitchers in the Southeastern Conference that year. Went in the fifth round. We were impressed with him then and while he has not officially played professional baseball because he was shut down after throwing 100 innings at Tennessee, which the Angels do with their draft picks, and then the minor league cancellation is here, we got to scout him in person and also video and data this year through their instructional league. He also appeared briefly at their summer camp when they had some spots open up due to some players leaving camp on their team.

I think it’s another great starting pitching prospect to add to what’s becoming a very impressive stack up in our system. We’re getting all that we can get. I’ve said before that I don’t know that I would trade our starting pitching in the minor leagues right now for anyone else’s and this makes me feel even stronger that that might be the case. So we’re looking forward to working with him. We’re sad to see Iggy go, but this is the business of getting this organization to a long-term period of sustainability.

Quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports

What Elias is in effect saying is that the Orioles’ goal in 2021 isn’t so much to win. It’s to continue developing and to get younger. It’s about the future, not 2021. The prospects that the Orioles got in return aren’t top tier prospects per se, but you never know – with any prospect. Stallings was the number 21-ranked prospect in the Anaheim farm system.

I’m sure that different fans will have different opinions on this trade. Personally I believe that you always have to have an eye on the future. The Birds will need to find a new starting SS now, and my prediction is that they look outside the organization for that. Just a prediction – not to be taken as gospel!


Baltimore Orioles avoid arbitration with Pedro Severino

The Baltimore Orioles and catcher Pedro Severino yesterday reached a contract, avoiding arbitration. The Birds will pay Severino $1.825 Million next year. The arbitration deadline was yesterday afternoon.

I’ve long said that salary arbitration is a wasteful and cumbersome process. First off, most teams and players avoid it. Just because the deadline passes doesn’t mean you’re going to arbitration. The deals can still be made, in some cases right up until just before the hearing.

But I say it’s a wasteful process because it can cause bad feelings. The team is literally arguing that the player isn’t worthy of the money the player thinks he is. And the player is arguing that the team is underpaying him. It doesn’t do much in the area of goodwill.

Needless to say, it’s a good thing that they’re avoiding arbitration with Severino. It would be a good thing to avoid it with anyone.


Baltimore Orioles land Miguel Padilla as a PTBNL

You know things are slow with the Baltimore Orioles (and across MLB) when a Player to be Named Later is a story. But it is, because…2020. Nevertheless, the Birds have acquired Miguel Padilla from the Houston Astros as of yesterday.

The Orioles sent pitcher Hector Velazquez to Houston in July for a PTBNL. I suppose that in the grind of the season I forgot about the trade, however normally PTBNL’s are named well before now. Nevertheless, the trade has been finalized.

Padilla pitched in 19 games to a 2.08 ERA in the Dominican League in 2019. Keep in mind these Players to be Named Later are generally low level prospects. But still, it adds a prospect to the Orioles’ farm system. And with the rebuild that’s being undertaken, there’s value in that.


Baltimore Orioles: Happy Veterans Day to all who served

There isn’t much going on in the Baltimore Orioles’ world right now. That seems to be about par for the course across the league. For the most part. But baseball isn’t really to topic du jour.

Today, November 11th, is Veterans Day. So I want to take a moment to thank all who have and currently are serving our nation so bravely and so proudly. America is truly free BECAUSE of the brave. We must never forget that.

Baseball of course has a very deep connection with our Armed Services, with multiple players across various generations having served. And over time, MLB players along with athletes from other sports have joined up with the USO to entertain our brave troops stationed overseas.

So while MLB celebrates dates such as Memorial Day and the Fourth of July with day games and hot dogs, I know that teams, fans, and players across the league join me today in offering a debt of gratitude to all of our nation’s brave veterans.


Baltimore Orioles: John Angelos approved as Orioles’ control person

According to an article written by Jeff Baker of the Baltimore Sun, John Angelos was approved recently as the new “control person” for the Baltimore Orioles. In short, this means that he has succeeded his father as the managing partner for the team. On paper his father, Peter Angelos, is still the owner, but he’s the guy in charge.

John and his brother Lou have been in essence running the team for two years while their father’s health has declined. So this was just a matter of housekeeping in a sense. Angelos was approved with 23 of 30 owners voting in his favor.

This would seem to point to the Angelos family’s continued stewardship of the team once Peter Angelos passes away. That’s not set in stone, however it would seem that the league is amenable to that. Again, this was just a formality. But a necessary formality. Hopefully for at least awhile, it closes the book on the franchise’s future in the city of Baltimore.


Baltimore Orioles pick up option on Jose Iglesias

The Baltimore Orioles have picked up their $3.5 million club option on SS Jose Iglesias. This ensures that Iglesias will be on the roster in 2021 – at least to start. He might be traded during the season, of course.

Iglesias of course missed some time with injuries this year, but he hit .373 on the season. The Birds faced a $500,000.00 buyout if they didn’t pick up the option. So it made good business sense.

I think that Iglesias’ continued presence could make some difference. He obviously has a steady glove, and as a veteran he can make a difference in the clubhouse. The O’s are getting even younger with more guys coming up from the minors, and that’s important. His steady hand and his savvy in terms of knowing what to do as a major leaguer could make a world of difference.


Baltimore Orioles: ChiSox look past the nose on their face with Tony LaRussa hire

The Baltimore Orioles will have a new/old face with whom to contend in 2021 when they play the Chicago White Sox. The “southsiders” have just (re) hired Tony LaRussa as their manager. It’s a return to his roots for LaRussa, 76, who’s first managerial job was with the ChiSox. He managed them from 1979-1986.

It was LaRussa’s ChiSox that were defeated by the Birds in the 1983 ALCS. Of course the O’s went onto win the World Series against Philadelphia that year, their third title. LaRussa was fired as Chicago’s manager midway through the 1986 season, and a few weeks later was hired as the manager of the Oakland Athletics. The rest, as they say, is history.

This is obviously a shocking move, and one heck of a splash by the ChiSox. And quite frankly, I applaud them. In a way, it goes against the grain of where people seem to want the sport to go. LaRussa’s certainly one of the greatest managers of all time, however at 76 those days appeared to be in the rearview mirror. It seems that fans and the league alike want both coaches and players to be younger now. To embrace analytics more…

…LaRussa’s obviously an old school coach. He’s the type who may not embrace analytics as much. But his prowess in the dugout can’t be second-guessed. So while the sport as a whole is going in one direction, the ChiSox kind of went back to their roots – in more ways than one. This is a classic case of someone looking past the nose on his face, and again I applaud that.

It’ll be interesting to see how exactly LaRussa handles himself. Because in a case like this (an old, albeit gifted coach returning to the game after an absence), there’s always a question of whether the game’s passed him by. We’ll obviously find out as time goes on next year, but again kudos to the ChiSox for looking past the nose on their face in their managerial search!


Baltimore Orioles: Baseball acumen triumphs in Fall Classic

Baltimore Orioles fans saw a division rival crash and burn in the World Series last night – the Tampa Rays. The sad thing is…it didn’t have to be that way. However manager Kevin Cash put his loyalty to metrics and analytics above sound baseball acumen.

Let me be clear; there’s a place in baseball for analytics. They say that stats don’t lie, and they don’t. However Kevin Cash and his Tampa Rays take it well past an extreme. I’ve said many times when they’ve been playing the Orioles that if there were a stat or a study which said that they had a better shot at recording an out on a given batter with the outfielders dressed as ballerina’s, they’d do it.

My point is this: everything in moderation. And that includes analytics. Last night in a World Series elimination game, Tampa led the LA Dodgers 1-0. (For the sake of clarity, it was an elimination game in the sense that LA needed one more win to clinch a World Series title. Had Tampa won they would have forced a game seven tonight.) Starter Blake Snell appeared to be pitching a gem. He had allowed no runs and a base hit through 5.1 innings (while striking out nine). That’s EXACTLY the type of outing you want from a pitcher in any circumstance, be it an exhibition game or an elimination game.

Snell allowed a second base hit in the last of the sixth inning. A singular base hit – he was otherwise pitching a gem, and LA was having trouble getting guys on base. And Tampa (and Snell) was winning the game. Yet out emerged Kevin Cash from the dugout to change pitchers.

The runner at first later scored on a wild pitch. Los Angeles would then take the lead on a fielder’s choice, and Mookie Betts would smack a solo homer in the eighth as an insurance run. All of that combined gave Dodger Blue it’s first World Series title since 1988.

But make no mistake, the World Series was lost from Tampa’s perspective the moment Kevin Cash left the dugout to remove Blake Snell. There’s no sound baseball logic since the beginning of time which has said you remove your starter in that situation. However apparently the metric said that Snell facing the Los Angeles order a third time (specifically Mookie Betts) around had a higher probability of securing a win than did leaving him in. That’s why the move was made.

And Tampa has a stellar bullpen. However you don’t lift a starter who’s pitching the way Snell was – REGARDLESS of what analytics say. You have to manage the game while having a feel for the game. However that’s just not the way younger managers are doing it. We saw the same thing last year in the World Series when AJ Hinch pitched to the Washington Nationals with first base open. Incidentally, Mookie Betts smacked a double in the at-bat where he otherwise would have faced Snell. The irony.

Again, analytics and metrics do play a role in the game. Odds are they always have to some degree. But to put all of your trust in a computer the way that Kevin Cash did last night, and in the way that countless others do everyday? Too much. As a manager you have to know what to do. There’s no a fan in America who thought Snell should have been pulled last night. Yet the one guy who’s opinion mattered most was the one guy who saw it as a good idea.

After the game Cash tried to defend or at least explain his actions:

We owe it to ourselves to bring it all together and try to make the best decisions. Some of the decisions I’ve made this postseason, they are gut-wrenching. You feel for Blake. What we try to do is put our team in the best position to win. I totally respect any opinion off of that.

The margin of error Blake was pitching with, I felt the different look would be beneficial.

Quote Courtesy of Gabe Lacques, USA Today

Even afterwards, he evasively tried to defend the decision. “Bring it all together and try to make the best decisions,” in essence means I’m using the analytics that are at my disposal. Again, analytics should play a role in all games. But should they take the place of true baseball acumen and feel for the game? The answer to that has to be a resounding NO!

Make no mistake, this will go down as one of the biggest managerial blunders in World Series history. There’s absolutely no question in my mind. And it allows old school guys such as myself the ability to rest easy tonight knowing that these ridiculous new age-type tactics DON’T NECESSARILY WORK.


Baltimore Orioles: What does Tampa have that others do not?

The Baltimore Orioles have struggled with the Tampa Rays for years. But it’s not just the O’s. They’ve been a thorn in the AL East’s side for a long time. However Tampa and their $74 million payroll currently lead the ALCS one game to none.

So why is it that lady luck seems to smile on them in a sense? Why is it that they seem to play so loose…to the point to where their opponents are intimidated and they eventually make mistakes? What is it about them?

I mentioned their payroll above; they remain a young team, always. It seems that every few years they’re selling off assets and getting what appears to be peanuts in return (in the way of prospects). But somehow those peanuts turn into bigger pieces that seemingly will Tampa onto victory.

Look at it this way; the Tampa Rays as an organization are unafraid of failure. They’re willing to accept failure for a period if there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Because that’s exactly what you’re doing when you trade for prospects. You’re playing not for today, but for five years from now. They’re willing to stink now to be great later.

Those characteristics are tough to find. Contrast that with the Orioles, who waited until well after the 2018 season was past salvaging to make their deals. Had they done that even a month prior, they probably would have gotten more for their players. That’s not to say that they got nothing, but you get my point.

Tampa also has to study game film better than any team out there. They find the smallest things, and if they’re able to expose those things to their advantage, they will. As I’ve said before, if there was a statistic which said this hitter is more likely to record an out if the team in the field is wearing pink leotards, the Tampa Rays would make that happen. They’re a very sharp organization, and they do their homework.

And that’s probably why they’ve made it as far as they did. They leave no stone unturned, well after their opponents have called it a day. They just keep plugging onward. And it’s worked.


Baltimore Orioles: Alternate realities and junction points

On this day in 1996, the Baltimore Orioles were all but screwed out of a possible game one win in the ALCS against the New York Yankees. We all know the story – a kid named Jeffrey Maier at the very least “assisted” in a Derek Jeter home run in the last of the eighth inning at Yankee Stadium. The Birds held a slim one-run lead at the time, and they ended up losing in extra innings.

They did come back to win game two however, but dropped the series four games to one. Anytime I talk or write about this I always mention that the umpire who made the call of home run, Rich Garcia, admitted afterwards that he blew it. This was well before instant replay in baseball, and Garcia had to make a snap call on a play that occurred quickly. But to his credit he admitted later that he blew it. Not a lot of umpires are willing to do that.

Had that been called properly, Jeter probably would have been awarded second base. There’s nothing that guarantees he wouldn’t have still come around to score. The O’s still could have lost that game. But all things remaining the same, let’s say they had won that game. Would they have still lost the series?

That team had an excellent shot at a World Series title. Had that happened, would the history of the franchise have been altered? Manager Davey Johnson of course was let go following the equally as successful 1997 season – following a dispute over a charity with owner Peter Angelos. (Technically Johnson resigned, but he did so under pressure and would have been fired.) That set off a chain reaction of events that sent the Orioles into the basement – until 2012.

But again, let’s say the Maier incident was ruled properly. And let’s say that team won the World Series. Would Davey Johnson still have been in the hot water he was in when he was in it? Would he have remained the manager? It’s tough to say. But I do think that the history following that time period would have been different for the Orioles.

Ultimately Angelos would be viewed differently had he won a World Series that year. And maybe the embarrassments during the first decade of the 2000’s wouldn’t have happened. It’s tough to say though. Especially knowing how good Boston and New York were doing those years. But were they truly that great, or was some of their greatness at the expense of a divisional foe who at times seemed to be barely trying?

Speaking of 2012, remember that ALDS – again against New York? First off, the Orioles were just happy to be there. As were the fans. That team gave the city and the fans an amazing ride. And from the perspective of a guy who wrote about it, I’ll never forget it.

But the ALDS was tied at two games each going into game five, again at Yankee Stadium. With New York leading 1-0 in the sixth, Nate McLouth hit a long fly ball towards right with the bases loaded. The ball was ruled foul. And that foul ball ruling was upheld on replay.

I’ll be honest; I think that was the right call – upon replay, that is. The call on the field was a foul ball. And the replay has to be conclusive in order to reverse the call on the field. However I’ve always said (and many agree with me) that there was an ever-so-slight change in the rotation of the ball after it passed the foul pole. (Again…right field at Yankee Stadium!) It was very subtle, but in my view it was there. But was the evidence clear and convincing, and did it rise to the level or overturning the call on the field? Probably not.

But let’s say for a moment that they had done that. The O’s would have led 4-1 going into the latter innings of an elimination game. All other things being equal, the O’s would have won 5-3. And gone onto the ALCS.

Did that team have the skill to win a World Series? Probably not. But they would have gone onto the ALCS, and they would have had a shot from there. And who knows what a deeper playoff run would have meant in terms of free agent signings and so forth.

Obviously I think that the Maier incident affected the trajectory of the franchise more so than did the McLouth situation. But needless to say, had either one of them been handled differently it would have severely altered history. Both are very clear junction points for the franchise.


Baltimore Orioles: Fans at the Fall Classic

If fans of the Baltimore Orioles, or those of any other team for that matter, want to attend the 2020 World Series, they’ll be able to do so. The same is true of the League Championship Series’. These will be the first baseball games to admit fans since March when Spring Training was suspended.

I suppose the question is whether or not it’s a good idea. Seats will be sold in a manner that will allow fans to social distance and so forth, but it does call into question whether it’s truly safe. This year of course will also be the first time ever where a World Series (and the LCS’) will be played in a neutral park: the Texas Rangers’ new ballpark.

Coincidentally, the state of Florida yesterday approved the Miami Dolphins of the NFL to allow a capacity crowd of 65K plus at their games. The Dolphins aren’t going to do that, but they in theory could. We hear so much about super-spreader events and so forth, so you have to wonder if sporting events wouldn’t start to qualify as such if fans are starting to be allowed back in.

This week the NHL also announced that their intention is to begin their new season on January 1st. They also said that the intention is for fans to be admitted. That’s a big different because hockey’s played indoors. So who knows how good or bad an idea having fans at any of these games are. I think it goes without saying that everyone in attendance would need to wear a mask. But once people start drinking and so forth – is it truly reasonable to expect those masks to stay on?

Hopefully the Fall Classic goes off without a spike in Coronavirus cases. Aside from a rough start, MLB actually did a reasonably decent job of protecting players and coaches. Hopefully that extends to fans as well.


Baltimore Orioles: Are finances an issue?

The Baltimore Orioles let go of third base coach Jose Flores, and pitching coach Doug Brocail last week. While the team has yet to confirm these moves, they’ve been made. And with no apparent reason as to why.

Yet there have been reports the past few days that part of the reason these moves were made was due to financial constraints. This is a deep concern, if true. Are the Orioles having financial problems?

I think it’s understood that most teams are suffering through the current COVID-19 situation. Not only did they have a heavily reduced schedule of games, but the public wasn’t admitted. Meaning no tickets were sold.

Combine that with the fact that merchandise sales had to be down, and you have a real problem. You literally have money flying out the door for things such as payroll and other expenses, with very little coming in to replace it. That’s a huge problem for any business.

I suspect that merchandise sales weren’t totally zero, as people could still purchase online and visit the Orioles’ store at Camden Yards. Plus they still got their television revenue. So they did take some money in. Just not what they would have liked.

It’s important to note that Brocail and Flores’ contracts were up. The Orioles simply didn’t renew them. Keep in mind that if a team lets go of anyone (coach, player, executive, etc), they still have to pay out their contracts. So it’s entirely possible that the organization took the opportunity to get someone at less money starting next year. Is that fair? Not necessarily – although they did fulfill their obligations to Brocail and Flores. But 2020 itself hasn’t been fair.


Baltimore Orioles: Will bullpen management change in 2021?

My personal opinion is that Brandon Hyde is doing a great job in the Baltimore Orioles’ dugout. Furthermore he seems committed to the organization, which also seems committed to him. A lot of young managers take a job in a rebuild assuming he’ll be fired at some point. Hyde doesn’t seem overly concerned about that.

But there is one area this year which made me raise my eyebrows. I noticed that he had an incredibly quick hook on his starting pitchers. Now in some instances that’s necessary. You don’t want a pitcher out there embarrassing himself. Especially a young guy.

But I felt like there were other games where the O’s were losing games in the 2-0 range, only to have the starter lifted in the fourth inning. I’m not sure if that’s the way Hyde intends to manage in the future, or if that had more to do with the sixty-game season.

There are plenty of people, both analysts and fans alike, who would argue that short starts are where the game is headed. As in the future will be guys pitching maybe three innings in games. Basically a perpetual slate of bullpen games.

So in that sense Hyde may be riding the wave to the future. My personal opinion is that it would be overly-taxing on too many pitchers to have a system like that. But who knows.

I’ll be interested to see next year how he manages the bullpen. Does that trend continue, or are pitchers given the liberty to go deeper into games?


Baltimore Orioles: 2020 season in review

2020 was perhaps the strangest season in Baltimore Orioles’ history. Well, strike that – in MLB history. After a lengthy delay due to COVID-19, the league opened it’s season in late July. The Birds opened against Boston at Fenway Park – and were promptly blown out by Boston.

But we also saw shades of what the 2020 Orioles were truly all about that weekend at Fenway. The O’s took the other two games of the series. This was a team that bounced back quickly from bad losses, and who wasn’t about to hang their heads for long.

This team had it’s ups and downs. They were swept by Miami, but swept Washington and Philadelphia. And in the process, they found that they had some great pieces going forward.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the year was Anthony Santander, who ended up being the Most Valuable Oriole. This despite playing in only 37 games due to a late season injury. Santander hit only .261 on the year, however he was clutch. He always came through when the O’s needed a late hit or run-scoring play. That’s something we’ve seen in Baltimore previously in other players. However it’s a tough trait to find.

The Birds also found some pieces to take forward in the pitching department, such as Thomas Eshelman, Dean Kremer, and Keegan Akin. Where any of these players winds up next year in terms of on the roster, in the minors, and/or in the bullpen depends largely on their spring outings. But that’s also true of a lot of guys.

Again, the O’s had their ups and downs this year. They were streaky. Yet by virtue of the 60-game season, they stayed in mathematical playoff contention until the final week. And that’s due in large part to their never-say-die attitude. We saw it time and time again over the course of the sixty games. And given that the nucleus of the team is expected to at least be similar in 2021, I would expect to see that same trait next year.

For the record, my season prediction was that the O’s wouldn’t finish in the basement of the AL East. I was correct in that. They won 25 games, and Boston won 24. So I was correct by exactly one game. However more importantly, they did improve year-over-year. In 2019 the O’s had a win percentage of .317 (over 162 games). This year it raised to .417 (over sixty games).

Granted the number of games is different, but that translates to 67.5 wins in a 162 game season. This as opposed to last year’s 54 wins. So if you look at it from that perspective they’re trending in the right direction. Whether that progress goes into next season remains to be seen. But in certain senses, 2020 was a success for the O’s.


Baltimore Orioles: Changes on the coaching staff

It appears that there are two upcoming changes to the Baltimore Orioles’ coaching staff. Third base coach Jose Flores and pitching coach Doug Brocail will not be returning. The team hasn’t confirmed these moves, but it appears that both coaches were told their contracts weren’t being renewed.

It’s unclear why this is going to happen, or when their replacements will be named. It could just be an economic thing more than anything else. Or philosophical. Who knows. All we know is that Brocail and Flores appear to be out.

I would say this; the pitching coach position is one that the Orioles need to get right. Not only because of the youth and inexperience on their starting staff, but also because it’s been a long time since they’ve had stability and continuity in that position. Guys have come and gone over a great many years. So for the sake of their young starters, they need to find someone who has some staying power this time around.


Baltimore Orioles: How does 2021 look?

When I ask what 2021 looks like for the Baltimore Orioles, I don’t mean the roster, outlook, etc. I mean the season. And for all of MLB at that. Is it more normal? Is it a total return to normalcy?

Obviously right now we just don’t know. However that has to be something the powers that be in the league office are discussing now. Obviously like most other things, the answer lies with whether or not we have an approved vaccine available to all Americans for COVID-19. And obviously the timing of that vaccine.

While there were a few flare-ups at the beginning involving a couple of teams (not the Orioles), baseball largely proved that it was capable of being played even during this pandemic. So I suspect that there’d be no reason teams couldn’t have spring training as normal, perhaps with no fans or limited fans to start with. Same with the regular season.

What we do know is that things will eventually have to return to normal. No reason that process shouldn’t start next year. But ultimately the virus and the vaccine will decide that.


Baltimore Orioles: Coming attractions

Yesterday I wrote the final Baltimore Orioles game recap of the 2020 season. It’s kind of strange; the season itself was only sixty games, but I feel like I would normally feel at the end of the season. It’s been a long grind to get to the end, but now it’s almost like removing goggles from your eyes and seeing the world for what it really is after focusing on just one thing for so many months.

It’ll certainly go down as the strangest year on record. Spring Training was going along as normal, and then it was suspended. And we waited, and waited…and waited more. Through apparent labor strife among other things. But finally we ended up with a sixty-game regular season, which of course has now ended.

I’ll be honest; in retrospect things probably didn’t ever need to be put on hold. Granted, back in March we didn’t know what this pandemic was going to be, and we didn’t know how to stop the spread of it save for staying home. So baseball did the best it could with the information it had. However spring games could have probably continued and the regular season could have started – simply with no fans and with the safety measures that eventually went into place. There would have been more travel for teams of course, but I think they could have pulled it off. We just didn’t know that at the time.

Sometime this week I’ll release a season review for 2020. I always like to take a few days before doing that so as to fully “digest” the season. And from there maybe we’ll talk a bit about the playoffs, and into some off season coverage. And who knows you might even see a hiatus or two on my end. Time will tell.


Baltimore Orioles: A win at the end of the line

The Baltimore Orioles concluded their truncated 2020 season this afternoon. Perhaps it’s fitting that the strangest season in history came to an end in a Buffalo minor league park – the temporary home of the Toronto Blue Jays. Keegan Akin got the ball, but in essence acted as “the opener.” Akin’s line 3.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 4 K.

With Toronto leading 1-0, Renato Nunez‘s RBI-double in the third tied the score at one. However Toronto would put three additional runs on the board in the last of the third. Which in essence was consistent with the rest of this series, and perhaps the rest of the games that have been against Toronto this year.

But at some point the O’s decided to extend the summer just a little longer. They decided that they weren’t going into the night without a fight. Cedric Mullins‘ two-RBI triple cut the lead to 4-3, and out Toronto on notice that they weren’t going to end the season with a cakewalk. Mullins would later score on Austin Hays‘ sac fly-RBI which tied the game.

And that fourth inning was the final time the Orioles would trail in 2020. Rio Ruiz smacked an RBI-double in the fifth which have the O’s a 5-4 lead. The O’s would also get an RBI-groundout, and an RBI-single to run the lead to 7-4. Toronto would score on an error in the eighth, but the Birds pulled out a 7-5 lead.

And yes, that’s the end of the line. For 2020, at least! The season is now complete, and the O’s finished with 25 wins. But don’t underestimate the importance of winning this final game. That does mean something going into next year. Next season, which hopefully will are the return of normalcy to MLB.

As a tongue-in-cheek joke, the O’s will next take on the Atlanta Braves at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fl on February 27th – Opening Day of the Florida Grapefruit League season. Starters are TDB for both teams. Nothing set yet in stone, but I would think that game time would be sometime around 1 PM.


Baltimore Orioles: John Means strong in loss to Toronto

John Means, who presumably will be the Baltimore Orioles’ Opening Day starter next year, had a solid outing in his final game of 2020. Only problem was the O’s couldn’t support him enough to get him the win. Means’ line: 6.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 9 K.

The teams played to a scoreless tie through five innings. Means was mowing Toronto hitters down. This until the sixth inning when Biggio smacked a solo homer. That was the lone run that Means surrendered. They say solo homer runs don’t hurt you. In general they don’t; but yet that solo homer earned John Means the loss.

This game was almost a tale of two games. The first half or so of the game was a pitcher’s duel. However runs came fast and furious in the second part of the game. Mostly from Toronto.

Oriole-killer Grichuk had the night off. In theory at least. But he pinch hit in the last of the seventh with two runners on, and promptly hit a three-run homer. That was Grichuk’s twelfth homer on the year. And his seventh against the O’s.

It’s amazing how some guys are just zero’d in on a team. There’s really no explanation for how Grichuk could be so hot against the Orioles. It seems that no matter what they do, he’s a step ahead.

Jose Iglesias‘ RBI-double in the eight got they Birds on the board. Iglesias would later score on an RBI-single by Ryan Mountcastle. However Toronto would also add on a run in the eight, taking the game, 5-2.

The series and the season conclude this afternoon in Buffalo. Keegan Akin gets the call for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Tanner Roark. Game time is set for just after 3 PM.


Baltimore Orioles: Jorge Lopez battered in Buffalo

The Baltimore Orioles went Jorge Lopez to the mound for his penultimate start in the 2020 season. Lopez ended up with the same fate as plenty of other Orioles’ starters against Toronto. They just seem to have the Birds’ number no matter what. Lopez’s line: 2.0 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 1 BB, 1 K.

Shocker, Toronto’s scoring started with Grichuk’s first at-bat. He smacked a solo homer in the second to give Toronto a 1-0 lead. Grichuk has hit eleven homers on the year (including this one). Six have come against the O’s. It’s uncanny.

Toronto kept the pressure on in the inning, putting base runner after base runner on base. And netting run after run. Before the second inning was over, they led the O’s 6-0.

The third inning brought a Toronto to 8-0, and Shaw’s fourth inning two-run homer put them ahead 10-0. Before the O’s could blink, they were that far behind. However the good news is that after that moment, the Orioles’ pen kept Toronto bats at bay. The damage had been done, but they were kept at bay from that moment forward.

And in fact, the O’s showed signs of wanting to get back into the game. Ramon Urias smacked a solo home run in the fifth. The O’s would get another homer that inning off the bat of Cedric Mullins. They’d also get one in the sixth from Jose Iglesias, and later an RBI-double from Hanser Alberto. That closed out Toronto’s 10-4 victory.

Before the game the Orioles announced that Anthony Santander had been voted the Most Valuable Oriole in 2020. He may have finished the season on the IL, but he made massive impacts on the team this year. Both on and off the field.

The series continues tomorrow in Buffalo. John Means gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Matt Shoemaker. Game time is set for just after 6:30 PM.


Baltimore Orioles break out at Fenway

Alex Cobb was the beneficiary of Baltimore Orioles’ bats finally breaking out of their funk last night at Fenway Park. And in fact, Cobb did his part as well, shutting down Boston’s offense that had looked so potent in the first two games of the series. Cobb’s line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 4 K.

Rio Ruiz‘s second inning RBI-single got the Larry started. Later in the inning Cedric Mullins‘ two-RBI double ran things to 3-0. But they were only getting warmed up.

Two innings later Ramon Urias added an RBI-double, Hanser Alberto a sac fly-RBI, and Jose Iglesias a solo home run. And suddenly the rout was on. One inning later the Birds led 8-0, and Boston netted one token run. It was the lone run they would score in the game.

Everyone got into the act in this game. Pat Valaika‘s solo homer in the seventh gave the O’s a 9-1 lead. One inning later Ryan Mountcastle added an RBI-single in the eighth, and Austin Hays a solo homer in the ninth. The O’s would also tack on two additional runs in the ninth inning to run the final to 13-1.

It’s amazing how the O’s could look so bad in the first two games of this series, only to put everything together in the finale. But we’ve seen time and time again in baseball that things as such do happen. Boston may have won the series, but their final impression of the 2020 Orioles will be getting lambasted 13-1.

The O’s now head to Buffalo for the final series of the year against Toronto. As of now, starters for both teams in tonight’s series opener are TBD. Game time is set for just after 6:30 PM.


Baltimore Orioles’ bats going to sleep

The Baltimore Orioles are having issues scoring runs. That may not be a huge issue for 2020, as they’ve been officially eliminated from playoff contention, and the season ends on Sunday. But you do want to finish strong if possible. Dean Kremer wasn’t able to do that, as he got hit hard by Boston last night. Kremer’s line: 2.2 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 3 BB, 2 K.

Bradley and Plawecki got Boston on the board in the first inning with RBI-singles. That meant the Orioles had to play from behind, which is tough to do at Fenway Park. This much we know.

Martinez added an RBI-double, and Plawecki an RBI-triple in the last of the third. Later in the inning Boston basically ended the competitive portion of the game. Chavis’ RBI-double ran the score to 5-0. And with the bases loaded Devers’ bases-clearing double gave Boston an 8-0 lead.

When you’re down 8-0 in the third, that’s tough to come back from. However Austin Hays would smack a solo homer in the seventh. Boston would also tack an additional run on in the eighth inning, running the final to 9-1.

It’s hard to say why Oriole bats are currently going to sleep. Granted the games now are technically meaningless. However as I said above I do think it’s important to finish strong. That means something going into 2021.

Needless to say, it’s been one of the strangest seasons in history. If not THE strangest. That became the case back on March 12th when spring training was suspended. At the time I recall thinking maybe it would just be a delay of a few weeks. That wasn’t to be. And here we are.

The series concludes this evening at Fenway Park. Alex Cobb gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Martin Perez. Game time is set for just after 7:30 PM.


Baltimore Orioles: John Means business in final home game

The Baltimore Orioles were finally able to keep Tampa at bay this afternoon, this behind starter John Means. In the closing home game of the very strange 2020 season, Means stepped up and put one in the books for the O’s. Means’ line: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 12 K.

Twelve strikeouts is a nice round number for the final game at Camden Yards. At least that’s what strikes me about the stat line. He was sending Tampa hitters down throughout his outing.

The Orioles again got on the board early this afternoon on Renato Nunez‘s two-RBI single. However predictably Tampa would even the score. The lone run Means surrendered was a solo homer by Adames in the fourth.

However the O’s stopped the Tampa rally in it’s shoes, shutting them down for the rest of the game. Again however, the story of the day was John Means, who spoke after the game on his twelve strikeouts (all quotes courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

I didn’t know it was that many. I knew that I was getting some swings and misses. I just had the fastball going today. Sometimes you have it and sometimes you don’t. I had my good fastball that was riding pretty well. I didn’t know it was that many, but I had an idea.

Means also briefly mentioned this being the last home game, and having no fans:

It just doesn’t feel the same, it doesn’t feel like the last game here. I feel like we’re just going to keep playing and playing and it doesn’t have that feeling. The only feeling is the weather, I guess. It’s a little chillier. It just sucks. The whole year, it is what it is, but it doesn’t feel like a true Major League Baseball season when you don’t have fans cheering you on. We’re playing meaningful baseball here and it’s tough to not get that support, but I know it will come.

Regardless of anything else. Means pitched a great game today, allowing the Birds to salvage a win in this series. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Means starting the next game played at Camden Yards either.


Baltimore Orioles: Not being able to score negates good pitching

The Baltimore Orioles are having no luck putting runs up against Tampa. This obviously puts a lot of pressure on the Birds’ pitching so as to in essence be perfect. And that perfectionitis hit starter Jorge Lopez last night, as he pitched the O’s to a quality start and ended up a hard-luck loser. Lopez’s line: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 5 K.

The O’s took an early lead when they loaded the bases in the first inning and Chance Sisco was hit by a pitch. That gave the O’s a 1-0 lead. And it held up – for awhile.

Tampa evened the score in the third on Tsutsugo’s solo homer. They then took the lead in the fifth on a two-run homer by Arozarena. And there’s your ballgame. Tampa pitching shut the Orioles down for the remainder of the game.

Tampa must really have a heck of a scouting report on the Orioles, because they’ve totally shut down Oriole bats. And mind you, the O’s had been hot and had been scoring coming into this series. But even when they square a ball up and hit it hard, it’s right at someone. It’s almost uncanny.

Jorge Lopez was optimistic after the game in terms of having a shot at the rotation next year. He was a pick up that was under the radar by Mike Elias, however he’s paid dividends thus far. Lopez him being in the 2021 rotation (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

Yeah, absolutely. Since I got drafted and since I got called up it’s a big opportunity. I want to be a starter on the major league level. The most important thing is to get consistent. That was one of my toughest things. Just get consistent every outing, and that’s what I’m trying to show everybody. I just try to lock it in and execute and have a good plan and have that good energy out there always. It’s been really good.

The loss guarantees that the O’s will finish the season under .500, although they’re still mathematically alive for a playoff spot. I wouldn’t hold my breath. However. SS Jose Iglesias was hit on the wrist by a pitch last night, and appeared to be in immense pain. He was lifted from the game immediately. The Orioles also announced before last night’s game that 1B Chris Davis would remain on the IL for the rest of the season.

The Tampa series, and the home portion of the schedule will close out this afternoon at Camden Yards. John Means gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Ryan Yarbrough. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.


Baltimore Orioles: Alex Cobb a hard-luck loser

Alex Cobb gave the Baltimore Orioles a quality start last night. Against Tampa. That can’t be argued. In fact, it may have been Cobb’s best start of the season. However it was Oriole bats that couldn’t get untracked in the game last night, equaling a loss for the O’s. Cobb’s line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 5 K.

Cobb gave up one run in the last of the first on Lowe’s RBI-single. And again, Tampa finds the littlest ways to beat you – or the least likely manner, I suppose I should say. That was set up by a triple – didn’t see that coming.

An RBI-single in the third would give Tampa a 2-0 lead. The lone Orioles’ run came in the fourth inning on Austin Hays‘ solo homer. But when you only score one run, the opponent only needs two. Tampa was able to get exactly what they needed, and defeated Cobb and the Birds.

After the game Cobb addressed the “streakiness” of his season (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

It’s been up and down. I felt like I started off pretty well and then the middle part toward this later part I’ve been struggling to find … We’ve been trying to make a lot of adjustments with the delivery. I’ve been working with (Darren) Holmes and Brocail a lot, especially this last week to make some adjustments and I think it’s going to pay off a lot in the long run. But it’s a challenge to do that in-season and feel comfortable out there. But it’s something you have to go through in game situations to work on stuff to see how hitters are responding to your stuff and see if you’re on the right path. There’s been some games where I’ve had to battle and try to get through it, but I think we’ve made a lot of progress. And coming off the year last year, where my health got me and I had to have two surgeries, I knew this year was going to have these types of moments where they’ve been up and down and trying to find your delivery and stuff like that. It’s difficult, but I think that the trajectory has been moving up and I’m pleased with that.

The series continues tonight at Camden Yards. Jorge Lopez gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Charlie Morton. Game time is set for just after 7:30 PM.


Baltimore Orioles defeated by Tampa once again in an unlikely manner

Baltimore Orioles’ starter Dean Kremer perhaps wasn’t quite as crisp as he’s been in the past today in game one of a doubleheader against Tampa. However you’re not always going to have your best stuff at your disposal. He put the O’s in a position to win the game. Kremer’s line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 6 K.

The lone run Kremer gave up was an RBI-triple in the second by Phillips. That gave Tampa a 1-9 lead. However Kremer didn’t take the loss today. Ryan Mountcastle‘s RBI-single in the last of the sixth tied the game at one, and got Kremer off the hook.

However the Orioles’ bugaboo against Tampa has long been the unexpected. It seems that you can do anything and prepare for most contingencies, but they find the one manner for which you didn’t prepare. And that’s how they beat you. It has to be maddening.

Tampa has runners at the corners in the seventh. They played Tsutsugo in his at-bat with the infield in. The idea being to cut the go-ahead run down at home plate. If the ball was hit in the infield, the play was at home plate.

However Tsutsugo hit the ball very softly to Iglesias at short. It was hit so softly, he had no play at home plate. So Iglesias smartly took the play at first. But that allowed the run to score.

Tampa would tack on another insurance run later in the inning. But that’s how they’ve beaten the O’s for years. They found the one way against which the Orioles couldn’t defend. Again, it has to be annoying from the Orioles’ perspective.

The series continues this evening with game two of the doubleheader – a game in which Tampa will be the designated home team. Baltimore native Bruce Zimmerman makes his night league debut and gets the start for the Birds, and Tampa is yet to announce a starter. Game time is set for about 40 minutes from now.


Baltimore Orioles: Keegan Akin earns his first big league win

Keegan Akin earned his first major league win last night for the Baltimore Orioles. He only pitched five innings, but that qualifies you for a win. And let there be no mistake that he pitched very well. Akin’s line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 K.

Nine strikeouts in five innings is striking. Especially for a guy who didn’t make it out of the first inning in his last start. At one point Akin struck out six straight hitters. Akin on the six consecutive K’s (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

Oh, for sure. I’m a big tempo guy on the mound. When I get in a rhythm I just like to stay in it and go, go, go. Honestly, I didn’t know I struck out six in a row until you just told me. You just kind of zone in and it’s a blur, really. You just get locked in and you go.

Hanser Alberto got the scoring starter in the last of the third with an RBI-double. Later in the inning Jose Iglesias would add an RBI-groundout, and Ryan Mountcastle a sac fly-RBI. That in and of itself is good to see given that they’re manufacturing runs, and scoring without getting hits.

Atlanta would end up scoring on a balk in the top of the sixth. But the O’s kept a lid on things, and never really allowed them back on the game. In the bottom of the inning they managed to tack on two insurance runs when Renato Nunez smacked a two-RBI double. The Birds took the game 5-1, and won the series two games to one.

The O’s will now get set to play a doubleheader tonight against Tampa at Camden Yards. (Tampa will be designated as the home team in the second game, as it’s a makeup of a postponed game at Tropicana Field). Dean Kremer gets the start for the O’s in game one, and he’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Blake Snell. Game time is set for just after 4:30 PM.


Baltimore Orioles fall, but Thomas Eshelman is a key piece

Thomas Eshelman is one of the most versatile guys in the Baltimore Orioles’ bullpen. He can pitch in relief, he can spot start (as he did tonight), and really just about be anything that is needed. It’s also a great way to stay at the big league level. While he goes as the loser tonight, he pitched valiantly. Eshelman’s line: 3.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 4 K.

Freeman smacked an RBI-double in the top of the third, giving Atlanta a 1-0 lead. They doubled that an inning later when DuVall smacked a solo homer. Atlanta would also add three insurance runs in the ninth to run the final to 5-1 after the O’s added one in the ninth. And the lack of offense doesn’t fall on Eshelman.

However make no mistake that manager Brandon Hyde and company are happy with Eshelman in general. As I said above, he pretty much is ready to go whenever he’s tapped. Again, be it as a starter or in relief. And on short rest at that.

Granted tonight he started, however I suspect he wasn’t expected to go deep into this game. In other words, this was probably meant to be a “bullpen game” in general. To a traditionalist such as myself, that’s still a foreign concept. But is it really?

I would submit that Eshelman’s probably setting himself up to pitch the way that baseball might exist moving forward. We already know that the idea of a 20-win starter is gone. However the number of innings starters are going is getting to be fewer and fewer. That isn’t going to change.

It wouldn’t shock me if someone like Eshelman becomes the norm in Major League Baseball. Shorter outings, removing the emphasis on starters and relievers. This also would force people such as myself to in effect re-learn the game and how it’s approached. Which isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Again, the onus in this game was on Orioles’ bats. They put up 14 runs last night, but couldn’t muster anything in this game. And that does happen. Incidentally, manager Brandon Hyde was ejected in the fourth inning for arguing balls and strikes.

The series concludes tomorrow night at Camden Yards. Keegan Akin gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Atlanta’s Cole Hamels. Game time is set for just after 7:30 PM.


Baltimore Orioles: Monday night delight

Baltimore Orioles’ starter Jorge Lopez was the benefactor of a donnybrook of runs this evening. After the weekend in New York, that was good to see. It was also good to see that Lopez held his own. That does make a difference. Lopez was the first Orioles starter to go seven innings this year. Lopez’s line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 3 K.

Ryan Mountcastle got the party started early in the game with an RBI-single in the last of the first. But that was only getting things warmed up. The O’s would explode in the last of the third, which effectively ended the competitive portion of the game.

DJ Stewart stayed hot, which is obviously great news for the Orioles. His three-run homer kicked off the biggest inning of the year for the Birds. That brought Mountcastle to the plate again, and he went back-to-back with Stewart for a solo homer. That gave the O’s a 5-0 lead.

Cedric Mullins added a two-RBI single, and Jose Iglesias a three-run homer. By the end of the third inning, the O’s led 10-0. The bats may have struggled in the Bronx over the weekend, but they snapped back in one fatal swoop.

The Orioles were ferociously smacking Atlanta pitching around tonight. Jose Iglesias, DJ Stewart, and Ryan Mountcastle would add RBI-singles in the last of the fifth. It all kind of made you wonder if the O’s might call the dogs off early up 13-0. But, that also would go against the idea of playing to the final out.

Atlanta would tack on one run, but the Birds would get it back. Pat Valaika‘s solo homer in the last of the seventh cushioned the lead back to 13 runs. Count this as a game where the O’s put it all together.

The series continues tomorrow at Camden Yards. Thomas Eshelman gets the start for the O’s, and Atlanta is yet to announce a starter. Game time is set for just after 7:30 PM.


Baltimore Orioles swept in the Bronx

The Baltimore Orioles got a quality start this afternoon at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx our of starter John Means. He was stingy, surrendering just one solo homer. The issue of course was that Oriole bags couldn’t get going, causing the Birds to suffer a sweep at Yankee Stadium this weekend. Means’ line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K.

The O’s got on the board in the second inning on a solo homer by Renato Nunez. However Means’ aforementioned surrendered solo homer came in the last of the third. Wade smacked a Means pitch out of the park, tying the game at one.

But New York couldn’t muster much more against Means. This start combined with his previous start bodes well for the future of this franchise. Everything came together for Means this afternoon, in an effort for which he was non-decisioned.

The O’s got the first two outs in the last of the eighth, and then New York put two runners on base. Torres then proceeded to smack a two-RBI double, which in effect won the game for New York. And in fact your final from Yankee Stadium, New York defeats the O’s 3-1.

The Orioles may have seen their playoff chances end with this sweep in the Bronx. And if that’s true, that’s okay. Keep in mind that this team wasn’t supposed to win twenty games. So they’ve turned some heads. But there’s still some season left to go; anything can happen.

The Orioles now return home to open a series with the Atlanta Braves tomorrow night. Jorge Lopez gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Atlanta’s Touki Toussaint. Game time is set for just after 7:30 PM.


Baltimore Orioles: Hunter Harvey’s wild pitch sinks Birds

The Baltimore Orioles got a good start this afternoon out of Dean Kremer. You have to figure that it’s been tough for the kid; his first two big league starts have come agains the Bronx Bombers. But he won the first start last week, and held his own this afternoon. Kremer’s line: 5.0 IP, 4 H 1 R, 3 BB, 7 K.

The lone run that Kremer gave up was on a sac fly-RBI by Frazier in the last of the first. Other than that, Kremer and subsequent pitchers were stingy. Not much seemed to shake Kremer. And that’s a good sign.

The O’s tied the game at one in the top of the sixth when Ryan Mountcastle dropped a bloop RBI-single behind second base. This was a classic pitcher’s duel, and both teams struggled at times to put runners on base. Something had to give as we went to extra innings.

And unfortunately, it was the new extra innings rules that forced something to give. And for the O’s at that. Hunter Harvey was brought on to pitch the tenth, and of course New York got to start with a runner on second base.

Harvey uncorked a wild pitch, and the runner went to third. He would later score on Voit’s sac fly-RBI. It’s really a shame; this was a game the O’s had a golden opportunity to win. And that one slight mistake cost them the game.

As I said after last night’s loss, defensive mishaps like that can cost you games. And in this case it did. Now granted would a wild pitch setting up a run be such a problem in the third inning? Maybe, maybe not. In a 2-1 game it would still stick out. However the O’s would have had time to overcome it. In extra innings it’s a different story.

The series concludes tomorrow at Yankee Stadium. John Means gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by New York’s J.A. Happ. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.


Baltimore Orioles: Defensive mishaps make a huge difference

Baltimore Orioles’ starter Keegan Akin only lasted for two outs in the first inning. But please don’t take his stats and make assumptions as to how he pitched tonight. He was far from perfect. But he was done wrong by the defense behind him. Akin’s line: .2 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 1 K.

DJ Stewart stayed hot with a solo homer in the first inning. He was the lone bright spot for the Birds. I can’t stress enough how promising it is for the organization that he’s coming along. He’s been having a field day of late with major league pitching.

But again, that was the Birds’ line bright spot. New York immediately put two runners on with nobody out in the last of the first. Hicks flies out to left fielder Ryan Mountcastle. Now keep in mind that Mountcastle isn’t a natural outfielder. He’s being turned into one.

LeMahieu, the runner at second, decided to test Mountcastle and tag up to try to take third. Mountcastle’s throw was a bit under thrown, allowing New York an extra base. Frazier would eventually reach on a fielder’s choice, however the throw home from Jose Iglesias was off line, giving New York a 2-1 lead.

Later in the inning Andujar would add a two-RBI double. Later in the game New York would blow it wide open. Bout smacked two-run homers in both the fourth and fifth innings. Ten runs to the Orioles’ one appeared to be all they needed.

Granted you can’t blame two mishaps in the first inning for giving up ten runs. However those two mishaps (which for the record neither of which were errors) set the tone for the game. It also drove Keegan Amun’s pitch count way up, causing him to exit in the first inning.

It’s those types of mistakes that can be accepted from this team right now. But moving forward they need to keep that under control. If in the future they’re in a pennant race and this sort of thing pops up, that’s going to be a big league problem.

Look at it this way, if Iglesias’ throw (which wasn’t a tough okay) is online, the O’s gun down a run at the plate. Does the rest of the game unfold the way that it did? Tough to say.

The series continues tomorrow afternoon at Yankee Stadium. Dean Kremer gets the start for the Birds, and he’ll be opposed by New York’s Jordan Montgomery. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.


Baltimore Orioles fall in game one of a doubleheader

Alex Cobb came off the IL to make the start for the Baltimore Orioles in game one of a doubleheader against New York in the Bronx. Cobb has trouble finding his way, but righted himself later. Cobb’s line: 4.0 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 5 K.

New York got off to a quick start in this one. LeMahieu led off the last of the first with a solo homer. Gardner added a two-run shot later in that first inning. Before the non-existent crowd would have otherwise settled down, the O’s trailed 3-0.

Cobb didn’t fair much better in the second. Higashioka smacked a two-run home run in the second, running the score to 5-0. At this point if you’re the O’s you’re trying not to get yourself run out of the ballpark. But things stabilized.

Neither Cobb nor any other Oriole pitcher gave up another run. Save for a bloop RBI-single. They got very stingy, in fact. But the damage was done.

New York starter Cole made a no-hit bid. Mind you, the game was only seven innings long. But Hanser Alberto broke that up in the fifth inning. That was about as much offense as the Birds could muster in game one.

The doubleheader and the series continues later this evening at Yankee Stadium. Keegan Akin gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by New York’s Masahiro Tanaka. Game time is set for about 40 minutes from now.


Baltimore Orioles fall, split with NYM

The Baltimore Orioles stayed hot at the plate last night against the NY Mets. Unfortunately New York’s bats got hot as well, however. And that happened slowly as the game went on. Jorge Lopez didn’t make it out of the fifth inning, but was victimized by the long ball. Lopez’s line: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 5 K.

Renato Nunez and Ryan Mountcastle smacked RBI-singles in the first inning, and the Birds took an early 2-0 lead. New York would get a run back in the last of the second on an RBI-single flew by McNeil. But the good news was that the O’s were getting guys on base, which puts pressure on opposing pitching.

But the O’s were able to open up a bigger lead later on. Rio Ruiz‘s two-RBI double in the third have the O’s a 4-1 lead. Hanser Alberto would add an RBI-single later in the inning. And the Birds held a 5-1 lead.

But even with a decent lead, New York was only a couple of big homers out of the game. McNeil’s two-run home run in the fourth cut the lead to 5-3. Now the Orioles did tack on one more run an inning later. DJ Stewart‘s bar stayed hot, and he hit a solo homer. Stewart is really coming along and of late has really been clicking against big league pitching. That bodes well for the Orioles’ lineup.

But the last of the sixth saw the Orioles’ lead evaporate. Conforto smacked a solo homer, Cano an RBI-single, and Giminez a solo homer of his own. That tied the game at six.

Two innings later Alonzo added a solo homer of his own, giving New York a 7-6 lead, which turned into a 7-6 victory. The O’s had chances in the later innings, but couldn’t bring anyone in. They also should have had at least three additional runs. With two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth, Rio Ruiz hit what rightfully hooks have been a bases-clearing double…

…but Conforto made an amazing over-the-shoulder catch. That obviously ended the inning as well. That’s to Conforto’s credit, incidentally. At the time the O’s held a slim one-run lead. But it’s a moment on which you look back as a big one in the game. If that ball falls, the Birds sweep the series. Instead they split it.

The O’s now head to the Bronx for a four game set with the New York Yankees. Keegan Akin gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by New York’s Gerrit Cole. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.


Baltimore Orioles: Big wheels keep on turning in Queens

The Baltimore Orioles got the best start of the season out of John Means this evening against the NY Mets in Queens. In fact, Means resembled his first half, 2019 self. Means’ line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 K.

Means qualified for a quality start, and in fact Oriole bats also posted up. That’s the other aspect of the game. You can pitch great but if your offense doesn’t score you runs you’ll end up a hard-luck loser. The Birds put it all together tonight at once.

DJ Stewart remained hot, smacking a two-run homer in the second inning. Keep in mind that between Saturday and Sunday Stewart homered in three straight at-bats. So he’s really starting to get with it at the big league level.

New York would get their lone run in the last of the second on a solo shot by Marisnick. Other than that, Means shut New York down. And the O’s just kept chugging along.

Ryan Mountcastle also stayed hot. He smacked a two-run homer of his own in the fourth. That was followed up later in the inning by an RBI-triple from Cedric Mullins. Again, that’s great to see. Both Stewart and Mullins have struggled at various times in the bigs. The fact that things seem to be clicking for them is welcome for this team.

Pat Valaika and Rio Ruiz would also homer later in the game. When the smoke cleared the Birds had themselves an 11-2 victory. But following a big weekend against the New York Yankees, the Birds turned in perhaps one of their most complete performances of the season. And that in and of itself is an excellent sign.

The series concludes tomorrow night at Citi Field. Jorge Lopez gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by New York’s Rick Porcello. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.


Baltimore Orioles: Dean Kremer dazzles in debut as Birds take series with NY

The Baltimore Orioles finally got to see the first piece from 2018’s trade of Manny Machado come to the big leagues this afternoon in starter Dean Kremer. And he didn’t disappoint. Kremer carried himself and played like he belonged in the big leagues. He sent New York down 1-2-3 in the first inning, and his outing took off from there. Kremer’s line: 6.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 7 K.

Also for the Orioles, DJ Stewart picked up right where he left off last night. Stewart’s two-run homer in the first inning got the Orioles going. It was Stewart’s third home run in as many at-bats. New York would score in the second on an RBI-ground out, cutting the Orioles’ lead to 2-1.

But when your starter is as effective as a Kremer was today, that’s not an issue. In fact, the bases were loaded in that second inning. Kremer figured out a way to get out of the inning while minimizing the damage.

That thin 2-1 lead held until the sixth inning before the Birds broke it open. They would load the bases, and Bryan Holaday would draw a walk, extending the lead to 3-1. Andrew Velazquez‘s RBI-single would further the lead, and Ryan Mountcastle‘s sac fly-RBI in the seventh pushed it to 5-1, which was the final.

This game of course was played under the backdrop of the 25th anniversary of Cal Ripken Jr. breaking the consecutive games played record. Cal tossed out a virtual first pitch to his son, Ryan (the first baseman for the Bowie Baysox), and he appeared on the MASN telecast and the Orioles Radio Network. 2131 is a moment that no Orioles fan of a certain age will ever forget. It’s a moment that stands alone in time and marks a generation of Orioles fans. So in a sense, it’s poetic justice that the Birds won today.

The Orioles also very quietly took three-of-four in this series with New York. Mind you it was originally a three-game set, but one was a makeup game. Either way, they took three-of-four. While New York is at a reduced power level, they’re still New York. We went from talking about an epic losing streak to them, to the Birds taking the series. Also noteworthy for Dean Kremer’s first major league start, and his first major league win.


Baltimore Orioles: DJ Stewart breaks out in another win vs. New York

Baltimore Orioles’ starter Keegan Akin put the Birds in a position to win last night against New York. And that’s all you can ask a starting pitcher to do. The rest of the team has to kind of take it from there. And they did. Akin’s line: 5.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 8 K.

Unfortunately Akin didn’t qualify for the win. He was lifted in the top of the sixth, and the score was still 0-0. So Akin was non-decisioned. But he pitched well enough to have gotten the win. It just didn’t work out accordingly.

This game was also a coming out party of sorts for DJ Stewart. Which is a good thing because with Santander suddenly on the IL, Stewart is probably going to be getting more playing time. However his solo homer in the last of the sixth broke the scoreless tie and gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead.

Later in that sixth inning Ryan Mountcastle‘s two-RBI single extended the Birds’ lead to 3-0. A two-RBI double would then run the score to 5-0, and the O’s were off to the races. After being held scoreless for nearly six innings, the runs came in buckets. This against a team that had previously won 19 straight games against the O’s.

Just to show he wasn’t kidding, DJ Stewart smacked an additional solo homer in the last of the seventh to extend the lead to 6-0. New York would get one back in the top of the eighth on a solo homer by Frazier. But in the end, the O’s won their second straight against New York. Hardly a 19-game winning streak, but hey you have to start somewhere.

The O’s will go for the series win this afternoon at Camden Yards. The Birds are yet to announce a starter, but they’ll be facing New York’s Masahiro Tanaka. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.


Baltimore Orioles snap skid in a New York Minute

The Baltimore Orioles had lost 19 straight games to New York coming into last night’s doubleheader night cap – including the first game of the doubleheader. However an offensive breakout and a nice starting outing by Jorge Lopez made quick history of that steak. While Lopez only pitched five innings, he did qualify for the win. Also when the game only has seven innings a five inning outing is akin to a quality start. Lopez’s line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 3 K.

Ryan Mountcastle got the party started in the last of the second when he blasted a two-run homer off into the night. Lopez allowed a base runner one inning later, who would take second on a wild pitch and third on a pass ball. Estrada’s ground out would score the runner, cutting the lead to 2-1.

And while that cut the lead, it exhibited that the Orioles could contain damage is a sense. As opposed to letting a mistake compound things further. They minimized the damage, and didn’t let a mistake turn into a barrage of runs for the opponent.

Although..:New York would take the lead in the fourth. Kratz’s two-RBI single gave them a 3-2 lead. For a brief moment it appeared that New York would continue their steak to 20 consecutive wins over the Orioles. But it wasn’t to be.

Mountcastle’s RBI-single in the last of the fifth would tie the game back up at three. Rio Ruiz‘s subsequent RBI-single would give the Birds the lead back at 4-3. And just for good measure, the O’s would get two all-important insurance runs to seal the win thanks to Pat Valaika‘s two-RBI double.

This is a big win for the O’s in the sense that it snaps the losing streak to New York. 19 straight games is a lot of losses. Not all of them were blowouts, mind you. The Birds battled in some of them – such as game one of the doubleheader. But it’s still losing 19 straight games to the same team, and a division rival at that. But that streak is now over.

The series continues tonight at Camden Yards. Keegan Akin gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by New York’s Gerrit Cole. Game time is set for just after 7:30 PM.


Baltimore Orioles drop their 19th straight game to New York

Baltimore Orioles’ starter Thomas Eshelman didn’t make it out of the third inning this evening in game one of a doubleheader with New York. But keep in mind that he had just pitched in relief on Tuesday, and this game was only seven innings long. Alex Cobb was supposed to get the start, but he was sent to the IL before the game for an unspecified reason. Eshelman’s line: 2.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R (2 earned), 3 BB, 1 K.

Cedric Mullins put the O’s on the board early with a solo homer in the last of the first inning. However one inning later New York had tied the game at one on a Sanchez homer. New York may be in a weakened state with all of their players on the IL, but they’re still the Bronx Bombers.

And in the third inning they loaded the bases due to an error. And before you knew it Gardner smacked a two-run scoring single. Tauchman would later walk with the bases loaded, giving New York a 4-1 lead. Incidentally, only two of those runs were earned.

And I’ve said this a lot this year, but other teams are holding the Orioles accountable. When mistakes are made in games, opposing teams are making them pay. They not only need to minimize the amount of opportunities that opponents can make them pay, but they need to find ways out of jams. So that other teams DON’T hold them accountable.

But the good news is that the Birds battled back. Rio Ruiz smacked a two-run homer in the fourth which cut the lead to 4-3. And one inning later in the fifth Renato Nunez smacked a solo shot, tying the game at four runs a piece.

The game went to extra innings. In reality, the teams played a full game (9 innings). But due to the league’s doubleheader rule where games are seven innings in 2020, it’s considered extras .

Similarly, the O’s had chances in the extra two frames. But they couldn’t push a run across to win the game. And New York toon advantage, pushing two across in the top of the ninth. The Birds would net one in the bottom of the inning, but it wasn’t enough. It was the Orioles’ 19 consecutive loss to New York.

The series continues with game two of this doubleheader this evening from Camden Yards. Jorge Lopez gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by New York’s Deivi Garcia. The game will begin in approximately 40 minutes.


Baltimore Orioles blow chance at big inning in loss

Baltimore Orioles’ starter John Means made into the sixth inning this afternoon against the New York Mets. Unfortunately he struggled with his control at the end, prompting his exit. And it was only downhill from there. Means’ line: 5.1 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 1 K.

Means unfortunately fell behind right away, as he surrendered a two-run homer to Conforto in the top of the first inning. But the O’s fought back – or tried to at least. At first. Ryan Mountcastle‘s RBI-single in the last of the second cut the lead in half.

That second inning was a key moment in the at game. The O’s would eventually tie the game at two when Cedric Mullins was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Obviously at that moment the bags remained juiced. But the O’s allowed New York off the hook, only tying the game.

The Orioles need to start taking advantage more when their opponents mess up. We saw Toronto hold the O’s accountable for pretty much 100% of their mistakes last weekend. The O’s need to start doing that also, because other teams are going to do it to them. Bases loaded would have been an opportune moment.

And it was Conforto again who put New York ahead in the fifth with an RBI-double. And the game snowballed from there. New York would put runs up here and there, before netting a four-run eighth inning. That put the game out of reach.

Jose Iglesias would add an RBI-single in the last of the ninth. An additional run would score on a throwing error, running the final to 9-4 in favor of New York. The teams split the short two-game set at Camden Yards.

Several of those runs in the eighth inning were scored on pass balls. And again, opponents are holding the O’s accountable for mistakes like that. It’s a reminder that when people get on base anything can happen. And often times it will.

But that second inning should stick out for fans. The O’s could have opened up a big lead. They could have had a big inning. And they let their opponent off the hook. That has to change.

The Orioles are off tomorrow, which is a good thing. They had to remove Renato Nunez after he struggled running out a ball up the first base line in the fifth inning. His status moving forward is unclear.


Baltimore Orioles: Renato Nunez starts the party and provides insurance

The Baltimore Orioles finally got a starter to go deeper than four innings. Asher Wojchiekowski pitcher five tonight against the NY Mets at Camden Yards. It may only be one more, but it’s something. It’s a start. Wojciechowski’s line: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 5 K.

Renato Nunez put the Orioles ahead early with a three-run homer in the last of the first inning. However New York chopped away. A sac fly-RBI and an RBI-single in the second got them to within 3-2. Luckily for the O’s in that moment, Anthony Santander followed suit in the last of the second with an RBI-single, and Jose Iglesias pushed another run across on a fielder’s choice. The O’s appeared to be in the driver’s seat…

…until they weren’t. Cano smacked a solo homer in the third. That was innocent enough; it came with two outs and solo home runs generally aren’t going to beat you. But Gimenez’s two-run homer in the sixth suddenly tied the game at five.

This was a big moment in the game for the O’s. Mind you that they just came home from a series in Toronto in which they surrendered several leads, and lost games at the eleventh hour in walk off fashion. Psychologically that can grate on a team. But the Orioles battled back.

Pat Valaika immediately got the Birds the lead back with an RBI-double in the last of the sixth. And that was a big moment all and of itself. Because the O’s didn’t string things out and waste any time. They jumped on the horn immediately and took the lead back.

Anthony Santander would add a two-run homer later in the inning, as the Orioles started to pull away. And for good measure, they added on an insurance run in the seventh. This on Renato Nunez’s solo homer – his second homer of the game.

And that Nunez home run was important also in terms of exorcising the demons of that Toronto series. The Orioles took several one-run leads, only to settle for that one run. And it would more often than not end up not being enough. This time around they were having none of that, and they padded the lead – which turned into a 9-5 win over the New York Mets.

The series concludes tomorrow afternoon at Camden Yards. John Means gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by New York’s Michael Wacha. Game time is set for just after 4 PM.


Baltimore Orioles break skid with extra innings win

Keegan Akin had a solid outing this afternoon for the Baltimore Orioles. It was still a shortish outing, however he put the O’s in a position to win the game. And that’s all you can ask of your statrting pitcher. Akin’s line: 4.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, (0 earned), 2 BB, 6 K.

The Birds took the lead early. Jose Iglesias‘ RBI-single gave them a 1-0 lead. And that lead stood up for awhile. Unfortunately for Akin however, it was surrendered on yet another botched play by the Oriole infield.

Toronto had one out and two runners in scoring position in the last of the fifth. However Biggio reached on a throwing error by Hanser Alberto at second base, allowing both runners to score. And giving Toronto a 2-1 lead.

This sort of thing has PLAGUED Oriole pitching this entire road trip. And the sad thing is that both Tampa and Toronto have taken full advantage of the Orioles’ mistakes. That’s certainly an incentive not to make mistakes like that, but sometimes they happen. But the Orioles have allowed those mistakes to kill them.

But the good news is that this time the Orioles fought back. And right away at that. Anthony Santander smacked an RBI-double in the top of the sixth, tying the game at two. This of course also letting Akin off the hook for the loss. And keeping the Orioles in the game.

And of course it was Santander who did it. As I’ve written previously, he’s quickly turning into a stud. And a fan favorite at that – if twitter mentions mean anything. He’s been the right guy at the right time in the lineup over various games this season, and today was no different.

However the game remained tied at two and went to extras. Just what the Orioles wanted after the way this road trip has gone. But Bryan Holladay‘s two-RBI double in the top of the eleventh gave the Birds a 4-2 lead. Toronto would net one in the last of the eleventhC but for once it wasn’t enough. And the O’s took the finale.

The infield play does need to be cleaned up. Now perhaps some of the miscues can be chalked up to playing this series on a minor league field. But those mistakes need to be fixed so that games aren’t in essence being given away.

The O’s also executed a trade before the deadline came and went today. They traded reliever Miguel Castro to the NY Mets in exchange for minor league pitcher, Kevin Smith. New York of course will be at Camden Yards playing the O’s for the next two days following today.

The O’s now return home to open the aforementioned short two-game set with the NY Mets. Neither team has announced a starter for tomorrow. Game time is set for just after 7:30 PM.


Baltimore Orioles: Ryan Mountcastle homers but victory snatched from the O’s

In his debut as a Baltimore Orioles’ starter, Jorge Lopez looked pretty strong at first. However after having seen him once or twice, Toronto batters started to catch up. Lopez’s line: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 3 K.

The Birds gave Lopez an early lead. Ryan Mountcastle smacked his first major league home run in the first inning, giving the Orioles a 1-0 lead. It was a no doubter, and it landed out towards the highway on the other side of Sahlen Field. Luckily a Good Samaritan retrieved the ball and it was saved for Mountcastle’s private collection.

Toronto would tie the game at one on an RBI-single by Guerrero in the last of the fourth. One inning later Biggio’s RBI-single would give Toronto a 2-1 lead. Grichuk would later add a sac fly-RBI, chasing Lopez.

However the O’s seemed to regain their never say die outlook this afternoon. Pedro Severino‘s sixth inning RBI-single in the sixth cut the lead to 3-2. That brought Ryan Mountcastle back to the plate. With his first big league homer out of the way, he decided it was an opportune moment to hit his second. Except this one was a two-run shot, and gave the Orioles their lead back at 4-3.

But Toronto wasn’t done yet either. The Birds recorded two quick outs in the eighth, before Toronto put two runners on via a base hit and a walk. Tellez’s RBI-single then tied the game at four.

However the O’s came back again. With two outs in the top of the ninth, the Birds had runners at the corners and Jose Iglesias coming to the plate. A base hit would give them the lead. Iglesias hit a slow swinging bunt to short…

…it was so slow, it gave Iglesias a fighting chance of reaching base safely and scoring the run. Iglesias hustled out of the box, and ran down the line – HARD, down the line. And he was called safe at first, allowing the run to score and giving the Orioles a 5-4 lead.

Unfortunately for the O’s and closer Cole Sulser however, the game wasn’t over. They had two runners on in the last of the ninth with two outs and a full count. Sulser threw what everyone, including the hitter, Shaw, thought was strike three. Replays showed it was clearly on the edge of the batter’s box.

Everyone except home plate umpire Sean Barber thought it was strike three and that the game was over. He ruled it ball four, loading the bases. Hernandez’s subsequent two-RBI single won it for Toronto.

Now Sulser did put a couple of guys on, which didn’t help. When you put runners on base anything can happen. And umpires are in fact human. But it does sting to lose a game like that, when in fact the game should have been over. But to the victors go the spoils.

The Orioles also announced two trades before the game. Tommy Milone was dealt to Atlanta for a Player to be named later (PTBNL). Reliever Mychal Givens was also sent to the Colorado Rockies. In return, the O’s got infield prospects Terribly Vavra and Tyler Nevin. They also are receiving a PTBNL.

The series with Toronto concludes tomorrow at Sahlen Field. The Orioles haven’t announced a starter as of yet, and Toronto will throw Chase Anderson. Game time is set for just after 2 PM.


Baltimore Orioles: Alex Cobb haunted by defense behind him

Baltimore Orioles’ starter Alex Cobb didn’t pitch perfect this evening. Heck, he wasn’t in the game long enough for that. But I feel that he was pitching good enough to put the O’s in a spot to win the game. Which is the task of every starting pitcher. Cobb’s line: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R (4 earned), 2 BB, 2 K.

Toronto took a 2-0 lead in the last of the first when Guerrero smacked a two-run scoring single. However keep in mind that there were two runners in scoring position due to the fact that Santander misplayed the ball in the outfield. That ultimately came back and bit the O’s.

Toronto also netted a run in the fourth, but the Birds gave them an extra out. With a runner at third Fischer grounded into what would have been a tailor-made double-play. The Orioles were willing to concede the run, however Hanser Alberto has trouble transferring the ball to throw back to first. That doesn’t go as an error (because you never assume the double-play), but it cost the Orioles runs in the future, and of course it cost Cobb some pitches.

And in fact, Cobb gave up a two-RBI single to Biggio later in the inning. That ran the final to 5-0. Again, Cobb wasn’t perfect. But I think that he in theory pitched well enough to win. Errors and extra outs can at times do a pitcher in.

Here’s an interesting question; was this Cobb’s final appearance for the Orioles? With the trade deadline being Monday, he’s a veteran guy with good experience, and could be a candidate to be traded. Could he help a team for a potential stretch run in a stretch season? Yes, he could.

But there are a lot of other things at play. Are teams willing to part with prospects to potential work their way into the postseason in the strangest year on record? Furthermore? With potential labor unrest coming, do teams really want to commit themselves to a salary? All good questions. 

Four innings seems to be the magic number for manager Brandon Hyde. I find that interesting, and perhaps a little concerning. It’s one thing if the pitcher’s struggling. But we’ve seen Hyde pull pitchers who were doing okay or even holding their own at the four inning mark. The recognize that I’m a mastodon in the sense that I want my starters to go deep into games. If anything, bullpens are bigger than starters now. But four innings to me is a really short outing. I feel it taxes the bullpen too much.

This isn’t to be overly critical of Hyde. I recognize he’s doing the best job he can and that he’s only a second-year manager. Plus, nobody’s ever managed a sixty-game season before. It’s just interesting to me that he seems to get his starters after four innings. Just something I’ve noticed.

The series continues tomorrow afternoon at Sahlen Field. Jorge Lopez gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Taylor Roark. Game time is set for just after 3 PM.