Baltimore Orioles: Another valiant losing effort

The Baltimore Orioles seem to be playing New York tough regardless of the circumstances or situation. And given that these two teams will meet 18 times next year, that bodes well for the Birds and their fans. While New York eventually won yesterday afternoon, they probably shouldn’t have had to resort to extra innings to beat a team with 44 wins.

David Hess got the start yesterday, and in essence he threw two bad pitches. Hicks and Voit smacked solo home runs in the second inning to give New York a 2-0 lead. Hess’ line: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 5 K. While he only pitched five innings yesterday, Hess said after the game that he believes that he and the team have improved (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

Overall, I think we’ve improved. You look at where we started when I first came up to where I am now, I think the past month or two, there’s been a lot of improvements and I think that shows with the numbers. But more than anything I think just the overall feel and the comfort that I’ve grown into more out there, I think that reflects and going forward we want to continue to grow in that and be as competitive as possible.

The O’s battled back an inning after those two homers. Cedric Mullins reached on a New York throwing error, allowing a run to score. DJ Stewart‘s fifth inning RBI-single would tie the game at two. And that’s where the score remained…for some time.

The game went to extra innings, and the O’s had a golden opportunity to take the lead in the tenth. The Birds put two runners in scoring position with nobody out. However they also managed to record three consecutive outs without netting a run, keeping the score tied at two.

And unfortunately for the O’s, teams have made a habit of getting fat on what they’ve left behind this season. Especially a good team like New York. One inning later in the eleventh, Hicks’ RBI-double gave New York a walk off 3-2 win in extra innings.

You obviously want to win the game, however the fact is that many of these young players are scrappy guys. They played New York tough, and that bodes well for the Orioles’ future. And that’s what we’ve really been talking about since about May – the future.

The O’s will try to salvage one game in this afternoon’s series finale at Yankee Stadium. Alex Cobb gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by New York’s J.A. Happ. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Young Birds didn’t mail it in when they could have done so

If last night’s game at Yankee Stadium is any indication, the Baltimore Orioles may well be on the right track in terms of their rebuild. Offensively, that is at least. The O’s found themselves behind early in New York behind starter Yefry Ramirez, but battled back valiantly. Ramirez’s line: 3.2 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 3 BB, 3 K.

The O’s spotted New York six runs, two of which came on a Gregorius two-run homer in the first inning. It was 6-0 after four innings. Conventional wisdom indicates that when you have a situation like that, maybe you mail it in so to speak. New York’s a contender, they’re home standing, and you have a group of young players on the team. Nobody would have blamed the O’s for “mailing it in.” But they didn’t do that.

Adam Jones started the comeback attempt with a two-RBI single in the fifth inning to cut the lead to 6-2. Two innings later Austin Wynns smacked a solo home run, and Jonathan Villar added an RBI-single. Before you knew it, the score was 6-4 in a game where New York had previously been coasting.

But New York added on, which should have been expected. McCutchen’s RBI-single in the last of the seventh ran the score to 7-4, and Voit’s two-RBI single later in the inning should have closed the door at 9-4. Notice I said should have closed the door. It didn’t totally close the door.

Renato Nunez‘s two-run homer put the Orioles right back into the game in the eighth inning. Later in the inning DJ Stewart added a two-run shot of his own, and the Birds were to within one at 9-8. However Judge’s RBI-single in the last of the eighth finally did close the door, and the O’s fell 10-8 in New York.

This isn’t a game which had to make New York happy to win. They’re a contending team, and they had to battle and scrape to win a game against a group of guys most people have never heard of. I think most people, including the New York players, thought the game was over at 6-0. Most people except the Orioles, that is. And that’s a welcome sight, because these young players showed last night that they don’t give up.

Prior to the game there were rumors floating about that the Orioles would not be retaining manager Buck Showalter after the season. In the same breath, there were rumors about Vice-President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette getting a new contract for 2019 and beyond. Both men’s deals are up after the season.

First off keep in mind that these are only rumors. And one thing that most people who disseminated them got wrong is that they said Showalter would be “fired” after the season. That’s incorrect, as his contract’s up. Granted the ends are the same, however it’s important to note that.

I’ve said this on twitter and I’ve at least alluded to it here in print in an indirect manner. But I feel it would be a huge mistake for the Orioles to not retain Showalter. There are few managers in the game who insist on the attention to detail and professionalism in the manner that Buck Showalter does. You rarely see Orioles’ players pulling some of the unprofessional stunts that players on other teams do; that’s because Buck runs a tight ship.

Buck Showalter’s been good for the community and good for the Orioles. In my view he at least deserves to be offered a chance to stay if he wants it. And I say it in that manner because for all we know if in fact he’s out after the season it’s more mutual than we know. Buck became a grandfather last year for the first time, and I have to believe that’s somewhat of a game-changer in life. So there’s every chance that perhaps he’s ready to not be in the dugout any longer at this stage of his life.

Again, I think he should be at least offered a contract. That’s not to say that there’s nobody else out there who could manage the Orioles. I’m sure that if in fact the front office finds itself looking for a manager after the season, they’ll have a plethora of very qualified candidates from which to choose. But there can be no doubt that Buck Showalter will be remembered in Baltimore fondly for some time – whenever the time comes that he’s finished.

The series in New York continues this afternoon. David Hess gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by New York’s Lance Lynn. Game time is set for just after 4 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Do chicken little’s actually have the right attitude?

This has been a season to forget for the Baltimore Orioles, although odds are it’s not going to be forgotten quickly. Let me be frank; I’m a stay the course guy in all things. So when people were tweeting at me and commenting on this column after the Orioles blew a lead and had to go to extra innings to win on Opening Day, I shoo’d that commentary away. You can imagine what the reaction was then after they lost 7-1 in game two.

With the exception of the eventual Opening Day win, all of that was a harbinger for the rest of the season. I do believe in the it’s early defense when it comes to sports. Just as I wouldn’t be harshly judging the 1-1 Baltimore Ravens right now, I don’t think you can garner too much from one month’s worth of league play. I’ve never believed that; mainly because I believe in staying the course. But…am I wrong?

In this case, I suppose I was. The chicken little’s of the world who were sounding the alarm back in April were right. Now I would also remind folks that this season was literally the perfect storm. I’m not sure that even the worst chicken little of the bunch would have seen this coming at that time.

Again, the difference between someone like me and a chicken little is that I really believed that this team would progress back to the mean. I believed that after last September when they fell off the map. It stood to reason that they would progress back to the mean numbers of most of their careers going into this year. However that never happened. In fact, it got worse.

People told me back in April and May that the Orioles needed to do something drastic – and quick. I don’t believe in that sort of thing, again because I’m a stay the course guy. But also because most of the time when people say things like that, they do so with very little thought as to what that drastic measure would be. They just say something needs to be done.

And eventually it was, with all of the deals the team made in mid-summer. However even now with the franchise in rebuilding mode, some still question the track. That includes catcher Caleb Joseph, who earlier this week said that the mentality needs to be more focused on winning. Circa 2009 I recall the mentality being that the young players on the team were learning to lose together, which boded well for the future. Because eventually they would learn how to win together. And eventually they did.

What Joseph’s saying contradicts that idea. He’s saying that if you learn to lose that’s all you’re really going to know. And complacency sets in, allowing people to “just be happy to be here,” and you never get over the hump. The chicken little’s of the world would probably agree with that, because you always have to be hungry.

And for the record, you do always have to be hungry, and that’s especially true now. The Orioles are going to be a young team moving forward, so we really don’t know what to expect. While the stay the course crowd such as myself were incorrect at the end of the day, it wasn’t a bad bet to assume that proven veterans would progress back to their career means. It just didn’t happen. Given the same circumstances again, I’d take the same stance.

The Orioles head to the Bronx this evening for a three-game set with New York. Yefry Ramirez gets the call for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by New York’s CC Sabathia. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: DJ Stewart’s first homer leads Birds over Toronto

The Baltimore Orioles snapped a two-game losing streak with last night’s victory over Toronto. I’ve mentioned how the O’s have struggled against their AL East foes over time, however at the very least they finished strong against them. Jimmy Yacabonis got the start, and while he didn’t qualify for the win, set the Orioles up nicely. Yacabonis’ line: 4.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K.

Part of rebuilding is getting a look at the future. And while it’s been rough-going for sure, there are parts of the future that look bright. DJ Stewart gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead in the third inning with a solo home run. It was Stewart’s first career homer, which is always special to see.

Toronto threatened in the fourth with the bases loaded and nobody out. However Yacabonis pitched out of it, helped out by Adam Jones nailing a runner at the plate. It was his first assist from right field, and it certainly impressed manager Buck Showalter (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

Adam, I was talking to him in the dugout. You’re so used to throwing from a certain angle, getting used to that. You’re taught as a cutoff guy, if the ball ever goes toward the first base dugout, you cut it. I’m talking about a step or two, because the catcher never vacates to the right and then gets an out. You can vacate a little bit to the left toward the runner. We teach it that way anyway. If it comes from center or right. Anytime the throw takes the cutoff man to the right, you’ve got to cut it.

So, I said, ‘How was that angle, how did that feel?’ He said, That’s really the first one I’ve really had other than practice.’ But I thought Austin made a really good play, too. To say, ‘I’ve got to catch it and then see if I can beat him to the plate.’ It was a huge play.

The Orioles’ 1-0 lead stood up until the seventh when they got an insurance run on Cedric Mullins‘ RBI-single. Again, the O’s are getting a look at the future with Mullins in the lineup. He’s shown a lot of promise to this point, which is good to see. McKinney’s solo homer in the eighth for Toronto would cut the lead to 2-1, however the O’s would close the game out and conclude the 2018 season against their rivals with a victory. Too little too late for sure, but the games still count.

 

Baltimore Orioles: Sloppy defense grants the lead, and takes it back

The Baltimore Orioles couldn’t hold on last night against Toronto. They had the game in essence won behind starter Dylan Bundy, but the bottom fell out and it turned into a loss. And a record-setting loss at that; no other Orioles’ team has lost 108 games. Bundy’s line: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R (2 earned), 1 BB, 6 K.

The O’s led early, as Cedric Mullins led off the game with a solo homer. In the fourth Mancini appeared out at home plate on a Valera sac fly attempt. However the play was overturned on replay, as the Toronto catcher blocked the plate and Mancini never had a shot at crossing. That gave the O’s a 2-0 victory.

Later in that fourth inning DJ Stewart got his first big league hit on a single to right field. It’ll go down as one of the most bizarre first hits in Orioles’ history, and one about which Stewart will probably jokingly tell his grandchildren one day. Two errors on the play later, not only had Chris Davis scored, but Stewart scored as well. Due to Toronto’s shoddy defense, the Orioles held a 4-0 lead.

But Toronto chipped away. Smith’s RBI-double in the fifth cut the lead to 4-1. One inning later Smoak’s RBI-groundout cut the lead to 4-2. Bundy started to tire in the seventh, almost out of nowhere. Unfortunately however, the Orioles couldn’t get him out of the game early enough. He loaded the bases, and was lifted.

However the base runners were still his responsibility. And a Steve Wilkerson throwing error allowed two runs to score, tying the game at four. Shoddy defense gave the Orioles part of their lead, and it also took it back. Gurriel’s subsequent two-RBI single gave Toronto a 6-4 lead, which turned into a 6-4 victory.

As I said above, this sets a record of the wrong kind for the Orioles. It was only a matter of time I suppose, however no Oriole team has ever lost 108 games plus. Now if there’s a silver lining anywhere, it probably forced their hand in rebuilding the way that they are. Had they ended up a run-of-the-mill 70-loss team, would they have been forced to do a total rebuild of this nature?

The O’s will try to salvage one game in this series this evening at Camden Yards. Jimmy Yacabonis gets the call for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Marco Estrada. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Listless against Toronto

In a season where the Baltimore Orioles have struggled seemingly against everyone, it seems that’s been especially true against Toronto. And that’s been the case for a couple of years – really, since 2015 in a sense. The Birds defeated Toronto in September of 2014 to win the AL East, but since then it’s really been downhill.

And the ironic part is that it doesn’t seem to matter who the personnel is on each side. Both rosters have undergone massive changes since 2014. Yet the results seem to be the same. It’s a bit uncanny.

The Orioles turned to the Tampa and Oakland methodology last night in terms of starting pitching. Evan Phillips got the start, but in reality he was used as an “opener.” Phillips’ line: 2.0 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 2 K.

Phillips gave up an RBI-single to Tellez in the second which gave Toronto a 1-0 lead. Later in the inning Jansen smacked a two-run home run, and suddenly it was 3-0. Toronto also got solo homers from Pillar in the seventh, and Diaz in the ninth to round out their 5-0 victory over the Orioles, who only mustered three hits on the night. The Orioles are 4-13 this year against Toronto, with two games left to go (tonight and Wednesday).

The Orioles used the “opener” concept last night most probably out of necessity given the number of injuries in their starting rotation. When Tampa started the concept of the opener earlier this year, I thought it was nuts. I still think it’s nuts – and that’s not going to change.

You might ask why I think it’s a crazy idea. You might sit there and say, why not? It’s a valid question. And one I intend to tackle in the off season a bit. But for now, needless to say it’s a little too against the grain, outside-the-box, and against tradition for the ultimate sport steeped in tradition.

With the loss, the Orioles tied a club record for losses in a season at 107. That’s not the type of history you want to make, and after the game Buck Showalter was asked to wrap his head around that fact (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

I’ve got too many things and people depending on me to do certain things between now and the end of the season. I think because it’s unpleasant to wrap around, probably I’m as guilty as anybody of staying tunnel vision about what we’re doing every day trying to do what’s best. So, if that’s an answer to your question.

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

Baltimore Orioles: Adam Jones goes yard as Birds avoid sweep

Adam Jones smacked home run number 15 on the season this afternoon for the Baltimore Orioles, as they avoided a sweep at the hands of the ChiSox. David Hess got the start, but was unable to go long enough into the game to qualify for the win. Hess’ line: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R (3 earned), 1 BB, 7 K.

The Orioles put five runs on the board in the first inning, their best output in the first this year. Jonathan Villar‘s RBI-single got things going, which was followed by a subsequent RBI-single from the aforementioned Adam Jones. The O’s also got runs on a fielder’s choice, and error, and a sac fly-RBI.

But Chicago made an effort to fight back. Palka’s solo homer got them on the board in the second. But the O’s were having none of that. Jonathan Villar also smacked a solo homer of his own in the fourth, running the score to 6-1. But Sanchez’s RBI-single in the fifth cut the lead in half at 6-3. A second Palka homer later in the inning made the Orioles even more uncomfortable as the lead was cut to 6-4.

However it was Adam Jones’ aforementioned home run that put them over the top. It was only a solo shot, but “the captain” wasn’t letting the team lose on this day. That swung the momentum back to the Birds, and put Chicago on notice that they wouldn’t be sweeping on this day at Camden Yards. Cedric Mullins would add an RBI-single in the eighth, and the Orioles closed out a 7-4 victory.

This game ended up being Mullins’ first career four-hit game, which he addressed following the game in the clubhouse (quote courtesy of Steve Melewski, MASNsports):

It was exciting and a great team win. For me to contribute in a big way today – had a solid defensive play, was able to tag on a big RBI so our closers could come on and finish the deal. It’s a day-to-day process. I come and take a look at the pitcher, see what they have. Just a matter of sticking with my approach, trusting myself and putting good wood on the ball.

So you had Jones’ solo homer acting as an insurance run of sorts for the O’s, and you also got a look at the future in Mullins’ first career four-hit game. That’s the type of production that the Orioles are hoping to see for years to come from their center fielder.

The Orioles will tomorrow open up a three-game set with Toronto at Camden Yards. They haven’t announced a starter as of yet, but they’ll face Toronto’s Ryan Borucki. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Yefry Ramirez shines in close loss

Admitedly, Yefry Ramirez deserved a better fate last night than to be pulled short of six innings. Ramirez pitched about as solidly as he could have last night, doing more than just putting the O’s in a spot to win the game. Ramirez’s line: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 7 K.

Ramirez mowed Chicago hitters down all night. And again, he deserved a better fate. But as can generally be the case with these Orioles, it was another rally started with two outs which did Ramirez in. A two-out double in the sixth put a runner in scoring position. Sanchez proceeded to smack an RBI-double…

…well, that might be a bit of a stretch. Another thing that’s plagued the O’s for a long time (in the Buck Showalter era) is teams seemingly doing less and getting more. Sanchez sent a soft pop up cutting towards the left field line. It fell fair, and ended up being a double. The Orioles try to hit the cover off the ball, but are seemingly defeated by teams who try to hit it softer. Garcia would smack a solo homer in the ninth to cap off Chicago’s 2-0 win.

However the story of the game from my perspective was still Yefry Ramirez. The Orioles are going back to being unable to put it all together on the same night. Friday night they put up six runs. Last night if they had put up just half of that they would have gotten the win. (All things being equal, which I recognize is always a stretch.)

After the game Buck Showalter spoke glowingly about Ramirez (all quotes courtesy of Steve Melewski, MASNsports):

Really good, really good. That’s probably his best outing of the year. A good night to pitch on, crisp. I thought [his] best fastball, best slider. His slider’s come a long way. Changeup, threw about 10 or 15 of those. Good times to the plate with runners on base. Just another night where he deserved a better fate as far as W and L. He was outstanding. That was fun to watch. He was fun to catch. That was as good as you want to see a young pitcher pitch.

Showalter was also asked if Ramirez was going to stay in the rotation moving forward:

Don’t feel good about the way Andrew’s (Cashner) knee is responding. He’s not going to pitch Monday, which is his normal start, so we’re going to need a starter there. (Josh) Rogers is at a point where we’re probably looking, really, not to pitch him much. Cash, there’s no real day he’s scheduled to start right now unless we get some real positive movement with his knee, we’re not going to pitch him. Just hasn’t responded to the treatment and the cortisone as we’d hoped. Structurally, he’s in good shape, just the wear and tear of the season, I guess. Alex (Cobb) probably going to play a little catch in the next day or two, but I’m not expecting that to be imminent for him to start, either. So, that’s my way of answering. Yefry’s going to pitch.

So based on that, it would stand to reason that Ramirez’s name might be penciled in as a starter going into Spring Training next year. Of course that also could be contingent on who the manager is. If it’s Buck Showalter, I would expect Ramirez to get a great shot at making the team as a starter out of the spring.

The series with Chicago concludes this afternoon at Camden Yards. David Hess gets the call for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Chicago’s Lucas Giolito. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles could be struggling for starters

Here’s an interesting question: who’s going to be starting games for the Baltimore Orioles moving forward? Any team in the Orioles’ situation should be looking at the future; and the O’s are trying to do just that. But it didn’t help matters when Luis Ortiz had to leave in the second inning with a tweaked hamstring. Ortiz’s line: 1.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R (1 earned), 1 BB, 0 K.

Ortiz gave up three RBI-singles in that span giving Chicago a 3-0 lead. The second RBI-single was of the infield variety, and came because Ortiz didn’t break to cover first base in time. Those are the mistakes that young teams make. But they’re still tough to watch.

And it may have been in that sequence when Ortiz injured himself. He broke too late off the mound to cover first base, and had to hurry over. Replays showed him wincing in pain. Starters Cobb and Cashner are both potentially injured as well. So again…exactly who are the Orioles going to use to start games the rest of the way? Injuries happen all the time, this much we know. But somehow it doesn’t seem fair that a team would readily admit that they’re not going to make it, sell their pieces off, and then have the prospects they get back in return start getting hurt.

Trey Mancini did all he could in this game to bring the Orioles back. He smacked a solo homer in the second, which unfortunately for the Birds was followed by a two-run shot by Narvaez to give Chicago a 5-1 lead. But Mancini smacked a second homer in the fourth, cutting the lead to 4-2. Yet, no team apparently is going to be outdone by the O’s this year. Garcia’s two-run shot in the fifth ran the lead to 7-2.

The O’s did however make a push in the seventh. Corban Joseph‘s two-RBI single brought them to within 7-4, and Mullins would later reach on an error that netted another run. The Birds would close to within one at 7-6 on a sac fly-RBI by Adam Jones, only to have Chicago tack on an insurance run on Cordell’s solo homer in the eighth.

Ortiz is going to potentially undergo an MRI on his hamstring. Again, injuries do happen. But there’s a hint of unfairness seeing the Orioles now have to deal with injuries occuring to some of the pieces that they received in trades. Them’s the breaks though.

The series continues tonight at Camden Yards. Yefry Ramirez gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Chicago’s Reynaldo Lopez. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Dylan Bundy’s quality start snaps losing streak

The Baltimore Orioles snapped yet another long losing streak last night, this time behind a quality start from Dylan Bundy. It was a welcome sight for the Birds to find themselves on top of a score after nine innings (or eight-and-a-half, needless to say), but also for Bundy to see himself in the win column. It was his first win since July. Bundy’s line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 8 K.

The O’s appeared on a mission from the get go in this game, hoping not to get swept – this time at home. Tim Beckham‘s two-RBI single in the first gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead. Of course Beckham was also thrown out at second base trying to extend it into a double, but he did give the O’s the lead early. And it’s a good thing he did, because Piscotty’s solo homer in the second cut that lead to 2-1.

The O’s ran the lead to 3-1 in the fourth on an RBI-single by John Andreoli, followed by an RBI-single from Breyvic Valera. Oakland would plate two more runs over different innings, although most poignantly they cut the lead to 4-3 in the eighth when Olson walked with the bases loaded. That was the moment where you felt everything would come crashing down. And in fact, it almost did. However the O’s pitched out of the jam, leaving the lead at one.

And in fact, Jace Peterson would give them an insurance run with an RBI-double in the last of the eighth. That gave the O’s some breathing room, and they cruised to a 5-3 win. However the story of the game was Bundy, who was praised profusely by manager Buck Showalter after the game (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

That was fun to watch. He had a really good feel for his breaking ball. He just had the one pitch, I thought that he was trying to go down and away off the plate and he let it leak back enough over the plate. He’d like to have that one back. But I thought he had just a good feel for pitching.

He made them beat his breaking ball. He had a good breaking ball, he had good command of it and they didn’t seem like they were seeing it or following it. And he had two of them. Really happy for Dylan. I almost took him out after the fifth inning, just to give him a positive note, but he seemed to get a little better as the game went on.

It’s interesting that Showalter said he almost lifted Bundy after the fifth. While that certainly would have qualified him for the win, it wouldn’t have gone down as a quality start. And pitchers take a lot of pride in that overall.

The Orioles will remain at home tonight to open up a three-game set with the Chicago White Sox. Luis Ortiz will get the call for the Birds (in his first major league start), and he’ll be opposed by Chicago’s James Shields. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

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