Baltimore Orioles: The good guys bat last

John Means made one bad pitch for the Baltimore Orioles today. Other than that he pitched well enough to win. And he deserved to get the win. But that isn’t how it always works out in baseball. Means’ line: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 2 K.

The Birds found themselves trailing early when Zimmerman’s RBI-groundout scored a run in the first inning. But they didn’t trail for long. Come the last of the first Trey Mancini sent a shot deep into the left field grandstand, tying the game at one.

One inning later, it was Maikel Franco’s turn. His solo shot gave the Birds the lead, which was extended to 3-1 in the fourth on a solo homer by Ryan Mckenna. At least for awhile the ball was flying off of Oriole bats.

However the mid to late part of the game slowed down. It kind of turned into a long slog. Of course Washington used this time to take the lead. Zimmerman, once again – this time a three-run homer. This gave Washington a 4-3 lead.

The O’s already had the series. Nobody would have necessarily blamed them for dropping the finale. But they fought on. To their credit.

The Birds loaded the bases in the ninth. Pat Valaika’s sac fly-RBI tied the game at four. Ramon Urias came to the plate as a pinch hitter, with a chance for the Orioles to walk Washington off. And to sweep the series.

Urias sent a bouncer to third. Ryan McKenna ran on contact – which to be honest, I felt was a mistake. Yet, I probably look to play it safe a little too often. And go figure, the throw from third was off line. McKenna slid in under the throw, and the Birds walked off as 5-4 winners. The okay was reviewed, and upheld.

Manager Brandon Hyde addressed his decision to send McKenna after the game:

We had one of our better guys to have at third base in that situation, obviously running on contact there. McKenna got a really nice read, ball hit dirt early, great slide at the end. I was just kind of hoping the throw would be off-line. He’s a plus runner and got a good break. … Good things happen when you put the ball in play and Mac with a really nice contact read there. Was a fun one.

Quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports

Again, I would have held the runner. But had they done that…all bets would have been off. It’s a win. And had I been in the dugout odds are I would have managed them right out of said win!

Baltimore Orioles: Matt Harvey shines, Birds hold on to beat Washington

Matt Harvey turned in another great post-ASG start tonight for the Baltimore Orioles. Opponents’ bats are 4-for-40 against Harvey thus far in the second half of the season. And similar to last week in Kansas City, Harvey pitched to a quality start.Harvey’s line: 6.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K.

The O’s took the least early when Trey Mancini smacked a solo homer in the first inning. Ryan Mountcastle followed suit with a solo shot of his own in the last of the fourth. For what it’s worth, Mountcastle had a grand slam against Washington last time around in May. Granted that was in a losing effort. Tonight’s homer came in a win.

The O’s would strike again in the sixth. Austin Hays’ RBI-double ran the score to 3-0. Later in the inning the Birds would load the bases, and while they didn’t plate all of the runners they were able to get a couple home. Pedro Severino’s RBI-single and Maikel Franco’s sac fly-RBI appeared to put the game out of reach at 5-0.

But to their credit my, Washington felt never felt they were out of it. Soto’s solo homer in the seventh cut the lead to 5-1. One inning later in the eighth it was Washington’s turn to load the bases. And Turner’s two-RBI single cut the lead to 5-3.

But that’s as close as Washington would get. The O’s would close out the game, and cruise to a 5-3 win. They’ve guaranteed a series win against Washington at Camden Yards.

The O’s did get lucky in a sense tonight however. Washington had to scrap their scheduled starter (Scherzer) in favor of Lester, who was scheduled to start tomorrow. Scherzer apparently had shoulder soreness. To his credit, Lester pitched fairly well. But it’s always a gift when you can avoid a team’s ace, and one of the best pitchers in baseball at that.

The series concludes tomorrow at Camden Yards. John Means gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Washington’s Pablo Espino. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Pat Valaika homers twice in win over Washington

Jorge Lopez got the start for the Baltimore Orioles last night as the Birds opened a three-game set against Washington at Camden Yards. Another shortish start, however the goal is to put people in a position to succeed. By lifting Lopez when he does, Brandon Hyde is doing just that. Lopez’s line: 4.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 3 K.

Lopez gave up a solo homer to Bell in the fourth. He was lifted later in the inning when Hyde saw Soto on deck. Once Lopez had exited, the Orioles got out of the inning. And they didn’t trail for long after that.

The O’s would tie the game on Austin Hays’ RBI-double in the last of the fourth. Ramon Urias’ RBI-single later in the inning would score Hays. But that was only a preview.

Pat Valaika was the star of the night offensively for the Birds. He hit a solo homer in the fifth to extend the Orioles’ lead to 3-1. The O’s would also score in the sixth on a fielder’s choice by Urias’, and a sac fly-RBI by Pedro Severino.

But come the seventh inning, it was the Valaika show again. His second solo homer of the game put an exclamation point on the game, which resulted in a 6-1 win for the Birds. It was Valaika’s second multi-home run game of his career; Valaika on his effort:

I think tonight I just squared up those balls better than I have pretty much this whole year. It felt good to actually drive the ball and not see it die on the track, so hopefully I can continue that and keep it rolling.

Quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports

The series continues tonight at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Matt Harvey gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Washington’s Max Scherzer. Game time is set for just after 6:30 PM.

Baltimore Orioles to visit the Cleveland Guardians starting in 2022

The Baltimore Orioles had some really solid games against the Cleveland Indians in the mid-1990’s. Both cities had great rosters, similar makeup’s, and even similar fan bases. This because the cities themselves were very similar – blue collar, old school, traditional, etc. Plus a lot of players have gone back and forth between the two teams.

In December Cleveland announced that in 2022 they were going to retire the Indians name and pick a new one. That process apparently came to an end today when the team announced that effective at the end of this season the franchise will be known as the “Cleveland Guardians.” You can visit www.clevelandindians.com to see the new logo’s, and a video announcing the new name, narrated by Tom Hanks.

My personal opinion was that the Indians name didn’t need to be changed. This is literally one of the most storied franchises in baseball. But if they decided to change the name, I think Guardians is as good a name as any. I like the fact that they kept the team’s red and navy blue color scheme, and it seems like they put a lot of thought into what the new name would be, and how it reflected the city. Apparently there are statues of “guardians” on a bridge right outside of Progressive Field, which was the inspiration behind the name.

It’ll take awhile to get used to the Cleveland Guardians as opposed to the Cleveland Indians (or just “the Tribe”). But the Orioles will play this new/old team starting next season. I recall noting in the series finale with Cleveland at Camden Yards earlier this year that it would be the last time the Cleveland Indians played in Baltimore.

The O’s open up a homestand tonight with the second infusion of the Battle of the Beltways, as the Washington Nationals come to town. Jorge Lopez gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Washington’s Patrick Corbin. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Illness and oddities strike again

The Baltimore Orioles had to put today’s starter, Keegan Akin, and Anthony Santander on the IL (COVID protocol) before this afternoon’s series finale in Tampa. More on that in a moment. The O’s were attempting to win today’s game, which would give them a series victory vs. Tampa – a rarity. But that made things look a bit more bleak in terms of winning today’s game, and the series. The Birds replaced Santander and Akin on the roster with Ryan McKenna and Alexander Wells – who ended up being today’s starter, making his big league debut. Wells’ line: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 7 K.

It’s unclear what prompted Santander and Akin to need to go into COVID protocol, but the Birds were alerted late last night that there was a problem. However Wells performed admirably in Akin’s stead. He was on the taxi squad for this road trip, so he was already in Tampa. But with little preparation, he was thrust into the bright lights this afternoon. And he got the job done – BIG TIME. In doing so, he left the game with a chance to be the winning pitcher.

The O’s got on the board right away with back-to-back doubles. Austin Hays‘ RBI-double gave them a 1-0 lead. But Tampa came right back – as they’re prone to do. Arozarena’s solo homer tied the game at one. Arozarena’s quickly becoming an Oriole-killer. And he seems to buy into the strange antics that wins games for Tampa over the O’s.

Tampa would get the lead in the last of the second on Wendle’s RBI-triple, but the O’s came right back. Pat Valaika‘s solo homer tied the game back up at two in the third. And one inning later they had the lead back, again on a solo homer. This time by Ryan Mountcastle. To their credit, the Birds never gave up in this one, regardless of the outcome.

And sure enough, neither did Tampa. Arozarena’s second homer of the day tied the game at three in the last of the fifth. One inning later however, Mountcastle’s RBI-single gave the Birds the lead back at 4-3. And the Oriole bullpen seemed to hold that lead – that is until the bitter end.

Tanner Scott was summoned to pitch the ninth. The Birds recorded one out, and allowed two runners on base with a base hit and a walk. That brought Arozarena back to the plate. And this is where the strange plays and oddities that Tampa loves to spring on the Orioles came into play. Everyone in the world’s expecting Arozarena to smack a walk-off three-run homer, and be hailed as a hero. Everyone including the Oriole outfield…

…instead, Arozarena bloops a soft pop up into right field. Austin Hays sprints in, and Ryan Mountcastle sprints out (from first base) to try to make the play. The two collided, and the ball dropped in. Now luckily nobody scored on the play. However the bases were loaded, and Meadow’s subsequent two-RBI single won it for Tampa in walk-off fashion by the score of 5-4.

Regarding the players in COVID protocol, it’s a waiting game at this point. The Orioles have only said that they’re (Santander and Akin) in COVID protocol on the IL; not whether they’re showing symptoms or even if they’ve tested positive. One way or the other, hopefully if they are sick they make a full recovery. If they aren’t sick, hopefully it remains as such.

Alexander Wells deserved the win today, but obviously Tampa’s sneaky trickery prevented that. But you can’t say enough about his outing today, especially given that it was his big league debut. The O’s will have an off day tomorrow at home before welcoming the Washington Nationals to town on Friday night for three games over the weekend.

Baltimore Orioles: John Means struggles in return

Leave it to Tampa to spoil John Means’ return to the Baltimore Orioles from the Injured List. Now on one hand, it would have been tough to expect Means to be what he was before going on the IL. It was a win just to have him back on the mound. But he did have his struggles. Means’ line: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 0 BB, 2 K.

I don’t think that fans need to worry about this signaling impending doom regarding John Means. He was actually better than his numbers indicate. His strike to ball ratio was about 2:1. And if anything that could have been part of the issue – he was getting too much of the plate. But he’ll work his way back to where he was previously.

Brujan’s RBI-single in the first got Tampa on the board with a 1-0 lead. Franco’s sac fly-RBI later in the inning ran it to 2-0. The Birds would get one back an inning later on Pedro Severino’s RBI-single.

Arozarena’s solo homer in the third have Tampa their two-run lead back at 3-1. And an inning after that Mejia’s two-run homer appeared to break the game wide open for Tampa, giving them a 5-2 lead. However remember how I talk about the strange things that happen when Tampa plays the Orioles? Yeah, about that…

When I say strange things, most of the time I’m referring to Tampa taking the opportunities afforded to them. They seem to have no problem taking what the Orioles give them. But turnabout could have been fair play tonight.

Ryan Mountcastle his what should have been a sac fly with a runner at third in the top of the eighth. However Tampa right fielder Lowe dropped the ball. So Mountcastle would end up on second base. He would later score on Anthony Santander’s run-scoring single.

While the O’s never got any further than 5-3, that’s all a good sign. They held Tampa accountable for their mistake. The Mountcastle play would have yielded a run either way, as he was on third base with less than two outs. But the Birds made Tampa pay for what they did. And again, that’s a good sign. Tampa’s Mejia would smack a bases-clearing triple in the eighth, and Choi added an RBI-single, sending the Birds off to defeat this evening, 9-3.

The series concludes tomorrow at Tropicana Field. Keegan Akin gets the start for the Birds, and Tampa is yet to name a starter. Game time is set for just after 12 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Spencer Watkins, Oriole bats hand it to Tampa

The Tampa Rays were expecting Spencer Watkins to be the most recent Baltimore Orioles’ pitcher to experience the oddities which generally occur when these two teams meet. Oriole pitchers generally fall short on broken bat singles and softly hit balls. But Watkins ensured that didn’t happen, but pitching to a virtuoso performance at Tropicana Field. Watkins’ line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 7 K.

Watkins dominated Tampa hitters all game long. And you could tell that Tampa was kind of waiting and expecting something odd to happen. Because when these teams get together oddities do occur. And they usually work in Tampa’s favor. It just never happened tonight.

Oriole bats also did their part. The Birds got on the board right away with an RBI-double by Ryan Mountcastle. Anthony Santander would add a sac fly-RBI later in the inning, and the O’s were off.

That 2-0 lead held up until the sixth inning. Or I should say the O’s picked the sixth inning to get back on the board. And it was a big inning in a sense – exactly what you want while hitting.

Pat Valaika would double the lead (in the sixth) with a two-RBI double. Before the inning ended the O’s also got RBI-doubles from Kelvin Gutierrez and Austin Hays. The lone run surrendered by Watkins was an RBI-double in the bottom of that 6th inning by Arozarena.

While the runs on the board are probably more important, the performance put on by Spencer Watkins tonight was a great one. Mind you, Watkins was a career minor leaguer after being drafted in the 30th round by the Detroit Tigers in 2014. However his stuff has been superior across the board.

The series continues tomorrow night at Tropicana Field. The Orioles have announced that John Means will return to the Big Apple as a fan of the team tomorrow night, and he’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Shane McLanahann. Game time is set for just after 7:00 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: The Dark Knight shines under the Kansas City sunshine

Matt Harvey took the ball for the Baltimore Orioles this afternoon going for a series win in Kansas City. Harvey’s return to NY of course didn’t go well. While he only pitched in Kansas City for one season, this return was starkly different. It was perhaps the best outing by an Orioles’ starter in some time. Harbey’s line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K.

This was exactly the sort of outing that Harvey needed. And similar to last night, the O’s also got the bats going. Albeit perhaps not as they did last night. But they certainly did enough.

Ramon Urias’ two-RBI single in the third got the O’s on the board. That put them off in the right direction with a 2-0 lead. It also signaled to Harvey that his efforts were going to be backed up on this day.

Trey Mancini’s RBI-single in the fifth ran the score to 3-0. One inning later Austin Wynns’ RBI-double scored Ryan McKenna all the way from first base. And that was impressive; McKenna’s speed brought the run in as much as did Wynns’ placement of the ball. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen the caliber of speed on the Orioles that they have now. And that can be the difference between winning and losing.

Kelvin Gutierrez would give the Orioles an insurance run in the eighth when he reached on an error, scoring a runner from third. So the O’s win today, and with a shutout at that. They also take the series with Kansas City, two games to one.

The O’s now head to Tampa to open up a three-game set at Tropicana Field. Spenser Watkins gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Ralph Yarbrough. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Jorge Lopez struggles again in fifth as O’s snap losing streak

Jorge Lopez made his second half debut for the Baltimore Orioles tonight in Kansas City. The good news was that he was spotted a big lead. The bad news was that he predictably couldn’t get out of the fifth inning. Lopez’s line: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 4 K.

Lopez’s issue has been the fifth inning all season. This evening he pitched four very solid innings. He then loaded the bases with nobody out in the fifth, and started giving up runs. The O’s eventually were forced to go to the ‘pen to preserve the lead.

Ramon Urias put the O’s on the board in the second with an RBI-double. Domingo Leyba’s RBI-groundout later in the inning ran it to 2-0. And the Birds were off to the races.

But the real damage was done in the third. Ryan Mountcastle’s RBI-single ran it to 3-0. DJ Stewart, Anthony Santander, Pedro Severino, and Urias all added RBI-singles. Santana would tack on an RBI-double for Kansas City, giving the O’s a 7-1 lead after three.

Mountcastle would add a sac fly-RBI in the fourth. And as I said, it was the fifth where Lopez ran into trouble. He uncorked a wild pitch with the bases loaded, cutting the lead to 8-2. Kansas City would also add two more before the game ended, with the O’s winning 8-4.

My personal view is that Lopez’s issues in the fifth inning are mainly psychological. He knows he struggles in the fifth inning. This evening, he started going away from his best pitch (fastball) in the fifth, relying more on breaking balls off the plate. That shows a lack of confidence in that he didn’t want to get beat by putting the ball too close to the plate.

Luckily for the O’s they had a big lead. But what happens to Lopez moving forward is another story. My personal view is that he not only should be in the bullpen, but that he’d be a good reliever. But whether the Orioles can afford to put him there is another story.

The series concludes tomorrow at Kauffman Stadium. Matt Harvey gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Kansas City’s Carlos Hernandez. Game time is set for just after 2 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Keegan Akin hit hard as second half opens

The Baltimore Orioles taxes Keegan Akin with starting the first game of the second half last night against Kansas City. It didn’t go well. For the sixth time in eight starts, Akin didn’t make it to the fifth inning. Akin’s line; 3.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 3 BB, 2 K.

And the assault started immediately. Perez’s RBI-single in the last of the first fave Kansas City a 1-0 lead. In the second Lopez would smack a two-RBI single, and Merrifield an RBI-double. Perez would add another RBI-single, breaking the game wide open at 5-0 in the second.

Kansas City would add another four runs before the game ended. Trey Mancini would get the Birds on the board in the top of the fourth with an RBI-groundout. Pedro Severino’s solo homer in the eighth ran the final to 9-2.

Akin tried to remain upbeat after the game, and we do have to remember that he’s a rookie. He admitted that struggles are in essence to be expected:

You’re going to have your ups and downs. You get your chance to go out there every five days as a starter, so you’ve just got to forget about them, take some positive things. Obviously, I’m not happy about it, but confidence-wise I think I’m doing well. You’ve just got to learn from it. It’s a learning process, it’s my first full season up here, so it’s just day in and day out got to learn and get better and execute when it comes time for the game.

Quote Courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports

The series continues this evening at Kauffman Stadium. The Orioles have yet to announce a starter, and Kansas City will throw Brady Singer. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.