Baltimore Orioles fall on a rainy night at Fenway

No folks, that wasn’t the Preakness you watched last night, it was the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway. I do question how the game was allowed to start and go on, and I suspect that starter Dylan Bundy might have as well. It was a sloppy night, which at various points including what was just shy of driving rain. Bundy’s line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 8 K.

The O’s did hold the lead in this game for a short while, on a third inning sac fly-RBI by Jonathan Schoop. However that came with the bases loaded, and that was the only run the Birds were able to score in that sequence. Did the rain possibly have a role in that?

Ultimately the conditions do play into how the Orioles’ offense looks. They don’t like cold or rain. Boston likes to come off as much more of a man for all seasons type of team. Now I’m not suggesting that this game was played to give Boston an advantage. Starts, rain delays, etc. are up to the home team until the game starts. Once the umpire says PLAY BALL! the decision to delay or cancel lies with them – and thus the league.

Boston would tie the game at one an inning after the O’s took the lead on a Devers solo homer. However Bundy pitched out of that inning without any further problems. It wasn’t until the fifth that the weather started to take it’s toll. Betts smacked a two-run homer that gave Boston a 3-1 lead. Benintendi would follow with a solo shot of his own, and the O’s trailed 4-1.

However the Orioles did try to battle back. Pedro Alvarez smacked a two-run home run in the sixth that brought them to within one. But an inning later Benintendi came to bat again and responded with a two-RBI single, prompting Boston to a 6-3 victory. After the game Buck Showalter made a good point regarding reading stats and scores vs. watching the games. Statistics don’t always tell you the bottom line as you think it might Bundy actually pitched fairly well, although the stats might indicate otherwise (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

You watch his outing, you’ll pull up a box score tomorrow and somebody will think he didn’t pitch particularly well and that’s why you go to the games. I thought he pitched Betts well and just made one mistake on him. It’s just the execution of the pitches. They’re hitting mistakes that we’re throwing and it’s been a challenge for us keeping it in the park.

The O’s will attempt to split the series at Fenway in this afternoon’s series finale. David Hess will be called back up to get the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Eduardo Rodriguez. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles, Alex Cobb get it right at “The Fens”

The Baltimore Orioles got a look at the version of Alex Cobb for which they signed up when they inked him back in spring training. It wasn’t perfect per se, but few outings at Fenway Park are going to be for any pitcher. But it was good enough to win last night – and that’s all that’s important. Cobb’s line: 6.1 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 3 K.

The Birds got on the board early on a Trumbo RBI-groundout in the first inning. Cobb gave up ten hits on the day, however for the most part the Birds were able to get out of those base runner situations unscathed. And that’s the key in baseball – getting yourself out of trouble.

Cobb in effect made one bad pitch – and it ended up being a solo homer off the bat of Betts in the third inning. Other than that, he worked out of most situations that arose. One inning after that homer the Birds got the lead back – and then some. Adam Jones‘ two-RBI single gave the O’s a 3-1 lead. Jones would also take second on a throwing error. Manny Machado would also add a two-run scoring single.

And just like that, the Orioles led 5-1 at Fenway Park. And it was due to a big inning, which was exactly how it had to be. Fenway’s been a tough place for the Birds to play the past few years. So had the lead been one or two runs, it might have been tougher to manage. But a big inning put everyone at east just a bit – including Cobb.

And sure enough, Boston did make a bit of a run. They would add two runs in the fifth to cut the lead to 5-3. However Jonathan Schoop would smack a solo homer in the seventh, extending the Birds’ lead to 6-3. And Boston came back again in the eighth –  on a Nunez RBI-double. But Trumbo’s RBI-double in the ninth inning ran the score to 7-4, which held up in the last of the ninth.

This was the Orioles’ first road victory on the season at a place other than Yankee Stadium. It was also Cobb’s first victory as an Oriole, which he addressed after the game (quote courtesy of Rich Dubroff, mlb.com):

Baseball is a crazy game, and you could have won some of those games, but I believe that when you have the ball in your hand, you have the ability to win a ballgame. I love the win. I love that column next to your name when you feel like you really show that you put your team in a position to win multiple nights.

The series continues this evening at Fenway Park. Dylan Bundy gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Rick Porcello. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Sour grapes?

Baltimore Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter didn’t hold back on his opinion of home plate umpire Tony Randazzo’s strike zone after last night’s game (all quotes courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

Kevin’s got a bubblegum card, too. Those pitches, I’m very biased, but I didn’t think he got a fair shake tonight.

It’s rare that you hear a big league manager be quite that clandestine about his displeasure with the strike zone after a game. And in fact, during the course of the game Showalter appeared to be woofing about the strike zone fairly vehemently. And after one pitch, Kevin Gausman stood on the mound with his hands in the air as if to say how is that not a strike?!

Gausman also had some interesting comments himself with regard to the stolen bases that occurred against him:

I thought it was weird that two of the three times they stole on me, I was picking,” Gausman said. “It kind of raises some eyebrows as to how they knew and those types of things, but that’s all on me. It’s one of the things that we can control.

These comments are spot on by both Showalter and Gausman. The strike zone did appear to differentiate between Gausman and Boston’s David Price. I don’t question Randazzo’s integrity, not do I think Showalter is. I think he was just inconsistent. And it was noticeable.

However comments such as these are also tough sells. They come off as sour grapes, correct as they might be. In Gausman’s case, he passive-aggressively accused Boston of stealing signs. And it kind of makes sense that they would do that – nobody had stolen on Gausman all year. That and he had a rookie catcher behind the plate with him.

However it also boils down to much of what I said last night. Boston’s not the type of team that’s going to sit back and let the game come to them. They reach out and take not only what’s theirs, but what’s yours. So in Gausman’s case if he’s picking and doesn’t step off, Boston’s going to take that and thus take second base.

This is not to say that the Orioles should start stealing signs. However when an opportunity presents itself, they need to take advantage of it. When guys get on base, they need to find a way to get them home – among other things. Were Showalter and Gausman’s comments spot on last night? Yes. Should they have been made? I suppose it just matters how you want to come off.

Baltimore Orioles: Sometimes you have to will good things to happen

The Baltimore Orioles probably went into this evening’s game hoping perhaps to win behind Kevin Gausman. The Boston Red Sox went into this evening’s game ready to impose their will in order to win the game. There is a difference. Gausman’s line: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 6 K.

Adam Jones made what appeared to be a bid for an early first inning home run. However the Boston defense made a great play, which foreshadowed the entire evening. No matter where the Orioles hit the ball, they were prepared. And when Boston would get someone on first base, it may as well have been a double – because they stole at will against Gausman. They had obviously studied Gausman and his rhythm, and they exploited what they found.

However instead of taking the Jones drive and thinking that Boston’s Price was suseptible on this night, the Birds were unable to do what I described above. In essence, exploit their will. And the result was indicative of that inability.

Boston took an early 2-0 lead on Martinez’s two-run homer in the first. However Gausman would actually settle down a bit, not giving up another run until the fifth on Benintendi’s sac fly-RBI. However later in the inning Bogaerts would effectively end the game, smacking a three-run homer over the Green Monster in left field.

The Orioles would get two back in the ninth on Manny Machado‘s two-run homer, cutting the lead to 6-2. But that was as close as the O’s would get. And as I said, Boston imposed what they wanted to do in this game – and the Orioles allowed it.

Part of how teams like Boston beat you is because you push too hard. Ask Danny Valencia, who smacked a single in the fifth. He was thrown out trying to extend that into a double. And it wasn’t even close. Even when things aren’t going well, when you press even harder you still play right into the hands of your opponents.

Boston had a certain swagger in this game from the outset, which the Orioles have never really had – even when things were going really well. They run to first base as opposed to walking after a base on balls. Now in theory that shouldn’t mean anything; however it probably shows that they want to be out there competing and so forth. Does it mean that the Orioles don’t? I’m not willing to say that, because I’m not in guys’ heads. But again, sometimes you have to will good things to happen.

And take me at my word folks, and don’t read into what I’m saying. I’m not suggesting that the O’s are going through the motions – because they walk to first on base on balls’ or for any other reason. I’m just saying that there’s a certain spring in Boston’s step, for better or for worse. I think that the Oriole players are the ultimate professionals, and I don’t believe that they’re going through the motions per se. But as I said, sometimes you have to will good things to happen.

The series continues tomorrow evening at Fenway Park. Alex Cobb gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Drew Pomeranz. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Two-out rally haunts the Birds

I’ve been saying since spring training that the Baltimore Orioles had an uncanny problem with two outs. Heck, I’ve been saying it for years. And this afternoon it haunted Andrew Cashner, who wasn’t even here for most of that time. It just seems that this team lets up with they hit two outs in an inning, or two strikes in a count. I know that’s not the case, however the fact is that when they get put on the ropes per se, opponents seem to thrive against this team.

Cashner pitched very well this afternoon against Philadelphia. Certainly well enough to win. Cashner’s line: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 6 K. If you’re keeping track at home, that’s one out shy of a quality start. But given the weather conditions and intermittent rain that surrounded the ballpark for most of the day, it’s as quality a start as any other. He put his team in a spot to win the game – that’s all you can ask of a starter.

Adam Jones gave the Orioles the lead early with a solo homer in the first inning. However after that Philadelphia wratcheted things up defensively, and kept them off the board. But that was fine in a sense – until Philadelphia got on the board themselves, that is.

They tied it in the sixth on a Hernandez solo homer. However Cashner recorded two quick outs after that, giving false hope that all was okay. Then Philadelphia put a couple of runners on, starting with a walk – again, with two outs. I’m the first one to tell you that I’m not exactly thinking that a two out walk or base hit is going to start a rally. Especially with how Cashner was pitching. You get a strikeout or a ground ball in the infield, and you should be good to go.

And Cashner and the Birds got that ground ball. But it split two defenders in a shift off the bat of Franco, giving Philadelphia a 2-1 lead. And again, that’s a lesson that people such as myself and especially the Orioles might never learn. You HAVE to take those two out base runners seriously, or you risk a big inning.

Florimon would add an RBI-single of his own, and Hoskins an RBI-double. And when the smoke cleared, Philadelphia led 4-1. The O’s would load the bases in the eighth, but were unable to push anything across, falling to a 4-1 loss.

I would submit that the coaching staff needs to look at the approach of the pitchers and even the fielders with two strikes and two outs. I don’t think that they aren’t playing hard per se, but maybe they’re doing something unconsciously that’s making it easier for the opponent to make some noise. Mind you folks, this isn’t scientific. It’s just something I’ve noticed for years about this team.

The O’s now head back out on the road to open up a big four-game series in Boston. Kevin Gausman gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s David Price. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles rained out

The Baltimore Orioles waited out a three hour plus rain delay before their game with Philadelphia was finally rained out. It will be made up at 7 PM on July 12th. The weather is also in question tomorrow, and the start time has been moved from 12:35 to 12:05 PM.

Some might question what the use of that is. In order to move a game time more than 30 minutes, you have to get the approval of both teams and the MLBPA. So while I do question what 30 minutes will do, the O’s are moving the game up by as much time as they can without any further approval. Andrew Cashner is now listed as tomorrow’s starter – weather permitting.

Baltimore Orioles open a huge stretch for 2018

The debate about whether the Baltimore Orioles should sell or not (and when) rages on as Philadelphia rolls into town this evening for a short two game series. In fact, this is a series that will last about a day-and-a-half, as tomorrow’s game is an afternoon affair. Players and coaches alike aren’t fans of these two-game sets. It’s only one game less than a regular series, however it’s somewhat disruptive to the normal grind.

At 13-28, people are saying sell, sell, sell. And almost conveniently, whatever return the Orioles got in a sale would probably not be enough for some people. But I digress. Dan Duquette said he wanted to wait things out until about Memorial Day before making any big decisions. We now enter a stretch that will leave us right at that point.

Philadelphia’s a good team, but they could also be suseptable here and there, especially with a young manager. The Orioles would do well to sweep them, however statistically most of these two-game sets end in splits. The Birds then head to Boston for four games (one of which is a makeup game). The O’s are playing better, and Boston’s looked ever-so-slightly more pedestrian than they did the first time the two teams met. Might the Birds have a shot at splitting that series also?

Let’s say that happened – just for conversation’s sake. That would put them at either 17-30 or 16-31; still not exactly competing for the division title. However look past that – the O’s head to the south side of Chicago for four games. The ChiSox are looking worse than the Orioles, who at least can say that they’ve seen an uptick in their play the last week or so. Would three-of-four be a stretch?

Following the Chicago series, the O’s head to Tampa for three games over the physical weekend days on Memorial Day weekend. The Birds just finished up with Tampa, who while having the spunk and audacity of youth, is still a young team. Again, would it be a stretch to say they could take two-of-three?

If things occurred just as I said above, the O’s would be at either 22-32 or 21-33. And we’d literally be at Memorial Day, when Washington comes to town. Many of you will say that the record would still indicate a sell-off is necessary. And I’m on record as saying that I think the Birds should consider selling Machado right now (IF they get the proper return, that is). But it would be interesting to see what people would be saying if the O’s were able to string together a few positive series’ in the next week-and-a-half or so.

And here’s the other thing; a lot of people out there refuse to look just a bit deeper and thus past the tips of their noses (no matter how long) at this team. It’s all fine and dandy to simply read the box score and/or look at the standings and callously suggest that you know what’s going on or what the story is. Let’s keep in mind that this Orioles team was incredibly nick’d up the first five weeks or so of the season. The likes of Schoop, Beckham, Trumbo, Britton, and O’Day were on the DL. Some of them still are. Now they have Schoop and Trumbo back, and that at least has the offense looking better.

They also had just about everything go wrong in games that could have gone wrong. And I’m not talking about errors, many of which could be attributed to some of the aforementioned injuries. I’m talking about balls taking weird hops, instant replay overturns that shouldn’t have happened, strike zones changing, etc. So what, am I saying that the Orioles are actually a team in contention in disguise?

No, not at all. I’m saying that there are intangibles in games, all of which seemed to break the opponent’s way regarding the Orioles for some time. You’re never as bad as you’re made out to be when things are really going poorly. The Orioles are an example of that. And when things are going well, you’re never really as good as you think. As I said above, Boston’s looked just a bit more human over the past couple of weeks.

Mind you folks, when I went through the litany of games and series’ above, those weren’t predictions. Those were me saying what was possible and where it would leave the Birds. If they’re going to end up with a respectable record, they have to start shaving space off between wins and losses. And you do that by winning series’.

The series with Philadelphia opens tonight at Camden Yards. Andrew Cashner gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Philadelphia’s Nick Pivetta. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Should MLB tweak interleague play?

The Baltimore Orioles are off today, as are their next opponent: the Philadelphia Phillies. These two teams used to be one another’s “local rival,” that is prior to the Washington Nationals moving in closer. However you still have a situation where the further north of Baltimore you go the more the fan bases start bleeding together. For the record, I’ve always seen the Delaware/Maryland state line as the demarcation point so to speak.

However that aside, the Orioles will go into interleague play tomorrow evening when Philadelphia comes in for the first time this season. But keep in mind that this series, along with their next interleague series against Washington, won’t necessarily be a huge deal for the Birds. It’ll be like any other game in a sense, because the games will be played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. That means American League rules – under which the Orioles play almost every game.

It’s when the Orioles make a return trip to Washington and Philadelphia in June and July respectively that things will feel different. The Orioles will have to then surrender their DH, and insert their pitchers into the lineup. Let me be honest; I prefer the National League game. I enjoy seeing pitchers hit, and quite frankly I’d prefer to see the American League get rid of it. I recognize that the NL is much more likely to adopt it at some point than anything else, however that’s just my personal preference.

However do the different rules in different leagues not give the National League teams a distinct advantage? For this week’s short series, Philadelphia will be able to in essence take a position player and have him swing a bat as a DH instead of a pitcher. However fast forward to when the O’s go on the road in an NL park. They lose a bat in favor of a pitcher.

This is not to say that there aren’t pitchers who can’t make a difference at the plate. Washington’s Max Scherzer has turned into a decent hitter (hitting .292 on the year thus far, although with only 24 plate appearances). He even stole a base earlier this year. The Orioles once won a game in Washington off of a swinging bunt by reliever Danys Baez. Again folks, off the bat of a relief pitcher – even National League teams seem to rarely have a relief pitcher have to take his turn at the plate. (The Orioles were out of hitters in that situation and had no choice.)

But you get where I’m going with this; the National League has a distinct advantage. Interestingly enough however, the American League has the historical advantage in interleague games at 2890-2574 (dating to the end of 2017). However I’m not talking about overal records between the leagues. I’m talking more about in the here and now. That’s the bigger deal.

While Philadelphia is in Baltimore, New York will be in Washington this week. Thus they’ll surrender their DH, while Boston won’t be. Philadelphia will be enjoying the luxury of a DH (a better bat in the lineup), whereas Washington won’t be. Yes it all evens out in the end, but sometimes it does matter when you end up facing teams and so forth.

So I would submit that the rules should be streamlined for interleague play. Pick a set of rules, and have all interleague games played by those rules. Odds are that if such a thing happened they’d pick American League rules, and have a DH universally used during interleague play – both in American League and National League parks. If I had my pick it would be the pitchers hitting in both league’s parks. But either way, make it uniform across the board.

Baltimore Orioles: Reports of the Birds’ and Dylan Bundy’s demise have been greatly exaggerated

It began with Dylan Bundy today for the Baltimore Orioles. That is, it begins and ends with starting pitching. Well, maybe it didn’t end there per se. Bundy was strong, and the makings of a win certainly began with him. But it ended with Oriole bats. Bundy’s line: 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 7 K.

This game was never destined to be close, and it was the perfect response to the Birds losing 17-1 this past week to Kansas City. For the sake of the team, you have to hope that they’ve exorcised the demons of their disastrous start and can still make a run of things. If today’s results mean anything, they can play with anyone.

The Orioles hit three solo homers in the second to get things going, off the bats of Danny ValenciaJoey Rickard (who was just brought back from triple-A before the game), and Trey Mancini. And in Mancini’s case it had to feel especially good to homer on Mother’s Day at Camden Yards. His Mom’s a native Marylander.

Valencia would score one inning later as well on a throwing error, but it was the fourth inning where things really popped. The O’s got an an RBI-double from Manny Machado, RBI-singles from Valencia and Jonathan Schoop, and a three-run homer from Rickard. When the smoke cleared after the fourth, the Orioles had spotted Bundy an 11-0 lead.

And here’s the other positive aspect of this game, although a bit more hidden; Bundy pitched well with that lead. Some pitchers will ease up just a bit when they have a lead of that magnitude. Bundy didn’t do that, and he was able to complete seven very solid innings of two-hit baseball.

The Birds’ offense would take a couple of innings off, only to resume activity in the seventh inning. Mancini grounded into a fielder’s choice-RBI. Machado and Gentry smacked RBI-doubles, with Gentry’s being a two-RBI double. Valencia and Rickard added RBI-singles as well. Span would smack an RBI-single in the eighth to shave one run off of the Orioles’ margin of victory. However up 17-0 to that point, I don’t think the Orioles were that concerned.

You also have to give some credit to Joey Rickard, who smacked two homers on the very day he was recalled from triple-A Norfolk. Buck Showalter said after the game that in fact it almost didn’t happen. Rickard and Donnie Hart‘s (who was also recalled) flight to Baltimore was at 8 AM, but it was delayed by four hours. Somehow the Orioles were able to get them on another flight, and into the starting lineup Rickard went.

It’s tough to decide whether “the story” is about pitching or hitting when a team wins by 16 runs. But ultimately it’s about the team. This was a total team victory. Perhaps it begins (and ends) with Bundy, but Rickard obviously played a huge role, as did Machado, Schoop, et al.

So let the record show that the second week of May was a good one for the Birds, who are off tomorrow before Philadelphia comes to town for a short two-game set on Tuesday. Does that mean that moving forward the season will be smooth sailing? Does it mean that this team could actually make a run at something? I’m not saying that, first off because they dug a massive hole. But also because I can’t predict the future. However reports of their demise might have been exaggerated.

Baltimore Orioles, David Hess gas Tampa in game one of twin bill

You have to love what David Hess did this afternoon in game one of a doubleheader for the Baltimore Orioles. In his big league debut, Hess only shut Tampa down (after a bit of a rocky start), pitched a quality start, and saved the Oriole bullpen from overuse for game two. Hess’ line: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 3 K.

Unfortunately for Hess, from the outset it looked like he was going to be the one getting gassed. He allowed a couple of base runners, and a three-run homer by Duffy in the third inning. However Hess managed to do what seasoned veterans at times can’t – he centered himself. After that rocky first inning, he settled down and just pitched.

And Oriole bats rewarded him for it. Jonathan Schoop smacked a solo homer to left in the last of the second. Later in the inning Chance Sisco’s RBI-double cut the Tampa lead to 3-2. So the Birds put Tampa on notice right away that they weren’t going away.

But they weren’t done – for the game or that inning. The O’s called for a double-steal later in the inning with runners at the corners. And it was Sisco who scored from third, with a steal of home plate. Tampa challenged the play on the basis that the runner was out at second, however it was upheld. How often do you see a catcher stealing any base, much less home plate?!

One inning later the Birds had the lead for good. Manny Machado’s solo homer gave them a 4-3 lead. But before the crowd could even settle down after that home run, Schoop came back up to bat and hit another one of his own. So it was a two homer game for Schoop, as the Birds went back-to-back.

The O’s would add another run later in the game as Trumbo scored on a wild pitch in the last of the sixth. However the story of the game was David Hess. If you’re going to write a story on how your big league debut will go, you can’t write a better one than that. The question is whether or not Hess stays with the club. Personally I say yes. At the very least I see him staying until Tillman comes back. What happens after that remains to be seen. But all of that is merely my take. He may be on his way back to Norfolk by now for all I know.

The O’s now turn their attention to the nightcap of this doubleheader. Alex Cobb gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Tampa’s May Andriese. Game time is set for approximately 6:10 PM.

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