Baltimore Orioles: John Means, Austin Hays end Oakland’s winning streak

John Means got the ball this afternoon for the Baltimore Orioles in the series finale against Oakland. The Birds of course had dropped the first two games of the series, and Oakland came into the game having won 13 straight games. Was he up to the challenge? You tell me; Means’ line: 6.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 6 K.

This series thus far has showcased the Orioles pushing too hard. This game was different in that it was a pitcher’s duel. Means and Oakland starter Luzardo matched one another pitch for pitch.

Whereas the other two games showed the O’s leaving a lot of guys on base, there weren’t many opportunities in this game. Not many guys got into scoring position. And with Means on the mound, that boded well for the O’s.

The O’s took a 1-0 lead in the last of the second when Austin Hays deposited a solo homer into the outfield grandstand. It was also the first time in the series the O’s had the lead. One could argue that shows the Orioles are struggling. But perhaps more poignantly it shows how well Oakland’s playing.

And Oakland came right back to tie it in the fourth. Laureano’s solo home run knotted it up at one. However Means limited the damage, which is a key tenant of winning games. Just ask the Oakland A’s.

I suppose the question is whether or not the hero on the day was John Means or Austin Hays. A little of both, in my view. But Hays came back to bat in the last of the fourth with a runner on. And he repeated home run performance with a two-run homer, which gave the Orioles the lead back at 3-1. Maikel Franco’s solo homer and Ryan McKenna walking with the bases loaded in the last of the eighth would add an insurance runs. The Birds would also net a run when Cedric Mullins reached on an error, and two on Trey Mancini’s two-run single.

The Orioles’ bullpen was equally as dominant as Means, and they closed out the Birds’ 8-1 victory. Again, that snaps an impressive 13-game winning streak for Oakland. The O’s did what they hadn’t done this entire series; they loosened up, and they took advantage of their opportunities. And they won.

Tomorrow the O’s will open a four-game set against the NY Yankees at Camden Yards. Matt Harvey gets the start for the Birds, and he’ll be opposed by NY’s Deivi Garcia. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Pushing too hard

The Baltimore Orioles sent Wade LeBlanc to the mound last night in a spot start. And it went about as well as one might have expected. LeBlanc’s line: 1.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 2 K.

LeBlanc is going to be optioned today back to the alternative site, and the Orioles will call Zac Lowther to the majors. He’ll be eligible to pitch out of the bullpen this afternoon. Whenever he gets into a game it will be his big league debut.

LeBlanc gave up an RBI-single to Olson in the first inning. Oakland jumped right to it early, as you would expect for a team that’s won 12 straight games. Canha’s two-RBI single in the second gave them a 3-0 lead, and Olson’s RBI-double ran it to 4-0 and chased LeBlanc to the showers.

The O’s got on the board in the last of the second with an RBI-double by Chance Sisco. But as was the case on Friday, that was all they got in what could have been a big inning. Lowrie’s three-run homer in the fourth busted the game wide open, although they got one back an inning later on an RBI-double by Trey Mancini.

The O’s are pushing too hard. They know they’re struggling right now to score, and everyone’s trying to “play the hero.” It’s almost a psychological thing as much as anything else. I see a lot of bug swings, designed to get the ball onto Eutaw St. In practice, that’s sending guys back to the dugout after striking out.

So is “trying lighter” a thing? Because that’s what the Orioles need to do. The second half of the game was also played in the rain, which dampened chances for both teams. But the damage was already done.

The series concludes this afternoon at Camden Yards. John Means gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Oakland’s Jesus Luzardo. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: You have to take opportunities as presented

Jorge Lopez got the start for the Baltimore Orioles last night in the first of three with Oakland. As has been the case with numerous starters this year (including Lopez), he provided mixed results. He pitched well enough to put the team in a position to win, but he exited early and surrendered the winning runs. Lopez’s line: 4.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 1 K.

Oakland took a 1-0 lead in the second on an RBI-groundout by Brown. Piscotty’s RBI-single later in the inning ran the score to 2-0. Lopez also loaded the bases in that inning, but pitched out of it abs limited the damage. So that’s a good thing.

Laureano’s solo homer in the fifth would chase Lopez and give Oakland a 3-0 lead. The O’s however did have a legit shot at winning the game. They loaded the bases with nobody out in the last of the sixth, but only mustered an RBI-single by Pedro Severino. That was the lone Oriole run of the game, and they fell 3-1.

Manager Brandon Hyde semi-addressed this sequence after the game (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

“Just didn’t get the big hit. We’ve got to move the ball with runners in scoring position. We’re punching out too often. … We’re swinging at pitchers’ pitches a little bit too often in big spots and we’ve got to make better decisions at the plate.

Netting only one run with the bases loaded and nobody out looks fairly incriminating. In any sport, you can’t expect to win games when you don’t take advantage of opportunities like that. That’s a golden chance to do some serious damage in an inning. In this specific case, the O’s could have taken the lead. Instead they settled for the one run, and an opportunity as such never presented itself again in the game.

You have to take advantage of opportunities your opponent gives you. Oakland did, early in the game. The Orioles let Oakland off the hook, and it cost them. Now granted they’re a young team – that sort of thing is going to happen. But they need to move forward and fix the issues. Teams that leave runs on the table lose a lot of games.

The series continues this evening at Camden Yards. The Orioles have yet to name a starter, and they might have to dip into the alternative site to get one. Whomever the starter is, he’ll be opposed by Oakland’s Chris Bassitt. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles fall in Miami series finale

My personal opinion is that Bruce Zimmerman pitched to a valiant effort this afternoon in Miami. He joined the ranks of pitchers not going deep into games, however that doesn’t seem to bother manger Brandon Hyde as much as it bothers me. However that seems to be the direction in which the game’s going. Especially with seven-inning doubleheaders being introduced. Zimmerman’s line: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 4 K.

And if anything, I believe that Zimmerman could have probably stayed in the game for longer. But again, the game’s not going in that direction right now. Unless of course you have an epic-type starting pitcher. Which the Orioles don’t.

This was a strange week in a sense for the Orioles. Every team will have a week or two like this, but it all feels very unnatural. Off day Monday, game one of a series Tuesday night, game two (the finale) of the series Wednesday afternoon, and then off again Thursday. Obviously the silver lining for the O’s is that they’re now heading home. And following an afternoon game, they’ll be home fairly “early,” and enjoy a day off tomorrow at home.

Miami struck against Zimmerman in the last of the fifth with a two-RBI double by Aguilar. Duvall would add an RBI-single later in the inning, giving Miami a 3-0 lead. Which turned into a 3-0 win.

I’m not trying to say that Zimmerman or any of the relievers used this afternoon didn’t pitch well. This was a very well-pitched game by the Birds. However I think the goal should be for starters to go deeper into games. Now that’s obviously not AS important to Brandon Hyde, and that’s okay. I’m old school. He’s not. Again, that’s okay.

And the fact is that the Birds didn’t surrender any more runs aside from those three. When I make the distinction between old school and new school thinking on this subject, the new way would say that the goal is to win the game, not to have a starter go deep into the game. And that’s true. But if your starters aren’t conditioned to go deep into games, that further taxes your bullpen.

I suppose there’s no right or wrong way. I just feel that the goal should be for the starter to be in there as long as he’s able, otherwise every game may as well be a bullpen game. End of the day, the O’s completed a 3-2 road trip, which isn’t too shabby. Now they head home to take on the Oakland A’s over the weekend – one of the hottest teams in baseball.

Baltimore Orioles: Matt Harvey with the win as Birds hold on

Matt Harvey took to the hill for the Baltimore Orioles tonight in Miami. This was also the Birds’ first foray into interleague play, which meant that they O’s lost their DH – and Harvey had to hit. But that didn’t seem to stop the Orioles’ bats, which were hot from the beginning and gave Harvey a deep cushion. Harvey’s line: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 4 K.

Maikel Franco‘s RBI-groundout in the first inning put the O’s in the driver’s seat. It also set the tone. Later in the inning Rio Ruiz smacked a two-RBI double, and the O’s led 3-0. They batted around in the first inning, ironically giving Harvey an at-bat before he even took to the mound.

But more importantly, he had the lead when he got on the mound. He did give a run back in the last of the first, but following an uneventful second inning the Birds opened the game wide open. Trey Mancini and Freddy Galvis each smacked solo homers. That gave the Birds a 5-1 lead in South Florida. One inning later they extended the lead to 6-1 on DJ Stewart‘s RBI-double.

Here’s the issue with having that sort of lead that early in a ballgame: there’s plenty of time for the opponent to come back. And Miami started chipping away. They put two across in the fifth, and two in the sixth. Before they knew it, the Orioles’ 6-1 lead had evaporated and it was only a 6-5 one-run lead.

Freddy Galvis’ RBI-single in the eighth gave the O’s a bit of insurance. But the good news is that the Orioles’ pen was sure, and they closed out the victory without much more drama. And given that this is a two-game series, winning game one is a big deal.

The downside of this win is that Anthony Santander sprained his ankle while on base in the top of the first inning. Santander appeared to be in pain, and had to be helped into the dugout. That’s definitely something on which to keep an eye. It wouldn’t shock me to see Santander headed to the IL tomorrow.

The short series in Miami concludes tomorrow afternoon at LoanDepot Park. Bruce Zimmerman gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Miami’s Trevor Rogers. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Did ol’ blue screw the Birds?

The sad thing is that John Means should have been the story for the Baltimore Orioles today. He may well have turned in his best outing as a starting pitching this afternoon in Arlington, TX. Means’ line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 9 K.

Perhaps his best outing as a started is a bit much – his Opening Day start was pretty good. But this one is right up there, needless to say. The Birds sent Means to the mound this afternoon with a chance to sweep in Texas. They were unable to do that, but due in no part to anything Means did or didn’t do. He was magnificent the entire time he was in the game.

One thing I did notice on twitter is that a lot of people were critical of Brandon Hyde‘s decision to pull Means after seven innings. I’ve at times criticized Hyde for pulling starters early – but in the fourth or fifth inning of games. Seven innings is a bit different, especially after 93 pitches. I think he was pulled at the appropriate moment. Hyde on Means’ outing (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

I just thought he was in total command. I thought he had a great fastball that he was locating, thought he threw some really good curveballs, the changeup was there. Seven shutout innings, nine punchouts, pretty much says it all right there. Two really good starters that were on today. Pretty good baseball game. Two really good pitching performances by both sides

Unfortunately for the Birds, they couldn’t score either – as Hyde alluded in the above quote, two great pitching performances on both sides. The game went to extra innings at a scoreless tie. Maikel Franco was at third in the top of the tenth, and Trey Mancini sent a single to right field. Franco was thrown out at home plate by a country mile trying to score, as he held up at third thinking he’d have to tag up.

However Brandon Hyde argued Texas catcher Trevino blocked home plate without the ball, which is against the rules. Hyde was emphatic in demanding a replay review, but home plate umpire Sam Holbrook seemed to not want to explore the rule. He eventually huddled with the three other umpires, and the crew decided that nobody had seen any evidence of blocking the plate. Texas would eventually win 1-0 on an RBI-single by Lowe in the last of the tenth.

Rule 7.13 says: Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the Umpire, the catcher, without possession of the ball, blocks the pathway of the runner, the Umpire shall call or signal the runner safe. My personal opinion is that Trevino was well into the path of the runner before the ball arrived. In the opinion of the umpiring crew, that wasn’t the case. But it appeared to be.

Sometimes you have to deal with calls like that in sports. But it sure can be a bitter pill to swallow. For the record, it’s also listed in the rule book as a judgement call. That means that the Orioles couldn’t have played under protest or anything like that. It’s also worth mentioning that Texas would have still gotten to hit in the bottom of the tenth, and they would have begun the inning with a runner on base. But that’s sometimes the way the ball bounces. Although it appeared to bounce in a way that gave Texas a break this afternoon.

Baltimore Orioles: Trey Mancini clutch in Birds’ victory

The Baltimore Orioles sent Dean Kremer to the mound in game two of three in Texas. Kremer pitched a great effort, although he was pulled in the fifth inning in an effort to match up. However he put his team in a spot to win the game. And as I’ve said many times, that’s all you can ask of a starter. Kremer’s line: 4.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 6 K.

Kremer gave up one run, on an RBI-single to Dahl in the fourth inning. While no other runs were surrendered after Kremer left, the O’s couldn’t make any headway in the game. That is until they got into Texas’ suspect bullpen.

Cedric Mullins‘ RBI-single in the seventh tied the game at one. But it was Trey Mancini who made the biggest impact. His RBI-double later, in the eighth inning, put the Orioles in the lead. Later in the inning Ryan Mountcastle added a sac fly-RBI, closing out the inning with the Birds leading 3-1.

The Orioles would add a few insurance runs in the ninth. DJ Stewart‘s RBI-single ran the score to 4-1. Later in the inning Maikel Franco would add a two-run home run, giving the O’s a 6-1 win.

This was a good team win. Not one moment in theory was better than another. However Mancini giving the team the lead was huge. As were those insurance runs in the ninth inning. Too often teams get a lead or have a small lead for most of a game, only to see it disappear at the end. But insurance runs ensure that won’t happen.

This in theory also takes pressure off the Orioles. Winning the first two of a series gives them the impression of playing with house money tomorrow. If they lose, two-of-three isn’t bad. If they win, they’ve swept the weekend series in Texas. So again, house money.

The series concludes tomorrow at Globe Life Field. John Means gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Texas’ Kyle Gibson. Game time is set for just after 2:30 PM.

Baltimore Orioles knotch a win deep in the heart of Texas

Jorge Lopez got the ball for the Baltimore Orioles last night in the opener of a three-game set in Texas. He only stuck around for five innings. But that’s all you need to qualify for the win if you leave with the lead. And of course if your team retains it. Lopez’s line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 8 K.

Part of the Orioles’ issue of late has been that they couldn’t put together a winning starting pitching performance with the offense yielding results. That wasn’t the case last night. Cedric Mullins smacked an RBI-double in the third which got the O’s on the board with a 1-0 lead. One inning later they doubled that on Rio Ruiz‘s solo homer.

The Birds won the game however in the fifth. Anthony Santander‘s sac fly-RBI ran the score to 3-0. But the big blow came from DJ Stewart. His two-run homer would give the O’s a 5-0 lead. And that was big because in the bottom of the fifth Lopez gave up back-to-back home runs. However following his (Lopez’s) exit, the Orioles’ bullpen was strong, and closed out a 5-2 win.

DJ Stewart talked after the game about what hitting that homer meant to him and to the rest of the team (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

It was huge, just momentum-wise, confidence-wise. We had a meeting this morning and sometimes that’s how baseball is. It’s just not going our way, unlucky things, but it was big for us to get to them early and kind of put them away.

The series continues this evening at Globe Life Field. Dean Kremer gets the call for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Texas’ Dane Dunning. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Was Maikel Franco a victim of the moment?

Baltimore Orioles’ pitching was solid in the series with Seattle, including in today’s game two of the doubleheader. For the most part, that is. And for the most part, Oriole bats were dominated by an equally strong showing by Seattle pitching. In this afternoon’s second game, it was Bruce Zimmerman who was a hard-luck loser at the hands of Seattle. Zimmerman’s line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 2 K.

After the game Zimmerman claimed that his fastball command wasn’t as good as he would have liked, but his breaking pitches seemed to be working (quote courtesy of Rich Kubatko, MASNsports):

I definitely didn’t have as good of fastball command, so that kind of put me behind from the get-go as far as just having to battle more each at-bat. Kind of relied on my off-speed a little bit more today, for the most part I was able to get it over. The breaking ball was a little sharper than last outing, which helped, because we made an adjustment working on that this week, and that was good to see. Just didn’t have quite the command that I normally do, especially with being able to go in on guys, which sets up everything else for me.
But there wasn’t much to criticize overall in Zimmerman’s outing. He gave up two solo home runs, one to Moore in the third and one to Haniger in the fifth. Freddy Galvis smacked a solo homer in the last of the third for the O’s, who fell 2-1. The dropped three-of-four in the series at home against Seattle.

The old saying is that solo home runs don’t hurt you. But the fact is that they do hurt you when your team isn’t putting runs on the board. That’s what happened to the the Birds and Zimmerman today.

One thing that might not sit well with the coaching staff was Maikel Franco‘s at-bat in the last of the seventh (the final inning in a doubleheader). With the O’s down by one, you’re looking to get a runner on base in any manner possible. Get the tying run aboard to extend the game.

Franco led off the inning, and worked the count to 3-0. Now if it’s me, I want to make the pitcher prove he can throw the ball over the plate before I’m going to swing. And that’s in ANY situation, much less one like that where you absolutely need a base runner. So I wouldn’t have considered taking the bat off my shoulder unless the count was 3-2.

Instead, Franco swung on 3-0, and lined out to short. That’s the sort of thing that can make or break you in a game. And a veteran like Franco should know that. Did that single-handed my lose the game for the Orioles today? Absolutely not. But it’s small things like that which can often make a difference in games, especially in a big spot.

The Orioles now leave home and head for Texas for a three-game set with the Texas Rangers at the new Globe Life Field. Jorge Lopez gets the start tomorrow night for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Texas’ Mike Foltynewicz. Game time is set for just after 8 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Trey Mancini homers in loss

Matt Harvey drew the start for the Baltimore Orioles in game one of yet another twin bill against Seattle. The teams split a doubleheader on Tuesday after a rainout Monday night, and are playing two today following last night’s rainout. Harvey’s line: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 3 K.

The O’s took an early 2-0 lead on Trey Mancini‘s two-run homer. And other than that, the Birds were held off the board. Seattle pitching has been pretty good in this series thus far. The Birds only mustered five hits in total in the game.

Seattle would tie things up in the top of the fifth on a Haniger two-run homer. And those were the only two runs charged to Harvey. It’s easy to look at that stat line and suggest that a starter going 4.2 innings and giving up two runs isn’t that good. However keep in mind that these doubleheaders are seven inning games. So that isn’t bad in and of itself. Following Harvey’s departure, Crawford would smack a two-RBI double in the sixth, which provided for the winning runs in Seattle’s 4-2 victory in the first of this twin bill.

My aversion to the seven inning doubleheaders is well documented. And admittedly my reasoning is that a baseball game is supposed to be nine innings. I’m steadfast in that. I feel that seven inning stuff is total garbage.

However above I mentioned Matt Harvey only lasting 4.2 innings in the game, and how in a seven inning game that isn’t awful. Keep in mind that those two runs he surrendered affect his ERA in the sense that it’s based on nine innings. If you throw in several games that are managed differently in terms of starting pitchers and innings pitched, that throws stats off – be it up or down. That makes a difference.

The series and the doubleheader will conclude in short order at Camden Yards. Bruce Zimmerman gets the start for the Birds, and he’ll be opposed by Seattle’s Justin Dunn. Game time is set for approximately 45 minutes after the completion of the first game, give or take at around 3:45 PM this afternoon.