Defense overcomes penalties, forces late turnovers as Ravens top Texans 23-16

BALTIMORE — Hosting their first home Monday Night football game in over five years, and just the second home Monday Night contest of the John Harbaugh / Joe Flacco era, the Baltimore Ravens walked into M&T Bank Stadium with a purpose on Monday Night. Facing a light schedule the rest of the season, the Ravens needed a win on Monday to keep their #6 playoff spot intact. They took care of business on Monday against the Houston Texans, coming away with a 23-16 win.

The Ravens defense forced three turnovers in the game, two of them occurring in the final five minutes to seal the win. A Terrell Suggs strip-sack recovered by Willie Henry led to a field goal, and a Anthony Levine Sr. interception right before the two-minute warning left no time on the clock for Houston. In the first half, Tony Jefferson caught his first interception as a member of the Ravens and ran it back 13 yards. Jefferson, a recipient of jokes from teammates due to his lack of interceptions, can finally cross that chore off his “To-Do” list.

Although the turnover-savy Ravens defense carried the team again on Monday, the win did not come easy. The Ravens got penalized 10 times against Houston; eight of them against defense. Brandon Carr got penalized three times – twice for holding and once for pass interference. His PI call in the first quarter led to Houston’s first touchdown of the game – a four-yard run by Lamar Miller. That gave the Texans a 7-0 lead, presenting the Ravens with the challenge of winning a game after trailing, something that they had not done prior to Monday.

Along with Carr’s blunders, Jimmy Smith got flagged twice (defensive holding, pass interference), Maurice Canady was guilty of a late hit on Tom Savage, and Matt Judon committed an unnecessary roughness penality off a late tackle on Braxton Miller. On Houston’s nine-play touchdown drive, the Ravens committed three penalties and allowed gains of 23 and 29 yards. On the Texans’ three drives ending in field goals, four penalties were committed by Baltimore. The extra chances given to Houston via penalty, along the offense’s struggles, almost gave the game away. As a result, the Ravens won in their normal fashion: ugly.

Baltimore received the opening kickoff and went three-and-out. Houston got the ball back and responded with their first and only touchdown of the game. DeAndre Hopkins hauled in a 23-yard reception, and Savage would find Bruce Ellington for a 29-yard strike. Opponents have rarely found early success against the Ravens this season, making that opening defensive drive so uncharacteristic of this top-10 defense.

Following a few punts, the Ravens tied up the game on a quick seven-play drive that eclipsed just three minutes. Along the way, the Ravens converted their first of two good 4th-and-one attempts on the night when punter Sam Koch completed a perfect 22-yard pass down the left sideline to Chris Moore. Following a nine-yard completion from Flacco to Nick Boyle, Buck Allen found the end zone on a 10-yard run for his second rushing touchdown of the season.

Allen’s score became the start of a 17-play second quarter that featured another Ravens rushing touchdown. On Baltimore’s drive after Allen’s score, Alex Collins ran for 37 combined yards; a 29-yard dash – again on 4th-and-one – to the Baltimore 8-yard line, and then an eight-yard touchdown run. This five-play drive, like the prior one, occurred quickly (2:26), and gave Collins his second rushing touchdown as a Raven, and the third overall score of his career. His first touchdown as a Raven came during last week’s 23-0 win over the Packers.

On Houston’s drive following Collins’ touchdown, Ka’imi Fairbairn kicked his first of three field goals of the night (25 yards) to end the Ravens’ scoring run at 14 points. On the Ravens’ next drive, Justin Tucker booted his longest attempt of the day – 53 yards – to extend the Ravens’ lead to seven with as many seconds left on the clock. Going into the locker rooms, the Ravens held the 17-10 edge with 30 minutes of football left to play.

On the second Texans drive of the second half, three penalties in the Ravens’ secondary led to Fairbairn’s 36-yard field goal to put the Texans back just by four, 17-13. That wound up as the lone third-quarter score. Early in the fourth quarter, Tucker added three points in Baltimore’s favor on a 31-yarder. Fairbairn added three more points on Houston’s next possession, which turned out to be the last threat Savage and the Houston offense made. Suggs’ strip sack led to Tucker’s last field goal (49 yards), and Levine Sr.’s interception ended the comeback dreams of the Texans.

As a whole, the Texans outgained the Ravens in total yards, 303-294. Both teams faced 14 third down situations; the Texans converted six, and the Ravens successfully converted three. The Ravens went 2-for-4 in the red zone, and the Texans went 1-for-4. The Texans also held the edge in the possession battle, 30:16-29:44.

For the Ravens, Flacco went 20-for-32 for 141 yards. Savage went 22-for-37 for 252 yards and two interceptions. The Ravens failed to rush for 100 yards in their previous two games, but racked up 139 yards of rushing on Monday, led by Collins’ 60 yards with a touchdown on 16 carries. Flacco carried the ball six times for 42 combined yards. For Houston, Miller recorded 51 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Hopkins put on a show for the Texans, catching seven passes for 125 combined yards. Hopkins was targeted 10 times, and four penalties in the Ravens’ secondary occurred when the defender was assigned to Hopkins. The Ravens simply had no answer for him.

C.J. Mosley led Ravens defenders with 12 total tackles (five solo). Suggs notched two sacks, and now owns 124 career sacks, which is 18th all-time. Behind Mosley, Patrick Onwuasor continued his impressive sophomore season with eight tackles (five solo). For Houston, Kevin Johnson picked up seven solo tackles, and Jadeveon Clowney tallied his seventh sack of the season. Clowney disrupt the Ravens;’ offensive line early in the game, but finished with two tackles.

Updated Playoff Picture: 

AFC:

Division Leaders: Steelers (9-2), Patriots (9-2), Titans (7-4), Chiefs (6-5)

Wild Card: Jaguars (7-4), Ravens (6-5)

In the hunt: Bills (6-5), Chargers, Raiders, Bengals (5-6), Jets, Dolphins, Texans (4-7)

NFC:

Division Leaders: Eagles (10-1), Vikings (9-2), Rams (8-3), Saints (8-3)

Wild Card: Panthers (8-3), Falcons (7-4)

In the hunt: Lions (6-5), Cowboys, Redskins, Cardinals, Packers (5-6), Buccaneers (4-7)

Up Next: The Ravens remain at home on a short week with the Detroit Lions coming to town for a 1:00 pm tangle on Sunday, Dec. 3. The Lions will own a rest advantage, with 10 games separating Sunday from their last contest, a 30-23 loss to the Vikings on Thanksgiving. The loss to Minnesota snapped a three-game winning streak for the Lions. The Lions are 0-2 all-time in Baltimore.

Image Credit: Newsday

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Ravens lose Flacco, but manhandle Dolphins 40-0

BALTIMORE — Not much hope surrounded the Baltimore Ravens this week. After all, over the last two weeks the Ravens went 0-2. First, Baltimore lost in overtime to the underdog Chicago Bears at M&T Bank Stadium, dropping their record at home to an uncharacteristic 1-2 mark. The Ravens followed that up with a stinker in Minnesota. The Dolphins, meanwhile, came into Baltimore riding a two-game win streak, featuring victories over the Falcons and Jets.

Despite the circumstances, Baltimore manhandled Miami on Thursday night, scoring 20 points in each half, ending in a 40-0 onslaught. According to the Ravens, the 40-point shutout is the largest shutout margin in Ravens history. In the Ravens’ last two meetings against the Dolphins, Baltimore went 2-0 by a 78-6 margin.

The win puts the Ravens back at .500 with a record of 4-4. The Dolphins fall to 4-3 and face serious questions after getting shutout for the second time this season.

The two teams traded punts early on, but the Ravens won the field position battle and had the ball at Miami’s 42-yard line to begin their second drive. Three plays later, Joe Flacco found Jeremy Maclin for a 34-yard touchdown pass. The touchdown marks Maclin’s third of the year, and the first in five weeks. Maclin returned on Thursday after missing two games with a shoulder injury.

In the second quarter, the Ravens added 13 points on two field goals and a touchdown. The first two offensive drives in the second stanza resulted in Justin Tucker field goals of 55 and 48 yards. On the first drive, Alex Collins exploded through the line for a 19-yard gain. In the next drive, he broke out a 13-yard run.

On Miami’s ensuing drive, the Dolphins marched down the field, gaining 52 yards on eight plays. Kenny Stills had a nice 28-yard reception from quarterback Matt Moore, who started for the Dolphins in the place of Jay Cutler. Cutler suffered cracked ribs on Sunday against the Jets.

Miami got the football down to the Ravens’ 32-yard line, and sent kicker Cody Parkey out to attempt a field goal. His kick attempt sailed right, and the Ravens pounced. Baltimore put together an eight-play drive of their own that featured a 27-yard catch-and-run by Collins.

Just before the two-minute warning, the Ravens lost Flacco when the quarterback was running on a third down play. Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso led with his shoulder and slammed into Flacco’s helmet, which fell off. Flacco’s head jerked to the right and sunk back.

A personal foul was called, but Alonso was not ejected from the game. Flacco immediately got up and walked around, but was diagnosed with a concussion and ruled out for the remainder of the game. Flacco’s left ear also got cut up when his helmet flew off. He received stitches while in the trainer’s room.

Ryan Mallett relieved Flacco with 2:50 to go in the second quarter. On the third play Mallett saw, he found tight end Benjamin Watson for a two-yard touchdown. This is Mallett’s second touchdown pass of the season: he threw a TD pass in the week 3 London game against the Jaguars, also to Watson.

The Ravens went into halftime with a 20-0 lead, but they knew that they would need to sustain their lead without their franchise quarterback.

In the fourth quarter alone, the Ravens doubled their point margin on three touchdowns, two via pick-six by the defense. The first defensive touchdown occurred just 31 seconds into the final quarter when C.J. Mosley intercepted a Moore pass and returned it 63 yards to the house. For some reason, the Ravens elected to try the two-point conversion but failed. That made the score 26-0 with about a quarter of football left to play.

The second pick-six, caught by Jimmy Smith and returned 50 yards, occurred with 4:28 left in the game. That score made it 40-0, the last points to be scored in the lopsided affair.

The third touchdown that took place right before Smith’s interception was a weird play. The Ravens had the ball on Miami’s two-yard line. Buck Allen ran the ball in for what appeared to be a touchdown, but Allen lost control of the football and fumbled on the play. Receiver Chris Moore fell onto the football and recovered the fumble, scoring a touchdown.

After Smith’s score, the Dolphins ensuing drive stalled on a loss of downs, and the Ravens ran out the clock with the final score 40-0.

The Ravens finished with 174 rushing yards, led 113 yards from Collins on 18 carries. Allen carried the ball 17 times and ran for 55 yards. Maclin had the most receiving yards (53) on three catches with a touchdown. Nick Boyle caught four passes for 29 yards. Flacco completed 10 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown, Mallett completed three passes for 20 yards and a touchdown.

On defense, Brandon Carr led the Ravens with five solo tackles. The Ravens sacked Moore four times on Thursday night – Mosley, Za’Darius Smith, Tyus Bowser, and Anthony Levine Sr. found Moore in the backfield.

The Ravens out-gained the Dolphins in yards, 295-196. The Dolphins were penalized seven times for 43 yards, and the Ravens got flagged five times for 40 yards. Baltimore won the turnover margin, 2-0. The Ravens also won the time of possession battle, 31:14-28:46. The Ravens defense did not allow the Dolphins to reach the red zone.

After Alsonso’s hit on Flacco, the rest of the game was chippy. John Harbaugh got caught of camera yelling at Alonso, and Alonso was barking back. Ryan Jensen got into a few scuffles, and at one point Ndamukong Suh put his hands on the throat of Mallett after Suh hit Mallett late. Charm City Bird Watch author Nolan McGraw had a great take of Suh’s actions.

Up next: The Ravens have the weekend off before traveling to Tennessee for their next game, which takes place at 1:00 on Sunday, Nov. 5 against the Titans. The Titans beat the Cleveland Browns 12-9 on Sunday, and have a bye this week. With concussions typically taking 1-2 weeks to recover from, it will be interesting to see if Flacco can make it back in time for kickoff. Following the Titans game, the Ravens will undergo their bye week.

Image Credit: USA Today 

Book Review: Broadcaster White reflects on two decades of Ravens football

Charm City Bird Watch founder Jake McDonnell recently had the chance to review Ravens Broadcaster Stan White’s first book, If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Baltimore Ravens Sideline, Locker Room, and Pressbox.

This book review was published on Ebony Bird, presented by FanSided.

Podcast: Nolan and Jake talk about the future of the Ravens following brutal loss to Bears

Welcome to the latest episode of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast! On tonight’s episode, Nolan McGraw and Jake McDonnell recap what was a brutal loss for the Baltimore Ravens; a 27-24 overtime defeat to the Chicago Bears.

Whether it was the turnovers, a lack of explosion/urgency on offense, or poor run defense, the Bears were the better team on Sunday. What went wrong? After such an inspiring performance on the road last week against the Raiders, why did the Ravens fall flat? The guys give their input.

There is plenty of blame to go around for the Ravens’ shaky 3-3 start, but who deserves most of the blame? Is it Joe Flacco? John Harbaugh and the coaching staff? Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens’ brass? Hear what Jake and Nolan think.

Sunday marked another example of an attendance problem at M&T Bank Stadium. What is causing the increased amount of empty chairs? Is there a solution to get more butts in seats?

Three of the Ravens’ next four games take place on the road, but the opponents are not forbidding. Can the Ravens turn things around, or will they continue their downward spiral? All of this and more on tonight’s episode.

As always, subscribe to the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud. Leave us a 5-star review on iTunes; we may read it on a future episode! Thanks for listening!

Game Preview: Struggling Ravens head to west coast to face Raiders

OAKLAND, CA — Just two weeks ago, the Ravens flew high with a 2-0 record. Following a trip to London and a tangle with the Steelers, the Ravens came back down to Earth, now owning a 2-2 record and trying to stay afloat in the brutal AFC North Division. On Sunday, the Ravens will play in a third time zone in as many weeks with a trip to Oakland, where the Raiders await.

Oakland finds itself in a similar circumstance. Just like Baltimore, the Raiders emerged victorious in their first two games against the Titans and Jets, and then slipped to the Redskins and Broncos. The Raiders share a similar trait with the Ravens in the injury department. Several starters on both sides of the ball face nagging injuries, and now quarterback Derek Carr‘s name falls on the injury report.

High expectations surrounded the Ravens and Raiders for 2017, and neither team expected to hold a 2-2 record entering week 5. This may not be a divisional game, but it’s a crucial one. The winner will sport a winning record, and pick up a conference win that could help them later in the season.

Ravens’ last time in Oakland: In 2019, the Raiders will move from Oakland to Las Vegas. These two teams will meet again next season, but that matchup will take place in Baltimore. A listing of the Ravens’ future opponents through 2019 can be found here.

Injury Report (as of Oct. 6):

Screen Shot 2017-10-06 at 12.09.38 PM.png

Friday notes: Smith returned to practice, as did Hill. John Harbaugh said he will play on Sunday. Smith has been dealing with Achilles soreness for a few weeks, put played through it. He also welcomed a baby into the world this week. Hill has not yet played this season. after an impressive preseason. Watson and M. Williams also returned to practice on Friday. Watson may play, Williams will not. B. Williams and Terrell Suggs did not practice on Friday. Probably a veterans day off for Suggs; Williams is out.

*Limited Practice (LP), Full Practice (FP), Did Not Practice (DNP)

Screenshot Credit: Baltimore Ravens

Details:

Where: Oakland Alameda Coliseum in Oakland, California

When: Sunday, Oct. 8, 4:05 pm EST

Network & Commentators: CBS, Greg Gumbel and Trent Green

Game coverage: Ravens fans can catch the game on their local CBS station. Fans out of market can watch on NFL Sunday Ticket. Gerry Sandusky has the call on WBAL 1090, 98 Rock, and gameday audio will also stream on the Baltimore Ravens website.

Weather: Looking at The Weather Channel, the temperature in Oakland on Sunday looks promising. There’s a high of 77 degrees Fahrenheit, and a low of 58. Winds will blow west at 10-15 MPH. There’s a 10% chance of rain.

Offensive Offense? 

Ravens offensive stats.jpg

That graphic says it all. With Joe Flacco‘s back injury and the state of the offensive line, expectations for the offense became low. In the first two Ravens games, the offense got help with the defense forcing 10 combined turnovers. The defense has not played as well in the last two games, and its taking its toll on the offense.

Even with the offensive line in shambles, Flacco needs to play better. Out of all 32 starting quarterbacks, Flacco has the worst QBR (65.0) and its not close. Ahead of Flacco stands Jay Cutler (80.4 QBR). To put things in perspective, the Dolphins have been shut out two games in a row.

Flacco needs to get the ball to the receivers more. The Ravens’ top three receivers have yet to make a difference in a game. Jeremy Maclin (10 catches, two TD), Mike Wallace (nine catches, one TD), and Breshad Perriman (two catches) need to do a better job catching the football too. Watson leads the team in receiving with 16 catches for 146 yards and a touchdown.

The defense needs to carry some of the blame too. With B. Williams in the lineup, the defense has given up 10 points. Without him, they have given up 70 points. Offenses, particularly running backs, are taking advantage of Williams’ absence. The Ravens will not have Williams again this week, but Oakland’s running attack has not taken off so far this season. That, coupled along with the absence of Carr, should bode well for Baltimore.

Graphic Credit: Evin Hartsock 

Scouting Oakland:

  • Carr will miss Sunday’s game after suffering back spasms in Oakland’s 16-10 loss to the Denver Broncos last week. Carr, who is 2-0 with a 110.6 rating against the Ravens (seven touchdown passes, one interception) will miss 2-6 games.
  • In Carr’s place, former Bills first round pick E.J. Manuel will start against Baltimore. Manuel went 11-for-17 for 106 yards and an interception last week against Denver. Manuel is 1-0 against the Ravens in his career. He has 3,608 career passing yards, 19 touchdowns and 16 interceptions (76.9 QBR).
  • Other injury notes: WR Michael Crabtree (chest) missed last week’s game, but is probable for Sunday. Crabtree leads all Oakland receivers with three touchdowns on 16 receptions. WR Amari Cooper (knee) and RB DeAndre Washington (hamstring) are probable as well. DE Mario Edwards (back), G Gabe Jackson (foot), CB Keith McGill (foot), DB David Emerson (concussion), and CB Gareon Conley (shin) are all questionable.
  • After taking a year off, 31-year-old running back Marshawn Lynch has yet to rush for 100 yards in a game. His highest rushing total so far? 76 yards against the Titans in week 1. He has one rushing touchdown this season.
  • Right now, the Raiders possess the 15th-ranked offense and the 13th-ranked defense. Oakland has been penalized 25 times for 238 yards, where their opponents got penalized 26 times for 213 yards.

Image Credit: SFBay.ca

Le’Veon Bell breaks out, offense can’t catch up in Ravens 26-9 loss to Steelers

BALTIMORE — Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell skipped most of training camp because of a contract dispute with the Steelers. That showed throughout the first few weeks, with Bell failing to record 100 rushing yards in the first three weeks of the season. On Sunday, Bell finally broke out, dashing for 144 yards and two touchdowns in the Steelers’ 26-9 win over the Ravens.

For the second week in a row, the Ravens’ offense got shutout in the first half. In the opening 30 minutes, Baltimore punted four times, missed a field goal, and turned it over when Alex Collins fumbled on a run play. The ineptness of the Ravens’ offense led to a 19-0 Pittsburgh lead, and the Ravens never dug themselves out off the hole created in the first half.

The Steelers, now 3-1, take first place in the AFC North. The Ravens fall to 2-2 and occupy second place. The Bengals, now 1-3, man third place, and the Browns come in last at 0-4.

The Steelers got their 19 points on two touchdowns (with a failed two-point conversion) and two field goals. The Ravens began the game with the ball, but punted after six plays. Pittsburgh got the ball on their own 3-yard line and answered with a 16-play, 84-yard drive that ate up 10:23 of clock. Bell was all over the place on this drive, rushing for 59 yards and catching two passes for 20 yards. Baltimore made a stop when it counted, and forced the Steelers to settle for a 30-yard Chris Boswell field goal for their first points of the afternoon.

On their second drive of the second quarter, the Steelers doubled their lead with a 49-yarder from Boswell. On the ensuing Baltimore drive, Collins fumbled the football and defensive end Cameron Heyward picked it up to give the Steelers the ball at the. Ravens’ 32-yard line. On a 2nd-and-15 play, Ben Roethlisberger linked with tight end Jesse James for 15 yards. Bell and rookie running back James Conner combined for 13 yards in two carries to get the ball on the goal line. From there, Bell ran it in, scoring the first touchdown of the game with 3:24 to go in the first half.

Baltimore’s offense, much maligned by injuries and poor play, responded with a three-and-out and gave the Steelers the ball right back. With 2:13 to go in the first half, and the ball on their own 30-yard line, the Steelers marched down the field. Roethlisberger found receiver Martavis Bryant twice for gains of 24 and 19 yards, setting Pittsburgh up on the Ravens’ 11-yard line. After an incomplete pass attempt to Bell, Big Ben connected with rookie wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster for his lone touchdown pass on the afternoon. The Steelers tried to give themselves a three-touchdown lead with a two-point conversion attempt, but they did not come up with it.

Last week in London, Baltimore trailed 23-0 at halftime. The deficit was four points less than last week, but the Ravens needed a quick spark on offense to begin the second half. The Steelers collected the latter half kickoff, but Roethlisberger got intercepted on the third play of the opening drive. Receiver Antonio Brown could not complete the catch, and as he was tackled by cornerback Jimmy Smith, the ball popped into the air. Safety Eric Weddle capitalized, catching the football and taking it back to the end zone. However, after a review, the refs called it a fumble, but gave Baltimore the ball at Pittsburgh’s 18-yard line. The Ravens did not gain any yardage, and received their first points of the game off a 42-yard field goal by Justin Tucker.

On the ensuing Pittsburgh drive, Boswell missed a 44-yard field goal. Baltimore responded with a three-play touchdown drive that featured a 50-yard run by Collins. Following an incomplete pass, Joe Flacco threw a 16-yard pass to Mike Wallace for a touchdown. The Ravens went for two points with a handoff to Terrance West. The attempt was initially ruled good, but after review, the ruling got changed to no good. Baltimore would not score for the remainder of the game.

In the fourth quarter, Flacco threw two bad interceptions, with the latter leading to Pittsburgh’s third touchdown of the game. That second interception occurred with 5:37 to go in the game, essentially ending it with Pittsburgh owning a 10-point lead. On the seven-play drive, Bell recorded a 21-yard run, and punched the ball in from one yard out. Boswell’s extra point put Pittsburgh up 26-9 with 2:26 remaining, a 17-point difference.

Flacco has now thrown an interception in 10 straight games for the Ravens, which leads the NFL. He went 31-for-49 on Sunday, throwing for 235 yards. Roethlisberger completed 18 passes on 30 attempts for 216 yards. Along with Bell’s 144 rushing yards, Collins led the Ravens with 82 yards on nine carries. Bryant led Pittsburgh receivers with 48 receiving yards. Bell & Brown caught four passes apiece, but did not match Bryant’s 48 yards. 42 reception yards for Bell gave him 186 total yards from scrimmage. Wallace led Baltimore receivers with 55 yards and a touchdown on six receptions.

On defense, Ryan Shazier finished with 11 tackles (10 solo) and one tackle-for-loss. Pittsburgh’s defense combined for four sacks – Heyward with two, Mike Hilton with one, and Bud Dupree & Stephon Tuitt combining for the last one. Hilton and Shazier registered interceptions.

C.J. Mosley led the Ravens with 12 tackles (10 solo) and two tackles-for-loss. Lardarius Webb tallied Baltimore’s only sack.

Pittsburgh out-gained Baltimore 381-288 on offense. The Steelers converted 22 first downs, and the Ravens had 18. The Steelers ran 73 plays on offense, and the Ravens ran 68. In the penalties department, eight penalties for 60 yards got called against Pittsburgh, and six penalties for 55 yards were called against Baltimore. The Steelers won the time-of-possession battle, 35:29-24:31.

Coming up next week, both teams will play on Sunday, Oct. 8. The Steelers tangle with the Jacksonville Jaguars, now 2-2, at 1:00 EST from Heinz Field. The Ravens head out west to face the Oakland Raiders, which begins at 4:05 pm EST.

Image Credit: TribLIVE

 

 

Series Preview: Orioles end 2017 season in Tampa against Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — For the first time since 2011, the Baltimore Orioles will end a season with a losing record. Improvement is needed on both offense and defense in order for the O’s to compete in 2018. Before the front office begins the offseason process, the club travels to St. Petersburg for a three-game weekend series with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Both teams will end the season with losing records, making this series worthless. This provides Buck Showalter and the front office a chance to look at some players who could help the team in the future. However, both Showalter and general manager Dan Duquette have one more year left on their contracts, leaving the future of the Orioles uncertain.

As far as the media knows, no significant contract discussions between the Orioles and Showalter/Duquette have taken place. With time winding down on Duquette and Showalter’s deals, the Orioles’ ownership needs to make a decision soon about what direction they want to go in. With Showalter’s age and Duquette’s questionable decisions in recent memory, fans anxiously wait on what then organization’s decision will entail.

Coming into this series, the Orioles suffered a two-game sweep at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Tuesday through Thursday, the Rays dropped two of three to the Yankees in the bronx. Baltimore received their second off-day of the week of Thursday, Tampa had Monday off.

Last Meeting: Last weekend at Camden Yards, the Orioles and Rays split a four-game series in what marked the last series at home for the 2017 Orioles.

In the first game, Gabriel Ynoa pitched eight innings, allowing one run, five hits, and two walks with three strikeouts. Ynoa’s effort led to Baltimore’s 3-1 win.

After dropping the next two games, the O’s rebounded in the Sunday series finale with a 9-4 win. Four Orioles picked up two RBI on the day – Adam Jones (2-run double), Chris Davis (RBI single, RBI groundout), J.J. Hardy (2-run home run), and Chance Sisco (2-run homer). Pedro Alvarez brought in the last one on an RBI single.

During the game, Hardy received a standing ovation from the crowd, as Sunday could have been the final home game in Baltimore for the 35-year-old shortstop. Hardy’s contract expires after the season, and earlier this season the Birds traded for Tim Beckham, who is expected to take over at shortstop next season.

Season Series: The season series between Baltimore and Tampa Bay is tied, 8-8. At Tropicana field, the O’s possess a 3-3 record.

MLB Playoff Picture (As of Sept .29)

Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.42.22 AM.png

Image Credit: MLB

Game Times and Pitching Matchups:

Game 1: Friday, Sept. 29, 7:10 pm – Wade Miley (8-14, 5.52 ERA) vs. Jake Odorizzi (10-8, 4.26 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan

Game 2: Saturday, Sept. 30, 6:10 pm – Miguel Castro (3-2, 3.29 ERA) vs. Chris Archer (9-12, 4.18 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan

Game 3: Sunday, Oct. 1, 3:10 pm – Kevin Gausman (11-11, 4.81 ERA) vs. Blake Snell (4-7, 4.27 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan

Notes on the Orioles:

  • Saturday will be Castro’s first MLB start.
  • In 66 at-bats against the Rays this season, Jones sports a .318 average with 21 hits, five doubles, three home runs, and seven RBI. Jones sat out both games against the Pirates to nurse some nagging injuries, and it remains to be seen if he plays this weekend. Austin Hays has been filling out in centerfield for Jones.
  • In six appearances against Tampa this season, Brad Brach has allowed one run on six hits, four walks, and seven strikeouts, with a 1.13 ERA.
  • The Orioles’ record in September is 7-18 (.280), by far their worst month of the 2017 season.

Notes on the Rays:

  • Against Baltimore this season, Evan Longoria and Logan Morrison both own four home runs. Longoria has 39 career home runs against the O’s, which is more than any other team Longoria has faced. The Yankees (35) are next.
  • Steven Souza Jr.’s 177 strikeouts ranks seventh in the MLB, with Davis (188) coming in fourth. Aaron Judge (204) leads the majors.
  • Archer’s 243 strikeouts ranks fourth in MLB. Only Chris Sale (Red Sox, 308), Max Scherzer (Nationals, 263), and Corey Kluber (Indians, 262) lead him.

Featured Image Credit: The Baltimore Wire