Offense improves as Ravens beat Dolphins 31-7

MIAMI — The Ravens continued to impress in their second preseason game of 2017, traveling down to Miami and defeating the Dolphins 31-7.

The game started almost exactly like the Ravens first preseason matchup against the Redskins. The defense stood their ground and appeared to pick up where they left off against Washington. Meanwhile, Ryan Mallett and the offense needed some time to get into a rhythm before putting points on the board.

Most eyes were on newly-acquired Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler at the start of Thursday’s game, but his night ended after just a few drives. At times Cutler looked like the experienced quarterback that Miami signed him to be, hitting receivers in the numbers and picking up a couple first downs.

If it had not been for a handful of offensive penalties, Cutler could have led the Dolphins on some longer drives. He finished with just 24 yards on three completions. Matt Moore and David Fales took over at quarterback after Cutler’s exit.

The Dolphins offense found success after the Ravens starters got pulled in the second quarter. Senorise Perry capped off a seven play, 56-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown run to put Miami up 7-0. These would end up being the only points for Miami as the Ravens scored 31 unanswered points.

The Ravens offense took a little longer to find the end zone than the Dolphins. Justin Tucker and the special teams unit led the way in the second quarter and had a hand in every scoring play. It all started with a 52-yard field goal to put the Ravens on the board. On the ensuing kickoff, Tucker, of all people, scooped up a fumble by Dolphins returner, Drew Morgan. The fumble recovery would lead to another field goal but the special teams unit was not done yet.

On the next Miami possession, the Ravens defense forced a three-and-out. The punt return team saw an opportunity to go for a block and they got it when Chris Matthews got past his blocker and dove for the ball. Matthews, who is trying to make the team as a receiver, came through with possibly the biggest play of the game.

The block set the offense up deep inside Miami territory for the second straight possession. This time the Ravens found the end zone. After failing to punch it in on the ground, Mallett dropped back and looked to his right for an open receiver. The play appeared to break down, but Mallett avoided defenders and find a wide open Larry Donnell to put Baltimore up 13-7.

As the game progressed, Ryan Mallett and Josh Woodrum threw the ball to a variety of receivers. Among the 18 players to record a reception were Ben Watson and Maxx Williams. The two tight ends made their preseason debut as they continue to rebound from injuries suffered last year. Williams was exceptional in his brief moments on the field. The third year tight end broke two tackles on his way to a long third down conversion and then found himself out of breath after a 40-yard reception in the third quarter.

After Mallett’s exit, Woodrum entered the game and continued to build on his quality performance against Washington. The third string quarterback picked up 110 yards on eight completions and even scored up a pair of rushing touchdowns. The first came on a 14-yard scramble while the second was a designed quarterback sneak. Woodrum followed the first with a successful two-point conversion as well.

Other standout performances came from Javorius Allen in the run game and Jaylen Hill on defense. Allen racked up 40 yards on 10 carries to lead the Ravens run game, while Hill continued to impress defending the pass. Hill is another undrafted rookie looking to make the team and last week he came up with a big interception. This week he posted a couple of tackles and some quality pass deflections to help his resume as the preseason progresses.

The Ravens may have picked up another big win but it did not come without some mistakes. Penalties and fumbles stand out as some of the bigger issues to correct going forward. Unlike the first preseason game, the Ravens did not play a clean game as they picked up 11 penalties totaling 81 yards.

On offense, the Ravens coughed up the ball three times. Fortunately, they were able to retain possession on all of those fumbles, but if you lose just one of them in the regular season, it can be the difference between a win and a loss.

The Ravens will cross their fingers and hope for no injuries following tonight’s win as they prepare for their next matchup. Fans can expect to see the starters get some extended playing time when the Ravens host the Buffalo Bills next Saturday.

Image Credit: Associated Press

Series Recap: Orioles end road trip with another series loss

SEATTLE, WA — Coming into the final series of their west coast trip, the Orioles looked to make some progress in their wildcard pursuit. However, the competition would prove far from easy as the Mariners find themselves in the middle of the same fight as the O’s.

Overall inconsistencies would end up plaguing the Orioles once again, just like they have all season. It seems like the Orioles pitching and offense could not get in sync during the road trip. If the pitching staff turned in a gem, the offense would fall non-existent. If the offense was on fire, the pitchers would implode.

The Orioles offense put up 11 runs in Monday night’s series opener thanks to four home runs, including a grand slam from Manny Machado. Tim Beckham got the scoring started by launching a leadoff home run in the first inning. The Mariners answered in the bottom half of the inning with a run of their own, but the Orioles offense was ready to explode in the second.

The Orioles scored two runs at the beginning of the second thanks to a Chris Davis double and a fielder’s choice from Caleb Joseph. After loading the bases, Machado put the O’s up 7-1 with his second grand slam of the road trip. The scoring did not stop there. Davis added another RBI in the fifth while Seth Smith and Trey Mancini hit a pair of home runs to put the game out of reach.

Kevin Gausman took this large lead and maintained it over the course of seven innings, exiting with a 11-2 lead. This was a bit of a bounce-back performance for Gausman. After giving up just two runs over the span of four starts, the 26-year-old pitcher had a rough outing against the Angels. Monday’s performance brought Gausman’s ERA back down to 5.08, the lowest its been since April.

The Orioles offense was far less successful in Tuesday’s game, generating just one run. That run came on a solo homer by Jonathan Schoop in the first inning. The O’s could not put anything together from there. The Mariners were not on fire by any means, but they were able to produce some runs on their way to a 3-1 victory.

A solo home run by Nelson Cruz put Seattle on the board in the fourth, while Jean Segura and Robinson Cano brought in the go-ahead runs in the fifth. Andrew Albers got the start for the Mariners and managed to make it through five innings, giving up just one run on six hits. After his exit, four relievers entered the game for Seattle and not one of them surrendered a base runner.

This set up a rubber match for Wednesday afternoon. Ubaldo Jimenez got the start for the Orioles and tried to continue his streak of quality starts. Unfortunately, that did not happen. The veteran starter got chased after giving up six runs in 4.1 innings.

When it came to the offense, both teams went back-and-forth, trading runs and the lead. Beckham started the game with his second leadoff home run of the series. The Mariners found themselves up 3-1 at the end of the fourth.

The O’s bounced back in the top of the fifth thanks to a wild pitch, a triple by Craig Gentry, and a single by Beckham. The three-run inning put the Orioles back on top, but it did not last long. Seattle answered with three runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning. Robinson Cano, Yonder Alonso and Danny Valencia each had an RBI single in the inning.

The Mariners added an insurance run in the next inning to make it a 7-4 game. The Birds looked hopeless for the next few frames. Up until the ninth, the O’s only managed to get a couple of men on base, and none of them came close to scoring.

In the top of the ninth, the Orioles trailed 7-3 and needed a burst of offense to get back into the game. Joseph, Smith and Beckham started the inning off with three straight walks to load the bases. Machado followed that up with a sacrifice fly to make it a two-0run game.

Seattle closer Edwin Diaz struggled with his command from the start of the inning, but he lost complete control when he hit Mancini and Trumbo in back-to-back at-bats. The two free passes allowed another run to score, but that would end Diaz’s day as he was replaced by Marc Rzepczynski.

The game would come down to the bat of Davis, but in typical Davis fashion his bat did not move as strike three zipped right down the middle to end the game.

The Orioles ten-game road trip has finally come to an end. The results are not too glamorous. The O’s ended up going 4-6 in the stretch despite outscoring their opponents 53-44.

After a much-needed off day on Thursday, the Orioles return home this weekend. The good news is that the O’s will have a chance to move up the standings this coming week as they prepare to face the Angels and A’s for the second time this month.

Image Credit: USA Today Sports

Series Preview: Orioles look to finish road trip with a series win

SEATTLE — The Orioles annual west coast trip is about to come to a close. This is great news for fans since we can finally go back to watching games at a reasonable hour, but it is also good news for the team. So far the Orioles have not won a series on their west coast trip, and they are falling slightly behind in the wildcard race. It’s no secret that the Orioles play better at home. They need to get back to Camden Yards with a wildcard spot still in reach.

Seattle finds themselves in almost the exact same position as the Orioles. While the Mariners currently sit a little higher up in the standings, they are preparing to go on a lengthy road trip of their own in the coming days. After these three games against the O’s, the Mariners will not play another home game until the beginning of September. The time spent away from Safeco Field could end up detrimental to a team looking to make a playoff push.

Last Meeting: This marks the first series between the Mariners and Orioles in 2017. When these teams faced off at the beginning of July last year, the Mariners swept the Orioles in four games. It was a devastating stretch for the O’s, especially since they entered the series with a seven-game win streak.

Standings Update: The Orioles (58-60) enter the final series of their west coast trip two games below .500 and a half game behind their opponent, Seattle (59-60). Dropping two games against the Angels, and then splitting their series against Oakland is not exactly the end of the world, but the O’s certainly don’t want to lose any more ground.

Game Times and Pitching Matchups:

Game 1: Monday, August 14, 10:10 pm – Kevin Gausman (8-8, 5.21 ERA) vs Yovani Gallardo (5-7, 5.38 ERA)

Game 2: Tuesday, August 15, 10:10 pm – Wade Miley (6-9, 5.19 ERA) vs Andrew Moore (1-3, 6.34 ERA)

Game 3: Wednesday, August 16, 3:40 pm – Ubaldo Jimenez (5-7, 6.25 ERA) vs Marco Gonzales (0-0, 8.49 ERA)

Notes on the Mariners:

  • Gallardo will face his former team for the first time since being traded this past off-season. This spring, the Orioles traded a struggling Gallardo to Seattle for outfielder Seth Smith. Gallardo is in the middle of his tenth career season, so he has made two starts against the O’s before. In those appearances, Gallardo is 1-0 with a 2.13 ERA.
  • Nelson Cruz represents another former Oriole that has seen success when playing against Baltimore. In 53 games against the O’s, Cruz holds a .356 average with ten home runs and 44 RBI’s.

Notes on the Orioles:

  • If you’ve been watching the Orioles the past few weeks, you’re aware that the offense has been playing very well. However, you might be surprised to know that the Orioles lead the American league in a handful of offensive categories since the All-Star break including home runs, batting average, doubles, and OPS.
  • Shortstop Tim Beckham still hasn’t lost a step since joining the Orioles. In 13 games with the O’s Beckham has a .491 batting average with seven doubles and nine RBI’s.

Up Next: The Orioles will have Thursday off as they return from their lengthy road trip. After the off-day, the O’s prepare to face off against the Angels and A’s for the second time this month. The Birds will definitely be looking to get some revenge against both teams as they failed to win either series this past week.

Image Credit: Associated Press

Alex Lewis and Tim White to miss 2017 season with injuries

The Ravens kicked off their season last night with a 23-3 win over the Washington Redskins but the game did not come without an injury tax.

The offensive line took yet another hit when Alex Lewis aggravated a lingering shoulder injury. There was no word on the injury last night but the Ravens are reporting today that the lineman’s shoulder is not responding well to treatment

Ravens beat writer, Jeff Zrebiec says that Lewis suffered a torn labrum and has been dealing with it throughout camp. The injury has reached a point where Lewis cannot play through it and he will require season ending surgery.

Undrafted rookie Tim White is also expected to miss the entire 2017 season after injuring his thumb during Thursdays game. It’s unclear when White suffered the injury but it appears to be serious as he will require surgery.

Fans started to take notice of White during the teams first open practice in late July and he even got a shoutout from Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace during their interview with NFL Network. The 23-year-old receiver only had one reception in Thursdays game but he made it a big one. White caught a 33 yard touchdown pass from Josh Woodrum at the end of the third quarter to put the Ravens up 20-3.

The Ravens also provided an update on Joe Flacco’s back injury. The 10 year veteran will not play in any preseason games but is expected to return to the practice field soon. The team also made sure to mention that Flacco will be ready to go for the season opener on September 10.

Image Credit: Baltimore Sun

Defense shines as Ravens defeat Redskins 23-3 in preseason opener

BALTIMORE — On Thursday night, the Baltimore Ravens opened the 2017 preseason with a 23-3 win over the Washington Redskins thanks to some impressive play on defense.

With most of the offense either injured or resting, all eyes were on the defense and they did not disappoint. The Ravens defense started the game with three straight three-and-outs, completely stifling Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy and the rest of the Redskins offense. By the end of the first quarter, the Redskins only gained 27 total yards of offense.

The Ravens offensive unit did not fair much better in the early goings. Ryan Mallett struggled to find his open receivers and the offensive line wasn't opening many gaps for the run game. If it were not for a timely Redskins penalty, the Ravens would not have scored their first touchdown of the night.

Mallet finished the first quarter with an abysmal stat line. The backup quarterback went 1/4 on pass attempts and owned a negative passing yard total until the 11-minute mark in the second quarter. Things didn't get much better for Mallett as the half progressed. The quarterback finished his night with nine completions for 58 yards.

Despite Mallett's performance, the Ravens took advantage of some key mistakes by the Redskins. Baltimore held a 13-0 lead at the half. Following Terrance West's two-yard touchdown run, Justin Tucker nailed two field goals, including one from 59 yards, to round out the first half scoring.

Dustin Vaughan and Josh Woodrum took over the Ravens quarterback duties in the second half. Both QB's received a limited amount of pass attempts, but Woodrum was still able to make an impact. Following an excellent punt return by Kennan Reynolds, Woodrum connected with rookie receiver Tim white for a 33-yard touchdown to put the Ravens up 20-3. He finished his night with just four pass attempts but completed all of them for 85 yards.

The offensive game plan was definitely more run heavy in the second half. Four running backs got the chance to carry the ball. Two of them performed well. West averaged 4.6 yards per carry and scored the first touchdown of the game. Taquan Mizzell racked up 51 yards on 15 carries.

Some of the biggest individual performances of the night came from the defense. Rookie corner back Jaylen Hill made a big impression with a couple strong open field tackles and an interception at the end of the first half. Brent Urban had a solid game, picking up four tackles and one of the Ravens three sacks.

The Ravens get back to work in the coming days as they prepare for their next preseason game down in Miami. Before they make the trip, fans will have a chance to see the Ravens in action at the teams' third open practice this Saturday morning. That practice begins at 10 am at M&T Bank Stadium, and you can bring your dogs!

Image Credit: Baltimore Sun

Series Recap: Orioles start west coast trip with series loss to Angels

ANAHEIM — With the Orioles working their way back into a heavily contested wild card race every game feels just as important as the last. However, the biggest challenge facing the O’s for the next week will be their annual west coast trip. Due to the major time difference, east coast teams have to play a lot of their cross-country games in the same week or two.

These matchups can make or break the O’s success for the month of August, especially with games against fellow wildcard contenders like the Angels and Mariners.

The Orioles enjoyed some great pitching and offense during Monday nights series opener. The game was closely contested up until the seventh inning when Manny Machado hit a grand slam to put the O’s up by four. Machado’s fifth career grand slam was another shining moment for the third baseman as he continues to heat up. The big hit also gave Machado his 12th RBI in the past week.

Dylan Bundy had a big game on the mound in the series opener as well. The 24-year-old pitcher tossed seven innings while surrendering just two runs. His 10 strike outs also marked a season high. After a rough month of July where he posted a 8.41 ERA, Bundy is back on the right track. So far in August Bundy holds a 1.20 ERA in two starts.

Monday also marked the 26th birthday of Mike Trout. The two-time MVP celebrated the day in style by picking up his 1,000 career hit. Trout was able to come around and score after his milestone hit and then launch a solo homer later in the game. Unfortunately for the Angels these two runs were the only offense they could produce as they went on to lose 6-2.

In game two the O’s did not fare as well. The pitching matchup made for a great story line with former Orioles pitcher, Parker Bridwell taking the hill for the Angels and newly acquired starter, Jeremy Hellickson pitching for the Birds. Bridwell had some trouble finding success with the Orioles but has certainly been a big part of the Angels rotation since being traded.

On Tuesday Bridwell did his best to make his former team regret that trade. Bridwell threw seven strong innings while giving up just one run. The start earned him his sixth win of the season and lowered his ERA to 3.00. Hellickson was not quite as effective but still solid in his second start with the O’s. The new Oriole starter gave up three runs and struck out nine in six innings of work.

The O’s trailed 3-1 when Hellickson exited the game but only managed to put one more run on the board in the next three innings. Caleb Joseph hit a solo homer in the ninth and the Orioles fell just short of the Angels 3-2.

Wednesday afternoons rubber match was another closely contested game. The Orioles struck first in the third inning with a solo homer by Welington Castillo but the Angels responded with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning. An RBI single in the fourth was followed by a two run homer in the sixth to give the Angels a 4-1 lead that they would not surrender.

The O’s had a chance to score in the top of the sixth but ultimately came up short. Joey Rickard led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch and Craig Gentry entered the game to run for him. With two outs recorded Jonathan Schoop came through with a base hit. Gentry attempted to score from first base but was cut down at the plate to end the inning.

The O’s offense struggled to get on base during the entire game so their scoring opportunities were extremely limited. The Angels pitching staff took advantage of this and closed out the final innings quickly to secure a 5-1 victory and a series win.

The west coast games continue this weekend as the Orioles prepare to play the Oakland A’s in a four game series. This will be the first meeting between the Orioles and Athletics in 2017.

Image Credit: Camden Chat

Series Preview: Orioles prepare to hit the road for west coast trip

It seems like the Orioles might actually turn their season around. After the somewhat disappointing trade deadline, many thought that the O's would continue to be average at best and struggle to finish above .500. However, since the July 31 deadline, the Orioles are 5-2 and look completely rejuvenated.

The Angels are in the middle of the same wildcard race as the O's. Despite dropping their last two games against Oakland, Los Angeles is on the upswing. The Angels have won six of their previous seven games.

Last Meeting: This will be the first of two matchups between the Orioles and Angels in 2017. Their last meeting came during the beginning of July last year. The O's dropped the first game of the weekend, but rebounded to take the next two games and win the series.

Standings Update: After splitting their series against Detroit, the Orioles are back to one game below .500 and currently sit just two games back in a competitive wildcard race. The Angels loom right behind the O's in the standings with a record of 55-57. Because of this, the upcoming series is even more important for both teams.

Game Times and Pitching Matchups:

Game 1: Monday, August 7, 10:07 pm – Dylan Bundy (10-8, 4.24 ERA) vs J.C. Ramirez (10-9, 4.03 ERA)

Game 2: Tuesday, August 8, 10:07 pm – Jeremy Hellickson (7-5, 4.45 ERA) vs Parker Bridwell (5-1, 3.20 ERA)

Game 3: Wednesday, August 9, 3:37 pm – Kevin Gausman (8-7, 5.15 ERA) vs Troy Scribner (1-0, 4.50 ERA)

Notes on the Angels:

  • Parker Bridwell will be making his first career start against his former team after being traded back in April. The 25-year-old had some trouble finding his groove with the O's. He's quickly made himself a staple of the Angels rotation since the trade. Bridwell sports a 5-1 record and 3.20 ERA in nine starts this season.
  • Whenever you go up against the Angels, Mike Trout is always a player to look out for. The two-time MVP holds a .278 average with 11 home runs and 23 RBI's in 39 career games against the O's. Trout will also be celebrating his 26th birthday during the first game of the series.

Notes on the Orioles:

  • The last-minute trade for Tim Beckham was met with mixed feelings by O's fans, but he has been on fire since joining the Orioles. Beckham holds a .583 average with six RBI's since putting on his new uniform. The shortstop even made himself a part of Orioles history when he hit the franchise's 10,000th home run on Saturday.
  • After acquiring Jeremy Hellickson at the trade deadline, the Orioles had six starting pitchers and needed to move one to the bullpen. Prior to Sunday's game, Buck Showalter decided that Chris Tillman will begin a new role as a reliever. Tillman holds a 8.10 ERA in 15 starts this season and has not won a game since his first appearance back in May.

Up Next: After taking on the Angels, the Birds continue their west coast trip by heading to Oakland for a four game series against the struggling A's. The past few weeks have been full of matchups against other potential wildcard teams, but the A's are stuck in the basement of the American League.