Ravens force overtime but fall short of visiting Bears 27-24

BALTIMORE — The Ravens got off to a slow start against the Bears and had to claw their way back into the game with some late game heroics. However, with the game on the line in overtime, neither the defense of offense showed up and the Bears escaped with a 27-24 victory.

The first half was pretty slow for both teams. The Bears went into the half with a 10-3 lead but weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders. A freak interception that bounced off of Breshad Perriman‘s hands set Chicago up with great field position. They would use that to score their first touchdown of the afternoon but that was their lone highlight in the half.

In the second half the Bears added to their lead with another touchdown. Down 17-3, the Ravens looked hopeless but they somehow managed to swing the momentum in their favor while coming back and forcing overtime.

Bobby Rainey started the comeback effort by bringing the disappointed home crowd back to their feet with a 96-yard kickoff return. The play looked to be dead when Rainey ran into one of his own blockers, but he had the awareness to get up and keep going when the refs didn’t whistle the play over.

Justin Tucker inched his team closer when he nailed his second field goal of the afternoon in the fourth quarter. With Baltimore back in the game and down by just one possession, Joe Flacco led the offense down the field into the red zone. Unfortunately, Baltimore’s wideouts let Flacco down. again.

Chris Moore let a bullet pass bounce off his chest and fall into the hands of Chicago’s Adrian Amos. The Bears’ safety then turned on the jets and raced 90 yards down field for what seamed like a game-ending touchdown.

Flacco and the offense were left with about five minuets to make something happen. To their credit, they managed to put together a quick scoring drive. The two-minute drive was capped off by a 50-yard field goal to make it a one score game once again. The defense picked up on the momentum of the score and forced the Bears into a three-and-out on their next possession.

With under two minutes to play, Michael Campanaro returned a punt 77 yards down the Ravens sideline for a touchdown. Flacco followed up the impressive return with a successful two-point conversion pass to Nick Boyle. All of the sudden, the game was tied.

With a chance to put the game away in overtime, the Ravens offense proved to be even more unreliable. A third-and-two situation should be an easy pick up, but the Ravens embarrassed themselves with a questionable play call, bringing up fourth down.

After letting the Ravens back into the game, Chicago was determined to finally put the game away. Backed up deep in Ravens territory, Mitchell Trubisky handed the ball off to Jordan Howard, who bounced to the outside. Howard was quickly met by a cluster of defenders, including Eric Weddle, but managed to slip out of their reach and race down the visiting sideline for a 53-yard gain.

Weddle had his arms wrapped around Howard, but somehow couldn’t come up with a tackle. The play took away whatever energy remained in the stadium and the Bears didn’t hesitate to move their way into field goal range and put the game away.

There is a lot of blame to go around after this loss. Up until that final drive, the defense had played a relatively clean game but they still deserve a decent share of the blame. As far as the offense goes, Flacco was not the problem for once. Both picks should have been caught by the intended receiver and Maxx Williams should have never coughed up the ball in the red zone.

Moving past a tough loss is not new to this Ravens team, but at what point do the massive swarm of injuries become too much? Brandon Williams‘ presence was missed once again on Sunday, but Jeremy Maclin being out was probably the biggest loss. Moore and Campanaro can not be relied on to make big plays and they proved that with some ugly drops.

The Ravens will hit the road next week to take on the Vikings. Minnesota is coming off a big win against the Green Bay Packers and now finds themselves on top of their division. Baltimore, on the other hand, is going to need another impressive road performance if they want to keep pace in the AFC North.

Image Credit: Rob Carr / Getty Images

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Ravens hold on for big road win against Oakland

OAKLAND — The Ravens entered Sunday’s game against Oakland with a two game losing streak and a lot of drama. Joe Flacco was slammed by fans and media alike all week after turning in another sub-par performance and the defense appeared to have lost their edge.

Despite all of this, the Ravens looked like a brand new team when they stepped on the field in Oakland. Even with a depleted line, Flacco and company put up 23 points of offense and jumped on a struggling Raiders team. The Ravens ended up winning 30-17, putting their season back on track.

In desperate need of a hot start, the Ravens offense came out of the gates with a quick touchdown drive. Joe Flacco connected with Mike Wallace for a 52-yard completion on the very first play from scrimmage. Third year tight end Vince Mayle capped off the drive with a nice end-around touchdown run.

The only wrinkle in the Ravens’ hot start was Terrance West going down with an injury. After busting a 13-yard run on a draw play, West was tackled and remained on the ground in pain. He would end up being carted off and ruled out for the remainder of the game.

The defense also got off to a great start. On the third play of Oakland’s first drive, Patrick Onwuasor forced Jared Cook to fumble and Jimmy Smith was right there to scoop it up and take it 47 yards the other way for a touchdown.

The Ravens maintained their lead and entered halftime up 24-10 thanks to a clock-eating touchdown drive and a field goal by Justin Tucker. By winning the time of position and turnover battle, the Ravens found more success in the first half than the past two weeks combined.

Both offenses stalled coming out of the half with a pair of three-and-outs. The Raiders put together a successful drive on their third possession of the half. Marshawn Lynch put the finishing touches on a 65-yard drive with a goal line touchdown run to cut the Baltimore lead to just seven.

With the Oakland crowd coming back to life it looked like the Ravens were in serious trouble. Flacco led his team down the field for a much needed score. The veteran QB looked like the “Joe cool” we all know and love with the game on the line.

There were two crucial third down scenarios on the drive and Flacco found the open man each time to keep the drive alive. The offense pounded their way into the red zone and had a 1st-and-goal situation, but failed to put seven on the board. Instead, they would settle for a field goal to put them back up by 10.

On the ensuing Oakland possession, the Raiders moved the ball just into Ravens territory before being shut down and forced to punt. The drive shaved an additional four minutes off the clock and put the ball back in the Ravens hands with just under nine minutes to play.

For the first time in weeks, the offensive line played a quality game and allowed Alex Collins and Javorius Allen to run downhill with ease. This was on full display in the fourth quarter when the Ravens running backs picked up 42 yards on the ground to put the game on ice. Tucker added his third field goal of the afternoon and the Ravens went on to win 30-17.

In addition to West’s injury on the first drive, the Ravens lost two more players over the course of Sunday’s win. Both Carl Davis and Matt Skura went down with leg injuries and neither one was able to return. Jimmy Smith’s health was also a big question mark. Despite having a big impact on the game with his fumble recovery, Smith was seen standing on the sideline for most of the afternoon. He only played seven snaps on defense, still dealing with an Achilles injury.

Snapping a two game losing streak looked like a long shot coming into this game, especially with all the injuries. However, the offense proved that they can get the job done even with a depleted core. A Steelers loss makes the win even sweeter as the AFC North rivals find themselves tied for the division lead once again. The Ravens will return home next weekend for a 1:00 pm matchup against the Chicago Bears.

Image Credit: USA Today 

Series Recap: Orioles season gets swept away

Is there anything left to say about this Orioles team that hasn’t already been repeated a hundred times? This weekend marked the end of the O’s 2017 season and it seems like no one could wait for it to be over.

However, the way the Orioles played this weekend shows that they were just as ready to hit the offseason as the fans were. The offense just looked tired at many points and the pitching was as inconsistent as ever. All of this lead to the Orioles being outscored 17-3 in the three game sweep.

The series started with a Rays shutout victory. Tampa Bay jumped on Wade Miley early and scored four runs before forcing him out of the game. Chris Tillman relieved Miley out of the pen but didn’t fare any better. The former O’s starter gave up three runs of his own to round out the 7-0 win.

Miley has finished his 2017 season with some of his worst starts of the year. The 30-year-old pitcher has been served a loss in all five of his starts this month while picking up a 9.74 ERA. This finish is going to weigh even heavier on Miley as he prepares to enter free agency this offseason.

On Saturday the Orioles gave reliever, Miguel Castro the opportunity to start. Some have called for Castro to be stretched out into a starting role but his effectiveness as a reliever has taken a dive recently. Working with a short leash, Castro looked solid early on but ultimately failed to make it out of the fourth inning.

Castro allowed a pair of  base runners at the beginning of the fourth that would end up biting him when Brad Miller brought them home on a three run homer. Tampa Bay’s lead increased to 4-0 in the seventh thanks to a Wilson Ramos sacrifice fly. This insurance run would end up being very important as the Orioles mounted a comeback in the final two innings.

Pedro Alvarez came through in the eighth and cut the Rays lead in half with a two RBI single. With a chance to keep the rally going, Chris Davis grounded into an inning ending double play. Despite this, the O’s were able to rebound and start the ninth inning off by putting runners on the corners.

Seth Smith came in to pinch hit but ended up striking out while Anthony Santander traded the second out of the inning for a run with a sacrifice fly. The comeback effort would end here as Jonathan Schoop lined out in the next at bat.

Sunday’s series finale featured two very solid starts. Kevin Gausman and Blake Snell both pitched seven innings and combined to strikeout 28. Snell was able to edge out Gausman for the better start since he didn’t give up any runs and racked up 13 strikeouts. However, Gausman was very solid in his own regard, giving up just one run and striking out nine.

This all changed when the starters exited the game. The Orioles remained scoreless but the Rays were able to pounce on Brad Brach and run away with the game. Brach only managed to record one out in the bottom of the eighth before giving up five runs. Mike Wright came in to stop the bleeding but the damage had already been done and the O’s ended up losing 6-0.

It’s almost crazy to see how poorly the O’s finished their season. At the beginning of the month, they found themselves at the forefront of a heavily contested wildcard race but it was a steep drop off from there. After losing 16 of their last 20, Baltimore has finished the season as the worst team in the AL East and one of the bottom four in the American League.

Image Credit: Brian Blanco – Getty Images

Series Recap: Orioles continue to struggle in road series against Pirates

 

PITTSBURGH — There is nothing left to play for and the Orioles are showing it. After dropping two in Pittsburgh, they are now 3-7 in their last 10 games and still haven’t won a series in this final month of the season.

Andrew McCutchen had one of the best games of his career on Tuesday night. The veteran center fielder went 4-for-4 at the plate and drove in a career high eight RBI’s. What made the game even more special was the fact that he picked up half of those runs with his first career grand slam in the fourth inning.

A solo home run by Chris Davis was the only bright spot for the O’s in the 10-1 loss. Kevin Gausman gave up six runs in just four innings of work before being replaced by Jimmy Yacabonis, who gave up the other four runs over two innings. Those two innings were a disappointing step back for Yacabonis, who proved to be consistent since giving up four runs in his June 11 debut.

In the second game, the Orioles grabbed an early lead with three runs in the second inning. Doubles by Chance Sisco and Anthony Santander scored a run each and J.J Hardy added a third with a fielder’s choice.

However, the Pirates came right back in the bottom half of the second with a solo home run by Gregory Polanco. They were able to take a 4-3 lead in the next inning when Josh Bell hit a two-run homer and that would end up being enough for a win.

The homer drove Orioles starter Gabriel Ynoa out of the game and forced the O’s to go to their bullpen early once again. Mike Wright pitched three clean innings of relief and kept the O’s within striking distance, but the offense was unable to score for the remainder of the game.

Pittsburgh picked up an insurance run in the seventh and went on to win 5-3. After losing seven games in a row a few weeks ago, the Pirates have now won five of their last six.

Trey Mancini extended his hitting streak to 16 games on Wednesday. After tying a couple of Oriole legends in yesterdays game, Mancini now holds the longest hitting streak by a rookie in team history.

The Orioles season will come to a close this weekend when they play a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays. The teams met last weekend and ended up splitting the series 2-2. Neither team will be playing for anything this weekend but the season series between them is still tied. If anything, you should probably tune in to at least one of these games before we lose Orioles baseball for the next six months.

Image Credit: Orioles’ Twitter

Series Recap: Orioles split series with Rays, will finish 2017 with losing record

BALTIMORE — It’s been rough to watch the Orioles play these past few weeks. They have seen their season fade away after sitting just one game out of the wildcard. As the final week of the season approaches, the Orioles have slipped so far downhill that they will be finishing with a losing record for the first time since 2011.

This weekend’s long series started on Thursday with arguably the Orioles’ best overall performance in weeks. Gabriel Ynoa got the start but there was a sense of uncertainty since he had failed to get to the fifth inning in his previous starts this month.

This was not the case on Thursday. Ynoa looked like a staple of the rotation as he managed to go eight innings, leading the O’s to a 3-1 win. You would definitely like to see Ynoa go deeper in those previous starts, but since joining the rotation he holds a 1-2 record and a 3.18 ERA.

All three of Baltimore’s runs on Thursday came in the first inning. Manny Machado hit his team-leading 33rd homer of the year to score the first two, and Trey Mancini followed with a an RBI single that scored Adam Jones.

On Friday, the O’s fell behind early and never got a chance to get back into it. Ubaldo Jimenez surrendered a grand slam to Wilson Ramos that put the Rays up 4-0 in the second frame. Tampa Bay would add to that lead in the next inning with an Evan Longoria home run and a RBI single by Adeiny Hechavarria. Jimenez would be chased out of the game after these runs, pushing his ERA to 6.81 on the year.

Tampa Bay went on to add two more runs in the fifth and ninth inning to cap off an 8-3 win.

Looking for a rebound on Saturday the Orioles struck first with a run in the first inning, but proceeded to give up nine unanswered runs between the third and ninth inning. Jeremy Hellickson turned in a decent outing, giving up three runs through six innings. After his exit, the Orioles bullpen imploded.

Richard Bleier gave up two unearned runs in the seventh and Mike Wright later gave up four more in the ninth. Down 9-1 with just three outs left, the O’s found a spark of offense but it was too little to late. Welington Castillo and Austin Hays started the five-run inning by scoring three with a pair of RBI doubles. Machado and Chris Davis both contributed an RBI single, but the O’s ultimately lost 9-6.

Dylan Bundy was slated to get the start in Sunday’s series finale but he was scratched and replaced by Chris Tillman a few hours before first pitch. It was later reported that Bundy suffered a left hamstring strain. There have been rumors of the Orioles shutting Bundy down for the remainder of the year and this might be the final push they need to do so.

Sunday also marked the final home game of the year for the O’s, and it was an emotional one. J.J Hardy was given the start at shortstop and received a standing ovation from the crowd. There are no concrete plans for Hardy’s future, but this was very likely his final game as on Oriole at Camden Yards.

Hardy kept the crowd on their feet when he hit a two-run homer in the fourth. When the veteran shortstop stepped into the box the O’s and Rays were tied at four, but Hardy was able to give his team a lead they would hold for the remainder of the game.

A home run by Chance Sisco added two more in the sixth and Davis capped off the 9-4 win with a RBI fielder’s choice in the seventh. The Orioles saved themselves from losing the series, but they still haven’t won one since the end of August.

The Orioles will hit the road on Tuesday to close out their 2017 season. The first stop will be Pittsburgh for a quick two-game series. After that the O’s will face Tampa Bay one last time next weekend.

Image Credit: @Orioles on Twitter

Series Preview: Orioles set to host final home series of 2017

There isn’t much to be excited about in this weekends series. The Orioles look completely lost and haven’t won a series all month. The visiting Rays find themselves in a slightly better condition but still on their last legs.

Similar to the series the O’s played in New York last week, this four game set is the last chance for Tampa Bay. The Rays are four games out of the second wild card spot and have just a 1.4% chance of making the postseason according to ESPN.

Th Orioles are just trying to get back to .500 in these final nine games. Baltimore currently holds a record of 73-80 so they are going to need a near perfect finish to avoid their first losing season since 2011.

Last Meeting: The Orioles and Rays last faced off in Tampa Bay at the end of July. The O’s picked up a shutout win in the opener but dropped the next two games to lose the series. The season series between them is currently split at 6-6 but they will be seeing a lot of each other before the season ends. The Orioles have nine games left and seven of them will be played against the Rays.

Game Times and Pitching Matchups:

Game 1: Thursday, September 21, 7:05 pm – Gabriel Ynoa (1-2, 4.18 ERA) vs Matt Andriese (5-3, 4.44 ERA)

Game 2: Friday, September 22, 7:05 pm – Jeremy Hellickson (8-10, 5.47 ERA) vs Alex Cobb (11-10, 3.63 ERA)

Game 3: Saturday, September 23, 7:05 pm – Ubaldo Jimenez (6-10, 6.57 ERA) vs Jake Odorizzi (9-8, 4.46 ERA)

Game 4: Sunday, September 24, 1:35 pm – Dylan Bundy (13-9, 4.24 ERA) vs Chris Archer (9-11, 4.02 ERA)

Notes on the Rays:

  • Despite being a staple of the Rays rotation these past five years, Chris Archer has some pretty lackluster numbers against the O’s. The 28-year-old pitcher holds a 4-7 record and a 4.78 ERA in 14 starts against Baltimore. If you narrow that down to games played at Camden Yards, it gets even worse. Archer is 1-4 with a 6.06 ERA when pitching in Baltimore.
  • Trevor Plouffe joined the Rays in the middle of their 2017 season but has been far from a major force in their lineup. However, the former Twin has always played well against the Orioles. In 36 starts against the O’s Plouffe is batting .301 with 19 RBI’s.

Notes on the Orioles:

  • Zach Britton is more than likely done for the season. The Orioles closer will be receiving a stem cell injection in his knee that will hopefully help with an injury he says has been lingering since 2014. Everyone is hoping the issue will not require surgery but if it does, it would be best to get that done as soon as possible so he is 100% going into 2018.
  • Miguel Castro was arguably one of the most reliable arms on the O’s staff this season but has now seen a major slump in the past two weeks. With an 8.53 ERA in his last 6.1 innings, one has to question if he is fatigued. Castro has thrown over 60 innings this year, which is significantly more than his previous career high of 17.2 in 2015.

Up Next: The Orioles will play a quick two game series against the Pirates early next week before traveling down to Tampa Bay for the final series of the season. The O’s haven’t played an interleague series since the all-star break when they hosted the Cubs. However, the last time the Orioles played an interleague game on the road was all the way back in May.

Image Credit: USA Today Sports

Series Recap: Orioles drop fifth straight series with two extra inning losses to Red Sox

The first two games of this series could not have looked any more different on paper yet they both ended in similar fashion. Monday night’s series opener was a slug fest where both the Red Sox and Orioles flexed their offensive muscles and combined to score 18 runs.

The Orioles were able to find success against Doug Fister and take an early 5-0 lead after the third inning. Usually when the O’s put up this many runs it’s because of the long ball, but this time they scored almost all of their runs on quality at bats alone. Everyone in the lineup did a good job of just getting on base allowing three of the five runs to be scored on either a sacrifice fly or a fielder’s choice.

The Red Sox made their comeback and eventually toke the lead in the fifth inning. Jackie Bradley Jr. and Brock Holt got it started by picking up a pair of RBI singles that knocked Dylan Bundy out of the game and brought the Red Sox back to within just two runs of the O’s.

Mookie Betts was the biggest difference maker of the inning though. The 24-year-old outfielder doubled to deep left field and brought all three base runners home, putting Boston up 7-6. Betts now has ten games in his four-year career where he has collected at least four RBI’s. Three of those ten have been against the Orioles.

The Orioles got the lead right back in the bottom half of the fifth when Pedro Alvarez launched a solo homer and Tim Beckham followed with a RBI double. However, with an 8-7 lead the Orioles still couldn’t hold on and Donnie Hart ended up surrendering a game tying homer to Xander Bogaerts.

The game would remain tied until the 11th inning. Facing Miguel Castro, the Red Sox loaded the bases with two outs, bringing Andrew Benintendi to the plate. Benintendi was able to sneak a grounder just past the reach of a diving Jonathan Schoop to score the eventual game winning runs.

After the disappointing loss on Monday the Orioles were just looking to improve their pitching and try to force a rubber match. Even though the pitching definitely improved, the result was still a loss as the O’s came up just short.

Kevin Gausman was excellent in his eight innings of work, allowing just three hits and striking out seven. Drew Pomeranz got the start for Boston and gave up five hits through 6.1 innings. The Red Sox may have needed to tap into their bullpen earlier than the O’s but their relievers were even more effective. Five relief pitchers entered the game for Boston and none of them allowed a hit or walk.

Once again the Red Sox spoiled the Orioles evening by picking up a go ahead run in the top of the eleventh. Brad Brach was entering his second inning of relief and just like Monday’s game, the Red Sox loaded the bases with two outs. Instead of a clutch base hit, the Red Sox were gifted a run when Brach threw a wild pitch.

The O’s certainly had their chances to score on Tuesday. In the third inning Manny Machado picked up a two out double but was cut down at the plate while trying to score. Chris Davis also came close to breaking the shutout in the fifth inning. Davis sent a ball to deep center field that was definitely on its way out but Jackie Bradley Jr. made an amazing leaping grab to prevent another potential O’s run.

After dropping their fifth straight series the Orioles couldn’t get anything going in Wednesdays series finale. The Red Sox struck first in the fourth inning with a pair of two-run homers by Deven Marrero and the Oriole Killer, Mookie Betts.

Hanley Ramirez added two more runs in the fifth with a double to give Boston a 6-0 lead. This hit also drove Wade Miley out of the game after just 4.1 innings of work. Miley now holds a 10.06 ERA in four starts this month.

The O’s offense was nowhere to be found through the first six innings. It looked like they were finally going to get something going in the seventh when Trey Mancini led off with a double but Chris Sale was able to strike out the side and escape the slight jam.

The Red Sox picked up two more runs in the eighth off of Tanner Scott, who was making his MLB debut. Despite clocking in at 100 mph on a few pitches, Scott couldn’t put the Boston batters away. The 23-year-old allowed four base runners and two runs before escaping the inning.

Chris Sale remained in the game for the eighth and proceeded to pick up his 13th strikeout of the game and 300th of the season. Sale becomes the second Red Sox pitcher to accomplish this milestone after Pedro Martinez racked up 313 in 1999.

This was just one of many highlights for the Red Sox as they picked up a 9-0 win and a sweep over their division rivals. The heated matchups between these teams feel like a distant memory at this point as the Orioles failed to play with any ambition and let another team walk over them on their way to the postseason.

The Orioles will play four games against the Rays this weekend for their last home series of the season. As the final week of their 2017 campaign nears, the O’s are also staring at their first losing season since 2011. Baltimore is seven games under .500 with just nine left to play.

Image Credit: Associated Press