The tragedy of Chris Davis and the worst contract in Orioles history

The day is Apr. 5, 2013. It’s Opening Day at Camden Yards and Chris Davis just launched a grand slam into the left field seats to put the Orioles up 9-5 in the eighth inning. It marks his fourth home run in as many games to start the season but he is only getting started. Davis went on to finish that season with a franchise record 53 homers to accompany a solid .286 batting average and 138 RBI’s.

Fast forward five years and Davis is on pace for another 200+ strikeout season while hitting a measly .152 in the second month of the season. The O’s first baseman has reached a point where he would contribute more by riding the bench and it’s justifiably left the fan base very angry. Unfortunately, this terrible stretch is far from an anomaly for Davis, who has now hit below .250 in three of the last four seasons.

Plenty of players at the MLB level will put up similar numbers but only one has received a seven-year contract worth $161 million and that’s exactly where the problem comes in. Davis pulled one of the biggest con jobs in baseball history by turning two standout seasons into the most lucrative contract to ever come out of the front office in Baltimore.

Now let’s make no mistake, 2013 was a special year for Davis and his numbers don’t lie, but it’s the only year of his career where he produced something worthy of $23 million. Sure, 2012 and 2015 were quality years for Davis as well but far from enough to justify the deal he received. Despite this, you cannot deny Davis was an integral part of the Orioles’ successes between 2012 and 2015, which made him favorable in a town that had been starved of baseball glory for over a decade.

CaptureI would argue that the warning signs of Davis’ downfall were present between 2012 and 2015, particularly in 2014 when Davis slumped for most of the season before making an early exit due to suspension. This forced him to take nearly 150 less plate appearances than the year before but it didn’t stop him from striking out 173 times.

Yes, that is a lot of strikeouts. In fact, it now sits as the sixth highest single season strikeout total in franchise history. Now I know what you’re thinking. That’s ridiculous. Well, it gets even worse when you realize that all six of Davis’ seasons in Baltimore can be found on this list.

We tend to focus on the strikeouts a lot when it comes to Davis but 2014 was bad for him in almost every offensive capacity. His .196/.300/.404 line was one of the worst in his career, dating back to his time with the Texas Rangers where he never started a full season.

When the O’s ended up making the ALCS that year, many looked past or simply forget Davis’ concerning numbers at the plate. By the time he fixed them the following year, it was too late. The fan base was craving more playoff baseball after falling short of a World Series appearance the previous year and Davis’ bat was surely the answer to get them back, right? When the final weekend of the 2015 season rolled around, Davis received a standing ovation and pleas to stay in Baltimore from the home crowd at Camden Yards. Everyone was so convinced that Davis would be gone in a matter of weeks.

As luck would have it, weeks turned into months and Davis still had not reached a deal with another team. How could this be? These teams all saw what the Orioles didn’t, and that was a flawed, one-dimensional player asking for way too much money. After realizing they could make Davis an offer and he would actually listen, the Orioles got baited into paying him an insane sum of money to be their franchise first baseman until he turns 36 in the year 2022.

Not only was Davis a flash in the pan on offense, his defense has also taken a hit since signing the mega deal. Fans loved to taught the first baseman’s defensive skills but was he really that good? Davis has never won a Gold Glove, but you might be surprised to know he has some Gold Glove-worthy numbers under his belt. Davis posted a higher ultimate zone rating (UZR) than American League winner Eric Hosmer in both 2014 and 2015. The UZR metric is used to measure a player’s defensive ability by factoring in the aspects of defense that don’t show up in stat sheets like range and arm strength as well as the differences between different ball parks.

22d15a04-e051-4f7b-b2a7-51fe4182a407While he was not better than 2016 winner Mitch Moreland, Davis was still considered an above average defender based on UZR. It was around this time that fans were able to dismiss some of Davis’ troubles at the plate because they were not quite the norm yet and he was still a plus defender. However, the defensive numbers have taken a troubling dive in the past year and at this point we can’t even point to Davis’ defense as an excuse for him being in the lineup. His -2.4 UZR since the beginning of 2017 is the second-worst among qualified first baseman in the American league.

What makes Davis’ contract the worst in franchise history extends beyond his own numbers. The time period in which it happened is what truly makes the deal so puzzling and indefensible in hindsight. Obviously, no one would agree to this contract knowing what we do now but there’s really no sensible reason for the O’s to have fallen into this trap.

The Orioles are currently on the verge of a harsh reality. They have been avoiding this moment for a while but there is no way around it at this point. The core of this team is about to take a big hit and there isn’t anything in the farm system to compensate for that. It’s hard to say just how long the O’s can expect to be bottom feeders in the American league but we all remember the 14-year playoff drought that ran through the 2000’s. Those 65-to-75 win seasons are back and might be here to stay for the next few years.

I’m by no means blaming the Orioles’ current situation on Davis’ contract. The inability to develop pitching talent in-house and trading your farm system away for rentals at the deadline are contributors to the state of the Orioles in 2018, but Davis’ contract is certainly a big factor as well and here’s why.

Let’s start with the money. In the upcoming offseason the Orioles are set to lose their best player, Manny Machado. This has been a long time coming and now that the O’s know they have no chance of signing Machado, the only option is to trade him. Whether that actually happens or not doesn’t matter because we already know Machado will not be in an O’s uniform come 2019. In today’s market, $161 million is only a fraction of what Machado will command, but the O’s would certainly like to at least have that on hand to make him an offer because let’s be honest, Davis’ has not touched Machado in terms of value even when he is at the top of his game.

We knew Machado would be the better player in 2013 and we certainly know that now, but in case you need some numbers consider that Machado has had a higher WAR and WAA than Davis every year since 2013. Yes, that includes Davis’ two monster years where he hit 53 and 47 homers respectively.

Okay, maybe you’re not a fan of rolling out a huge deal for Machado either. That’s understandable. Especially considering there are more needs for this O’s team right now. That $161 million could have come in handy over the past few years when the Orioles were trying to entice free agent starters. Or maybe it could be divided into a couple of extensions for the young talent, like Jonathan Schoop, Trey Mancini and Dylan Bundy. Instead, you have an Orioles team with no financial leverage and $92 million still committed to a first baseman who has more strikeouts than hits and walks combined since signing his contract.

Besides the easy financial complaints we can look at the Orioles prospect options coming out of 2015. The previously mentioned Mancini made his MLB debut toward the end of the 2016 season, which didn’t come out of nowhere. He would follow that up with a full season in 2017 and finished third in the Rookie of the Year vote behind New York’s Aaron Judge and Boston’s Andrew Benintendi. Why on earth would the O’s commit seven years to a first baseman when you knew you had a prospect like Mancini ready to make his debut within the next year? Even if Mancini didn’t make it to the majors until the midway point or the end of 2017, you would be able to fill that hole at first for a much cheaper price than Davis.

In addition to that, everyone in the organization should have seen that Mancini was a more balanced hitter with the ability to hit for both contact and power while Davis is an aging free swinger with a home run-or-bust mentality. Now you have created a scenario where your first baseman of the future is getting a majority of his playing time outside his natural position.

I fear the negative effects of this signing have a chance to linger long into the future, which is why it should be considered the worst in franchise history. It’s not just Davis turning in bad numbers. It’s the fact that he is now stuck at the Major League level because of the financial commitment you made to him and he is bringing down the players around him.

rawImage

The Sporting News / Getty Images

So what other contracts can compete with this? Up until recently, Albert Belle was considered the worst signing in franchise history. After agreeing to a five year deal worth $65 million, Belle only played two years for the Orioles before being forced to retire because of the osteoarthritis in his hip. The loss was extremely disappointing due to how unforeseen it was but Belle had not shown any signs of dropping off and rarely missed time with injuries. In fact when Cal Ripken ended his consecutive game streak in 1998, Belle became the holder of the longest active streak.

Even though he was injured for three of those five years, Belle was worth his contract in the brief time he spent in Baltimore. The veteran slugger averaged 30 home runs and just 75 strikeouts in 1999 and 2000 while hitting .289. He would also extend his streak of 100 RBI seasons to nine by picking up 117 in 1999 and 103 in his final season.

Over the final three years of Belle’s contract he did not play for the Orioles but still took up a spot on the 40-man roster. This is the only aspect of the contract that made the team look especially foolish, but that changed when the O’s were reimbursed $27.1 million of the $39 million they paid Belle between 2001 and 2003 due to an insurance settlement.

Belle gets a lot of flack for being a clubhouse cancer and not playing a majority of the most expensive baseball contract of the late 90’s. However, Davis has already surpassed Belle in terms of being a bust with just under five full seasons left on his deal.

There isn’t really good answer as to what to do with him. No matter what it’s a waste of money but you have to decide if you’re willing to put a $161 million man in the minor leagues. Many would say yes but at the very least you have to try to give him less at bats if he is staying at the major league level. That means moving him down to the bottom of the order, where he belongs, or benching him for extended periods.

The Davis issue has been on everyone’s mind this week as Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer made some interesting remarks on the first baseman and his effort. “You’ve got to make some adjustments,” Palmer said. “I don’t see anything. I don’t see a wider stance. I don’t see him dropping his hands. I don’t see anything.”

The comments seemed normal enough until Palmer dropped a bit of a bomb on listeners.

“He told everybody in spring training that he worked with Scott Coolbaugh,” Palmer said. “So, I asked Scott, ‘Hey, you must have really put in a lot of work.’ He goes, ‘We didn’t work.’ So, I don’t believe anything.”

The legitimacy of Palmer’s comments have been debated with Coolbaugh and Davis defending their work. Assuming these claims are true, the Orioles have an even bigger problem on their hands than an overpaid player. They have an overpaid player unwilling to make adjustments like any other struggling player would. It makes you wonder if benching Davis even sends a message. Buck Showalter seems to think so but continues to place Davis in the middle of the lineup almost every day.

Unfortunately, the only thing we can do now is watch the madness of this contract continue to unfold. It probably won’t be pretty and I’d be willing to put money on the entire situation getting worse before it possibly gets better. All the evidence is right in front of us and it’s not even debatable anymore. Chris Davis’ seven year, $161 million contract is the worst in the history of the Baltimore Orioles. By the time it’s all said and done, it could be among the worst in Major League history.

Image credit: Nick Wass / AP

Advertisements

Orioles offense steps up in series finale to split four game set against White Sox

Game 1 (3-2 BAL): The Orioles opened up their second four-game road series in a row with a quality performance. Andrew Cashner got the start for the Orioles and battled his way through five strong innings before turning it over to the bullpen.

Three relievers entered the game after Cashner’s exit to close out the final four innings of a one-run game. Mychal Givens tossed two clean innings and Richard Bleier worked through the eighth on just 10 pitches. Brad Brach has been shaky this season both in and out of the closer role and that didn’t stop on Monday. Brach caused a scare by loading the bases in the ninth, but still managed to escape and pick up his seventh save of the year by striking out the side.

The O’s offense was not particularity dominate but utilized three solo home runs by Manny Machado, Mark Trumbo and Adam Jones to edge past the White Sox.

The Orioles also got some crucial defensive plays from Trey Mancini and Machado in the fifth inning that ended up being huge in maintaining the slim lead. It started when Chicago’s Adam Engel tried to stretch a hit into a double but ended up getting cut down by Mancini’s throw to second base. The White Sox base runners did not learn their lesson and once again tried to be aggressive with two outs in the same inning.

With runners on first and second, Jose Abreu came through with a clutch double to left field that looked like it might score two. Mancini recovered the ball quickly and got it in to Machado who fired his relay throw to home plate in time to save a run.

Game 2 (3-2 CHW): These two evenly matched teams played another close game on Tuesday that ended in the same score as game one. However, this time the White Sox came out on top after picking up three runs in the eighth inning.

Kevin Gausman was even more effective than Cashner the night before, tossing 6.1 innings of work and racking up 10 strikeouts. Gausman has been the most consistent member of the O’s rotation so far this season and did a good job of getting back on track after a rare six-run performance last week against Boston.

Unfortunately the Givens and Bleier combo was not as effective as they were in game one. Givens finished off the seventh without any issues but ran into trouble in the eighth after giving up a leadoff triple and then loading the bases. Bleier entered the game and quickly traded the lead for the second out of the inning when Yoan Moncada hit a sacrifice fly. Yolmer Sanchez followed with an RBI single to give the White Sox their first lead of the game.

Miguel Castro closed out the inning but the damage had already been done and the O’s offense was left with just one inning to get their lead back or at least tie it up. Chris Davis walked and Trumbo singled to get two on with one out, but the potential rally ended there and Chicago escaped with a comeback win.

Game 3 (11-1 CHW): Full recap of Wednesday’s game by Ian Schultz

Game 4 (9-3 BAL): After completely imploding on Wednesday the Orioles regrouped and got great outings from both the offense and Dylan Bundy to force a series split. It started right away in the first inning when the Orioles offense took everything that was being given to them by White Sox starter Lucas Giolito.

The O’s started the first very impatient, getting two runners on but also picking up two outs after just eleven pitches. Davis, of all people, was the patient one at the plate and took a walk to load the bases and start the string of  good at-bats. Giolito could not settle down after walking Davis and proceeded to give up a pair of runs by walking the next two batters. Chance Sisco capped off the inning with a two-RBI single to make it a 4-0 game early.

Through the next two innings the Orioles offense would add five more runs. Mancini and Jones went yard back-to-back in the second while Machado and Pedro Alvarez added RBI singles in the third to put the O’s up 9-0.

Bundy also delivered a great start that was much needed after Cobb made an early exit the night before. Bundy went the distance for the second complete game of his career. He only ran into a little trouble in the fourth when Jose Rondon launched a three run homer to left field. It resulted in a weird box score as Bundy hit a batter and then allowed another to reach base on a wild pitch strikeout earlier in the inning. After the fourth the White Sox had scored three runs but recorded just one hit.

Bundy settled down after this and gave up just one more hit through the next five innings as he picked up his third win of the year. He would also finish with 14 strikeouts, just shy of the franchise record for most in a single game. The record of 15 strikeouts has been reached by three different pitchers with Erik Bedard being the most recent in 2007.

Up next: The Orioles wrap up their road trip this weekend against the Tampa Bay Rays. This marks the third meeting between these two AL East teams so far this year, but the first time in St. Petersburg.

Image credit: Charles Rex Arbogast / AP

Series preview: Orioles continue road trip with four game set in Chicago

The Orioles broke their lengthy road losing streak during this past weekend’s series against Boston. However, that win would be the only one they got in a four game set. The O’s just couldn’t handle the division leading Red Sox resulting in some disappointing loses like Sunday afternoon’s series finale, where they outhit Boston 13-12 but failed to score a single run.

Now the O’s find themselves entering another four game road series against the White Sox. Fortunately the Chicago South Siders are struggling just as much, if not more, than the Orioles so far this season. The White Sox are coming off of a series win over Texas but hold a 5-10 record in their last 15 games.

As we know the Orioles are in a similar boat, sitting right next to the White Sox at the bottom of the American league standings. Both teams are floating just above .300 in terms of win percentage and hold two of the worst run differentials in all of baseball. If anything this four game set should be evenly matched.

When will the good news come?:

Ever since the O’s got off to a terrible 8-20 start in the first month of the season, fans have been wondering when the team would switch to a rebuild mentality. When will management come to terms with this flawed team and start making the trades necessary to compete in the future? Early this month Dan Duquette said the benchmark for evaluating the team would be Memorial Day. With that evaluating point just one week away, the Orioles are still basement dwellers with no signs of changing drastically.

Game times and pitching matchups:

Game 1: Monday, May 21, 8:10 pm – Andrew Cashner (1-5, 4.83 ERA) vs Hector Santiago (0-1, 5.29 ERA)- MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan

Game 2: Tuesday, May 22, 8:10 pm – Kevin Gausman (3-3, 3.88 ERA) vs James Shields (1-4, 4.88 ERA) – MASN 2. 105.7 The Fan

Game 3: Wednesday, May 23, 8:10 pm – Alex Cobb (1-5, 6.56 ERA) vs Dylan Covey (0-1,6.00 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan

Game 4: Thursday, May 24, 2:10 pm – Dylan Bundy (2-6, 4.70 ERA) vs Lucas Giolito (3-4, 6.42 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan

Notes on Orioles:

  • Joey Rickard has sparked debate among Orioles fans since making his major league debut in 2016. He has his supporters but probably more than his fair share of detractors as well. Regardless of how you feel about Rickard and his legitimacy as a starter, he is making the most of his time with the O’s so far this season. The 27-year-old outfielder has started in six games over the last month and holds a .333 batting average in that span. His two home run, five RBI performance on Mothers Day has accounted for most of his numbers but overall his at bats have been pretty good. In a lineup full of free swinging batters, Rickard has struck out just four times in 24 plate appearances.
  • Coming out of a terrible month of April there was not much hope for the O’s. Mark Trumbo and Jonathan Schoop found themselves on the disabled list early this season but their returns have not changed much. Trumbo is batting .274 with six home runs since coming back on May 1st but has taken just one walk, which doesn’t compliment his 19 strikeouts very well. Schoop has yet to heat up as well. In 12 starts this month, the O’s second baseman has had some timely hits to gather eleven RBI’s but is only batting .220

Notes on White Sox:

  • The White Sox have been experiencing some major consistency issues with their starting rotation this season. Of the four pitchers with at least eight starts this year, only one (Reynaldo Lopez) has an ERA below 4.50. With Miguel Gonzalez on the disabled list and Carson Fulmer getting sent down, the White Sox will turn to Hector Santiago and Dylan Covey to make some starts in this weeks series. Santiago is a veteran pitcher but hasn’t been a consistent member of a rotation since 2016. Covey, on the other hand, is a young pitcher who has yet to win a game at the MLB level and holds a 7.58 ERA in 13 career starts with the White Sox.
  • First baseman, Jose Abreu will be a player to watch out for this week. Mookie Betts got the best of the O’s once again this past weekend and continued to crown himself the official Oriole killer but Abreu might be just as dangerous. Despite facing him less than Betts, Abreu holds a .379 average with seven homers and 17 RBI’s against Baltimore since 2014.

Image credit: Michael Dwyer / AP

Bundy gives up three homers as Orioles fall to Red Sox 6-3

BOSTON — After grabbing their first road win since Apr. 8 on Friday night, the Orioles looked to keep the momentum going against the Red Sox and hopefully push for their first road series win since that same Sunday back in April.

Instead, the O’s pitchers fell victim to the dangerous Boston lineup on a chilly night at Fenway Park. Dylan Bundy and Red Sox starter Rick Porcello traded strikeouts early in Saturday’s game with both starters only surrendering a run through the first four innings. Overall it was shaping up to be a pitchers’ duel but then the offenses broke out.

Things got rough for Bundy in the fifth inning during his third time through the Boston lineup. To no one’s surprise it was Mookie Betts, the certified Oriole killer, leading the charge for the Boston offense with a two-run homer over the green monster. Betts has been on an absolute tear this year and the Orioles have just been another team standing in his way. The 25-year-old right fielder has seven hits and four RBI so far in this weekend’s series.

2018 Preakness winner, Justify, isn’t the only one with two legs of a triple crown under their belt as Saturday comes to a close. Betts fifth-inning homer marked his 15’th of the year, giving him the lead over Manny Machado (14 HR/.347 BA) in both home runs and batting average.

Andrew Benintendi immediately followed Betts with a solo shot of his own that landed in the Orioles’ bullpen. The back-to-back home runs quickly gave the Red Sox a 4-1 lead after the first four innings had been deadlocked.

The Orioles’ offense responded in the top of the sixth when Mark Trumbo got on base before Pedro Alvarez came up and launched a two-run blast down the left field line. The lead had been cut to just a run but it would not be long before the Red Sox extended it once again.

After walking the first two batters in the seventh, Tanner Scott surrendered a two-RBI single to Benintendi to make it a 6-3 game. The Orioles’ offense did not have a response this time as the Red Sox bullpen went on to close out the final two innings in order. Craig Kimbrel picked up his 13th save of the season and Porcello earned the win while Bundy was credited with his team-leading sixth loss.

The four-game series between Boston and Baltimore comes to a close tomorrow afternoon with the Orioles looking for a split against the AL East-leading Red Sox.

Image credit: Michael Dwyer / AP

Orioles avoid another rain delay but drop afternoon game against Phillies 4-1

BALTIMORE — The Orioles’ two-game interleague series against the visiting Philadelphia Phillies was cut short after a rainout on Tuesday. With the threat of another storm on the horizon, Wednesday’s game was moved up to a 12:05 start. Some showers hit the stadium in the sixth inning but didn’t stop the game as the Phillies went on to win 4-1.

After getting an extra day of rest early this week, the Orioles didn’t waste any time getting on the board. Adam Jones put the O’s up 1-0 in the first inning when he launched a home run to center field on the first pitch he saw. The homer extended Jones’ hitting streak to eleven but ended up being the only bright spot for the O’s offense.

Phillies starter Nick Pivetta settled in after the solo shot and allowed just two more base runners through the next seven innings. Pivetta also racked up eleven strikeouts in the stellar outing to tie his career high.

Andrew Cashner took the mound for the Orioles after being slated to throw in Tuesday night’s game. The rainout allowed manager Buck Showalter to push Cashner back and avoid the spot start that Miguel Castro was scheduled for. Cashner was seeking his first career win in his new home ballpark. Despite getting off to a great start, this win continued to elude Cashner.

The O’s starter breezed through the first five innings, striking out six and giving up just two hits in the process. Cashner really hit his stride in the fourth and fifth innings when he retired the side on less than ten pitches.

The sixth inning would be his downfall. After giving up a leadoff home run to Cesar Hernandez, Cashner never regained his composure and allowed three more baserunners and a run before being replaced. Richard Bleier entered the game but couldn’t get the final out without allowing a third run to score.

Philadelphia picked up a fourth run the following inning and would go on to hold the 4-1 lead for the remainder of Wednesday afternoon’s game. The O’s offense woke up in the bottom of the eighth to load the bases with just one out but the top of the order failed to bring anyone home. Jones popped out to center but it was too shallow for the lead runner, Pedro Alvarez, to score on a tag. Manny Machado followed Jones and grounded out to short to end the potential rally and cap off an 0-for-4 afternoon at the plate.

The O’s lineup failed to recreate a similar scenario in the bottom of the ninth as Jonathan Schoop and Mark Trumbo led off the inning with a pair of strikeouts. Chris Davis came up for the final at-bat of the afternoon and grounded out to second base. It was a rough afternoon all around for the Orioles’ bats, marking the tenth game this year where they scored one run or less and the ninth game where they picked up less than five hits.

Up Next: The Orioles hit the road for an 11-day, 11-game road series, with the first two series of the trip each being four games. Starting Thursday, the O’s will play four games in Boston, then four games in Chicago versus the White Sox, and finally three games in Tampa.

Image credit: Patrick Semansky / AP

Orioles offense dominates in series win over Rays

Game 1 (9-4 BAL): The Orioles kept their momentum rolling into this weekends series against Tampa Bay to win their third game in a row. While that may not seem like much of an accomplishment, it marked the longest win streak on the year for the O’s.

Kevin Gausman continued to stay hot on the mound as well. The Orioles starter followed up last weeks nine inning shutout with a strong 7.1 inning performance in which he struck out six and gave up just a pair of runs. Since kicking off the year with a rough outing Gausman has settled in and lowered his ERA from 13.50 to 3.18 in eight starts.

Richard Bleier entered the game after Gausman looking to finish off the eighth inning. Unfortunately it ended up being rough performance for the O’s reliever. Coming into Friday’s game Bleier had surrendered just one earned run in 22.2 innings of relief. Friday was a rare poor performance for Bleier who quickly allowed another pair of runs while recording just one out.

The good news is the Orioles offense had just pushed five runs across in the previous inning to make it a 8-1 game so Bleier’s miscues were not costly. Brad Brach recorded the final out of the eighth and then picked up his fifth save of the year by closing it out in the ninth.

The Orioles offense put up nine runs thanks to a huge night by Manny Machado. The O’s shortstop launched two home runs, including a grand slam in the seventh, to pick up six RBI’s. The grand slam also marked Machado’s 150th career home run.

Game 2 (6-3 BAL): The Orioles started Saturday’s doubleheader with another solid game from both the offense and pitching. David Hess made his major league debut and earned the first win of his career by giving up just three runs in six innings of work.

With the rotation struggling to find consistency so far this year, there were some major concerns coming into this weekend surrounding the bullpen. A doubleheader is never easy to manage but Hess certainly helped by making his way through six innings before turning it over to the relievers. A three run homer by Matt Duffy in the first inning was the only blemish in Hess’ debut.

Manny Machado continued to dominate with another solo shot in the third while Jonathan Schoop picked up his first multi home run game of the year. Almost lost in the excitement of Machado and Schoop’s homers was some great base running by Chance Sisco. The O’s catcher picked up an RBI double in the second and stole home later in that inning. Coincidentally it was Sisco’s first stolen base of his career. The last Oriole to do the same was Cal Ripken Jr. in 1982.

Game 3 (10-3 TB): The second half of Saturday’s doubleheader was not as kind to the Orioles. Alex Cobb surrendered a run in each of the first four innings against his former team leading to an early 4-1 lead for the visiting Rays.

A heavy rain storm hit Baltimore in the sixth inning, forcing about an hour long delay. The Orioles used this break to regroup and managed to cut the Tampa Bay lead to just one shorty after the storm let up and play resumed. Trey Mancini got it started with an RBI single and Jonathan Schoop added the second run on a productive ground out.

However, the Rays would go on to pad their lead with six more runs in the final three innings. Jimmy Yacabonis, Pedro Araujo and Mike Wright pitched in relief for the Orioles and combined to give up the late innings runs, leading to a 10-3 win for Tampa Bay.

Game 4 (17-1 BAL): The O’s got back on track for Sunday’s series finale. Many were praising the return of the Orioles offense earlier this week but Sunday’s 17-1 blowout made it official.

It was an all around great effort by the Orioles that started with Dylan Bundy redeeming himself after making one of the worst starts in MLB history this past Tuesday. The O’s starter stifled the Rays offense with seven shutout innings of work in which he gave up just two hits.

Donnie Hart came in to pitch the eighth inning and gave up two hits and a run on 20 pitches. Mike Wright followed him and closed out the ninth with a quick 12-pitch inning to secure a series win for the O’s.

The Offense was the star of the day though. The O’s batters put up 17 runs, the most since August 25 of last year when they beat the Red Sox 16-3. Joey Rickard led the way in his third game of the season by going 3-5 at the plate with a pair of home runs and five RBI’s. Danny Valencia was just as impressive, grabbing four hits and four RBI’s of his own. All nine starters picked up at least one hit and the lineup batted around two times over the course of Sunday afternoon’s game.

Up next: The Orioles will have Monday off before wrapping up their home stand with a brief two game series against the Phillies starting Tuesday. This will mark the first interleague matchup of the 2018 season for the O’s.

Image credit: Patrick Semansky / AP

Orioles overcome pitching woes to take two from visiting Royals

Game 1: (15-7 KC): The Orioles returned home from their west coast trip ready for a fresh start. Jonathan Schoop was back in the starting lineup and Dylan Bundy was slated to start against the 11-22 Royals. Even with the Orioles early season woes, that doesn’t exactly sound like a recipe for disaster but what ended up happening was easily the most embarrassing loss of the season for the O’s

Bundy turned in yet another bad start but that’s probably putting it way too lightly. The 25-year-old starter surrendered seven runs in the first inning without recording a single out. We’ve seen Mike Wright and Chris Tillman completely implode in the first inning a few times this year but at least they got an out or two before getting yanked. The terrible start puts Bundy in the MLB record books as the only pitcher to allow four home runs without recording an out. Three of those four came consecutively when Jorge Soler, Mike Moustakas, and Salvador Perez went back-to-back-to-back.

An early 7-0 deficit is surmountable but the Royals were not done yet. Mike Wright entered the game and proceeded to give up five runs of his own over the next five innings followed by Pedro Araujo who gave up three more. By the end of the sixth Kansas City held a comfortable 15-1 lead.

The O’s staged a small rally in the final two innings but it was far from enough to catch the Royals and their huge lead. Danny Valencia and Caleb Joseph got it started with solo homers in the eighth. In the ninth the Orioles focused on getting base runners and actually strung some hits together to score another four runs. Schoop knocked in two with an RBI single, Valencia picked up a sacrifice fly and Anthony Santander capped it off with an RBI single of his own.

Game 2 (5-3 BAL): After Tuesday’s game, which ended about as soon as it started, the Orioles were just looking to play a close game. That got their wish and ended up winning in a back and forth battle, creating a rubber match scenario for just the fourth time this season.

Andrew Cashner provided a much needed quality start for the Orioles by surrendering just three runs through six innings of work. The Royals struck first when Lucas Duda hit a two run homer off of Cashner in the fourth.

The Orioles responded quickly though and got two runners on base with one out in the bottom half of the inning. Mark Trumbo came to the plate and hit a pop up but Chris Davis was able to come through by launching a hanging fastball into the left field seats for a three run homer.

The O’s only managed to hold this slim lead for another inning before Cashner surrendered his third run of the night in the sixth. Duda got the best of the O’s starter once again, this time for a game tying RBI single.

Richard Bleier tossed an inning of work in Tuesdays game but still had plenty left in the tank to throw two more clean innings after Cashner’s exit. Bleier allowed just two hits while finishing the seventh and eighth on just 25 pitches, lowering his ERA to 0.40 in the process.

He would also get credited with his third win of the season as the Orioles managed to push two game winning runs across in the bottom of the eighth. Mark Trumbo made up for his missed opportunity in the fourth by bringing home Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop with a two RBI single. The big hit gave the O’s a 5-3 lead which Brad Brach successfully maintained in the ninth inning to secure a win.

Game 3 (11-6 BAL): The Orioles didn’t do themselves any favors early on in Thursday’s series finale. With a double header looming this weekend, Chris Tillman was given the opportunity to start. He was initially scrapped from the rotation coming into this weeks series but once again found himself on the mound due to the teams lack of depth.

Tillman started the game by loading the bases and then surrendered a grand slam to Salvador Perez. Things were looking dangerously similar to game one and another series loss looked imminent. However, the Orioles got a rare night out of their offense and the bullpen managed to stop the bleeding for an unexpected series win.

Down 6-3 Buck Showalter made the decision to pull Tillman after just one out in the second. The bullpen had been heavily taxed but the offense looked like they were capable of scoring six after getting three back in the bottom half of the first. Miguel Castro came in and slammed the door shut on the Royals offense. He would go on to pitch 4.2 innings of relief, changing the momentum of the game in the process. Tanner Scott and Mychal Givens followed and were even more effective. The duo gave up just two hits in three innings of work.

But how did the Orioles score eleven runs? I’m just as surprised as you but the O’s best offensive game of the season came on a night when it was much needed. Coming into the series, 23 of the Orioles 34 home runs had been solo shots. The team just wasn’t getting the most out of their brief sparks of offense but that changed on Thursday when Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Trey Mancini all picked up two run homers. Chance Sisco brought home the go ahead RBI’s on a double while Anthony Santander and Jonathan Schoop rounded out the scoring with RBI singles.

Up next: The Orioles will stay at home this weekend as the Tampa Bay Rays come to town. A double header has been scheduled for Saturday to make up for the rainout when these teams met just a few weeks ago.

Image credit: Patrick Semansky / AP