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)

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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

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Preview: Ravens and Steelers #47

BALTIMORE – Yes, you read the title right. Sunday, Oct. 1st marks the 47th time the Black & Purple have taken on the Black & Yellow. Its been back and forth for so many years, but recently (starting back in 2010) the Ravens have been running the show with a 10-6 record against their biggest rival. The Ravens look to bounce back from last week’s stinker in London and take firm control of the rugged AFC North.

After a confidence-shattering loss on Christmas Day last year, Baltimore has faith in its squad to get adequate revenge on the opponent that effectively removed them from playoff contention. Pittsburgh has gotten off to a rather sluggish start this season. The Steelers lost in overtime last week to the Chicago Bears, who used their patented “Thunder and Lightning” combination of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen to trample Pittsburgh and make their defense look like a wet paper towel, a far cry from the Steel Curtain of old. The Bears RBs last week combined for 218 yards on the ground and two touchdowns.

Things To Look For:

  1. Steelers’ Front Seven: After getting gashed by the Bears last week, Pittsburgh is going to want to tighten up ship if they will be able to shut down second-year upstart Alex Collins. The Ravens’ offense may be ranked 32nd right now, but the way the Steelers defense has played recently, Baltimore faithful should have something to hope for.
  2. Ravens Front Seven: After an abysmal performance last week where the absent Brandon Williams was sorely missed, the Ravens allowed 410 total yards (ironic, isn’t it?). With Williams still not a slam dunk to play, and young star Brent Urban on IR now with a Lisfranc injury, young bucks Bronson Kaufusi and Chris Wormley will be heavily relied on to stop Le’Veon Bell.
  3. Ravens Offensive Line: Joe Flacco was pummeled last week (5 QB hits, 2 sacks). The Marshal Yanda – sized hole is not going to be filled until he returns next season, which means more of the same for the stagnant Baltimore offense. Look for Collins to be Baltimore’s biggest playmaker behind this scattershot unit.
  4. Flacco: Coming off the worst statistical game of his career last week (8-for-18, 28 yards, 44% COMP, 2 INTs), fans will see what Flacco and the staff have done in the last week to adjust.

Expect this game to be close as all recent games in this rivalry have been.

My Prediction: 24-21 Ravens. Defense wins the day after last week’s debacle.

Catch the game on local television this Sunday on CBS with Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts on the call. You can also catch the radio broadcast on the home of the Baltimore Ravens, WBAL-AM 1090 and FM 98 Rock with Gerry Sandusky,  Stan White and Dennis Pitta on the call. Gameday audio will also stream on the Ravens’ website.

Enjoy Everyone!

Follow Vasilios on Twitter at @VtheNFLGuy for more commentary and behind the scenes!

Photo Credit: ESPN

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 Preview: Orioles begin last road trip of season in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH —  For both the Baltimore Orioles and the Pittsburgh Pirates, this marks the last week of the regular season. Both teams will finish the 2017 campaign with a losing record, the first time that has occurred for the Orioles since 2011. Neither squad will get an opportunity to qualify for the postseason, making this week a great opportunity to check out some of the up-and-coming players that spent most of the 2017 season in the minor leagues.

The Orioles already have a couple of young studs on the 40-man roster, including Chance Sisco, Austin Hays, Jimmy Yacabonis, and Tanner Scott. Sisco hit a home run on Sunday, Hays has 36 at-bats in the big leagues with a home run, and Scott & Yacabonis are helping out the bullpen.

Over the weekend, Baltimore split a four-game series with the Rays. Pittsburgh (71-85) won their three-game series against the Cardinals, 2-1.

Last Meeting: On June 6-7, the Orioles swept a two-game series against the Pirates at Camden Yards. Both games went into extra innings, with the O’s winning in walk-off fashion over 10 and 11 innings, respectively. Game 1 went to extras tied at 5. The Orioles trailed 5-3 in the ninth inning, but Jonathan Schoop‘s two-run home run sent the game into extras. In the 10th frame, Mark Trumbo hit an RBI single that scored Adam Jones.

In the second game, the Orioles overcame a 6-1 deficit to beat Pittsburgh 9-6. Wade Miley went just 2.2 innings in his start, allowing four earned runs on eight hits, two walks, and four strikeouts. Edwin Jackson let up a two-run home run in the sixth inning, giving the Orioles just 12 outs to mount a big comeback.

The Birds did just that. Jones got things started in the eighth inning with a solo home run. In the ninth, the O’s scored four runs playing small ball. Joey Rickard hit a sacrifice fly to score Trumbo, J.J. Hardy hit a double to score Schoop, and Trey Mancini hit his eighth home run of the season to tie the game up.

In the 11th inning, Mancini homered again, this time a three-run shot that scored Rickard & Caleb Joseph to walk it off for Baltimore. Following this game, the Orioles sported a 31-26 record and stood in third place in the American League East, 2.5 games behind the Yankees, who occupied first place at the time.

 MLB Playoff Picture as of Sept. 26:

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Image Credit: MLB.com

AL East Standings as of Sept. 26:

Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 11.05.30 AM

Game Times and Pitching Matchups: 

Game 1Tuesday, Sept. 26, 7:05 pm – Kevin Gausman (11-10, 4.61 ERA) vs. Trevor Williams (6-9, 4.18 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan 

Game 2Wednesday, Sept. 27, 7:05 pm – Gabriel Ynoa (2-2, 3.41 ERA) vs. Chad Kuhl (7-11, 4.31 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan

Notes on the Orioles: 

  • The Orioles have the second-highest starting pitching ERA (5.64) in the MLB, only behind the Cincinnati Reds (5.66). That, of course, puts Baltimore as the worst in the AL.
  • In 4.2 innings against the Pirates in his career, Miguel Castro has yet to allow a run. Castro previously spent some time in the National League as a member of the Rockies.
  • For the first time since 2012, the MLB home run leader will not be on the Orioles.
    (Trumbo, 2016, Chris Davis 2015, 2013, Nelson Cruz 2014).

Notes on the Pirates:

  • Gerrit Cole‘s 197.2 innings this season puts him at ninth place in MLB, tied with Rick Procello of the Red Sox.
  • Infielder Jordy Mercer is dealing with tendinitis in his left knee. He sat out on Sunday against St. Louis.
  • In 46 career at-bats against Baltimore, Andrew McCutchen is a lifetime .457 hitter with 21 hits and five RBI.

Up Next: Following another off-day on Thursday, the Orioles wrap up the 2017 season at the Trop for a three-game weekend series with the Rays. Friday and Saturday’s games are evening games, and Sunday’s game begins at 3:10 pm.

Featured Image Credit: Baltimore Sun 

The Ravens’ British Meltdown

LONDON – For all of the fans that made the trek to Wembley stadium, this may have been the worst game they could have possibly seen. As for the fans already established in the United Kingdom, things were much worse for them:

 

The Ravens lost 44-7 to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday morning, their game ending at approximately 12:35pm. I know I speak for a lot of people when I say that I regret waking up for the utter pile of dung that was left on the pitch. Not only did the Ravens get beat, they got trounced, looking extremely sluggish and underestimating their opponent. The Jaguars were the better team in London on Sunday, that much was clear.

Baltimore may have hurt their fans with their performance today, but nothing stung more than the players taking a knee for the National Anthem, as evidenced by the hundreds of fans that declared their hatred for their (former) team by burning memorabilia and selling season tickets. Based on what you believe or what your political stance is, you may see this situation differently, but either way this route will definitely harm NFL viewership.

The only bright spot for the Ravens in this awful showing was the play of 2nd year back Alex Collins. 9 carries for 82 yards, the largest total he’s had in his career, led all Baltimore RBs . Although its not the statistics that make it most impressive, its the way he found lanes the other backs could not find and made defenders miss. Look for Collins’ workload to increase next week vs. Pittsburgh. The missing puzzle pieces Marshal Yanda & Brandon Williams, the anchors of each unit, were sorely missed, as evidenced by the poor performances of the O-line & D-line. Joe Flacco threw 2 interceptions, one of which was to the fault of Jeremy Maclin.

The Ravens look to rebound against their biggest rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday October 1st at M&T Bank Stadium.

 

 

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

Ravens – Jaguars: Battle for London’s Heart

LONDON – As thousands of Baltimore natives flock to Wembley stadium to watch their home team participate in the International Series for the very first time, equally as many people will enjoy their morning coffee in the United States. with a game of football at 9:30 AM. As the NFL expands it’s influence beyond the U.S, more and more of the United Kingdom’s citizens are becoming fans of the “off-brand” rugby, as it has been referred to. There are an overwhelming amount of Ravens and Jaguars fans that are native to the UK and have their respective fan clubs.

Sunday will mark the fourth consecutive year that Baltimore has faced Jacksonville in the regular season, something fans haven’t seen since the days of the AFC Central rivalry. The Ravens own two of the last three matchups and look to extend their winning ways against Jacksonville to 3-1 over the last four years.

Some things to look for in this matchup:

Ravens Offensive Line: With future Hall of Fame guard Marshal Yanda done for the season with a broken ankle, Tony Bergstrom will be thrusted into the front five. How they will handle a Jaguars defense that exploded for 10 sacks in week 1? Joe Flacco will have his hands full nonetheless.

Blake BortlesThis guy is awful, probably the worst QB the Ravens will face this season. Baltimore could easily capitalize on mistakes made by Bortles and leave the game with another 5 turnover game to their name.

Brandon Williams OUT: After suffering an ankle injury in last week’s 24-10 win over the Cleveland Browns, defensive tackle Brandon Williams will not play on Sunday. Without the anchor on Baltimore’s defensive line, Leonard Fournette could see a lot of carries up the middle to try and take advantage of Williams’ absence

Ravens WRs: It’ll be fun to watch the downfield sparring matches that will undoubtedly take place between WRs Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin, and DBs A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey has not practiced all week (ankle), but he did not practice all of last week and still played against the Titans. Ramsey says he will play against the Ravens, despite his ankle problem. It could go either way as there will be at least one big play on each side.

Ravens Run Game: Although early runs look promising, we have yet to see if the Ravens will continue to run in a pressure situation, which they could face from the Jaguars.

Whoever wins this matchup will own bragging rights, bring back memories of good times in the AFC Central.

Catch the Baltimore Ravens and the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, Sept. 24 at 9:30am ET. from Wembley Stadium CBS/WJZ-TV (Ch. 13), YAHOO!
98 Rock, WBAL-1090 AM, Baltimore Ravens’ website.

Commentators: Andrew Catalon and James Lofton