Orioles get back on track with three wins against Yankees in New York

Coming into this weekends series against their division rival, the Orioles had lost five games in a row and were desperate for a win. The O’s would break their streak with a win on Friday before picking up a pair of extra inning wins to take the series 3-1.

Game 1 (5-2 BAL): The Orioles started this weekend’s marathon series with their best overall performance of the season. More importantly, they picked up a win to end a five game losing streak. Andrew Cashner got the start for the O’s and turned in a great performance to get his season back on track. The newly acquired starter struggled in his Orioles debut last week but found a great deal of success against the Yankees, giving up just two hits and one run in six innings of work.

Despite having such an exceptional night on the mound, Cashner was close to earning a no decision as the O’s offense had failed to score through the first six innings. Luckily for Cashner, the Birds bats came to life in the top of the seventh to make him the pitcher of record.

Yankees starter, Masahiro Tanaka had handled the Orioles very well but started to fall apart when the Baltimore lineup came around for their third round of at bats. Johnathan Schoop got the inning started with a single in an eight pitch at bat. After losing that battle to Schoop, Tanaka quickly gave up a two run homer to Adam Jones. Just like that, the Orioles had taken the lead but they were not done yet.

Another single by Tim Beckham chased Tanaka out of the game but Chad Green did not fare any better in relief. An RBI double by Anthony Santander and two RBI single by Trey Mancini capped off the five run inning for the O’s.

Mychal Givens, Darren O’Day and Brad Brach closed out the game, allowing just five base runners and one run in their combined three innings of work. After blowing an opportunity on opening day, Brach earned his first save of the season.

Game 2 (7-3 BAL): After getting things back on track in Thursday’s series opener, the Orioles needed to build on it and keep the momentum going. It wouldn’t be easy and it certainly wouldn’t be quick but after 14 innings of high intensity baseball, the Orioles picked up a win in an instant classic.

Both starters were not spectacular but handled their business in their time on the mound. Kevin Gausman followed in Cashner’s footsteps to give himself a rebound outing while CC Sabathia’s night was cut short due to a hip injury. The Yankees veteran pitcher had given up three runs through his first four innings but had only thrown 58 pitches. It’s safe to say that the Yankees would have liked to get a few more innings out of their starter considering the length of the game.

Both bullpens, on the other hand, were exceptional. The five relievers that pitched for the O’s combined to give up just one run on two hits. That lone run came via a solo homer by Didi Gregorius in the eighth inning. Pitching wasn’t the only thing the O’s relievers did to save the game though. Mychal Givens came through with a huge defensive play to keep the game alive in the bottom of the eleventh.

With two outs and runners on second and third, Givens lost control of a pitch and sent one bouncing toward the backstop. With Gregorius barreling toward home plate for the winning run, Caleb Joseph was able to gather the ball quickly and flip it to Givens who ran off the mound to cover the plate. Givens extended his leg as if he was stealing a base, blocking Gregorius’ path in the process. Everything about the play was perfect, except for the wild pitch that caused it, and took place in a matter of seconds.

The Yankees would come back with a potential game saving play of their own in the thirteenth inning. In another two out situation, Caleb Joseph was at the plate for the O’s and he would end up getting a great pitch to hit when Jonathan Holder let a fastball sail high in the zone. Joseph sent the ball deep to right field but Aaron Judge was able to get a good read and follow it all the way to the wall before making a swift leap to rob the O’s of a go-ahead homer.

With the game already lasting well over five hours, the Orioles finally had enough in the fourteenth inning. After getting bailed out by Judge, Holder returned to the mound looking to keep the game tied. This time he would not be as lucky. The Orioles quickly loaded the bases with a Trey Mancini walk, a Manny Machado single and a perfect bunt by Jonathan Schoop. Adam Jones came to the plate next and battled with Holder for a six pitch at bat. Holder would end up retiring Jones on a controversial strikeout call that left the O’s captain furious.

Pedro Alvarez was up to bat next and before Jones could even calm himself in the dugout, the Orioles designated hitter sent a rocket to right field on the very first pitch he saw. The grand slam gave the O’s a huge 7-3 lead which they would hold through the bottom half of the inning for a thrilling game two win.

Lost in the madness of extra innings was a spectacular night for Manny Machado. The Orioles shortstop saw seven at bats on Friday and reached base in six of them with two home runs.

Game 3 (8-3 NYY): Friday nights game didn’t end until well past midnight which isn’t the biggest deal in the world, especially since the Orioles took home a win, but both teams were asked to make a quick turnaround as game three was slated for an early afternoon start.

It was a close game through the first five innings. Chris Tillman was once again far from dominate but put the Orioles in a position to win. With the game tied at three, the Yankees were able to take a lead by jumping on Tillman as he came back out for the sixth inning. Gregorius got the rally started with a four pitch walk and it was all down hill from there for Tillman as he faced four more batters and only retired one.

The Yankees kept that momentum going in the seventh inning, scoring three more runs off of Jimmy Yacabonis who had been called up earlier in the day. On the other hand, the New York bullpen was stellar after getting taxed heavily the night before. Adam Warren, David Robertson, and Luis Cessa combined to give up just two hits while closing out the final three innings.

Game 4 (8-7 BAL) : After three tough games it was only fitting that Sunday’s series finale followed suit. The O’s started the game by digging themselves into a hole when Mike Wright gave up five runs and recorded just two outs before being yanked from the game by Buck Showalter. It’s difficult to pull a starter extremely early, especially when you have had to use your bullpen a lot in recent games.

That decision by Showalter would pay off though. The Orioles went on to slowly chip away at the Yankees five run lead over the next four innings. RBI singles by Beckham and Santander got the O’s back on track before Danny Valencia made it a one run game with a two run homer in the fifth inning.

The orioles bullpen did a great job at coming in and keeping the Yankees under control while the offense made their comeback effort. Pedro Araujo finished off the first inning and worked through the third before turning it over to Miguel Castro and Tanner Scott who both gave up a run a piece.

After getting a run back in the sixth the O’s took their first lead of the game in the seventh. Danny Valencia got on base with a walk and Anthony Santander followed with a two run shot to give the Birds a 7-6 lead. Domingo German fell behind 3-0, giving Santander the green light for the first home run of his career.

That lead would not last too long though. In the bottom half of the seventh the Yankees were able to tie the game up at seven with an RBI single by Austin Romine. The game would remain tied through regulation, sending the two AL east rivals to extra innings for the second time this weekend.

In the twelfth inning the Orioles dug in against Adam Warren. A walk by Pedro Alvarez and a single by Anthony Santander put two on for Craig Gentry with two outs. The utility outfielder battled Warren for an intense, ll pitch at bat that ended in an RBI single for Gentry.

Brad Brach came on to pitch the bottom half of the inning and quickly walked the first two batters. The Orioles closer followed that with an error while trying to field a bunt by Brett Gardner. The huge mistake loaded the bases with no outs and brought Aaron Judge to the plate.

The game looked all but over but Brach was able to get an unconventional double play by throwing out the lead runners at home and third on a short grounder by Judge. With one more out needed Brach settled in and got Giancarlo Stanton to strike out for the fifth time in the game, capping off another thrilling extra inning win.

Up next: The Orioles will return home early this week for a three game series with the Toronto Blue Jays. These early season AL East matchups are tough but could prove to be big as the season progresses.

Image credit: Julie Jacobson / AP

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Orioles extend losing streak to five after getting swept in Houston

The Orioles entered their second series of the 2018 season with a lot to correct but they ended up getting swept by the defending world champion Houston Astros, extending their losing streak to five.

Game 1 (6-1 HOU): After failing to score a run off of a starting pitcher in their opening series against Minnesota, the Orioles stumbled into Houston and embarrassed themselves on national television. The Astros home opener was full of festivities including the unveiling of a world series banner, but the fun didn’t stop there as the home team proceeded to put on a show for their fans.

Chris Tillman took the mound for the O’s and clearly didn’t have the command needed to retire a lineup of this caliber. To Tillman’s credit, he was able to work his way out of a couple jams in the first two innings. Going into the third, Tillman was still a ticking time bomb but the 29-year-old starter managed to instill a false sense of security by retiring Jose Altuve, J.D. Davis, and Josh Reddick on just eight pitches. Considering the environment and the back-to-back lead off doubles he surrendered in the first, Tillman had handled things pretty well. That was great for about 10 minutes and then things got ugly.

The Astros scored three runs in the fourth, exposing Tillman who had pitched a decent three innings despite not having his best stuff. Marwin Gonzalez got the big inning started with a lead off homer. Derek Fisher and George Springer followed that up with an RBI triple and single respectively to give the Astros a more comfortable lead.

With the Orioles bats still ice cold, that four run lead felt more like ten. Unlike this past weekend, there were certainly opportunities for the O’s to score runs and potential come back. Good patience in the second inning resulted in a two out bases loaded situation for the birds, but Caleb Joseph was not able to bring anyone home after lining out to first base.

A solo home run by Trey Mancini in the ninth ended the shutout but that would be the lone highlight for the Orioles in a night full of frustration.

Game 2 (10-6 HOU): Coming off of Monday night’s disappointing performance there was not a lot to be exited about. When you looked at the pitching matchup, things got even more grim. With Alex Cobb still working his way through an extended spring training stint, the Orioles turned to Mike Wright for an early season spot start. Wright had not started a game for the O’s since 2016 and proved to be unreliable in his relief efforts as well. Shaky pitchers are nothing new for the Orioles but with Justin Verlander getting the start for the Astros, there was a clear disadvantage on paper.

However, in true baseball fashion, Wright gave the Orioles a good chance to win by only surrendering three runs in five innings of work. The offense woke up in game two as well with the O’s only finding themselves down by one run at the time of Wrights exit.

The teams continued to trade runs as both managers dipped into their bullpen but a five run seventh inning would end up being the difference maker for the Astros as they picked up a 10-6 win.

A handful of Orioles batters had a great night at the plate that they hope will jump start their season in terms of offense. Jonathan Schoop and Adam Jones both went 3-5 and combined to drive in four of the O’s six runs.

Runs were coming at much more of a premium for both teams resulting in a tight contest from start to finish. The Orioles struck first with a run in the first inning thanks to a miss play by Astros second baseman Jose Altuve. The 2017 MVP lost the ball in the sun and allowed Adam Jones to get on base with what should have been a routine out.

The Orioles had to scrap for their second run of the game as well. In the fourth inning the O’s had runners on first and second with Craig gentry coming to the plate. The outfielder proceeded to ground into what looked like an inning ending double play but made up for it by flashing his speed to beat out the relay throw. The lead runner, Danny Valencia, used this opportunity to round third and make a break for home plate, catching the Astros off guard once again.

Houston would tie the game up again in the sixth by getting their second run off of Bundy and then took their first lead the following inning with an RBI single. Miguel Castro entered the game after Bundy for his fourth inning of work this season. The 23-year-old reliever got two quick outs but walked Derek Fisher, who put himself in scoring position with a steal. Alex Bergman brought Fisher home with an RBI single and that would end up being all the offense necessary for the Astros to complete the sweep.

Up Next: Things won’t get any easier for the Orioles as the prepare to face the New York Yankees in a four game series this weekend. This will be the Orioles first look at the new Yankees lineup that features even more power hitters than last year. Certainly not the easiest team to face when you’re looking to correct some pitching issues.

Image credit: Bob Levey / Getty Images

Podcast: Rich Dubroff from PressBoxOnline.com discusses the Orioles after the first quarter of the season

On this episode of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast, Orioles insider Rich Dubroff from PressBoxOnline.com joins Jake to talk about the Orioles after the first quarter of the season.

Pitching is becoming a problem for the Orioles as of late. Are Ubaldo Jimenez’s days in the rotation, or even on the team, numbered? If Jimenez goes, who will the Orioles look to replace him in the rotation? Why is Manny Machado off to a slower start than normal? Should fans be concerned about J.J. Hardy’s health? How do the Orioles match up against their competition in the American League East, and in the rest of the league? All of this and more is answered in this hot discussion with Dubroff.

Be sure to follow Rich on Twitter, and check out his work at PressBoxOnline.com.

Subscribe to the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on Soundcloud or iTunes, and leave us a review on iTunes. Thank you!

Three Takeaways from Orioles FanFest

BALTIMORE, MD – The annual offseason event that the Baltimore Orioles throw every year at the Baltimore Convention Center is over. What did we learn, if anything, from Saturday? Here are three important takeaways from FanFest.

1. No major updates on contract negotiations

As the 2017 regular season approaches, there are several big name Orioles that are either in their contract year or are very close to it. These Orioles include infielder Manny Machado, and pitchers Chris Tillman & Zach Britton.

Tillman is the most notable of the four, as he is the only one of the group entering a contract year in 2017. Even though pitchers and catchers report in just a few weeks, Tillman did not seem encouraged about contract talks possibly opening up before that time comes.

“I haven’t heard anything,” Tillman said. “I like to pitch once the season starts, I’m not focused on much else.”

Beyond 2017, Machado and Britton will be free agents after the 2018 season. For a long time now, Orioles fans have clamored for Baltimore to give Machado a long-term contract before his already steep price climbs even more. However, once again, it does not seem like those contract talks with the 24-year-old superstar have started.

“So far nothing has come up,” Machado said. “This is the organization that I want to play for, and I am open to talking. I would rather win a ring than sign a long-term contract.”

With urgency building to lock players like Machado up, it will be interesting to see if general manager Dan Duquette gets these talks going soon.

2. Jones wants improved outfield defense 

One of the areas in which the Orioles struggled last season was outfield defense, particularly in the corners. Duquette addressed that need this offseason, trading pitcher Yovani Gallardo to the Seattle Mariners for outfielder Seth Smith. Mark Trumbo was also signed to a new three-year deal, but it seems like Trumbo will see more time at designated hitter and occasionally at first base instead of playing right field again.

These moves improved Baltimore’s outfield depth, but there is still a lack of speed in the corner outfield spots. Center fielder Adam Jones had to cover a lot of ground last season, and he made it clear that more needs to be done if the Orioles want to improve their outfield defense.

“We need to improve defensively, in the outfield,” Jones said. “[We need to] get more speed, more athleticism out there.”

Jones’ window is beginning to get smaller, as he is now 31-years-old and only has two years left on his contract. It’s clear that he wants to win a championship with Baltimore, but he feels that more needs to be done this offseason if that is going to be possible.

3. No heat on Showalter for Wild Card blunder 

The national media and Orioles fans alike were calling for the head of manager Buck Showalter after he did not use closer Zach Britton in Baltimore’s 5-2 Wild Card loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. The game went into extra innings (11) before the Orioles’ demise came at the hands of Ubaldo Jimenez, who had barely been used in a relief role all season. Showalter was heavily criticized after the defeat, and even acknowledged that not using Britton “wasn’t very good.”

Despite this puzzling blunder by Showalter, who has been an expert in using his bullpen throughout his career, Orioles fans gave the skipper a huge ovation on Saturday. It is a warm feeling for the Orioles after much of the criticism of Showalter by the media and fans was more emotional than anything. Showalter is a three-time manager of the year, most recently in 2014, and is still one of the top managers in baseball. He made a bad mistake in a playoff game a few months ago, but the Orioles are lucky to have him as the manager of this ball-club.