Orioles drop abbreviated series to visiting Rays

The Orioles first series against the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018 was cut short to just two games after a rainout on Tuesday. This is the second time in April that the O’s have had one of their games postponed but that might be a good thing. At this point, the Orioles can probably use every extra off day they can get. April has been relentless in terms of competition and only allowed for one scheduled off day.

These teams will meet again next month. A doubleheader is now scheduled for Saturday May 12 to make up for Tuesday’s rain out.

Game 1 (8-4 TB): On Wednesday Alex Cobb got the chance to face off against his former team for the first time as a member of the Orioles. Cobb’s time in Baltimore has been rather lackluster so far due to an abbreviated spring training, but what better way to right the ship than against your former team.

Through the first four innings it looked like Cobb had finally figured it out. He surrendered a run in the first on a fielder’s choice but entered the fifth with just five hits allowed on 56 pitches.

Cobb’s strong start quickly faded and turned into another mediocre outing. The 30-year-old starter gave up four runs in the fifth and only managed to record two outs before being yanked by Buck Showalter. Sadly, five runs on ten hits through 4.2 innings of work easily qualifies as Cobb’s best start of the year. It’s a harsh reality that Orioles fans are coming to terms with, but Cobb is averaging less than four innings per start with a 13.11 ERA to go along with it.

To make things even worse, the offense was actually getting work done early in the game to give Cobb a lead. Following the Rays run in the top of the first, the Orioles responded with a run of their own and then added two more in the second inning. Adam Jones and newly acquired utility man, Jace Peterson picked up RBI doubles to bring home the three runs.

After Cobb’s exit, Miguel Castro and Tanner Scott combined to give up another three runs in the next two innings. The Orioles mustered a fourth run in the fifth on a Chance Sisco solo homer but only reached base once after that.

Game 2 (9-5 TB): Dylan Bundy kicked off his season with five good starts. In a year where nothing seems to be going the Orioles way, Bundy has been one of the few bright spots. His 1.42 ERA is a testament to that, but Bundy has been overdue for an off night and Thursday certainly qualified as one.

The O’s young ace surrendered seven earned runs in just 4.2 innings of work. It started with a pair of two run homers in the first and second inning but Bundy never managed to settle down. The Rays notched five hits and pushed two more runs across in the third inning, giving themselves a comfortable 6-0 lead that they would hold for the rest of the game.

Just like game one, the Orioles offense attempted to stage a comeback but could not overcome the defect created by the pitching staff. Trey Mancini started the effort with an RBI double and Manny Machado later brought him home with an RBI single.

Adam Jones put two more on the board in the fifth inning with a homer run to center field and Danny Valencia rounded out the scoring for the O’s with a solo shot.

Up next: The Orioles will wrap up this home stand over the weekend when the Detroit Tigers come to town. These teams just met last week with Detroit picking up a three game sweep.

Image credit: Patrick Semansky / AP

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Orioles grab win on Friday but drop sixth series of the year

Game 1 (3-1 BAL): The Orioles kicked off the weekend by breaking their six game losing streak. With Dylan Bundy on the mound there was plenty of reasons to be optimistic from a pitching perspective but could the offense pick up the slack? In his previous four starts, Bundy received just 1.5 runs of support per outing.

That changed on Friday though. Bundy started his night by surrendering a run in a bases loaded jam, but quickly settled down to go six innings and earn himself a long overdue win.

Short Stop Manny Machado had a great series offensively and defensively. With the Orioles offense still asleep, Machado jump started the scoring effort with a solo homer in the fourth inning to tie the game at one. The following inning the O’s put together some good at bats to get some runners on base before turning the lineup over. Leadoff hitter Trey Mancini followed this up with a two run double to the left center gap, giving the Orioles a lead they would not give up.

There hasn’t been very many reliable relievers in the bullpen so far this season but Buck Showalter pulled out his best options to hold the 3-1 lead. Richard Bleier worked through the seventh and eighth inning on just 19 pitches. After allowing a pair of base runners in the seventh, Bleier found himself in a little bit of trouble. Cleveland third baseman, Jose Ramirez smoked a ball up the middle that looked like an easy RBI off the bat. To the crowds surprise Manny Machado make a phenomenal diving stop before flipping the ball to second base for the inning ending out.

In the ninth inning Showalter opted to bring Darren O’Day out for the save instead of closer Brad Brach. The decision paid off as O’Day struck out two and retired the side on 16 pitches to earn his first save of the year.

The only problem to arise in Friday’s win was when Trey Mancini suffered a knee injury. In the eighth inning Mancini gave a pop up in foul territory a good chase before sliding and just missing out on a great catch. Unfortunately, Mancini’s momentum carried him farther than he wanted and his right knee made contact with the unpadded section of the third base line wall. Mancini immediately grabbed his knee in pain but returned to his feet to walk off the field. Post game MRI’s revealed no major issues but Mancini was left out of the starting lineup for the rest of the series.

Game 2 (4-0 CLE): The O’s limited offensive production did not carry over to Saturday afternoon. Cleveland starter Mike Clevinger pitched a complete game shutout, giving up just two hits and two walks. Meanwhile the Orioles were forced to send Chris Tillman out for another start. The veteran pitcher quickly fell behind the Indians and surrendered two runs through the first four innings but managed to keep his pitch count down.

Tillman entered the sixth looking pretty decent but ended up giving up a pair of solo homers that inning to end his afternoon. It was far from pretty but still marks the best start of the year for Tillman. A quality offense could certainly work with four runs through six innings but so far this year the Orioles offense has been anything but quality.

Tanner Scott tossed two clean innings of relief following Tillman’s exit, giving up just one hit. Scott saw action against the Yankees earlier this month and surrendered a run in 1.2 innings of work. This was certainly a nice bounce back performance for the 23-year-old lefty but we will see if Buck Showalter gives him more innings in the near future.

It was a rough afternoon for the Orioles but a few defensive plays by Chance Sisco are worth noting. With the Orioles facing a stretch of right handed pitchers, the left-handed-hitting catcher Sisco has gotten more opportunities to start behind the plate.

On Saturday the rookie threw out three Cleveland players trying to steal second base between the sixth and ninth inning. This is the first time an Orioles catcher has successfully thrown out three base runners in a game since Matt Wieters in 2012. Sisco has now stopped seven of the eleven base steal attempts against him this season.

Game 3 (7-3 CLE): The Orioles lineup came back to life in time for Sunday afternoons game. Andrew Cashner didn’t have his best stuff working, allowing four runs through six innings, but the O’s managed to score three runs off of Corey Kluber to make it a close game anyway.

Manny Machado hit two more solo home runs and Chris Davis brought home the third run on a RBI single. Through four starts prior to this weekend, Kluber had not surrendered more than two runs in an outing. However, the O’s could not keep that momentum going and were completely shutdown by the Cleveland bullpen.

With that being said, the Orioles didn’t have much of a shot at a comeback or walk off after Brad Brach gave up three runs in the top of the ninth. Place the blame wherever you want but at the end of the day the O’s, once again, found themselves in the loss column.

Game 4 (2-1 CLE): Monday nights series closer was another close game. Kevin Gausman looked like he might have been in for a rough outing when he gave up a two run homer in the second to Yonder Alonso, but found his rhythm and ended up giving up just two more hits through the next six innings. Gausman ended his night after eight innings with seven strikeouts.

Of course the offense was borderline nonexistent, rendering Gausman’s phenomenal start useless. The O’s responded to the Indians two run homer by getting one back in the bottom half of the inning but tat ended their run production for the night. With runners on first and second, Chance Sisco came to the plate and picked up his fifth RBI of the season.

The Orioles saw three different pitchers and struck out 11 times, marking the teams sixteenth game this season with double digit strikeouts. Coincidentally, the loss also marks the Birds sixteenth game where they scored three runs or less.

Up next: The Orioles will host the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday through Thursday this week. Alex Cobb is slated to start in the series opener, which will be his first time pitching against his former team. The Rays are the only AL East team the O’s have not faced yet this season and currently sit three games games above Baltimore in the standings.

Image credit: Gail Burton / AP 

Orioles look to end losing streak in weekend series against Cleveland

In the span of three weeks the Orioles fan base has gone from cautiously optimistic to crisis mode. That’s not to say there hasn’t been a good reason though. The O’s enter this weekend with a six game losing streak and a 2-8 record in their last ten games.

The Birds have quickly sunk to the bottom of the AL East while the Red Sox continue to dominate and build a comfortable lead early in the season. As of today, the Orioles are nine games below .500 and 11.5 games out of first place with no signs of erasing that deficit anytime soon.

So what are we to blame for this terrible start? Surprisingly, the starting rotation is not the go to answer. Instead, the offense has continued to be the let down so far this season. Through the first 19 games, only four O’s players are batting above .250 and two of them, Pedro Alvarez and Chance Sisco, are not even playing everyday.

Of course this has resulted in some league lows in almost every offensive category. The Orioles currently hold the second worst batting average and slugging percentage in the league. The run production has suffered as well. In their last six games, the Orioles have been outscored 43-22 and have currently rank in the bottom five for RBI.

So where are these runs coming from? In years past it would be easy to point to some of the unreliable starters that made up the rotation but in a surprising turn of events, the bullpen has been the main liability so far in April. Only Brad Brach and Richard Bleier have an ERA below 3.50 while the other four to five regular members of the bullpen have traded awful relief efforts, costing the O’s and their anemic offense a few potential win opportunities late in the game.

Lets not let the starting five completely off the hook though. Sure, Dylan Bundy has shown signs of becoming a true ace in his first four starts and Andrew Cashner has proven to be consistent, but there are still some big issues present. Alex Cobb has clearly proved that he was not ready for the regular season after giving up 12 earned runs in two starts that lasted less than four innings.

Cobb could have benefited greatly from more time in extended spring training but with Chris Tillman and Mike Wright both struggling to go at least five innings in most of their starts, the Orioles were forced to roll the dice and bring their newly acquired starter up a little early.

Game times and pitching matchups:

Game 1: Friday, April 20, 7:05 pm – Dylan Bundy (0-2, 1.40 ERA) vs Trevor Bauer (1-1, 2.25 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 2: Saturday, April 21, 4:05 pm – Chris Tillman (0-3, 11.91 ERA) vs Mike Clevinger (1-0, 2.70 ERA) – FS1, MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 3: Sunday, April 22, 1:05 pm – Andrew Cashner (1-2, 3.00 ERA) vs Corey Kluber (2-1, 1.52 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 4: Monday, April 23, 7:05 pm – Kevin Gausman (1-1, 5.57 ERA) vs Carlos Carrasco (3-0, 2.60 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Image credit: NBC Sports

Orioles prepare for battle with AL East leading Red Sox

In 2017 the Orioles and Red Sox engaged in a season long battle that saw many ugly games and a lot of tension. This weekend, the two AL East teams will meet for the first time in the 2018 season. The only question is, will the tension spill over?

Orioles fans will certainly remember the ongoing antics between the Red Sox pitching staff and Manny Machado after the O’s third baseman injured Dustin Pedroia on a slide into second base early last season. They will also remember the racial slurs that were directed at Adam Jones when the O’s traveled to Boston the following week. There is no question that these were two of the lowest points of 2017 for both teams. Even though the extra circulars faded as the season progressed, the games remained intense and highly entertaining with the Orioles barely taking the season series 10-9.

As these two teams prepare to meet for the first time this season, many wonder if the nonsense of last year will carry over to 2018. I don’t have the answers to that question, but what I do know is that this series will be very important for both teams despite it only being April.

The Red Sox are off to a hot start. They will enter this weekend’s series sitting at the top of the AL East with a 10-2 record. The Orioles, on the other hand, will enter this four game set seeking yet another bounce back performance as they continue to try to get some momentum going in the first month of the season.

It should also be noted that the Orioles are coming off of their only scheduled off day this month while the Red Sox are coming into the weekend fresh off a heated series with the New York Yankees.

On paper this has all the makings of a great series. The Patriots Day festivities will draw a lot of attention on Monday but the first three games should be just as entertaining with a handful of good pitching matchups throughout the series. Sunday’s stands out with both teams top starters, Dylan Bundy and Chris Sale, squaring off.

Game times and pitching matchups:

Game 1: Friday, April 13, 7:10 pm – Chris Tillman (0-2, 8.68 ERA) vs Eduardo Rodriguez (0-0, 7.36 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 2: Saturday, April 14, 1:05 pm – Alex Cobb (2017: 12-10, 3.66 ERA) vs Hector Velazquez (1-0, 3.12 ERA) – MLB Network, MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 3: Sunday, April 15, 1:05 pm – Dylan Bundy (0-1, 1.35 ERA) vs Chris Sale (1-0, 1.06 ERA) – MLB Network, MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 4: Monday, April  16, 11:05 am Andrew Cashner (1-1, 2.50 ERA) vs David Price (1-1, 2.40 ERA) – MLB Network, MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Notes on Red Sox:

  • This weekends series in Boston will conclude with the annual Patriots Day game on Monday. The game will start at 11:05 am to coincide with the Boston Marathon and will mark the seventh meeting between the Orioles and Red Sox on the holiday. Boston holds a 4-2 advantage in those games and have also won 12 of their last 17 games on Patriots Day.
  • The Red Sox have started the 2018 season with more than their fair share of divisional matchups. Facing so many familiar opponents in such a short span of time is difficult for any team but Boston has already won eight of their ten games against other AL East teams.
  • Over the past four seasons Mookie Betts has played 63 games against the Baltimore Orioles. He holds a .278 batting average with 12 home runs and 36 RBI’s in his career against the O’s, making him the top threat every time these teams square off.

Notes on Orioles:

  • Chris Tillman will get the start in game one and will be looking for his first win in quite some time. After signing a one-year deal to return to Baltimore this season, Tillman had a lot to prove if he was going to get another chance at the major league level. So far that process has not gone well for the veteran starter. Tillman has not been credited with a win since May 7 of last year and holds a 7.93 ERA since then.
  • Fans will get their first look at Alex Cobb as an Orioles starter this weekend. The Red Sox are a tough lineup to face in your first start of the year but Cobb has seen some good success at Fenway Park in his six major league seasons. The former Tampa Bay Ray holds a 5-1 record with a 3.15 ERA in seven career starts in Boston. Cobb has also only surrendered one home run in 40 career innings at Fenway.

Image credit: Sports Illustrated

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

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

Series Preview: Orioles look to spoil Astros World Series celebration

HOUSTON — The 2018 MLB season is in full swing and the Baltimore Orioles are off to a somewhat concerning start. Even though we are only three games into the season and using this first series as a projection of the O’s entire campaign is absurd, we can still look at the immediate road ahead and be worried.

To start, the Orioles have one of the toughest April schedules in the league. The defending world champion Astros are up next but the rest of the month is filled with division opponents like the Yankees and Red Sox as well as the perennial contending Cleveland Indians. Combine this with the fact that the O’s only have one off day this month and there was a reason to be cautious even before the players took the field.

The Orioles schedule is one thing but their production on the field holds more weight. So far the Orioles have experienced a lot of the ups and downs of a 162 game season in the span of one weekend. Opening day featured an excellent pitchers duel with Dylan Bundy tossing seven strong innings of work. The bullpen had trouble closing the door in the ninth, but for the third straight year the home crowd got an early taste of Orioles magic as Adam Jones launched a walk off home run to give the birds a 3-2 victory.

The rest of the series was not as exciting for the home team. The Orioles lineup managed to record just six hits and two runs between Saturday and Sunday. I’m not trying to sound like captain obvious but you can’t win if you don’t score runs. With that being said, the pitching didn’t fare any better. Andrew Cashner struggled in his Orioles debut, giving up five runs (four earned) in five innings of work. Kevin Gausman took the mound for Sunday’s rubber match and surrendered four runs in the first inning before making an early exit in the fourth.

It wasn’t the best start to the year for the birds but we already know the road ahead will be even more unforgiving. The Houston Astros will host the Orioles this week for their home opener. Monday night’s game will surely be an electric environment as the Astros prepare to receive their world series rings and unveil a championship banner for their home crowd.

To make things worse, the O’s will be entering this series with the back end of their starting rotation which has a lot of question marks surrounding it. Chris Tillman will look to start his bounce back year on Monday and Mike Wright will get the nod on Tuesday as Alex Cobb continues to work his way through an extended spring training.

Unlike the Orioles, Houston was able to flex their muscle this past weekend. The Astros took a four game series from the Texas Rangers 3-1 while outscoring them 22-11. Reigning American League MVP, Jose Altuve led the way on offense with nine hits and five runs while the starting rotation gave up just six runs and collected 30 strikeouts as a group.

Game Times and Pitching Matchups:

Game 1: Monday, April 2, 7:00 pm – Chris Tillman (2017: 1-7, 7.84 ERA) vs Charlie Morton (2017: 14-7, 3.62 ERA) – MASN, ESPN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 2: Tuesday, April 3, 8:10 pm – Mike Wright (2017: 0-0, 5.76 ERA) vs Justin Verlander (1-0, 0.00 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 3: Wednesday, April 4, 2:10 pm – Dylan Bundy (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs Dallas Keuchel (0-1, 4.50 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan

Image Credit: Elsa/Getty Images