Reasons for hope as the Orioles season trudges along

As the Baltimore Orioles crawl towards the finish line in what has been arguably their worst season ever, several veteran Orioles are doing their best to instill some hope in what has been a disappointed fan base.

Free agent pitching acquisition Andrew Cashner delivered a quality start Tuesday night against the Mets, going seven innings and giving up just two earned runs on five hits while striking out three and walking three.  Cashner (4-10) dropped his season ERA to 4.71 and has rebounded nicely since his clunker on August 2 against Texas.

In his last eight starts, Cashner has surrendered two earned runs or fewer in six of them. Cashner has begun to right the ship at the same time as fellow free agent signing Alex Cobb has seemed to turn the corner as well.

Cobb (3-15) has lowered his ERA from 7.23 on June 10 to 5.31 now. Unfortunately for Cobb, it has not translated in the win/loss column as he appears headed to a potential 20-loss season. Cobb has given up one earned run in four of his last five starts but has just one win to show for it as the year-long struggle at the plate continues for the Birds.

Other Orioles who have seen recent upticks in play include outfielders Trey Mancini and Mark Trumbo. Mancini has raised his batting average from .220 to .235 out of the All-Star break by hitting .300 month in the month of August to-date. Mancini has four homers and ten RBI in what is already his most productive month on the season.

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Trey Mancini has picked up his play since the All-Star Break. Image Credit: AP

After exploding on the scene last season, Mancini had gotten off a rough start in the 2018 season. While he won’t reach his production levels from 2017, it is an encouraging sign that he now appears poised to salvage what is left of this forgotten year.

Trumbo has taken his season average from .250 at the All-Star break to .264 currently. This is thanks in-part to what has been a massive August for the 32-year-old Trumbo. In the month, Trumbo is hitting .350 with 5 homers and 13 RBI and is getting on base at a .372 clip. Not to mention that he’s doing this with knee discomfort that had Buck Showalter talking about an injection as recent as Sunday.

The Orioles sit at 36-84, a whopping 49.5 games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox. This is not an attempt to put lipstick on a pig by any means. This season has been a disaster of epic proportions. Long-standing Orioles Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Zach Britton, Brad Brach, and Kevin Gausman are gone and it remains to be seen what the returns for those players will produce.

But it is encouraging to see some of the key veteran players remaining on this team play well down the stretch. All four players figure to factor heavily in the equation in regards to next year’s team while Cobb and Mancini have potential to be here through the rebuild and the hopeful eventual rebirth of the team.

Stay faithful Orioles fans. There are reasons for hope.

Image Credit: USA TODAY Sports

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Three takeaways from Orioles series win over Rays

BALTIMORE — This weekend the Orioles picked up their first series win since the All-Star break by taking three of four from Tampa Bay. After dropping Thursday’s series opener 4-3, the offense exploded and scored 37 runs over the course of the next three games.

We all know wins have been hard to come by all year, so it’s not surprising to hear that this is just the second time that the O’s have won three games in a row this season. I don’t want to get ahead of myself but the Birds longest winning streak is four games and they will have a chance to match that as they head to New York on Tuesday. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the wins while they last. Here are some highlights from the Orioles big weekend.

1. Four quality starts:

The lineup stole the spotlight this weekend with a barrage of home runs and RBI’s but the starting rotation was locked in as well. Four of the five O’s starters got the chance to pitch in this series and each one turned in a quality outing. Alex Cobb got it started on Thursday with six innings of work. The veteran starter surrendered three earned runs and was served his 14th loss of the year but the performance was still a step in the right direction. Cobb finished June with a 6.75 ERA and has been able to slowly lower it down to 6.08 over the course of July. His 2-14 record on the year remains ugly but some of the recent losses can certainly be chalked up to a lack of run support.

Andrew Cashner kept the ball rolling in his start on Friday by going six innings and giving up just a pair of runs. Cashner continues to be one of the more consistent members of the rotation and has given up three runs or less in seven of his last eight starts.

The run support kept coming on Saturday but Kevin Gausman didn’t even need it as he turned in a great bounce-back performance to help the Orioles win 11-2. Gausman tossed seven innings and gave up just two runs which was a much-needed rebound from his previous three starts in which he struggled to go five innings and gave up over four runs per outing.

Dylan Bundy rounded out the weekend by picking up his seventh win of the season. After suffering an injury against Atlanta, Bundy hit the disabled list and lost the momentum he had built in the month of June. His return from the disabled list was very lackluster and consisted of three short outings where he gave up five runs each time. July has not been kind to Bundy throughout his three major league seasons but hopefully Sunday’s rebound start is a sign of a strong finish that is to come.

2. Curtain call for Jones:

The drama of the trade deadline has already hit the Orioles hard this year as Manny Machado was dealt to the Dodgers and then Zach Britton was shipped off to New York. Both trades saw good returns but the departure of those two players was hard to swallow for O’s fans.

As the deadline approaches on Tuesday, Adam Jones is the next name in the trade block. The 13-year veteran is in the final year of his contract which holds a no-trade clause that he must waive if the Orioles are going to deal him. Essentially Jones is in full control of his immediate future. The center-fielder has not been shy about giving his thoughts on the trade speculation and even presented a scenario earlier this month in which the Orioles trade him to a contender but he re-signs with Baltimore in the offseason.

This past weekend Jones reportedly met with the front office to discuss these potential trades. The Phillies, Giants and Indians have all reached out to the O’s and made offers but according to MASN’s Roch Kubatko, Jones has not shown any interest in waiving the no-trade clause and leaving the Orioles.

Things could change before Tuesday’s deadline, but for now it sounds like Jones will still be an Oriole on Wednesday. If things do in fact change, Sunday could mark Jones’ final home game as an Oriole. If that does end up being the case, the longtime Oriole will have left on a high note. Jones went 3-for-4 with a walk and an RBI to help lift the O’s to an 11-5 win over the Rays.

3. Schoop’s streak:

Jonathan Schoop has been on fire all month. Coming into July he was batting just .197 and could not find his groove for any extended period of time. This led Buck Showalter to sit Schoop on the bench for a couple of games in an attempt to clear the second baseman’s head.

As the end of July approaches, Schoop has successfully raised his average to .244 by picking up a hit in 22 of his last 23 starts. The O’s second baseman came into Sunday afternoon with an 11-game hit streak but found himself in danger of losing it after going 0-4 with a pair of strikeouts early in the game. Schoop saw his final at-bat of the afternoon in the seventh inning and he made it count. After taking the first pitch for a ball, Schoop got ahold of a slider and sent it over the center-field wall into the Orioles bullpen to give the O’s a 9-3 lead and extend his hit streak to 12 games.

Image credit: Mitchell Layton / Getty Images

Orioles pick up pair of comeback wins over visiting Yankees

Game 1 (5-4 BAL): The Orioles kicked off their four-game series against the Yankees with a doubleheader. To the surprise of many, the O’s got the best of their American League East rival and snapped six-game losing streak with a 5-4 win.

Jimmy Yacabonis was called upon to make his second start of the year after turning in a decent outing in his first career start a few weeks ago. The Yankees jumped on the rookie pitcher early and picked up three runs in the first three innings. Yacabonis settled in after this and worked his way through five innings.

Mark Trumbo helped inch the Birds back into the game with a two-run blast in the fourth. It marked Trumbo’s 12th homer of the year and fourth this month. The Yankees got a run back in the sixth but the Orioles offense was not done yet. Trumbo led off the bottom of the sixth with a walk and Jonathan Schoop followed with a double, bringing Danny Valencia to the plate. CC Sabathia was approaching 100 pitches on the hill but remained in the game to face Valencia. This ended up being a somewhat questionable call as the right fielder sent a three-run shot to deep center, giving the O’s a 5-4 lead.

Mike Wright, Mychal Givens and Zach Britton closed out the last three innings with ease to secure the win. The victory marked the Orioles’ first in game one of a series since June 22 when they defeated the Braves in extra innings.

Game 2 (10-2 NYY): The Orioles could not keep their good fortunes going when game two rolled around. Yefry Ramirez got the start but failed to work at the fast pace he had displayed in his last two outings. Didi Gregorius put the Yankees on the board in the first inning with an RBI double. The lineup continued to threaten later in the inning by loading the bases but Ramirez escaped with a timely strikeout.

A two-run homer by Brett Gardner extended New York’s lead in the fourth. Ramirez’s pitch count was inflated but the rookie pitcher managed to finish off the inning. However, the Yankees finally forced Ramirez out of the game in the next inning after Greg Bird picked up an RBI single.

The score remained 4-0 in New York’s favor for the next three innings as Ryan Meisinger entered the game for the Orioles out of the pen. The 24-year-old made his MLB debut late last month and has seen a decent amount of appearances since then. Monday night’s outing stands as his best so far. Meisinger struck out three while tossing three perfect innings.

After Meisinger’s exit the bullpen completely fell apart. Brad Brach came in for the eighth and picked up two quick outs but failed to close the door. Four Yankees batters picked up two-out hits, including a home run by Austin Romine and an RBI double by Gardner. By the time Brach was yanked, the Yankees had picked up an insurmountable 7-0 lead.

Tanner Scott came in next but couldn’t get the third out fast enough. The Yankees loaded the bases and picked up an eighth run via a throwing error by Schoop. The Orioles finally got on the board in the bottom half of the inning when Tim Beckham hit his first home run since returning from the disabled list in late June. New York would go on to get those two runs back in the ninth as they wrapped up a dominant 10-2 win in game two of Monday’s double header.

Game 3 (6-5 BAL): On Tuesday afternoon it was reported that the New York Yankees had entered the trade conversations for Manny Machado. In a year filled with misery for O’s fans this felt like just another jab to the gut. However, those same fans were able to sleep well on Tuesday night knowing that Machado still remained on the O’s long enough to help lift his team to their fifth win over the Yankees this season.

The All-Star shortstop went 3-for-4 at the plate with two game-tying home runs. The first came off of Masahiro Tanaka on the very first pitch of the fifth inning. The New York starter had just come off the disabled list prior to Tuesday’s game but it was not a smooth transition back to the rotation for him. Tanaka only lasted 4.1 innings with Machado’s leadoff homer, marking the third and final run surrendered for the Yankees starter.

Machado’s second homer came in the seventh off of Chad Green. Adam Jones helped set the table by getting on base with a single and Machado followed with a deep shot to right field. Aaron Judge gave chase all the way back to the wall but the ball landed just out of reach for the 6’7″ right fielder as he leaped up in an attempt to rob Machado. The umpires needed to review the play despite the ball landing on the grounds crew roof but the correct call was ultimately made after a brief delay.

The game would remain tied going into the ninth inning. The Orioles bullpen had tossed 2.2 clean innings of relief and the offense responded with one more rally. With Dellin Betances on the mound it seemed almost certain that the game would be going into extra innings but the Orioles caught a break when Caleb Joseph got hit by a pitch in the first at-bat of the inning. Jones kept the momentum going with a double down the right-field line that somehow managed to stay fair. The big hit allowed Joseph to go to third for a sac fly opportunity.

Trumbo came to the plate and turned in a terrible four-pitch at-bat that ended in a strikeout. Trumbo appeared to be thrown off right from start and couldn’t find a pitch to drive to the outfield. After this, the weight of the game fell onto Schoop’s shoulders and the second baseman did not disappoint. After watching the first two pitches, Schoop found one he liked down and away in the zone. Schoop extended his arms down and poked the ball past the reach of Greg Bird at first base for the game-winning RBI.

Game 4 (9-0 NYY): After an exciting walk-off win on Tuesday the Orioles had stumbled into the opportunity for their second series win over the Yankees this year. However, New York’s offense jumped all over the Orioles pitching staff and forced a split with their second blowout victory of the series.

Dylan Bundy was on the mound for the O’s and struggled again in his second start since returning from a brief stint on the disabled list. Bundy had a clean start in the first two innings but quickly unraveled in the third. After putting runners on the corners with two outs, Bundy surrendered an RBI single to Giancarlo Stanton. The damage didn’t stop there. The Yankees loaded the bases and Bird came up big with a grand slam down the right-field line. The ball was hooking to the right but bounced off the foul pole before drifting too far.

Bundy worked one more inning before being replaced by the bullpen. Wright, Jhan Marinez and Donnie Hart all entered the game for the O’s but none of them could keep the Yankees off the board. New York picked up four more runs over the course of the rest of the game to eventually rack up a 9-0 lead.

Tyler Wade put the fifth run on the board in the sixth with his first career home run. Romine launched a solo home run as well and Stanton rounded out the scoring with another RBI single. The Yankees have outscored the Orioles 60-42 this year but the season series is tied up 5-5.

Up next: The Orioles were originally scheduled to have Thursday off but will now be playing a make-up game against Philadelphia. The Orioles and Phillies were meant to play a brief two-game series back in May but the first game had to be postponed due to rain. The O’s will finish off the week by hosting the Texas Rangers before getting a four-day break next week for the All-Star game.

Image credit: Mitchell Layton / Getty Images