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 

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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

Chris Tillman back with Orioles on $3 million deal

SARASOTA, FLA — One week after pitchers and catchers reported to Sarasota for camp, the Baltimore Orioles have twice the amount of pitchers in their starting rotation than they did seven days ago.

Late Monday morning, MLB Network Insider John Heyman reported via Twitter that the Orioles reached an agreement with 2013 All-Star pitcher Chris Tillman. The 29-year-old right-hander reunites with his longtime ballclub on a one-year, $3 million contract. With incentives, Tillman could earn up to $7 million this season, but that $3 million figure is fully guaranteed.

The news comes four days after Baltimore inked a two-year, $16 million contract with veteran Andrew Cashner, who is already throwing at Orioles camp. Along with Cashner, Tillman projects to join a rotation with Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.

Tillman has been with the Orioles since the infamous 2008 Erik Bedard trade that sent both Tillman and Adam Jones to Baltimore, along with three other players. From 2012-2014, Tillman went 38-16 with the Orioles, and made an All-Star appearance in 2013. Tillman ended the 2013 season with a 16-7 record, a 3.71 ERA, a career-high 179 strikeouts, and a 1.22 whip in 33 starts (206.1 innings).

In the second half of the 2016 season, Tillman began to experience discomfort in his right throwing shoulder, which turned into right shoulder bursitis. After a 15-day stint on the disabled list, Tillman returned for a handful of starts to end the 2016 season without any noticeable problems. However, Tillman’s shoulder issues continued during last year’s spring training, and he did not make his first start until May 7. Tillman made it through the 2017 season without landing back on the disabled list, but he had by far the worst season of his career. Tillman came out of 2017 with a 1-7 record and a 7.84 ERA in 19 starts (93 innings). His strikeouts fell from 140 to 63, and he gave up 24 home runs in 24 appearances, opposed to allowing 19 home runs in 30 appearances during the 2016 season.

The current status of Tillman’s shoulder is unknown, but Orioles fans will find out what shape Tillman is in when he undergoes the ever-so-daunting Orioles physical. Shoulder problems have prevented previous free agent pitchers from officially signing contracts with the Orioles (Grant Balfour), so it’s still very possible for the Orioles to get cold feet before Tillman officially signs his contract.

If Tillman is healthy, he could certainly play a key role on the 2018 Orioles. Starting pitching was clearly the biggest need entering camp for Baltimore, and a week into spring training they’ve doubled the depth they previously had in the rotation. It’s hard to fathom why the Orioles would bring Tillman back if his shoulder is still bothering him, so hopefully this agreement is a sign that the health of his shoulder is much better than what it was in 2017.

Even though adding two veteran pitchers is a boost, the Orioles still have work to do in the starting pitching department. General manager Dan Duquette has said multiple times that he would like a lefty in his rotation this season. None of the four starting pitchers Baltimore has are southpaws. Neither are in-house fifth-spot candidates like Miguel Castro or Gabriel Ynoa, or any of the top free agent names still on the market, like Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, or Alex Cobb.

Image Credit: Boston Herald

Orioles sign starting pitcher Andrew Cashner

SARASOTA, FLA — On Thursday afternoon, the Baltimore Orioles finally made a move that bolsters their 2018 starting rotation by signing starting pitcher Andrew Cashner to a two-year contract worth $16 million in guaranteed money.

Along with $16 million officially signed to Cashner over two years, a $10 million vesting option for 2020 is included. The deal also includes $5 million in incentives for each season.

Cashner, 31, has eight years of experience pitching at the Major League level. He spent two seasons with the Chicago Cubs, over four seasons with the San Diego Padres before being traded to the Miami Marlins, and most recently a season with the Texas Rangers. In 2017, Cashner made 28 starts, finishing with an 11-11 record, a 3.40 ERA, and a 1.32 WHIP. That ERA is his lowest mark since the 2014 season, where he finished with a 2.55 ERA in 19 starts.

Cashner is a career 3.80 ERA pitcher at the Major League level. Although he finished the 2017 season with his lowest ERA figure in four seasons, his strikeout rate fell drastically, according to WNST‘s Luke Jones.

Cashner also battled biceps tendinitus during spring training last year, and he spent a stint on the 10-day disabled list midway through the season with a left oblique strain. As Jones mentioned, the peripherals surrounding Cashner do raise some concern, much like Yovani Gallardo’s did when the O’s signed in before the 2016 season. However, the Orioles came into spring training this week with just two starting pitchers in their rotation in Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy. Even though general manager Dan Duquette moved slow to bring a veteran pitcher in (as he always does), he alluded to the market moving slow all offseason. That proved to be true, and the Orioles have now added a piece to their rotation with over veteran names (Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, Chris Tillman, Alex Cobb, etc) still on the market.

Although this move will ease some of the concern about Baltimore’s rotation, there are still two slots in that rotation to fill. Duquette mentioned both at FanFest and to reporters earlier this week that Baltimore could sign multiple names in the free agent pool. There is still work to be done, but signing Cashner is a step in the right direction.

Let’s all note that even though Cashner and the Orioles agreed on a contract, he still has to pass the daunting Orioles physical.

Image Credit: Nolan Writin