Orioles overcome pitching woes to take two from visiting Royals

Game 1: (15-7 KC): The Orioles returned home from their west coast trip ready for a fresh start. Jonathan Schoop was back in the starting lineup and Dylan Bundy was slated to start against the 11-22 Royals. Even with the Orioles early season woes, that doesn’t exactly sound like a recipe for disaster but what ended up happening was easily the most embarrassing loss of the season for the O’s

Bundy turned in yet another bad start but that’s probably putting it way too lightly. The 25-year-old starter surrendered seven runs in the first inning without recording a single out. We’ve seen Mike Wright and Chris Tillman completely implode in the first inning a few times this year but at least they got an out or two before getting yanked. The terrible start puts Bundy in the MLB record books as the only pitcher to allow four home runs without recording an out. Three of those four came consecutively when Jorge Soler, Mike Moustakas, and Salvador Perez went back-to-back-to-back.

An early 7-0 deficit is surmountable but the Royals were not done yet. Mike Wright entered the game and proceeded to give up five runs of his own over the next five innings followed by Pedro Araujo who gave up three more. By the end of the sixth Kansas City held a comfortable 15-1 lead.

The O’s staged a small rally in the final two innings but it was far from enough to catch the Royals and their huge lead. Danny Valencia and Caleb Joseph got it started with solo homers in the eighth. In the ninth the Orioles focused on getting base runners and actually strung some hits together to score another four runs. Schoop knocked in two with an RBI single, Valencia picked up a sacrifice fly and Anthony Santander capped it off with an RBI single of his own.

Game 2 (5-3 BAL): After Tuesday’s game, which ended about as soon as it started, the Orioles were just looking to play a close game. That got their wish and ended up winning in a back and forth battle, creating a rubber match scenario for just the fourth time this season.

Andrew Cashner provided a much needed quality start for the Orioles by surrendering just three runs through six innings of work. The Royals struck first when Lucas Duda hit a two run homer off of Cashner in the fourth.

The Orioles responded quickly though and got two runners on base with one out in the bottom half of the inning. Mark Trumbo came to the plate and hit a pop up but Chris Davis was able to come through by launching a hanging fastball into the left field seats for a three run homer.

The O’s only managed to hold this slim lead for another inning before Cashner surrendered his third run of the night in the sixth. Duda got the best of the O’s starter once again, this time for a game tying RBI single.

Richard Bleier tossed an inning of work in Tuesdays game but still had plenty left in the tank to throw two more clean innings after Cashner’s exit. Bleier allowed just two hits while finishing the seventh and eighth on just 25 pitches, lowering his ERA to 0.40 in the process.

He would also get credited with his third win of the season as the Orioles managed to push two game winning runs across in the bottom of the eighth. Mark Trumbo made up for his missed opportunity in the fourth by bringing home Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop with a two RBI single. The big hit gave the O’s a 5-3 lead which Brad Brach successfully maintained in the ninth inning to secure a win.

Game 3 (11-6 BAL): The Orioles didn’t do themselves any favors early on in Thursday’s series finale. With a double header looming this weekend, Chris Tillman was given the opportunity to start. He was initially scrapped from the rotation coming into this weeks series but once again found himself on the mound due to the teams lack of depth.

Tillman started the game by loading the bases and then surrendered a grand slam to Salvador Perez. Things were looking dangerously similar to game one and another series loss looked imminent. However, the Orioles got a rare night out of their offense and the bullpen managed to stop the bleeding for an unexpected series win.

Down 6-3 Buck Showalter made the decision to pull Tillman after just one out in the second. The bullpen had been heavily taxed but the offense looked like they were capable of scoring six after getting three back in the bottom half of the first. Miguel Castro came in and slammed the door shut on the Royals offense. He would go on to pitch 4.2 innings of relief, changing the momentum of the game in the process. Tanner Scott and Mychal Givens followed and were even more effective. The duo gave up just two hits in three innings of work.

But how did the Orioles score eleven runs? I’m just as surprised as you but the O’s best offensive game of the season came on a night when it was much needed. Coming into the series, 23 of the Orioles 34 home runs had been solo shots. The team just wasn’t getting the most out of their brief sparks of offense but that changed on Thursday when Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Trey Mancini all picked up two run homers. Chance Sisco brought home the go ahead RBI’s on a double while Anthony Santander and Jonathan Schoop rounded out the scoring with RBI singles.

Up next: The Orioles will stay at home this weekend as the Tampa Bay Rays come to town. A double header has been scheduled for Saturday to make up for the rainout when these teams met just a few weeks ago.

Image credit: Patrick Semansky / AP

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Orioles return home looking to avoid longest losing streak of season

The Orioles return to Camden Yards this week after taking a six game road trip on the west coast. To no ones surprise, that six game road trip turned into a six game losing streak and the O’s season is still in free fall.

This six game skid is tied for the longest losing streak of the year and we are just getting into May. The Orioles were outscored by the Angles and Athletics 35-17 and held a lead for just two innings between both series. But hey, at least they avoided giving Albert Pujols his 3,00th hit.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this season is the lack of excitement. That sounds obvious and I understand winning is a direct contributor to excitement but through the first 34 games there is an uncomfortably annoying sense of predictability. When the pitching starts to settle in you can always count on the offense to struggle or even come close to getting no hit. It goes both ways though. Anytime the offense has a breakout game the bullpen appears to be actively trying to blow the game.

All of this has left fans desperate for some sort of change. Whether it’s a coach getting fired or Manny Machado being traded, the fan base doesn’t really care at this point and is just hoping upper management has the ability to see the same things they do.

At the very least the Orioles starting rotation will be going through some minor changes in the coming weeks. After turning in a great outing against the Tigers, Chris Tillman reverted back to his normal state and proceeded to give up seven runs in one inning against the Angels last Thursday. Many would say it is long overdue but the abysmal start has forced Buck Showalter to bump Tillman from the rotation.

Andrew Cashner will now move up to pitch on Wednesday with Kevin Gausman behind him for the series finale on Thursday. It is unknown at this time who will replace Tillman but it’s probably safe to assume whoever gets the call will be at least a little more reliable.

Tillman has won just one game (4/27/18 vs Detroit) in the past year and holds a 8.52 ERA in that span. A lack of pitching depth has allowed him to linger around longer than he would with other teams but even this years Orioles roster can provide someone better.

Game times and pitching matchups:

Game 1: Tuesday, May 8, 7:05 pm – Dylan Bundy (1-4, 3.76 ERA) vs Danny Duffy (0-4, 5.63 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 2: Wednesday, May 9. 7:05 pm – Andrew Cashner (1-4, 4.89 ERA) vs Eric Skoglund (1-2, 6.84 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 3: Thursday, May 10, 7:05 pm – Kevin Gausman (2-2, 3.30 ERA) vs Ian Kennedy (1-3, 2.92 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Notes on Orioles:

  • We already know that the Orioles offense is awful but it’s getting to a point where even the bright spots aren’t that great. The O’s have hit 34 home runs so far this season but 23 of them have been solo homers. Manny Machado is often the only reliable player in the lineup but all nine of his team leading home runs have been solo shots.
  • Andrew Cashner has started just three games against the Kansas City Royals in his nine-year career but holds a 1.69 ERA in those outings. His most recent outing against the Royals came last season when he tossed six scoreless innings and surrendered just three hits.
  • It appears that the Orioles will be getting their second baseman back this week. Jonathan Schoop hit the disabled list back in mid April with a mild oblique strain and is now prepared to return to the major league club after making some starts with the Frederick Keys and Norfolk Tides this past weekend. Schoop will be looking to jump start his offense after opening the year with a .230 batting average and 19 strikeouts in 65 plate appearances.

Notes on Royals:

  • Mike Moustakas continues to be one of the Royals most dangerous bats in 2018. However the veteran third baseman has been much better at Kauffman Stadium than on the road. Moustakas’ line at home (.324/.363/.622) is spectacular while the road numbers look drastically different (.246/.283/.439).
  • Eric Skoglund will face the Orioles for the first time in his career on Wednesday. The 25-year-old is playing in his second major league season after starting five games in 2017. Skoglund, a lefty, has struggled so far this year with a 6.84 ERA in five starts. He has only pitched past the fifth inning once and has given up four or more runs in all but one of his starts. The Orioles offensive woes could allow for a break through though. Baltimore is currently hitting just .236 against left-handed pitchers in 2018.

Image credit: Mitchell Layton / Getty Images

Orioles swept by Angels as Pujols inches closer to special milestone

Game 1 (3-2 LAA): The Orioles started their west coast trip by getting a long-awaited quality start out of Alex Cobb. Through the first month of the season Cobb had been lackluster to say the least but on Tuesday he gave up just four hits through the first five innings.

Cobb quickly retired the first two batters in the sixth before giving up what should have been a double to Andrelton Simmons but a throwing error by Manny Machado allowed the Angels short stop to score the first run of the game.

Luis Valbuena followed that up with a solo homer to make it a 2-0 game. Cobb got out of the inning and ended his night with two runs given up through six innings of work.

The rare quality start was almost completely wasted as the Orioles offense was nowhere to be found for most of the game. Machado picked up a double in the first but that would be the only Orioles hit through eight innings. Trey Mancini broke that streak with a leadoff single in the ninth and Machado hit another double to bring him home. Adam Jones followed with an RBI single of his own to tie the game 2-2.

In the bottom of the ninth Buck Showalter opted to replace Richard Bleier with Brad Brach. Bleier had already thrown a little over an inning but did so on just 15 pitches. As the Orioles best reliever he has been getting a lot of work lately, but Brach isn’t exactly a guy you can be confident about, especially in a tie game. This decision would end up being costly as the Angels quickly loaded the bases for Justin Upton who picked up a walk off single to give the Angels a win in game one.

Chance Sisco had to leave the game early in the seventh inning after colliding with Pedro Alvarez while chasing a pop up in foul territory. Sisco had his eyes on the ball and ran face first into Alvarez’s raised elbow. The hit knocked the O’s catcher down where he remained for a few minutes before sitting up and then walking off the field with trainers. Sisco missed Wednesday’s game but returned to the starting lineup on Thursday.

Game 2 (10-7 LAA): It’s amazing that this game ended up being as close as it was. Manny Machado put the O’s up 1-0 in the first with a solo homer but the Angels went on to score nine unanswered runs between the first and the sixth. Justin Upton continued to cause problems for the Orioles pitching staff by driving in four of the nine runs himself. He would end up finishing the series 5/13 and six RBI’s.

Albert Pujols picked up a pair of hits in the game, including a solo home run, to inch himself closer to the 3,000 hit milestone.

Down 9-1 after seven innings the game appeared to be over but the Orioles mounted a little bit of a comeback in the final two innings to make it a surprisingly close game. Machado pushed another run across in the eighth but most of the work would be done in the ninth. Eduardo Paredes came in to finish for the Angels but ended up surrendering five runs by the time he could get one out. Chris Davis and Trey Mancini both picked up an RBI on a single and sacrifice fly respectively while Jace Peterson continued to make the most of his time with the Orioles by hitting a base clearing triple.

With the best Orioles hitters still due up, a comeback actually looked like a possibility but the scoring once the Angels replaced Paredes with Jim Johnson. The former Orioles closer gave up a hit to Pedro Alvarez but retired Manny Machado and Adam Jones to end the game.

Game 3 (12-3 LAA): Looking to salvage a win the Orioles sent Chris Tillman to the mound on Thursday. That’s not the easiest sentence to type without laughing but in all fairness Tillman was coming off of his best start of the year and has pitched well in two previous starts at Angel Stadium.

Unfortunately none of that carried over to Thursday night’s series finale. Tillman gave up five runs in the first inning and two more in the second without recording an out. Miguel Castro came in to finish the second and pitched into the fourth where he loaded the bases with one out. Mychal Givens relieved him and quickly allowed four more runs on back-to-back hits by Simmons and Valbuena.

To make things even worse, it took the O’s offense five innings to get a hit. Trey Mancini broke up the no hitter in the sixth with a double and Manny Machado followed with an RBI single to bring him home and finally remove the goose egg from the run column.

James Barria was still excellent in his start. After cruising through the first five innings he encountered some trouble in the sixth that ended his night a little shorter than he may have liked. However, Barria gave up just two runs through six innings of work and was very much in line for his second win of the year when he left the game.

Hardly lost in all of this was the man of the night, Albert Pujols. The 38-year-old veteran picked up hit number 2,999 in the second inning with a two RBI double but had trouble getting the elusive 3,000th hit in his next three at bats. Pujols battled Miguel Castro in the fourth but ended up taking first base after getting hit by a pitch. He returned to the plate in the sixth but didn’t find success there either after hitting a pop fly into foul territory.

Pujols got one more chance at reaching the special milestone in the eighth inning but quickly fell behind Darren O’Day with two foul balls and then popped out to right field on the third pitch. The Angels will start a five game road trip this weekend which likely means Pujols will not reach the 3,000th hit mark in front of the home crowd.

Up next: The Orioles will continue their west coast road trip this weekend with a three game set against the Oakland Athletics.

Image credit: Mark J. Terrill / AP