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

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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

Series Recap: Unreliable pitching leads Orioles to series loss against Astros

BALTIMORE — A four game sweep is difficult to accomplish no matter who you play. Perhaps that's why a handful of fans saw potential in salvaging the Orioles season after they beat up the Rangers last week. Both the offense and the pitching impressed in that series, but it fails to accurately snapshot this team's potential.

A majority of the Orioles fan base remained unconvinced following the Rangers series and they were proven right when the Orioles ran into one of the best teams in baseball this weekend. It seemed like the Astros were always one step ahead of the O's, but you would expect nothing less of a team that's in contention for a World Series.

It all started on Friday when Ubaldo Jimenez brought everyone back down to reality with a terrible start. Jimenez gave up five runs in the first two innings and somehow managed to make it through 5.1 before getting pulled. The bullpen didn't fare any better. Richard Bleier surrendered two more runs in 2.2 innings of relief.

Going into the bottom of the eighth the Orioles were down 8-1 and faced a blowout loss. You have to give the offense credit for what they did in the next two innings because it should have been more than enough for a win. Baltimore batters scored six runs in the final two innings to come back and make it a one-run game.

Mark Trumbo scored one with an RBI single while Adam Jones added two more with a double. With one out in the ninth, Jonathan Schoop put his team right back in the game with a three-run homer. Chris Davis and Trumbo could not follow the home run up, and the O's fell just shy of a comeback.

Saturdays game continued the trend of unreliable pitching. Chris Tillman managed to put together a decent outing and had little trouble through his first four innings. After surrendering his first run in the fifth, Tillman composed himself and made it out of the inning. A two-run homer would eventually chase him with one away in the sixth. The Orioles still held a 4-3 lead.

Usually, the fans frustration points at the starting rotation and not the bullpen, but Saturdays game fell mostly on the shoulders of the relievers. Darren O'Day entered the game after Tillman and proceeded to give up the lead on a three-run homer. The O's offense was held scoreless for the remainder of the game as Houston tacked on two more in the late innings to complete an 8-4 win.

Sunday's series finale saw the Orioles jump out to an early 3-0 lead. After loading the bases with no outs, Hyun Soo Kim got hit by a pitch, allowing Chris Davis to score. Ruben Tejada messed up the momentum by grounding into a double play, but another run scored on the play. Adam Jones capped off the inning with an RBI single to score the third run.

The O's offense put up another three runs by the end of the sixth thanks to Trey Mancini and Chris Davis. Mancini accounted for two runs with an RBI single and double while Davis brought in another run on a sacrifice fly.

Dylan Bundy started his afternoon pretty effectively. Outside of a three run homer by Jose Altuve, he pitched fairly well. Things quickly fell apart in the sixth. Nori Aoki launched a three-run homer to tie the game at 6, chasing Bundy out of the game. Miguel Castro entered the game in relief and gave up the lead on a sacrifice fly. All seven runs attributed to Bundy, raising his ERA to a season-high 4.53.

Unlike Saturday, the O's offense did not quit. A solo home run by Mark Trumbo tied the game again in the seventh inning. Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop gave the O's a 9-7 lead with a sacrifice fly and RBI single in the eighth.

Zach Britton entered the game in the ninth for his first save attempt since suffering an arm injury in April. Britton quickly struck out the first two batters and completed his sixth save of the year.

This series showed why there's little confidence in the Orioles this season. No one denies that the Rangers series was fun to watch, but the offense has seen their efforts ruined by poor pitching all season. Just for perspective, the O's offense averages 4.66 runs per game, while the pitching staff gives up 5.41 per game.

The O's wrapped up their long home stand this weekend and will now be hitting the road for the next week. A divisional matchup against the Rays will start on Monday and then the Orioles will travel to Texas for a rematch against the Rangers next weekend.

Image Credit: Associated Press

Series Preview: Soaring Astros look to pounce on Orioles

 

BALTIMORE — Just after Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos gave General Manager Dan Duquette permission to shop certain players, the Orioles responded by sweeping the Texas Rangers in four games.

The offense came to life, scoring 34 combined runs. The pitching staff turned in three quality starts. That momentum looks to be carried, but could become a challenge to hold.

The Houston Astros come to Camden Yards owning the best record in the American League. After losing two of three to Seattle, the Astros will look for blood.

Last Meeting: In a late May series at Minute Maid Park, the Astros swept the Orioles. These three defeats became part of a seven-game losing streak. Before that stretch, the O’s sat in first place in the American League, a half game ahead of the Yankees. After, Baltimore sunk to third place, 4.5 games behind New York.

The Baltimore offense struggled in Houston, scoring just six runs. Wade Miley and Alec Asher disappointed in their starts, allowing 10 earned runs in seven combined innings. Jonathan Schoop and Mark Trumbo hit home runs.

In the standings: Despite winning four straight games, the Orioles (46-49) enter the weekend fourth place in the American League East, seven games behind the Red Sox (54-43). The Astros (63-32) comfortably sit in first place in the AL West. They represent the only team in that division with a record above .500, 16 games ahead of the second-place Mariners (48-49).

Game Times and Pitching Matchups: 

Game 1Friday, July 21, 7:05 pm – Mike Fiers (6-4, 3.75 ERA) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (4-5, 7.01 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 2Saturday, July 22, 7:05 pm – Collin McHugh vs. Chris Tillman (1-5, 7.20 ERA) – MASN, WJZ, 105.7 The Fan

Game 3Sunday, July 23, 1:35 pm – Lance McCullers Jr. (7-2, 3.28 ERA) vs. Dylan Bundy (9-8, 4.18 ERA) – MASN, TBS, 105.7 The Fan

Notes on the Astros:

  • Houston leads Major League Baseball in several offensive categories: runs (558), hits (956), home runs (155), RBI (528), total bases (1,646) and on-base percentage (.355).
  • Right fielder George Springer’s 27 home runs ties the second-place mark in MLB. Khris Davis of the Athletics ties with Springer.
  • At Camden Yards, second baseman Jose Altuve owns a .423 batting average in 52 at-bats, with 22 hits and 11 RBI.
  • Saturday marks the first start of 2017 for McHugh after missing the entire first half of the season with elbow issues. In 2016, McHugh made 33 starts and pitched to a 4.34 ERA. Against the Birds (five starts), McHugh owns a 6.18 ERA.

Notes on the Orioles:

  • Four Orioles hit home runs in Thursday’s 9-7 win over Texas. The O’s possess 10 four-homer games this season, which leads MLB.
  • With runners in scoring position, Baltimore ranks second in the American League and fourth in MLB with a .290 batting average. Trey Mancini’s .411 average with RISP leads the AL and ranks fourth in MLB.
  • In their last three series against Houston, the Orioles went a combined 1-9.
  • Schoop’s career batting average against the Astros is .310 (58 AB’s). Jimenez’s lifetime ERA against Houston amounts to 2.87 (11 starts, 13 appearances).

Up next: The Orioles embark on a six-game road trip featuring two three-game sets. The first three games take place from Tropicana Field against the Rays. On Thursday, July 27, the Birds receive their first off-day of the second half. The latter series takes place over the weekend from Globe Life Park against the Rangers.

Image Credit:Charm City Wire 

Orioles Wrap-Up: Birds swept by Astros, now 2 games above .500

HOUSTON, TX — A week ago, the Orioles were 25-17 and just a half game behind the Yankees in the American League East. Since then, the O’s have lost seven straight games, slipped to third place in the AL East, and are just two games above .500.

The seven-game skid marks the Orioles’ longest losing streak since the 2011 season, where they lost nine straight games. The O’s finished that season with a losing record, which marks the last time the birds finished a season below .500.

To say that the past week has been a disaster for the Orioles would be an understatement.

Coming off a disappointing 2-4 homestand that ended with getting swept by the Twins, the Orioles knew that they had a tough weekend ahead, going on the road to play the best team in baseball. Things only got worse for Baltimore, who continue to be plagued by an under-performing starting rotation, a depleted bullpen, and a cold offense.

“It pulls at you [when] people you respect and know how good they are are struggling, you wanna try to help,” Orioles skipper Buck Showalter said after Sunday’s loss. “We’ll get Jonsey back hopefully tomorrow, and get J.J. back, and [Britton] is making a lot of progress, but everyone has issues like that all around baseball…It’s the big leagues, you are going to have really good competition, whether its the Astros, Yankees, Red Sox, that’s what makes it so gratifying if you can pull it off.”

The Rundown:

Game 1 (2-0 HOU)The Orioles were shut out for the third time this season (and the second time in three games), despite a solid start by Kevin Gausman. Gausman, who has struggled all season, pitched 6.2 innings, allowing two runs on eight hits and two strikeouts. The two runs came on home runs, one by Jake Marisnick in the third inning, and the latter by Carlos Beltron in the seventh inning.

The Orioles recorded just seven hits, going 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position, and leaving six on base.

Game 2 (5-2 HOU)For the third time in his last four starts, Wade Miley lasted just five innings for the Orioles. The Astros got to Miley early in the game, scoring two runs in the first inning. Jose Altuve hit a double that scored George Springer, and Carlos Correa singled to score Altuve. In the third inning, the O’s cut Houston’s lead to one when Wellington Castillo, batting DH, hit a single to score Caleb Joseph. The Astros answered right away in the fourth inning, when Springer hit a two-run bomb that also scored Alex Bregman. Miley, after his five innings of work, allowed the four runs on eight hits, three walks, and two strikeouts.

Both teams added a run in the seventh inning. Chris Davis scored on a wild pitch during a Jonathan Schoop at-bat, and Correa hit another RBI single off of Tyler Wilson.

Game 3 (8-4 HOU)Before this series, the Orioles announced that Ubaldo Jimenez would not start Sunday’s game. In his place, Alec Asher got the nod, but he was just as bad, if not worse, than Jimenez. Asher was done after two innings, with the Astros scoring six runs in the second inning.

The Orioles actually had a 3-0 lead after their first two innings on offense, with all three runs coming at the hands of Schoop. Baltimore’s second baseman hit a two-run home run in the first inning, and an RBI single in the third inning that scored Castillo. It was great to see the Orioles have a lead after not having one since blowing a 5-0 lead against Minnesota on Monday.

With Asher coming out after just two frames, Jimenez came on in relief and actually pitched effectively. Jimenez ran into some trouble in the third inning, allowing two runs on a Yuli Gurriel RBI single and a wild pitch, but he lasted six innings without allowing a walk and striking out five.

Center-fielder Adam Jones sat out the final two games of this series with nagging injuries, including his ankle and hip (Joey Rickard played CF in his place).

Up Next: Things will not get any easier for the Orioles, as they now begin a nine-game home stand, with the first seven games being against the Yankees and Red Sox, who are now ahead of the O’s in the AL East. The Orioles are 4.5 games behind the Yankees, and 1.5 games behind the Red Sox. The O’s will play the Yankees for a three-game series from Monday to Wednesday, and will then face Boston in a four-game series that lasts Thursday until Sunday.

 

 

 

Series Preview: Orioles enter series against Astros on cold streak

After going 3-7 in their last 10 games, the Orioles are facing an uphill battle if they want to get back in the win column. The Birds will take a quick road trip to Houston to face the best team in baseball this weekend.

The Astros have been dominate for most of the 2017 season, losing just three series.  Two of those have been against Cleveland with the Astros getting swept by the Indians last week.

Star second baseman, Jose Altuve and veteran outfielder, Josh Reddick are two hitters to look out for in the Astros lineup while Lance McCullers and Dallas Keuchel lead the way for their starting rotation.

To make things even more difficult, the Orioles have been very lackluster on the road this season.  Their 10-13 record away from Camden Yards has been just one of the O’s Achilles heals in 2017.

The Orioles have also feel farther behind the AL East leading Yankees in the last week. Baltimore is sitting 2.5 games behind New York with the Red Sox lurking not far behind.  The coming weeks will certainly be tough on the Orioles as they prepare to host the Yankees and Red Sox after returning from Houston.  However, stringing together some wins in these series could push the O’s back to the top of the division.

Game Times & Pitching Match-ups:

Game 1: Friday, May 26, 8:10 pm – Kevin Gausman (2-3, 6.65 ERA) vs Joe Musgrove (3-4, 5.63 ERA)

Game 2: Saturday, May 27, 7:15 pm – Wade Miley (1-2, 2.59 ERA) vs Dallas Keuchel (7-0, 1.84 ERA)

Game 3: Sunday, May 28, 2:10 pm – Ubaldo Jimenez (1-2, 7.17 ERA) vs Lance McCullers (5-1, 2.43 ERA)

Last Meeting: The Orioles and Astros have not played against each other this season. In 2016 the O’s struggled against the Astros with a season series record of 1-6. In the series played at Minute Maid Park, the Orioles were swept by Houston and struck out a total of 52 times.

Notes on the Astros:

  • The Astros enter this weekends series with the best record in baseball at 32 – 16.
  • Dallas Keuchel will be returning this weekend from a brief stint on the 10-day disabled list. The left handed ace had some trouble with a pinched nerve in his neck but says he is comfortable now. Keuchel won the AL Cy Young award in 2015 and has been an early favorite for the award again this year.
  • Josh Reddick holds some impressive stats when playing the Orioles. His .343 batting average is his third highest against a specific team. In his 44 career games against Baltimore, the veteran has hit eight home runs with 23 RBI’s.

Notes on the Orioles:

  • Jonathan Schoop could serve as a catalyst for the Orioles offense this weekend. His .298 career batting average against the Astros is one of the best on the team.
  • Ubaldo Jimenez has struggled recently and is in danger of losing his spot in the rotation. However, the veteran pitcher holds a 4-1 record against the Astros with an ERA of 2.86 in 11 career starts.