Twins easily handle Orioles as Birds suffer through third winless road trip

MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins outscored the Orioles 26-9 over four games in this weekend’s series at Target Field, including a 10-1 decision on Sunday. Minnesota, now 39-48, came into the series having lost eight of 10, but the Orioles made the Twins look like a team competing for a pennant.

The Orioles leave Minnesota at 24-65, 41 games below .500 and 36.5 games back in the American League East. They still hold the worst record in baseball and are on pace for their worst season ever. However, they have yet to make a single trade or firing.

The stalling needs to end right now. It’s already been long enough, but ownership needs to let the front office free to start building for the future. With Peter Angelos sitting in the top chair of the organization, your guess as to what the Orioles will do is as good as mine.

Game 1 (5-2 MIN): Making just his second appearance for the Twins this season, Aaron Slegers gave manager Paul Molitor a reason to consider giving the fifth spot in Minnesota’s rotation to him. The 25-year-old right-hander limited the Orioles to one run over six innings of work on three hits, one walk, and two strikeouts. The O’s finished the game with five hits, with both of their two runs scored on solo home runs by Jonathan Schoop, his ninth and 10th homers of the season.

The Twins got on the board in the third inning when Jake Cave scored after a fielding error by Baltimore starter Andrew Cashner. Bobby Wilson hit a ground ball to Chris Davis, who was about halfway up the first base line. Cashner ran over to first base to record the out, but Davis’s throw hit his glove and rolled close to the first base dugout. Wilson advanced to second on the play and scored on a single by Eddie Rosario.

The Twins took a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning on Logan Morrison‘s 10th home run of the season. It was the final run scored off Cashner, who went six innings after giving up three runs (two earned) on six hits, two walks, and three strikeouts.

With Brad Brach pitching in the eighth inning, the Twins plated their final two runs. Morrison singled with one out and advanced to second on a 2-3 (Chance Sisco-Davis) groundout. He then scored on a single by Max Kepler. Kepler scored from first on a double to center-field by Cave. 41-year-old closer Fernando Rodney racked up his 18th save of the season, striking out two.

Game 2 (6-2 MIN): Check out Ian Schultz‘s full recap of Friday’s 6-2 loss.

Game 3 (5-4 MIN): The Orioles jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, the only lead they held the entire weekend behind the bats of Manny Machado and Davis. Tim Beckham smacked a leadoff double two right field, then moved to third on an Adam Jones ground-out. Then, Machado grounded out to shortstop Jorge Polanco, allowing Beckham to cross home plate. After Mark Trumbo walked, Davis hit his eighth home run of the season to center-field.

Minnesota starter Kyle Gibson, even with the three-run first inning. earned his third win of the season after going seven innings, striking out nine and allowing nine hits and four walks.

Kevin Gausman retired the side in the first three innings, but started to dwindle afterwards. Minnesota tied the game in the fifth inning with a combination of power and small ball. With one out, Kepler launched his 10th home run of the season to cut Baltimore’s lead to 3-1. Robbie Grossman then hit a double to Jace Peterson in left field, and moved to third on a single by Cave. Following a mound visit, Wilson singled to Danny Valencia in right, scoring Grossman and advancing Cave to third. Gausman then ran into some command issues, walking Joe Mauer and allowing Cave to score on a wild pitch.

After Cave scored, Gausman struck out Rosario and Brian Dozier to end the inning, but the damage had been done and a win would not be possible for Gausman. Miguel Castro came on in relief in the sixth and ran into some trouble right away. Eduardo Escobar led off with his 35th double of the season, and then Castro walked both Polanco and Kepler. The Orioles’ defense forced two outs on ground balls, but Wilson’s ensuing double plated both Kepler and Grossman to lift Minnesota up 5-3.

Despite Peterson plating Schoop on a ninth-inning double, Rodney picked up his 19th save with a strikeout.

Game 4: (10-1 MIN): The Twins scored eight runs in the sixth inning with Dozier leading the way. Dozier doubled to lead off the inning and later hit a three-run home run that gave Minnesota a 10-0 lead. Escobar also hit a two-run bomb in the inning. Mitch Garver opened up the scoring in the fifth inning with a two-run home run that scored Kepler.

Alex Cobb‘s horrible season continued, as the 30-year-old failed to record an out in the sixth inning after giving up Escobar’s home run and a single by Morrison. Cobb left the game due to a blister on his throwing hand, but Buck Showalter said after the game that it should not stop Cobb from making his next start.

The Twins scored four more sixth inning runs after Cobb’s exit, but it did not matter. The only Baltimore run came in the ninth inning on another garbage-time solo home run by Davis, his ninth of the season.

Up Next: The Orioles return to Camden Yards for an eight-game home-stand, the final stretch before the All-Star break. The first four games of that span take place over three days against the Yankees. A single-admission doubleheader will take place on Monday beginning at 4:05 pm, resulting from a rain-out on May 31. Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s games begin at 7:05 pm.

Image Credit: Hannah Foslien, Getty Images 

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Maryland captures elusive road win by taking down Northwestern 71-64

It was not pretty and the second half certainly wasn’t clean, but in the end the Maryland Terrapins pulled out their second road win of the season by taking down Northwestern 71-64.

With these two teams meeting just nine days ago, there was some familiarity when they stepped on the court Monday night. The Wildcats were coming off of a devastating loss to Michigan State in which they lead the Spartans by 27 but still managed to lose 65-60. Maryland, on the other hand, has enjoyed a decent amount of success in recent games while winning three of their last five.

The Terrapins shot over 50% from the field in Monday’s win over Northwestern but got a great deal of offensive production from some players who usually remain quiet. Michael Cekovsky has not started much since returning from injury but still provides the team with a nice boost off of the bench.

It’s not often that Maryland has an advantage under the basket but Cekovsky didn’t waste anytime using that to his benefit when he came off the bench in the first half. The 7-foot-6-inch senior dominated the rim with three dunks and four rebounds in the first half.

Dion Wiley also came through with one of his more flashy performances of the year. Mark Turgeon has given Wiley an opportunity to start a lot of games over the past few weeks but he has stuck to his role as a facilitator for the most part. On Monday, the junior from Oxon Hill dropped 13 while adding three rebounds and a pair of steals.

Kevin Huerter would finish with 18 points and four assists to lead the Maryland offense. He was also responsible for three of the Terrapins five three pointers in the game. It was interesting to see Maryland shy away from the deep shots especially in the first half when the Wildcats were flourishing from beyond the arc. Chris Collins’ team shot 15 three pointers in the first half and managed to sink eight of them to take a 37-30 lead at the break.

However, that previously mentioned height difference between each teams big men helped the Terps keep pace with Northwestern early and eventually pull away. I am also a little surprised with just how fast the Terps played at points, especially in the second half. With the regular season coming to a close, I would have guessed that most of the team would be drained from playing extended minutes all year. Instead, Maryland did a lot of their scoring in transition and appeared to fluster the Wildcats down the stretch.

Maryland’s 41 point second half was fun to watch mainly because of their consistency. There were no scoring droughts as the Terps spent the full 20 minuets battling to either get even or hold on to a slim lead. Just like their game against Rutgers on Saturday, Maryland did a good job of closing the game out with a lead as well. Northwestern started intentionally fouling a little earlier than expected and the Terrapins took advantage by going 6-6 from the line to put the game on ice.

This second road win has been a long time coming for the Terps. There have been a lot of close calls since they took down Illinois in overtime earlier this season but they could never quiet get it done. I was happy to see Maryland thrive away from home but I can’t help but think about Northwestern’s arena situation.

The Wildcats have been relocated to the Allstate Arena this season while their normal home gets renovated. This has resulted in a lack of home court advantage for Northwestern. Just look at this picture of their student section from tonight’s game. None the less, the Terps found a win outside of the Xfinity Center and that all that matters.

Maryland will honor their senior players this Saturday as Michigan makes a trip to College Park. Big wins have eluded the Terps all season but they will get one more crack at it as the Wolverines are currently sitting at No. 17 in the AP rankings.

Image credit: Jim Young / AP

Fernando feasts on Scarlet Knights, helps Terps hold on for 61-51 win

Last Saturday Maryland pulled out their gold uniforms for their matchup against Northwestern. The result was a dominate 73-57 win, so why not do the same this week? The Terps decided to don the Gold once again and the result was another win. This time Maryland took down a basement dwelling Rutgers team 61-51.

Bruno Fernando was the clear leader for the Terps in this one, finishing with 18 points and a career high 16 rebounds. The freshman even scored the first three pointer of his career on a wide open look in the second half.

After their victory over Northwestern last week I said that this Maryland team has looked different as of late. Not only do I think that stands after this one, but I think it’s clear that the team has made major adjustments down the stretch. Unfortunately, these changes are coming a little too late as the Terps will have to win out just to get to .500 in the conference.

The Terps have found success in recent games by spreading the ball around and trusting each other on offense. We all know that the team is shorthanded because of injuries but you have no choice but to trust the guys you have at this point because you can’t win with the same two players shooting the ball 17-20 times a game.

This trust has resulted in a well-balanced offensive attack that features consistent scoring from all five starters and a couple of bench players, depending on the game. This was on full display right at the beginning of the game when the Terps took a 10-0 lead. Maryland took just four minutes to jump out to this lead and their first five baskets were scored by a five different players.

Anthony Cowan also had a standout night and really got a chance to run the Terps offense while taking a backseat when it came to shooting. The sophomore still put up 14 points but only shot the ball ten times. Instead, Cowan was able to help the Terps with six assists and five steals.

As the first half progressed the Terps continued to pass the ball well but more importantly, they protected the ball. Maryland went 11 minutes without a turnover and finished the first half with just two. Rutgers, on the other hand, coughed up the ball seven times. All of this was a recipe for a 31-19 Maryland lead at the half.

For a majority of the second half it looked like the Terps were going to run the Scarlet Knights off the court. Maryland started the second half with another 10-0 run and even had a 24 point lead at one point. However, with the clock approaching five minutes to play, Rutgers didn’t roll over and made things interesting with a 10-0 run of their own to cut the deficit to just nine.

In the end Maryland would close out the game like any good team does. They held the ball and trusted themselves to make the necessary baskets even with a dwindling shot clock. Rutgers maintained a high level of energy through the final minuets but the comeback was shutdown once Maryland got to the free throw line.

The Terps will have a quick turnaround as they prepare to play Northwestern again on Monday night. The Wildcats are coming off of one of the worst second half performances in Big Ten history. Playing without Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern scored just 11 points in the second half, allowing the No. 2 Michigan State Spartans to erase a 27 point defect and win the game 65-60.

The Terps handled their business when they hosted Northwestern last weekend but we all know how bad they are away from home. You can only hope that this devastating loss rattles the Wildcats and impacts them on a short turnaround.

Image credit: Nick Wass / Associated Press

Podcast: Nolan and Jake go over the latest on the NFL Playoffs, New England Patriots, and Terps hoops

Welcome to the latest episode of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast! On today’s show, insider Nolan McGraw joins site founder Jake McDonnell for a half-hour of sports talk.

In the middle of the NFL playoffs, the guys recapped Wild Card weekend and looked ahead to the Divisional round. Nolan and Jake also discussed at length the ESPN story that questioned the relationship between New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick, and quarterback Tom Brady.

Nolan has been all over our Maryland Terps Basketball coverage so far this season. With conference play now underway, how does Nolan feel about the 2017-18 Terps squad?

Subscribe to the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud. Thanks for listening!

Terps fail to keep pace with #1 ranked Spartans in 91-61 loss

After picking up a solid win over Penn State on Tuesday, Maryland was faced with their biggest matchup of the season. The only problem is they had just two days to prepare. The Terps traveled to East Lansing on Thursday and got blown out by the #1 ranked Michigan State Spartans 91-61.

It’s almost crazy to think how fast the game fell apart for Maryland. With six minutes to play in the first half, the two Big Ten teams were tied at 29 points. The Terps came out of the gate fast and matched the Spartans intensity by hitting eight of their first ten shots. Kevin Huerter was the key to this hot start and ended up scoring 14 points in the first half.

Despite getting off to an amazing start, Maryland could not keep Michigan State down. The Spartans enjoyed an insane three-point shooting percentage in the first half, going 10-16 and scoring 30 or their first 44 points from beyond the arc.

Once the Spartans started to create some separation it was over for this inexperienced Maryland team. Michigan State finished the half with a 15-3 run to take a 44-29 lead the break.

The Terps came into this game as an extreme underdog for many reasons. One of those being the fact that Michigan State has a lot of depth and the Terps don’t after their recent injuries. This became evident as the Spartans started to pull away. Mark Turgeon’s team looked gassed and were just trying to make it to the half.

The problem is, Maryland came out of the break looking just as uninspired. Michigan State is the number one team in the country for a reason, but the Terps didn’t show much of an effort to change their game plan. Both Anthony Cowan and Huerter looked very confident at times but they couldn’t get the ball inside to mix up the offensive attack. This forced the perimeter players to throw up way too many contested three pointers while the game slipped away.

To harp on the depth issues, Both Bruno Fernando and Michael Cekovsky had four fouls a piece before the mid-way point in the second half. This made them absolutely non-existent for the remainder of the game and they finished with seven and two points respectively. With no one to substitute, Maryland just couldn’t keep pace with a very fast and fluid Spartan team.

Just to emphasize how dominate Michigan State was, four players finished the night with double-digit scoring. Miles Bridges has been a monster for the Spartans this season and he put on a show Thursday night with 15 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds.

Michigan State also came very close to scoring 100 points in their fifth straight game. However, the previous four games were against non-conference pushovers like Houston Baptist and Long Beach State. I will let you decide what that says about Maryland. The Spartans have scored less than 80 points in just four games this season.

You can’t help but feel disappointing in this Maryland team. I know that they had a slim chance to defeat the best team in the country on two days rest but after their hot start, the second half was just torture to watch. The Terps will have a chance to bounce back on Sunday as they rerun home to host Iowa. The Hawkeyes are really struggling this season with a 9-8 record (0-4 in Big Ten) that puts them at the bottom of the conference.

Image Credit: Rey Del Rio / Getty Images

Maryland uses late push to take down Penn State 75-69

COLLEGE PARK, MD — 2018 is here and the Maryland Terps are ready to really dig into their conference schedule. After dropping two big games against Syracuse and Purdue, Maryland was able to finish 2017 with six wins before Big Ten play took over for good.

While the talent has certainly been there, we knew that this Maryland team was going to be a work in progress throughout the season due to their youth. The Terps took a big hit this past week though when Justin Jackson and Ivan Bender were ruled out for the remainder of the season. Jackson was being counted on as one of the leaders of this team and Bender will be greatly missed from a depth standpoint.

Replacing both of these players is not going to be easy and their absence will hurt the teams chances of competing against the bigger names in the Big Ten. You just hope that the team will mature rapidly enough to overcome this.

The first half of Tuesdays contest was a little unconventional for Maryland. Kevin Huerter picked up two fouls very early in the game and was forced to sit on the bench as a result. Huerter went scoreless but there was enough scoring from Anthony Cowan and Bruno Fernando to give Maryland a slim lead for most of the first half.

Neither team was able to get a three pointer to fall until a little over two minutes remained in the half. Penn States’s Tony Carr broke this with a pair of three pointers which helped spark an 11-3 run for the Nittany Lions. Penn State went into the half with a 34-30 lead.

Penn State and Maryland continued to play a very similar style of basketball in the second half. Neither team had a clear advantage in rebounds, turnovers, or shooting percentage. The only area of the game that ended up being disproportionate was the free throws. Maryland didn’t waste much time getting into the bonus in both halves but ended up making just 23/34 at the line. Penn State only shot four free throws in the entire game.

The second half scoring continued to come from those who had a hot hand. Cowan and Fernando would finish as the top scorers for the Terps but Kevin Huerter was able to finally come alive down the stretch. The Sophomore didn’t score his first points until about the ll minute mark when he knocked down a pair of free throws.

Overall the second half was what you would expect from Big Ten matchup. Two teams trading points back and forth until the final minutes when someone manages to pull away just in time. Here is how that happened for Maryland.

Darryl Morsell had a rough night but he sparked the Terps final push by nailing a three pointer with 4:30 to play. The big shot tied the game up but it wasn’t until the next possession when Michael Cekovsky got the home crowd really fired up. The big man was able to wrestle the ball away from a defender and throw it down for a huge dunk, giving Maryland their first lead since the first minute of the second half.

As the clock continued to tick away, the Terps played their best defense of the night and really put the pressure on the visitors. Kevin Huerter’s stellar finish included 13 points and four rebounds and played a huge role in the Terps win. Huerter was also lights out at the free throw line to help Maryland put the game away in the final minuets.

The 75-69 win marks Maryland’s second in conference play and gives them some nice momentum going into what could be their biggest game of the season. Mark Turgeon will have to get his young team ready by Thursday as the Terps prepare to take on the #1 ranked Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing.

Image Credit: Toni L. Sandys / The Washington Post

Maryland’s Justin Jackson to miss remainder of 2017-18 season with torn labrum

COLLEGE PARK, MD — After being sidelined for the past three games, it was revealed on Thursday afternoon that forward Justin Jackson has a torn labrum in his right shoulder. The injury will sideline Jackson for the rest of the 2017-18 season.

Head coach Mark Turgeon made the announcement during practice on Thursday and said that the team has been waiting to see the severity of the sophomore’s injury. “After evaluating Justin’s shoulder over the past few weeks – which included extensive rehabilitation and rest , we feel the best course of action is for Justin to move forward with surgery.”

Jackson played in 11 games this season, averaging 9.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. He enjoyed a great deal of success in his freshman season and even garnered some attention when the NBA draft rolled around. The Toronto native decided to return to Maryland for his sophomore year and was expected to be one of the leaders of the young team as he continued to grow as a player.

This injury is devastating to say the least. Not only for Jackson, but for the team as a whole. Conference play is about to start as the new year approaches, but the Terps will have to rely on their other sophomores, Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan, to carry the weight. In addition to this, the freshman will have to make some big improvements if Maryland is going to secure a trip to the NCAA tournament.

“Justin has an extremely bright future,” said Turgeon. “And I am confident he will continue to be an outstanding and impactful basketball player.”

Image Credit: Patrick Semansky / Associated Press