Orioles trade Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to Braves

BALTIMORE — With Tuesday afternoon’s trade deadline looming, the Baltimore Orioles surprised everyone by agreeing to trade Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to Atlanta.

The Orioles received four prospects in return for Gausman and O’Day – Infielder Jean Carlos Encarnacion, catcher Brett Cumberland, left-handed pitcher Bruce Zimmermann and right-handed pitcher Evan Phillips. The Braves have one of the most loaded farm systems in baseball and sent two of their top 30 prospects to Baltimore in the deal.

Encarnacion headlines the group as one of the best infielders coming up in the Braves system. He was signed in 2016 at the age of 18 out of the Dominican Republic and has spent the past two years playing rookie ball. In 2018 he was moved to Single-A Rome where he is currently hitting .288 with 10 homers and 57 RBI’s in just under 100 games. His 100 strikeouts are a concern but Encarnacion has shown a lot of potential as a hitter.

Standing at 6’3″, he could grow into a power hitter but for now his ability to make contact is enough to earn him attention. Defensively, Encarnacion has settled into a role at third base after initially playing some shortstop.

Cumberland rounds out the Braves top 30 prospect list as one of a few young catchers in their farm system. As a switch hitter, Cumberland has shown some power from both sides of the plate but often swings and misses. The 23-year-old has spent time at Single-A and Double-A this season where he is hitting just .228 with 90 strikeouts in 87 games. His defense behind the plate is still a work in progress as well.

Outside of these top 30 pickups, the Orioles also acquired two pitching prospects. Zimmermann will likely make more headlines in this deal as a starter, while Phillips continues to develop as a reliever. Zimmermann is a lefty with good strikeout numbers. In 20 starts between Single-A and Double-A, he has a 9-4 record with a 2.96 ERA. His 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings is also a good sign.

Phillips is a right-handed pitcher who started his minor league journey back in 2015. He currently finds himself at the Triple-A level with a 1.99 ERA and eight saves in 40.2 innings of relief. Phillips also made his major league debut with the Braves earlier this season but struggled in his brief appearances.

Throughout the month of July the Orioles front office has been dead set on just trading the players with expiring contracts. Dan Duquette and company stated that the door was also open for offers on players like Gausman, Jonathan Schoop and Mychal Givens, but until Tuesday afternoon this just felt like a safe media answer. In addition to the Gausman deal, the O’s ended up trading Schoop to the Brewers.

However, with Adam Jones‘s recent decision to not waive his no-trade clause, the Orioles may have felt more pressure to deal Gausman and Schoop, despite having years left on their contracts, to ensure that their farm system gets the overhaul it desperately needs.

Gausman was selected by the Orioles in the first round of the 2012 draft and made his major league debut a year later. By 2014 he was a consistent member of the starting rotation, earning seven wins in 20 starts. The Orioles had seemingly turned the franchise around after 2012 and Gausman was projected to be their No. 1 pitcher as they became perennial contenders.

While the 27-year-old has certainly looked like an ace on many occasions, he has struggled with consistency. Over the past five seasons in Baltimore Gausman has gone 36-46 with a 4.12 ERA.

Gausman will join an Atlanta team right in the middle of a playoff hunt. He will also be greeted by some former teammates like Nick Markakis and Ryan Flaherty. Fellow pitcher Brad Brach was also traded to the Braves this past Sunday.

If Atlanta does end up making the playoffs, Gausman has some experience under his belt that could benefit his new team. During the 2014 playoff run, Gausman never started a game but he did toss eight innings of relief between three games. In those appearances Gausman surrendered just one run and struck out seven.

O’Day is an interesting addition to the trade considering he finds himself out for the rest of the year. It’s not surprising that his name never came up in trade conversations after suffering the injury but with the Orioles moving toward a full rebuild, it makes sense to add him to this deal as a sweetener.

In seven seasons with the Orioles, O’Day accumulated a 28-14 record with a 2.40 ERA as a reliever. His unique pitching motion helped make him a deceptive change of pace coming out of the bullpen. In recent years he performed well pitching in the setup role before Zach Britton would enter for a save opportunity.

Image credit: Evan Habeeb / USA Today Sports

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Orioles return home to host AL East leading Red Sox

BALTIMORE — The post Manny Machado era is officially here and for a split second the Orioles managed to fool us into thinking they could compete without their best player. Anyone that watched this weekend’s series against Toronto knows that trickery was short lived though.

On Friday the Birds resumed their 2018 campaign by taking on the Blue Jays and even staged a late game comeback to force extra innings. However, the Orioles would end up losing after Tim Beckham misplayed a ground ball in the bottom of the tenth. Say what you will about Machado playing shortstop this season but if was on the field Friday night, that game doesn’t end in the tenth.

After dropping Saturday’s game 4-1, the Orioles found themselves in a position to win late in Sunday’s finale. An RBI double by Renato Nunez and a defensive error by Toronto allowed the O’s to score two in the top of the eighth and extend their lead to 4-1. Brad Brach entered the game out of the pen in the bottom half of the inning and proceeded to surrender a two RBI homer, cutting the lead to just one run. Tanner Scott followed Brach in an attempt to close out the inning but gave up a two run shot of his own, leading Toronto to their ninth victory over the Orioles this season.

To make things worse, the road ahead does not look encouraging for Buck Showalter’s team. The Orioles will play three more AL East opponents before the end of July rolls around, starting with this home stand against Boston.

Last meeting: The Orioles hosted Boston back in mid June and the visiting Red Sox came out on top with a three game sweep by outscoring the O’s 13-5. Looking back the sweep comes as no surprise as the Orioles were in the middle of a season high nine game losing streak.

Game times and pitching matchups:

Game 1: Monday, July 23, 7:05 pm – Kevin Gausman (4-7, 4.33 ERA) vs Rick Porcello (11-4, 4.13 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 2: Tuesday, July 24, 7:05 pm – Yefry Ramirez (0-3, 3.09 ERA) vs Drew Pomeranz (1-3, 6.81 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 3: Wednesday, July 25, 7:05 pm – Dylan Bundy (6-9, 4.57 ERA) vs David Price (11-6, 4.17 ERA) – MASN, ESPN, 105.7 The Fan

Notes on Red Sox:

  • Mookie Betts is always a player to fear if you’re an Orioles fan. The Red Sox right fielder holds a batting average of .286 with 42 RBI’s in 71 career games against the O’s and so far in 2018 Betts has shown no signs of slowing down against Baltimore pitching. In the eight games between Boston and Baltimore so far this season, Betts has gone 11-31 at the plate with three home runs and six RBI’s.
  • Drew Pomeranz will be making his first start since May 31 on Tuesday. The Boston starter landed on the disabled list earlier this season with biceps tendentious, halting his season before he could get some momentum going. In the eight starts prior to the injury Pomeranz accumulated an ERA of 6.83 and only made it past the fifth inning on two occasions. Pomeranz holds a 2-4 record with a 4.01 ERA in nine career appearances against the Orioles.

Notes on Orioles:

  • Mychal Givens has had a roller coaster season in the Orioles bullpen. The inconsistencies have resulted in a 4.56 ERA but if there is a team that you can trust Givens to perform well against, it’s the Red Sox. Givens holds a 1.71 ERA against Boston, which is the lowest ERA against any team he has thrown at least 20 innings against.
  • With Manny Machado out of the lineup, the Orioles are in desperate need of a consistent leader at the plate. Jonathan Schoop may be having a down year but so far in July, the second baseman has been producing in his at bats. The O’s second baseman has recorded a hit in 16 of his last 17 games to help give himself a .352 batting average in the month of July.

Image credit: Patrick McDermott / USA Today Sports

Orioles finish June with 6-2 loss to Angels

BALTIMORE — On Saturday afternoon the Baltimore Orioles dropped a late afternoon game against the Los Angeles Angels 6-2 and extended their losing streak to seven straight.

After almost getting shutout in Friday’s series opener, the Orioles offense struck early on Saturday with two runs in the first inning. Tim Beckham got it started in the leadoff spot with a single to set the table. Adam Jones immediately followed him with a single of his own, allowing Beckham to round second and safely head to third. Manny Machado came up to bat next and battled Tyler Skaggs in a lengthy plate appearance before bringing Beckham in with an RBI single to left field.

The offense slowed down from here but the O’s still managed to push another run across with a sacrifice fly by Danny Valencia. That would end the offensive output for the O’s on Saturday evening. The lineup went ice cold, just like the night before, and only mustered three more hits through the next eight innings.

Andrew Cashner got the start for Baltimore and did his best to make those two runs count. Cashner surrendered just one run in the fourth and finished his night after six innings. This quality start rounds out Cashner’s best month of the season so far. The veteran starter will finish June with a 3.21 ERA in five starts.

Brad Brach picked up where Cashner left off by completing a clean 1-2-3 inning on 17 pitches. Going into the eighth the Orioles maintained their slim 2-1 lead but it was only a matter of time before the inconsistent bullpen broke down.

Mychal Givens got the first out of the eighth but then unraveled by giving up a pair of walks and an RBI double to Albert Pujols. Buck Showalter quickly replaced Givens with Tanner Scott but the rookie pitcher could not stop the bleeding. Scott issued a walk to Andrelton Simmons before Chris Young brought home the go-ahead run with a fielder’s choice. Two more runs were scored in the inning after Scott hit Martin Maldonado with the bases loaded and then gave up a two-RBI single to David Fletcher.

When it was all said and done the Angels had not only come back, but also picked up a comfortable 6-2 lead. As you might have guessed, this lead was very safe through the final two innings and Los Angeles picked up their fifth win against the O’s this season.

The Orioles will finish June with a 6-20 record, meaning their latest incredibly miserable feat is not winning a single game against an American league team all month. The Orioles have also dropped 17 of their last 18 home games as they limped through the half way point of the season with the worst record in the league, 23-59.

Image credit: Gail Burton / Associated Press