Series Recap: Orioles end 11-day win drought with sweep over Mets

QUEENS, NY — The Baltimore Orioles earned a two-game sweep over the New York Mets on Tuesday evening and Wednesday afternoon. Baltimore’s record moves to 19-41, 22.5 games back in the American League East. The Mets fall to 27-32, extending their losing streak to six games. They now trail the National League East-leading Braves (36-25) by eight games.

Game 1 (2-1 BAL): The Orioles plated two runs in the first inning, and that ended up being all they needed to win for the first time in 11 days, ending a seven-game losing streak.

Trey Mancini, Adam Jones, and Manny Machado got it going right away with three straight singles to begin the game. Mancini scored on Machado’s single, which simultaneously moved Jones over to third. Then, Danny Valencia flew out to left field, but Jones scored and awarded Valencia an RBI.

Machado stole second base after his single, but Mark Trumbo struck out and Jonathan Schoop flew out to end the top of the first inning.

Alex Cobb breezed through his first four innings, as catcher Kevin Plawecki drawing a walk in the second inning wound up being the Mets’ only baserunner in the first four frames. The Mets cut Baltimore’s lead in half in the fifth inning when rightfielder Jay Bruce scored on a flyout by former American League East-foe José Bautista. Bruce singled to begin the inning, and moved to third on a Plawecki double. But, Cobb pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning, and left the game after throwing 99 pitches, 61 for strikes. His effort earned him his second win of the season, lifting his overall record to 2-7.

Mychal Givens pitched the seventh inning and one third of the eighth inning. He walked one and struck out two. Richard Bleier got the final two outs of the eighth inning, and Brad Brach earned his ninth save of the season despite walking Bruce with two outs.

New York starter Jason Vargas lost his fourth game of the season after winning two straight games, dropping his record to 2-4.

Game 2 (1-0 BAL): Both starters – Zack Wheeler and Dylan Bundy – cruised through seven shutout innings. Each allowed just three hits and stuck out five. Bundy led in walks over Wheeler 3-1. Bundy threw 96 pitches (62 strikes), and Wheeler tossed 93 (60 strikes).

The Orioles scored their lone and winning run in the eighth inning. Pinch-hitter Pedro Alvarez, batting leadoff, singled on a ground ball thrown by relief pitcher Jeurys Familia. Craig Gentry came into the game to run for Alvarez. Mancini lined out to Bruce, but then Jones singled to left field, advancing Gentry to third base. Machado drove Gentry home on another single, this one to centerfield. The score led to Baltimore’s sweep and gave Familia his third loss of the season, lowering his record to 2-3.

Once again in the ninth inning, Brach earned his second save in 24 hours. Leadoff hitter Todd Frazier singled to begin the inning, but Brach regrouped and retired the side to end the game. Bundy received the win, raising his record to 4-7.

Up Next: The Orioles head to Toronto for their first series at the Rogers Centre of the 2018 season. The four-game series versus the Blue Jays features 7:07 pm starts on Thursday and Friday, and 1:07 pm starts on Saturday and Sunday.

Image Credit: NY Daily News

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Orioles must change offensive approach to end losing ways

The Baltimore Orioles (17-41) enter the week of Jun. 4 with the worst record in the Majors. Losers of seven straight games, the 2018 season is already over. Now over two months into the season, Orioles ownership faces a cloud of uncertainty with the contracts of both general manger Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter expiring after the season. That’s not a good situation for a team like the Orioles who sit 22.5 games out of first place in the American League East.

Whether Duquette sticks around or leaves town following the 2018 season, the Orioles’ offensive approach needs to change in order for the team to find success again. Since Duquette arrived in Baltimore, the Orioles have relied on lineups full of power bats to carry the team via the long ball. From 2012-17, the Orioles finished in the top 3 in home runs, and they led the major leagues in 2013, 2014, and 2016. Also in that time span, Baltimore finished within the top 10 in strikeouts three times. So far this season, the Orioles rank fifth in strikeouts (523) and 14’th in home runs (65). They’re also 27’th in walks taken (159), 27’th in average (.230) and 29’th in both on-base percentage (OBP) (.293) & runs scored (210).

While these stats span just over two months total, it’s not hard to figure out that these numbers do not point to a successful offense. While ranking 14’th in home runs still puts the Orioles in the middle of the pack, they’re not scoring enough runs, not getting on base enough, and they’re striking out at an alarming rate.

Currently, only four regular starters in the Orioles lineup – Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Trey Mancini, and Mark Trumbo – own OBP’s above .300. This means that over half of Baltimore’s lineup is failing to reach base in seven-of-10 at-bats. Guys like Jones and Trumbo have done all they can to carry the offense, but even they carry free-swinging power bats who will see large strikeout totals when the 2018 season comes to a close.

Easily, the biggest disappointment for the Orioles dates back to the 2016 offseason, and that’s Chris Davis. Since signing a seven-year, $161 million deal in the winter preceding the 2016 season, Davis has hit an alarming .196 with 68 home runs and 487 strikeouts. Things seem to be hitting rock-bottom this season with Davis hitting .152 with just four home runs. Davis has hit at least 21 home runs in seven of 11 seasons, but he’s on pace to finish 2018 with 12 home runs (and about 219 strikeouts).

One factor playing into the declining offensive numbers has to be age. The Orioles are a veteran-heavy team with Jones, Davis, and Trumbo all at the age of 32. Pedro Alvarez, who’s been playing fairly often in the DH spot, is 31. Jonathan Schoop and Mancini are both 26, and Machado turns 26 on Jul. 6. When Davis, Jones, and Trumbo were in their late 20’s, relying on the home run got the Orioles by. Now, a lot of these guys are well above 30 and have started to decline. None of them will admit to it, but the Orioles are a veteran team in need of a turnover that includes plenty of youth.

This should not come as a surprise, but the Red Sox (40-19), Yankees (37-17), Astros (37-23), and Braves (34-24) are the highest scorers of the 2018 season to date. Boston, Atlanta and Houston make up the top three teams in hits while the Yankees, Red Sox and Astros hold the top three spots in RBI. Meanwhile, the Rangers (25-36), Padres (26-34), Giants (28-30) and Orioles make up four of the top five teams in strikeouts this season, with third-place Philadelphia (31-25) being an exception. The stats don’t lie. Teams that hit consistently, score runs and play small ball see success more often than not. Home runs will only get you so far, and strikeouts are the killer.

The scary part about this situation is that the Orioles’ front office appears to be very naive to the issue with no real drive to change the offensive approach. Despite a plethora of designated hitter, power bat types already on the roster (in the forms of Davis, Trumbo and Alvarez), Duquette recently expressed interest in 34-year-old free agent Hanley Ramirez. Duquette has prior experience with Ramirez from his tenure with the Red Sox, but signing a 34-year-old power bat to a team that should be selling makes no sense. With a 17-41 record and a lineup full of aging, undisciplined batters, comments like these from Duquette are extremely concerning.

Another frustrating practice the Orioles implement is neglecting their farm system of international talent. In May, Ben Badler of Baseball America wrote a story highlighting Baltimore ownership’s refusal to spend money in the international market. As Badler wrote in the piece, Duquette’s input only goes so far since the decisions on talent are ultimately made by the Angelos family. The decision to not dip into the international market not only limits the scouting the Orioles can do, but the return the team gets for sending off their international pool money amounts to almost nothing.

The struggles of the 2018 Orioles must not all fall on the offense. The pitching has not been perfect either, with the starting rotation sporting a 5.43 ERA and a bullpen that’s dealt with several injuries. However, since defeating the Red Sox 7-4 on May 18, the Orioles scored three runs or fewer in 13 of their last 14 games, going 3-11 in that span. Even if Dylan Bundy or another Orioles starting pitcher delivers a quality start, the chances of the Orioles’ offense providing just three runs have not been good as of late.

With just under two months remaining before the 2018 MLB trade deadline, there’s still time for Duquette and Orioles’ ownership to make some moves to better the club beyond 2018. All aspects of the club could use some work, but the offense appears to be the biggest issue plaguing the team. The scary reality Orioles fans are faced with is that the team’s ownership has been extremely reluctant to make any sort of changes to the way they construct their team, and no recent events point to that pattern changing. The reliance on the home run worked for a few seasons, but it’s time to change the offensive approach. Until the Orioles do that, the team’s losing ways will continue indefinitely.

Image Credit: Beyond the Box Score

 

Bundy gives up three homers as Orioles fall to Red Sox 6-3

BOSTON — After grabbing their first road win since Apr. 8 on Friday night, the Orioles looked to keep the momentum going against the Red Sox and hopefully push for their first road series win since that same Sunday back in April.

Instead, the O’s pitchers fell victim to the dangerous Boston lineup on a chilly night at Fenway Park. Dylan Bundy and Red Sox starter Rick Porcello traded strikeouts early in Saturday’s game with both starters only surrendering a run through the first four innings. Overall it was shaping up to be a pitchers’ duel but then the offenses broke out.

Things got rough for Bundy in the fifth inning during his third time through the Boston lineup. To no one’s surprise it was Mookie Betts, the certified Oriole killer, leading the charge for the Boston offense with a two-run homer over the green monster. Betts has been on an absolute tear this year and the Orioles have just been another team standing in his way. The 25-year-old right fielder has seven hits and four RBI so far in this weekend’s series.

2018 Preakness winner, Justify, isn’t the only one with two legs of a triple crown under their belt as Saturday comes to a close. Betts fifth-inning homer marked his 15’th of the year, giving him the lead over Manny Machado (14 HR/.347 BA) in both home runs and batting average.

Andrew Benintendi immediately followed Betts with a solo shot of his own that landed in the Orioles’ bullpen. The back-to-back home runs quickly gave the Red Sox a 4-1 lead after the first four innings had been deadlocked.

The Orioles’ offense responded in the top of the sixth when Mark Trumbo got on base before Pedro Alvarez came up and launched a two-run blast down the left field line. The lead had been cut to just a run but it would not be long before the Red Sox extended it once again.

After walking the first two batters in the seventh, Tanner Scott surrendered a two-RBI single to Benintendi to make it a 6-3 game. The Orioles’ offense did not have a response this time as the Red Sox bullpen went on to close out the final two innings in order. Craig Kimbrel picked up his 13th save of the season and Porcello earned the win while Bundy was credited with his team-leading sixth loss.

The four-game series between Boston and Baltimore comes to a close tomorrow afternoon with the Orioles looking for a split against the AL East-leading Red Sox.

Image credit: Michael Dwyer / AP