Series Preview: Orioles make pit stop at Camden Yards for tangle with Blue Jays

BALTIMORE — Despite enduring a freezing cold four-game series in New York that saw two contests go 12 innings or more, along with Mike Wright Jr.‘s complete flop on Sunday, the Baltimore Orioles found a way to take three games from the Yankees in the Bronx. After going 2-8 at Yankee Stadium in 2017 and beginning the 2018 campaign 1-5, this weekend lifted the spirits in the locker room and gave the O’s some much-needed confidence. The Yankees bolster one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball. Even though the pitching struggled at times, the bats finally came alive. For the first time in a long time, we saw the Orioles display that “never-die” attitude which has been a key characteristic of many Buck Showalter ball clubs through the years.

The Orioles return to Baltimore with a 4-6 record as the 6-4 Toronto Blue Jays come to town for more American League East action. The O’s are 1-2 at home this season after losing their opening series to the Twins. Toronto opened up the 2018 season with seven games at home – splitting a four-game series with the Yankees and taking two of three from the Chicago White Sox. The Blue Jays, currently on their first road trip of the 2018 season, took two of three from the Texas Rangers over the weekend. Many baseball pundits projected both the Orioles and the Blue Jays to finish in the bottom of the AL East this season, but Toronto has impressed early on.

Bullpen support on the way? With Friday’s game going 14 innings and Sunday’s thriller reaching 12 frames, the Orioles’ bullpen worked over 25 innings against the Yankees. Five different relievers threw at least 49 pitches over the four-game stretch. Richard Bleier stepped up big time, throwing 4.4 combined innings over the final three games (72 pitches). Miguel Castro (61 pitches) and Pedro Araujo (60 pitches) both tossed 4.1 combined innings, with their most recent appearances falling on Sunday.

Jimmy Yacabonis and Tanner Scott also made their Orioles debuts this weekend. Yacabonis appeared in Saturday’s 8-3 loss, giving up three earned runs on two hits and two walks in the seventh inning (27 pitches). Scott appeared in Sunday’s 8-7 win, going 1.2 innings and allowing one earned run on two hits and a walk with a strikeout (32 pitches).

Following his Saturday debut, the Orioles optioned Yacabonis back to Triple-A Norfolk on Sunday. As of this writing, Scott remains on the roster, but ensuing roster moves could come later today to sure up a bullpen with several tired arms.

The Orioles will hope for Monday’s starter, Dylan Bundy, to eat up as many innings as possible. The good news for Baltimore is that Bundy has been by far the O’s best starter this season, as the right-hander has only allowed one earned run in 13 innings in his two starts.

Game times and pitching matchups:

Game 1: Monday, Apr. 9, 7:05 pm – J.A. Happ (1-1, 5.40 ERA) vs. Dylan Bundy (0-0, 0.69 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan

Game 2: Tuesday, Apr. 10, 7:05 pm – Aaron Sanchez (0-1, 5.40 ERA) vs. Andrew Cashner (1-1, 4.09 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan

Game 3: Wednesday, Apr. 11, 7:05 pm – Marco Estrada (1-0, 2.77 ERA) vs. Kevin Gausman (0-1, 8.00 ERA) – MASN, MLB Network (out-of-market), 105.7 The Fan

Up next: The Orioles pack their bags for another seven-game road trip. Following an off-day on Thursday (Apr. 12), The Birds will play four games in Boston and three games in Detroit.

Image Credit: Toronto Star 

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Series Recap: Orioles extend losing streak to six before picking up win in series finale

A lot has changed for the Orioles since they won seven games in a row a few weeks ago. At the time, the streak put the O’s on the edge of a wildcard spot but things would come crashing down quickly after a couple rough losses to the Yankees and a sweep against a red-hot Cleveland club.

A bounce back series was needed to say the least but the Orioles could not find it. The results have been devastating for the O’s playoff hopes as well. Despite salvaging win in the series finale the Orioles are still at least four games behind the second wild card spot with just sixteen left to play.

All three games in this series were decided by one run but the Orioles came up short in two of them. In game one the Blue Jays took an early 2-0 lead thanks to a pair of RBI’s by Ryan Goins and Richard Urena.

The Orioles started a potential comeback in the fourth when Adam Jones brought Manny Machado home with an RBI single. However, Toronto was able to get that run right back in the bottom half of the inning. Goins came through again, this time with a solo homer to make it a 3-1 game.

This would happen again in the fifth and sixth innings as Mark Trumbo’s solo home run was erased by a Darwin Barney RBI single. After Ubaldo Jimenez exited the game it looked like the Orioles might be able to craft a comeback but Miguel Castro could not keep the Jays off the board either. Barney’s single marks the fourth run surrendered by Castro in his last three appearances.

The pitching may have been unreliable but looking back on this game you cannot ignore the two defensive mistakes by the O’s outfield. Mark Trumbo lost a routine fly ball in the lights that resulted in a double and Adam Jones made a throwing error that allowed a runner to advance in that same inning. These defensive mistakes hold even more weight in one run games and were definitely a contributing factor in the 4-3 loss.

With a chance to bounce back in game two the Orioles offense was nowhere to be found. The silver lining was a quality pitching performance by Dylan Bundy. The Orioles young starter tossed six strong innings while giving up just one run. Bundy also struck out eight in his start but was still arguably out-dueled by Joe Biagini.

Making his second start of the year against the O’s, Biagini was extremely efficient with his pitch count. The 27-year-old pitcher made it through eight innings and gave up just two runs. The only knock against Biagini was when he surrendered the lead to Tim Beckham in his final inning of the night. Facing Biagini for the fourth time in the game, Beckham was able to finally make him pay by launching a solo homer to take a 2-1 lead. However, this mistake would not matter in hindsight because Toronto was able to walk it off in the ninth.

Zach Britton entered the game to try to close out a one run win but he would end up blowing his second save of the year. Kevin pillar started the inning with a walk and Teoscar Hernandez followed with a single. Britton was able to get an out on a fielder’s choice but Pillar would come around to tie the game on an infield single.

Britton clearly did not have his best stuff but was still just one double play away from extending the game. Unfortunately the Orioles closer could not fool the Jays batters with his sinker and gave up the game winning hit to Urena.

The Orioles faced a very similar scenario in Wednesday’s series finale. Siting 4.5 games out of a wildcard spot, the O’s desperately needed to win the last game of this series. They managed to push two runs across in the first inning when Adam Jones doubled and Trey Mancini tripled but were shut down from here. Luckily, Kevin Gausman matched Dylan Bundy’s performance from the night before and held the Jays to just one run through seven innings of work.

Going into the bottom of the ninth the Orioles held the same 2-1 lead they had about 24 hours prior. Surprisingly Buck Showalter called upon Britton to close out the last inning again. This move is interesting not only because Britton blew the save on Tuesday but he also racked up a pitch count of 21 process.

The O’s closer was able to retire Jose Bautista to start the inning but gave up a single to the next batter, Kendrys Morales. With Pillar coming up to bat things were starting to look even more similar to the night before but this time Britton was able to get the crucial double play ball to end the game.

The Orioles will stay on the road this weekend with a four game series against the New York Yankees. The scenario has not changed since these teams last met earlier this month but the stakes are much higher for the O’s. Winning at least three games is going to be necessary if the Orioles want to have any chance at a postseason appearance.

Image Credit: Associated Press

Series Preview: Orioles continue road trip in Toronto

TORONTO — Coming into September, the Orioles stood three games over .500 and came close to snagging an American League Wild Card spot. Since the month started, however, the Baltimore Orioles played to a 3-7 record. Yes, the O’s did run into the Cleveland Indians at a bad time. The Tribe, in the midst of an 18-game winning streak, now represents the #1 seed in the AL. However, some of the losses in September came against the Blue Jays, who sit in the cellar of the AL East. The Orioles can avenge that split at Camden Yards if they win this series up north in Toronto.

Over the weekend, the Blue Jays took two of three from the Detroit Tigers at the Rogers Centre.

Standings Update: In the AL East, the Red Sox (81-62) lead the division and render the #3 seed in the AL (Houston is #2). The Yankees (77-65) come in second and still hold the first Wild Card spot in the AL. The Orioles (71-72), now a game below .500, stand in third place with the Rays (71-73) close behind them. The Blue Jays (66-77) remain the clear-cut disappointment in the division this season.

Wild Card Race: Along with the Yankees, the Twins (74-69) currently grasp onto a Wild Card slot in the AL. In their 3-7 stretch, the Orioles fell down the Wild Card rankings, now three games back. The Angels (73-70), Royals (71-71) and Rangers (71-71) include the teams now ahead of the O’s in the quest for a Wild Card appearance.

Last Meeting: Just over a week ago at Camden Yards, the Blue Jays and Orioles split a four-game series. Toronto won games one and three, and the Orioles emerged victorious in games two and four. This series occurred right after the Orioles swept the Mariners. Since the start of last weekend’s series against the Blue Jays, the Orioles played to a record of 3-6.

Season Series: The Orioles rule the 2017 season series versus the Blue Jays, 11-5.  At the Rogers Centre this season, the Orioles own a 5-2 edge.

Game Times and Pitching Matchups:

Game 1Monday, Sept. 11, 7:07 pm – Ubaldo Jimenez (5-9, 6.80 ERA) vs. Marco Estrada (7-8, 5.00 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 2Tuesday, Sept. 13, 7:07 pm – Dylan Bundy (13-9, 4.12 ERA) vs. Joe Biagini (3-10, 5.29 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan

Game 3Wednesday, Sept. 13, 7:07 pm – Kevin Gausman (10-10, 4.99 ERA) vs. Marcus Stroman (11-7, 3.18 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan

Notes on the Orioles:

  • Since being activated off the 60-day disabled list over the weekend, shortstop J.J. Hardy has not played. Unless the Orioles blow-out early and need a late-inning infielder, Tim Beckham will receive most of the playing time at shortstop. At this point, he’s so much better than Hardy at the plate. In the field, Hardy makes fewer errors than Beckham, but Beckham’s range visibly looks better than Hardy, now 35.
  • The starting rotation continues to struggle. Against the Indians this weekend, the trio of Wade Miley, Gabriel Ynoa, and Jeremy Hellickson combined for 10 earned runs on 17 hits. Meanwhile, the bullpen collectively allowed two earned runs over the weekend. Getting shut out on Friday certainly did not help, but the struggles of the 2017 Orioles continue to point at the starting pitching.
  • On June 29, Jimenez tossed eight scoreless innings in Toronto in a 2-0 Orioles win. That’s his best outing so far this season.

Notes on the Blue Jays:

  • First-baseman Justin Smoak‘s 37 home runs rank fourth in the MLB and third in the AL. Joey Gallo (Rangers) and J.D. Martinez (Diamondbacks) also possess 37 home runs on the season.
  • Closer Roberto Osuna (3.66 ERA) lists second in the AL and fifth in MLB with 35 saves. Alex Colome (Rays) commands both the AL and MLB lead with 56 saves.
  • Third baseman Josh Donaldson (illness) missed the last three games. His status for Monday’s game remains unclear.

Up Next: The Orioles head to the Bronx to conclude their 10-game road trip. Thursday through Sunday, the Birds battle the Yankees, just a few days removed from last weekend’s series at Camden Yards. The Yankees won that series, 2-1.

Image Credit: FanRag Sports 

Series Recap: Orioles split series against Toronto with two walk off wins

BALTIMORE — The Orioles entered this weekend’s series against Toronto with a seven-game winning streak. They were quickly humbled by the visiting Blue Jays and had to scrap their way to a split. Following their two walk-off wins this weekend, the Orioles are now 12-2 on the year in extra-inning contests.

The four-game series started on Thursday with a high-scoring affair. The O’s held an early 5-2 lead after the first three innings, but would end up falling to the explosive Toronto lineup.

Toronto made their comeback in the fifth inning by tagging Jeremy Hellickson for five runs. The O’s starter was pitching pretty well up until that point. He ended up being chased with just two outs recorded in the fifth.

The bullpen did not fare any better. Richard Bleier and Mychal Givens entered the game in relief. They surrendered four combined runs in just over three innings of work. The Blue Jays held off the Orioles in the final innings to secure the 11-8 win.

Friday was a completely different story. Both teams struggled to produce any sort of offense and played 12 innings of scoreless baseball. The game was far from boring. After the surplus of runs on Thursday, it was refreshing to see two pitching staffs at the top of their game.

When the contest reached the late and innings, the intensity turned up another level. With less room for error, both teams shined defensively and came through with some game-saving plays. In the top of the ninth, Jonathan Schoop cut Kevin Pillar down at the plate to save a run. Toronto right-fielder Teoscar Hernandez followed that up in the bottom half of the inning by robbing Welington Castillo of a walk-off hit.

The biggest play of the night occurred in the 13th inning. With two outs and a runner on second, Steve Pearce hit a rocket to left field. The ball looked like it was going to fly over Trey Mancini’s head, but the Orioles’ rookie brought the crowd to their feet with a stellar diving catch. Mancini’s flashy grab kept the Blue Jays scoreless and set up an O’s walk-off in the bottom half of the inning.

Manny Machado led the 13th off with an infield single. This would was the only base runner necessary for Baltimore as Schoop followed with a double into the right field gap. Machado got a great read on the ball and hustled his way around the bases without any hesitation. The game-winning hit marked RBI number 101 for Schoop in 2017.

The extra-inning win looked like it could be a big momentum shift in the series, but the Blue Jays came right back on Saturday. Toronto put up seven runs in game three between the fifth and eighth innings to secure another win. Once again, most of the Blue Jays’ runs were attributed to the O’s bullpen. Recent call up Richard Rodriguez  struggled in his Orioles debut, giving up four runs in one inning of work.

Facing a tough series loss, the Orioles had to dig deep and pull out a win in Sunday’s finale in order to salvage a split. The game ended up being a micro chasm of the weekend with both teams trading runs leading up to an extra-inning finish.

A three-run homer by Josh Donaldson put the Jays up early, but the O’s tied the game by the sixth inning. A pair of solo homers by Castillo and Mark Trumbo started the comeback. Mancini brought in the tying run on a sacrifice fly. Toronto regained the lead in the seventh when Michael Saunders picked up an RBI infield single. The Orioles tied it once again in the ninth.

Castillo got the job done by leading off the inning with his second solo shot of the game. The Orioles had a chance to win in the ninth when they got a couple more runners on-base but they got stranded.

The Orioles received the best of the Blue Jays in extra innings thanks to some more clutch hitting by Schoop. The O’s second baseman put himself in scoring position by leading off the inning with a double. For a minute, it looked like he would be stranded as Adam Jones and Mancini quickly failed to get on, but then the Blue Jays made a costly mistake.

For some reason, the Blue Jays decided to intentionally walk Davis, bringing Trumbo to the plate. Trumbo was already 2-for-5 with a home run coming into that at-bat, so the decision was a little confusing. Hindsight will not help the Blue Jays either as Trumbo hit a walk-off single to left field.

The Orioles finish up this home stand with another American League East series this week. The New York Yankees will be in town for the first time since the beginning of June.
The stakes are even higher this time around. The Yankees currently hold one of the AL Wildcard spots that the Orioles are chasing in this final month of the season.

Image Credit: USA Today Sports

 

Series Preview: Orioles carry seven game win streak into series against Toronto

The Orioles have been on fire lately, winning eight of their last ten games and moving up to the forefront of the AL wildcard race. The Birds’ good fortunes started a week ago with an extra-inning walk off against the Oakland A’s. Manny Machado’s game-winning homer in the twelfth inning gave the O’s their first series win since the beginning of the month and started a seven-game win streak.

During that streak, the Orioles swept the Red Sox in Boston and returned home to sweep the Mariners. The O’s’won those seven games by getting great performances from both the offense and pitching staff. The +28 run differential is just one stat that shows how dominant the O’s have been so far in their win streak.

Last Meeting: This will be the fifth series played between the Orioles and Blue Jays in 2017. So far, Baltimore has dominated Toronto, winning every series with an overall record of 9-3. Following this weekend’s series, the teams will meet one last time in mid September.

Standings Update: Riding the wave of their current hot streak, the Orioles have moved to within 1.5 games of the second wild card spot. The Blue Jays, on the other hand, continue to make their way through a disappointing 2017 campaign. With a record of 61-72, Toronto is in the basement of the AL East but that will not stop them from trying to spoil a division opponent’s chances at the postseason.

Game Times and Pitching Matchups:

Game 1: Thursday, August 31, 7:05 pm – Jeremy Hellickson (8-7, 4.88 ERA) vs Marco Estrada (6-8, 5.04 ERA)

Game 2: Friday, September 1, 7:05 pm – Kevin Gausman (10-9, 4.98 ERA) vs Joe Biagini (3-9, 5.40 ERA)

Game 3: Saturday, September 2, 7:05 pm – Wade Miley (8-10, 4.99 ERA) vs Marcus Stroman (11-6, 3.11 ERA)

Game 4: Sunday, September 3, 1:35 pm – Chris Tillman (1-7, 7.91 ERA) vs Brett Anderson (2-3, 6.83 ERA)

Notes on the Blue Jays:

  • Joe Biagini will receive,the start for the Blue Jays on Friday. The 27-year-old-pitcher has started 12 games for Toronto this year, but made a move to the bullpen after a bad start at the beginning of July. He made his return to the rotation on Sunday, but it was not a good outing. Biagini gave up five runs in just 3.2 innings of work.
  • Marco Estrada’s 2017 numbers are far from flashy, but he has always fared well against the O’s. In eleven career starts against Baltimore, Estrada is 5-1 with a 2.66 ERA. He will be tasked with putting a stop to the Orioles’ hot bats when the series kicks off on Thursday.

Notes on the Orioles:

  • On Tuesday, Dylan Bundy delivered the best start by an Orioles pitcher in recent history. The young starter struck out 12 and gave up just one hit in a complete game shutout. Bundy has now pitched through the sixth inning in six of his last seven starts while lowering his ERA to 3.94.
  • Welington Castillo had a very good offensive series against the Mariners this week. The O’s catcher went 8/11 at the plate with two home runs and six RBI while moving his batting average back up to .300 on the year. Defensive stats still suggest that Caleb Joseph is more essential to the success of the pitching staff, but Castillo’s bat could be too hot to replace right now. It will be interesting to see how much playing time he gets in this upcoming four-game series.

Up Next: The Orioles finish their home stand next week with a series against the New York Yankees. Just like many of their recent matchups ,the O’s will take on another Wildcard team when the face New York. This series will be one of many high intensity matchups down the stretch as the final month of the season begins.

Image Credit: The Canadian Press

Series Recap: Orioles win second straight road series thanks to improved pitching

TORONTO — After picking up a much-needed road series win in Tampa, the Orioles kept the ball rolling by taking two of three from Toronto. Two good starts from Kevin Gausman and Ubaldo Jimenez, combined with consistent offensive production, gave the O’s the edge in the division matchup.

Having the day off on Monday had to be extremely beneficial for the Orioles, particularly for the pitching staff, as they put together some of their best outings of the season. Kevin Gausman got it started on Tuesday surrendering just four hits through 5.1 innings.

Mychal Givens, Darren O’Day, and Brad Brach worked in relief and came very close to picking up a shutout. With two outs in the ninth inning on a two-strike count, Brach gave up a solo home run to Tory Tulowitzki, making it a 3-1 game. The homer may have broken up the shutout, but it didn’t rattle Brach as he quickly struck out the next batter to end the game.

In game two the roles were reversed. This time the Blue Jays found themselves on the side of an excellent pitching effort. Marcus Stroman struck out eight in 7.2 innings of work, while Jose Bautista and Justin Smoak provided the offense with a couple of home runs.

For Thursdays rubber match the Orioles sent Ubaldo Jimenez to the mound. Many fans probably groaned at the thought of Jimenez pitching in a series-deciding game, but he surprised everyone when he took a no-hitter into the fifth inning.

The O’s offense only scraped together two runs, but that was all that was necessary as Jimenez pitched his best game since facing the Reds earlier this season. The veteran pitcher ended up going eight innings while giving up just one hit on a fielder’s choice. Factor in his eight strikeouts and this might be the best start by an O’s pitcher all season.

Brach was summoned for the ninth inning and once again got the job done. The O’s closer worked himself into a tough situation after giving up a hit and bringing the tying run to the plate, but ultimately closed it out for his 15th save of the year

In other news, Welington Castillo was scratched from Thursdays game with a left knee sprain. On the MASN broadcast after the game, manager Buck Showalter said that the injury occurred when Castillo slipped on the dugout steps at the Rogers Centre.

Castillo has already spend two separate stints on the 10-day DL with back spasms and a groin injury. Showalter is hoping this injury is not serious enough to warrant putting Castillo back on the DL.

The division matchups don’t stop here as the Orioles prepare to return home this weekend for another series against the Rays. While the Birds have enjoyed some road success recently, they are always looking forward to playing at home. This upcoming series can propel the O’s up the division standings as long as they keep their hot streak going.

Image Credit: Toronto Star

Series Preview: Orioles continue AL East road trip in Toronto

TORONTO — After winning just their third road series of the season (and their first in two months), the Orioles are heading to Toronto for a three-game series against the Blue Jays. Both teams enjoyed a day off on Monday, and will compete Tuesday-Thursday with all three games beginning at 7:07 pm.

The Blue Jays return to the Rogers Centre after a 3-4 road trip. Over the weekend, the Kansas City Royals took two of three from the Jays.

Standings Update: Both of these teams still have plenty of time to regroup before the All-Star Break, but they sit in the cellar of the American League East. The Orioles (37-38) man the fourth-place slot, and the Jays (36-39) the fifth. The Yankees (41-33) and the Red Sox (42-34) are tied for first, and the Rays (40-38) are next in line. Baltimore is 4.5 games out of first, and Toronto 5.5

Season Series vs. Blue Jays: So far this season, the Orioles own a 7-2 edge against the Blue Jays. The two teams have tangled in three separate series so far in 2017, with two of them taking place at Camden Yards and one at the Rogers Centre. The Orioles are 3-1 in Canada so far this season, having played four games there in April.

Game Times and Pitching Matchups: 

Game 1Tuesday, June 27, 7:07 pm – Kevin Gausman (3-7, 6.47 ERA) vs. Joe Biagini (2-6, 4.45 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan.

Game 2Wednesday, June 28, 7:07 pm – Wade Miley (3-5, 4.48 ERA) vs. Marcus Stroman (7-4, 3.69 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan.

Game 3: Thursday, June 29, 7:07 pm – Ubaldo Jimenez (2-3, 7.26 ERA) vs. TBD – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan.

Notes on the Orioles:

  • So far in June, reliever Mychal Givens has allowed just one run on nine hits, one walk, and 10 strikeouts. His June stat line includes eight appearances for 10 total innings.
  • Also in June, Trey Mancini is batting .365 with 31 hits, seven home runs, and 19 RBI. He has the highest batting average on the team by far (.321), followed by Jonathan Schoop at .295.
  • As of Monday night, the Orioles pitching staff’s 409 allowed runs leads the MLB. Baltimore has leads the league with 292 walks.
  • The team expects closer Zach Britton to be activated off the 60-day disabled list on July 5. He is currently working a rehab assignment in Double-A Bowie, but will pitch at both Class-A Fredrick and Triple-A Norfolk before returning to the big leagues.

Notes on the Blue Jays: 

  • First baseman Justin Smoak’s hitting streak is now in the double digit mark at 10 games, with one hit in his last four games. He leads the team in batting average (.304), home runs (20), RBI (48) and slugging (.588).
  • Outfielder Kevin Pillar has a .311 career batting average against the O’s, with 61 hits, 11 doubles, five home runs, and 20 RBI.
  • As a starter (9 starts), Biagini is 2-5 with a 4.91 ERA. In relief, his role at the beginning of the season, he was 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA.

Up Next: Following Thursday’s contest, the Orioles head home for a three-game set against the Rays. The home cooking won’t last long, because after that the O’s leave Baltimore again for seven games (three in Milwaukee, four in Minneapolis) before the All-Star break.

Image Credit: The Baltimore Wire