Archive for April, 2012

Speaking of Oriole Magic, let's hope it's here to stay

April 30, 2012

OK Orioles fans are you getting excited yet?

Our birds are sitting atop the division with a 14-8 record heading into a six game road trip where they will have a chance to firmly stake their claim atop the AL East against division rivals New York and Boston.

This past week showcased a lot of good baseball that the Orioles are capable of playing all year. During the six game home stand the Os compiled a 5-1 record, sweeping the Toronto Blue Jays and taking the final 2 of 3 from the Oakland Athletics. I was in attendance for the final two games of the home stand and can testify from first hand experience that the magic is coming back.

Those who watched or attended the Saturday night game against the A’s got to experience a great moment in Oriole baseball history when the first of six commemorative statues was unveiled in honor of Frank Robinson.  Despite the less than perfect weather a large amount of Oriole faithful came out to the yard to show respect for the legend himself and man were we rewarded. Maybe it was the fact that Frank was in attendance but something possessed our players that game as they quickly humped out to a 6-0 lead by the third inning. Wei-Yin Chen was on fire the whole night, going 7 strong while allowing only 1 run on a solo homer to Johnny Gomes. The Orioles wouldn’t let up on offense as they walked away 10-1 winners on the night; what an awesome way to wrap up a day in honor of one of the greatest Orioles of all time.

Sunday displayed a completely different type of win. Big Game Hunter was on the mound and a crowd of 31,000 were present in hopes of seeing their team take the series before heading out on a week long road trip. Despite trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the ninth I noticed that virtually no one had left the stadium. I was somewhat surprised as in my experience if this team is down 2 or more with 3 innings to play you start to notice fans calling it quits early and heading for the exits.

Not Sunday.

No, it seemed like everyone almost had a gut feeling that they were gonna pull it out. Maybe it was too many fans drinking the Orange Kool-Aid amidst the great start on the season, or maybe it was the fact that fans wanted to prove their doubts right and see first hand that this team cant come through in the do or die moments.

Well they did, and my God was it awesome.

To see 31,000 fans all stand in unison yelling, clapping, banging on their seats in an effort to cheer on their team in hopes of a late inning comeback was something I have only dreamed of being in attendance for. When all seemed lost in the 9th down by two some “magical”things began to happen.

First Hardy reached on an infield single, giving us a small glimmer of hope as the tying run came to the plate. Next Nick Markakis would go down swinging almost deflating the crowd and any hopes of a win; but the fans kept cheering and we all kept believing that something amazing would happen. Bartolo Colon, who had held the Orioles in check the entire game suddenly made the one error that separates you from being a winner or a loser. In this case Colon would send a throw into the dirt allowing Adam Jones to reach on what should have been a routine play for an out, extending the Orioles for at least a moment.

At this point Matt Wieters was making his way to the plate. The crowd knew what was about to happen. The cheers grew louder as Grant Balfour, who had come into to preserve the win for the A’s, left a pitch just a little to high in the zone for Matt Wieters who proceed to crush the ball all the way off the left field wall, clearing the bases and tying the game.

Oriole Magic?

As Endy Chavez came into the game as a pinch runner for Wieters my friend Timmy turns to me and says “you know Paulino is gonna have to come into catch now right?” I responded with “He wont need to catch”.

I have never been so happy about being right in my life. After an intentional walk to Chris Davis, Wilson Betemit blasted a three run bomb off the top of the right center-field wall to end the game in a dramatic walkoff fashion while every fan in attendance went crazy and began celebrating with everyone around them.

This was an amazing sight to witness and hopefully this win foreshadowed a trend we can all get used to in Baltimore. I believe in this team (you’re gonna get tired of me saying that but its true) and you should believe in them also. Seeing the Yard that full and that excited is something that Baltimore has been missing out on for too long now. I’m gonna keep going to games and keep on cheering I hope to see a lot of you there.

This team has found some magic. Lets hope its here to stay.

OPACY Hot Dog Race Standings

April 30, 2012

The hot dog race is a fan favorite at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Thanks to @NattyBohs, we bring you the season standings through the first month:

Relish is my boy. Hopefully he can hold on throughout the 2012 season.

GO RELISH!

Defense, Orioles Magic Lead O's to 5-2 win over A's, 5-1 Homestand

April 29, 2012

On Sunday, the Orioles looked, for all intents and purposes, to be destined to take a series loss against the Oakland Athletics. After scoring 10 on Saturday to set up the rubber match, A’s hurler Bartolo Colon had effectively silenced the O’s bats through eight innings, and, although Tommy Hunter turned in a strong effort of his own, it appeared as though the two runs he did surrender would be more than enough for Oakland.

If things had indeed transpired that way, it still would have been a relatively successful home stand for the Birds. While losing two of three to the A’s would have been a bit of a let down after sweeping the AL East rival Blue Jays, a 4-2 record over the last six would have been nothing to hang their heads over.

However, the O’s had some magic in their bats on Sunday afternoon – as they have many times so far this young season.

In 2011, the Orioles won only four games when trailing after seven innings.

That’s four games ALL YEAR LONG.

Entering Sunday’s game, they had already matched that total in 2012, through just 21 games. While they can’t hope to keep skating by by the skins of their teeth, the fight that Buck’s bunch has shown here in April is more than a bit exciting for this downtrodden fan base in B’More.

The bottom of the ninth on Sunday started off with two huge hustle plays by the Birds. J.J. Hardy led off the inning and grounded up the middle for what initially appeared to be a sure base hit. However, A’s second baseman Eric Sogard ranged to his right and made a great stop, turned and fired.

A good throw (or scoop) would have gotten Hardy for the first out. Luckily for the O’s, though, first baseman Kila Ka’aihue couldn’t handle the bouncing throw, and Hardy was safe.

Colon then struck out Nick Markakis swinging on a 3-2 pitch, and hope seemed to fade once again.

But Adam Jones was about to show some hustle of his own.

Beating Colon’s 0-1 offering into the dirt in front of home plate, Jones forced the sizable 38-year old pitcher to come up and field his position. By getting on his horse and getting down the first base line, Jones didn’t give Colon any time to set and throw, and Bartolo – like Sogard before him – handcuffed Ka’aihue. This time the ball bounced down the line into foul territory in right field, and Hardy scooted to third, with Jones pulling up at second.

The O’s had the tying runs in scoring position for Matt Wieters, and A’s skipper Bob Melvin went to his closer, Grant Balfour.

Wieters had been scuffling a bit at the plate, going 0-for-6 to that point in the series. However, after taking a questionable strike two to fall behind 1-2 in the count, Wieters jumped all over a Balfour slider and crushed it to left-center.

When the ball left the bat, I was just hoping for it to find some green in the left-centerfield gap. Instead, it continued to carry, and instead found some green at the base of the wall just under the 364 mark.

Jones and Hardy scored easily, and Wieters slid into second base with a double.

The O’s had the winning run in scoring position with one out, and the over 31,000 fans at Camden Yards were on their feet.

After an intentional walk to the red-hot Chris Davis, Wilson Betemit came to the plate.

Betemit made Melvin pay for choosing to pitch to him instead of Davis, taking Balfour’s 3-1 pitch to the top of the grounds crew shed in right center for the walk off home run.

Orioles Magic baby. Feel it happen.

The O’s wouldn’t have been in a position to tie or win the game without some stellar defensive play throughout the day. A much-maligned aspect of their game so far this season (and with good reason – the O’s lead the American League with 22 errors), everything just seemed to come together for the O’s gloves Sunday.

From Nolan Reimold making the most lackadaisical home-run saving catch you’ll ever see (seriously, Nolan, jump next time dude), to Mark Reynolds breaking twitter by making not one, but two great plays, to Adam Jones sliding to take away base hits, to Markakis gunning down runners at second base from right field, to Robert Andino picking up the aforementioned Reynolds when it looked like Oakland might add to their lead in the top of the ninth, it was just an incredible day defensively for the Birds.

As I tweeted during the game, it was like the Baltimore Ravens defense had shown up wearing Orioles uniforms.

Now, of course, the Orioles have had good Aprils before, only to inevitably disappoint us as the season wore on.

Still, after improving to 14-8, the Orioles are six games above .500 for the FIRST TIME since way back in July of 2005 (if I remember correctly, that would have been right before the Rafael Palmeiro B-12 fiasco caused the wheels to completely fall off on that once-promising campaign).

If this 14-8 April mark had been put up in 2011 – after the great finish to the 2010 season under Buck Showalter – we’d be wetting ourselves with excitement. Instead, we force ourselves to remember last year – when a great 6-1 start quickly turned sour again on the way to yet another 90+ loss year.

As cliche’ as it is, doesn’t this year just FEEL different?

The unexpectedly great pitching, from the starters through the bullpen.

The great O’s Magic I talked about before, the “never quit” attitude of the team.

All of it has added up over the first month to make some O’s fans think that maybe – just maybe – this is the year we finally see some games that matter played at OPACY in say, August.

As Orioles fans though, we’ve been beaten down to the point that we’re conditioned to not believe what we’re seeing with our own eyes. While a large segment of the fan base has given up completely on the club, another has taken a very cautious “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” kind of approach.

That second group can be seen and heard saying things like “let’s see where they are in July,” and “get back to me in August, and we’ll talk about the pitching again.” Or even a more short-sighted view, something along the lines of “yeah, this road trip to New York and Boston will reveal their true colors.”

An absolutely understandable mindset, if also quite a bleak and depressing one.

The third group of fans though – and I count myself among these misguided few – still lives and dies with every pitch, and absolutely revels in every bit of excitement the orange and black gives us, regardless of if it may be nothing more than Fool’s Gold.

Games like Sunday’s (and the other four late comeback wins) are the reason we watch not only baseball, but sports in general. There is nothing like that uplifting wave of emotion when a sure loss turns into a victory with one or two swings, before our very eyes.

And that’s why we still watch, and still have hope.

Sure, this time next week the O’s could very well be licking their wounds after another Bronx/Fenway series of beatdowns. We’ve sure seen it enough over the last 14 years to not be surprised.

But maybe – again, MAYBE – they will play their hearts out up north and make us proud, and they’ll keep hope alive for another few weeks or months.

Either way, we’ll be watching. Go O’s.

O's have best road trip in nearly 8 years, and I want to believe

April 23, 2012

2004.

That was the last time the Orioles  had a 10 game road trip where they finished with a winning record.

Ever since they swept the Twins all I have heard is “give it time, they will fall off eventually and still lose 100 games.”

Why?

What can you show me that proves they will finish below .500 for the 15th consecutive year? Aside from the HIDEOUS 19 errors (which are a big deal), what have they shown you that proves they are going to finish losers yet again?

Maybe the fact that they are third in the majors with 23 home runs, or perhaps the fact that Jim Johnson is 7 for 7 in save opportunities despite not always having the prettiest of outings. How about the fact that every time Nolan Reimold is in the lineup he continues to prove he can ball with the big boys? My favorite reason is the fact that two of our pitchers, Hammel and Chen, who no one had high hopes for, both have ERAs under 3 on the year.

Do any of those things sound like the make up of a baseball club bound for 100 losses?

Before people start thinking I am predicting a World Series berth, I’m not. I am just trying to focus on the positives of the club; they have been playing hard these first few weeks and their record shows it.  There is no reason this team can’t be “winners” this year. You go by what you have seen and I have seen a club that has every chance of breaking that .500 record and ending this 14 year long curse that has been upon our proud city.

I am a HUGE Adam Jones fan. Too often do I see him being bashed by our own fans. Why? Why would you want to talk down about the best player on our team?

We all know Jones can play. I’m referencing those who claim that he “hates” Baltimore, “hates” the Orioles, and wants to go play out west.

Maybe he just wants to be a winner like every other major league baseball player; since when was that a crime? Sure he has expressed his frustration but he has also been the guy to show up every game and make whatever impact he can. I believe Adam Jones does care about this team and that he does want to be successful with the Orioles. If this club is going to finish with a winning record its going to be through his lead.

At 9-7 I refuse to entertain the thought of us finishing as losers again. If the Boston Red Sox can start the season 4-10 and have every analyst in the world still back them and claim they will finish first or second in the AL East, why cant the Orioles who have already proved they are capable of playing good ball?

The Orioles can be winners, they want to be winners and I believe they will be winners.

There is some “Magic” swirling around this team.

I hope you all believe in it.

I sure do.

O's take two of three in Toronto, but Kevin Gregg is still horrible

April 16, 2012

We are about two weeks into baseball season and the Orioles are holding on to a one game lead in the ever competitive AL East.

Ill take it!!!

In fact, if you would have told me four days ago that the Orioles would take two of three from the Blue Jays in Toronto I would not have believed you. Most fans will chalk this up as an anomaly and I wouldn’t be surprised if our next series up north goes in favor of the Jays. That’s just how the Orioles seem to work; they surprise you one week and then want to give you hope the next.

So lets enjoy this one. It is after all the first time the O’s have won a series in Rogers Center since 2008.

It may not have been the prettiest series for the Orioles as they committed a total of four errors (three by third basemen), but they got the job done. They were able to get that one clutch hit that seemed to elude them during the home stand against the Yankees. There is no reason we could not have taken two of three from New York considering there were two nights in a row where the bases were juiced up in the bottom of the ninth with a chance for the Orioles to win but no one wanted to play hero.

That changed, at least for the moment, this weekend, as Wilson Betemit and Nolan Reimold showed up when they were needed the most to complete a pair of come from behind wins locking up the series W in the first two of three. The orioles even got a clutch solo shot that was blasted into the upper level seats by Adam Jones to give the Orioles a brief lead Sunday and chance to complete the sweep.

This brings me to the glaring problem that is our bullpen, namely Kevin Gregg. Despite all the positives you can find in these past two series, be it Chris Davis and his reliable play at first and suddenly hot bat, or Adam Jones and his impressive nine game hitting streak, one can not ignore the one man wrecking crew that is Kevin Gregg. Orioles fans know that Brian Matusz is nowhere near where we would hope to see him but any time your starter can get you through 6 innings and only gives up three runs, you have a chance to win.

Its just too bad Matusz only lasted 5 innings and 2 outs.

With one out to go in the bottom of the 6th and Brian Matusz at a pitch count of 106 Buck Showalter turned to his bullpen to finish the job. Gregg comes in and does his best to ensure the Orioles have no shot at getting the W as he quickly turned a one run lead for Toronto into an 8-2 blowout in favor of the Jays. Who know if the game would have been any different had Matusz gotten that last out, maybe Buck has a change of heart and decides to skip over Captain Chaos for another night or maybe he doesn’t and the same scenario happens only an inning later.

It doesn’t matter, in all reality the Orioles wont be contenders but in a season where I, as well as every other fan, wants to see a step towards the idea of contending why do you keep Kevin Gregg on this team and why do you bring him into a situation where he has proven time and time again he can not be trusted?

At 5-4 I’m not going to complain too much. We are three series in and not in the cellar of our own division. Lets chalk that up as  a success and keep on hoping for some Oriole Magic as the O’s embark continue what is still a very daunting road trip.

Let's Hear it for Mark Reynolds

April 11, 2012

gif c/o @joelnethery

The Orioles lost 5-4 in 12 innings to the New York Yankees last night, and while it wasn’t completely Mark Reynolds’ fault, he certainly did all he could to aid the losing effort.

In addition to the wonderful display of fielding you see in the above animated photo, Reynolds also booted a grounder by Yanks’ catcher Russel Martin in the 6th inning. If Reynolds makes the play, the inning ends with the O’s still holding a 4-2 lead. Instead, two more runs scored as New York tied the game and eventually forced extra innings.

“The Sheriff” was also caught stealing, struck out three times, and had a line drive by eventual game-winning runner Robinson Cano carom off his glove and into left field for a double.

Through four games played in 2012, Reynolds has as many errors (2) as he does hits, and twice as many strikeouts (6) as total bases (3). After making 26 errors last season, he looks well on his way to crushing that total, despite insisting that he play third base as opposed to first.

Manager Buck Showalter’s patience with the 28-year old has to be wearing thin already.

Opening Day GOOBVISION

April 9, 2012

Now that Goob is finally back from North Carolina and living in Maryland again, he was finally able to participate in the great Baltimore tradition of O’s Opening Day. Oriole Park at Camden Yards was packed, the bars were hopping, and we were right in the middle of everything bright and early on Friday. The weather was great, the Bohs were flowing, the O’s disposed of the Minnesota Twins – it was a great day in Birdland. Check out some highlights in this first ever Opening Day edition of GOOBVISION!

O's Ride Strong Starting Pitching to Season-Opening Sweep

April 8, 2012

For the second straight year, the O’s have started the year off with a sweep. Last year, they did it in Tampa against the Rays. This year, it was the home OPACY crowd that was witness to a season-opening three-game win streak over the Minnesota Twins.

Against the Twinkies, it was the starting pitching, along with a strong dose of power from the guys you would expect it from, that got the O’s off to their first 3-0 start at home since 1997 (which was, of course, also the last time they finished above .500 and made the post season).

On Friday (Opening day GOOBVISION should be up on Monday), Jake Arrieta went seven scoreless and Nick Markakis homered and tripled as the O’s won the opener 4-2. On Saturday, Tommy Hunter allowed only two unearned runs in seven innings, Markakis, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters homered, and B’More emerged victorious 8-2.

Sunday’s starter, Jason Hammel, produced perhaps the most impressive start of the entire weekend in Birdland though, carrying a no-hitter into the eighth inning.

While history was not in the cards for Hammel – Justin Morneau and Josh Willinham saw to that with back-to-back doubles to start the eighth – he still managed to get through eight innings, allowing only three walks, two hits, and a single run. A home run from J.J. Hardy and a two-run double by Wilson Betemit were enough offense in the 3-1 victory.

To sum up, O’s starting pitchers’ line through three games:

22 IP, 3 R, 1 ER, 10 H, 6 BB, 12 K, 0.41 ERA

Yes, it was against the Twins, a team that looks to be far from an offensive juggernaut in 2012.

Yes, the O’s also started off great last year – 6-1, to be exact – before again falling into disarray and finishing well below .500.

Still, for a team whose main questions entering the year surround the pitching staff, the first three days could absolutely have not gone any more perfectly.

Is it giving us a sense of false hope?

Perhaps, but as a Baltimore Orioles fan, we’re ready to accept any and all forms of hope, however false they may ultimately prove to be.

Things are about to get a lot tougher, as the New York Yankees (0-3 and certainly quite pissed off) come to town for a three game series before the O’s head out on an early-season nine-game road trip to Toronto (2-1 and everybody’s sexy pick to make some AL East noise), Chicago (1-1), and Anaheim (1-1, proud owners of a slightly used but still entirely effective Albert Pujols).

It was a great opening weekend of Orioles baseball. Now that our whistle has been sufficiently whet, we orange and black lovers in Birdland are very thirsty for some more of the same. Hopefully Buck’s boys will continue to deliver.

Patton Motivational Speech for the O's

April 5, 2012

The guys over at Section 388 do an O’s webcast, some past highlights of which include asking Ray Lewis to come motivate the local baseball team.

This time, they got really creative and reenacted the motivational speech scene from the movie “Patton” with an eye toward lighting a fire under the O’s and fans like us.

Give it a watch, and get pumped for Opening Day!

We’re gonna kick the hell out of them all the time, and we’re going to go through them like crap through a goose!

Camden Yards Enhancements Look Awesome

April 4, 2012

When I first heard that the O’s were making changes to a few areas of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in order to enhance the fan experience, I was nonplussed. After all, it’s the Orioles we’re talking about here; if they consider “upgrading” the ball park the same as they do with the roster, what would be the OPACY equivalent of swapping Jeremy Guthrie for Jason Hammel? Replacing the dark green seats with light green ones? Without backs?

However, as opening day approaches, and we get a better look at these improvements, I find myself more and more excited for them.

As the below pictures and video (c/o WBAL) show, there really will be some significant changes at the yard this year.

In the first photo, you can see the new view from the Flag Court in right field. This improvement is a huge upgrade, and is long overdue. I’m 6’1″, and even I had to walk all the way up to the edge of the former wall in right field in order to be able to see the field. Back in the days when OPACY sold out regularly, those people in the standing-room-only section of the Flag Court were screwed if they wanted to actually see the game unless they got there early enough to stake out a spot right up against the wall.

Now, you can see the field from the entire Flag Court, and even from the concession areas behind it, which have also been redesigned to maximize the increased visibility.

The second photo above shows the new roof deck overlooking center field. A nod to the many roof top decks littering homes in Baltimore, this area will be a great new place for friends to gather and hang out while watching ‘dee O’s. Another cool idea that should add to the overall experience of going to a game.

I haven’t heard any differently, so I assume both of these areas are accessible to anybody that has a ticket to the game, regardless of if you are in a sky box or in the upper deck. Unlike say, the area behind home plate, which O’s ushers STILL watch like hawks through the end of every game for seat jumpers, regardless of how empty the stadium is.

The O’s don’t do very much to garner our appreciation as fans these days, so we have to make sure to praise them when they do. For these new improvements at the Yard, we say Thanks, O’s.

Now, go win some damn games.

See you all at the Yard on Friday, for our first in-person look at the new enhancements.

 


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