Archive for June, 2012

20-4; 0-2

June 28, 2012

The first number is the score by which the Angels outscored the O’s during their short two-game series this week. That’s right, twenty runs for the bad guys, and only four for the good guys.

Tuesday seemed bad enough, when L.A. banged out 17 hits on their way to a 7-3 win. As anybody who watched that game knew, the final score could have been much worse.

Well, on Wednesday night, we saw exactly what “much worse” looked like. The Angels “only” managed 16 hits last night, but they plated 13 runs en route to a 13-1 victory to close out the two-game sweep. The most disheartening thing about it was that they managed eight of those runs off the O’s best starter, Jason Hammel, in just 3 1/3 innings. Hammel had been working on a consecutive scoreless innings streak of 19 coming into the contest.

The good news is that, while getting outscored by a score of 20-4 in two games is absolutely horrific, it only shows up as 0-2 in the standings. The Angels have packed up and moved out, never to return to Baltimore in 2012 (unfortunately, the Birds travel to L.A. for a four game series next week; let’s hope the Angels have cooled down a bit by then.)

The O’s find themselves in their second extended slump in a month, as their offense continues to be absolutely anemic. They have scored just 14 runs over their past nine games, an average of 1.55 runs per game. They’re an abysmal 2-for-47 with runners in scoring position over that stretch, and they haven’t scored more than three runs since June 16.

After losing six straight at the end of May and into June, the Birds bounced back by winning four straight series, going 9-3 over a 12-game stretch. They’ll need to do a similar righting-of-the-ship here quickly, unless they want to find themselves in (or near) the AL East basement by the All-Star game.

They have an opportunity to do just that starting tonight against the also-reeling Indians. They need to beat up on the tribe and take at least three games out of the four game set before flying west to face the lowly Mariners and then – ugh – the Angels again.

5-2 or 6-1 over the next seven games and Birdland will be able to breathe a bit easier. Anything less and the chorus of “here we go again” will only get louder and more prominent.

Wieters' bat and arm help O's take rubber game from Gnats

June 25, 2012

After another extremely frustrating seven-plus innings of baseball on Sunday, it looked like the O’s were going to again have their non-existent bats to blame for a loss, and would have to settle for a season split with their neighbors to the south at three games apiece.

Instead, Matt Wieters stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth and delivered with a 2-run bomb to the B’More bullpen for the Birds’ only runs of the day, giving them a 2-1 lead.

They would hold on for the win, as Wieters and Jim Johnson completed the always-exciting strike-em-out-throw-em-out double play to end it in the following half inning.

The victory gave the O’s the series win and a 4-2 record against the Nationals for 2012. It was the Birds’ 41st victory of the season, which is still good for second place in the American League East, 2.5 games behind the New York Yankees.

That the Birds are still hanging around at the top of the division is quite an accomplishment given their offensive struggles of late. I was going to do some research this morning, but thankfully Roch beat me to it:

They’ve totaled 17 runs in their last nine games. They’re 1-for-33 with runners in scoring position in their last seven.

They took two of three games from the Nationals despite scoring five runs. They’ve scored three runs or fewer in eight of their last nine games. They have 12 extra-base hits and are batting .091 with RISP in those nine games.

They’re not active on the basepaths when they actually get a runner to first base. They haven’t stolen a base since June 5, a span of 17 games, which is their longest streak since they went 20 games without one in 1962. The franchise record is 29 straight games in 1955.

Everyone seems to be slumping at the same time. Chris Davis, Mark Reynolds, Brian Roberts, J.J. Hardy. Wieters up until yesterday.

The Birds are going to have to start hitting, as the home stand continues this week with the Angels and Indians, two squads with considerably more “pop” than Washington.

Unfortunately, C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver – Anaheim’s two scheduled starters for the short series on Tuesday and Wednesday – aren’t the best guys to try to get your bats going against. Los Angeles’ two aces boast ERAs of  2.44 and 2.40, respectively.

A Tale of Two Cities for the Birds in Atlanta and New York

June 21, 2012

The Orioles just finished up a six game road trip of interleague play that took them through Atlanta and New York. Although the Atlanta series didn’t get off to the best start the Orioles were able to battle back and win the second and third games of the series, shutting out the Braves in both of the final two contests.

This was a series where the Orioles did a lot of things right. On Saturday, Jason Hammel picked up his seventh win of the season by tossing a one-hit complete game shutout. Hammel was dominant to say the least but even if he had faltered a bit the O’s bats had his back as they hung five runs on the Braves to give our new found ace a nice cushion.

On Sunday, Wei-Yin Chen was just as impressive in the series finale, tossing seven scoreless innings en route to a 2-0 Orioles win. This was a game where the Orioles had to manufacture a run with a sac fly and then caught a break when Braves’ starter Randall Delgado balked in a run.

So that was a good series yeah? You take 2 of 3 your feeling good right?

Well unfortunately the Orioles were unable to keep the W’s coming as they ran into a buzz saw of great pitching in New York (and it wasn’t even the Yankees.)

This is where the road trip stopped being fun and the best of times turned into the worst of times. After getting one hit by R.A. Dickey and then shutout by Johan Santana the following night the Orioles found themselves mired in 29-inning scoreless streak.

This is a series you are frustrated with but at the same time you have to tip your hat to the Mets’ pitching staff. Their starters did exactly what they needed to do – eat up as many innings a possible with very few runs scored to protect the chink in the armor that is the New York bullpen.

We saw what happened in the last game of the series – when the Orioles were able to get to their opponents’ bullpen they scored runs. The Birds made it interesting and showed us some promise as they almost completed a late inning comeback but fell just one run shy of the tie and left the bases loaded to end the 9th.

Hopefully that late inning explosion wasn’t just a fluke but a sign that the Orioles’ bats are waking up in time for a very important home stand that starts with the red hot nationals on Friday.

The right and wrong sides of a 1-hitter…in a three day span

June 19, 2012

On Saturday night in Atlanta, O’s pitcher Jason Hammel was absolutely masterful, carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning before the Braves’ young slugger Jason Heyward broke it up with a single to left field. It would be the only hit Hammel would allow all evening on his way to the O’s first 1-hit shutout since Daniel Cabrera did it back in 2006.

As for Jason Hammel, I’ve said it many times, but I feel the need to say it again.

I was wrong about this trade. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

While I still say that it’s been simply a case of dumb luck – there was nothing in Hammel’s track record to this point in his career to suggest that he would be nearly the dominant pitcher he has been for the Birds – Dan Duquette is to be commended for bringing in Hammel and jettisoning Jeremy Guthrie to Colorado.

Guthrie, by the way, is getting absolutely lit up for the Rockies, for whom he has compiled an ERA of 7.02 and given up 15 home runs in only 11 starts. Guts is rumored to be on the trade block already.

Hammel, on the other hand, has been neck-in-neck with Wei-Yin Chen (another fine Duquette find) in the O’s-best-starter race, compiling a 7-2 record and a 2.87 ERA (seventh among AL starters).

Again…I was WAY off.

Unfortunately, two days later, the O’s got a taste of their own medicine when they ran into the buzzsaw that is the Mets’ R.A. Dickey.

Dickey allowed only a fifth-inning single to Wilson Betemit in putting together his SECOND STRAIGHT one-hitter. That’s the first time anybody has done that in MLB since way back in 1988, when Dave Steib of the Blue Jays managed the feat.

The Mets’ Ace struck out 13 Birds and hasn’t allowed an earned run in a ridiculous 42 2/3 innings.

The O’s will look to bounce back tonight, but things don’t get much easier as Johan Santana takes the hill for New York. Santana hasn’t been his usual dominant self so far in 2012 (his 116 ERA+ would be his worst since his second year in the league), but has still compiled a 4-3 record with a 3.23 ERA, allowing just 62 hits in 78 innings worked.

The Birds are still having a strong month of June, having won four of five series for an overall record of 10-6. Unfortunately, the New York Yankees are apparently not going to lose again this year.

The Skanks have won ten in a row and are 14-2 in June. They’ve opened up a 2.5-game lead over the Birds, and a 4-game lead over third place Tampa.

The always inconsistent Tommy Hunter goes for the O’s against Johan.

Crabcakes, Football, and Sweeping Pittsburgh

June 15, 2012

It’s what Maryland does.

Chris Davis breaks his bat on a home run

June 13, 2012

During the O’s 7-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night, Chris Davis did something quite remarkable. He swung, made contact, and broke his bat off at the handle.

Nothing extraordinary there, right? Guys break their bats all the time. Usually results in a weak pop up or grounder, and every once in a while the hitter gets lucky and bloops a single on a broken bat.

Well, Chris Davis is no ordinary human.

Davis has his faults as a baseball player, but as far as pure strength goes, there probably aren’t many players in MLB who can equal him. That strength was on full display here, as his broken bat swing resulted in a HOME RUN.

Watch it here:

SB Nation gives us these two glorious GIFs of the play.

A couple guys on the O’s bench – who were busy admiring Davis’ hit – were lucky to get out of the way of the flying lumber. Pay special attention to Steve Pearce (the balding fellow on the left).

Chris Davis – Grown Ass Man.

Welcome Back to the Show Mr. Roberts

June 13, 2012

Brian Roberts made his first appearance in the majors in over a year yesterday in solid fashion. Roberts went 3 for 4 with an RBI sac fly – not too shabby for a guy many fans wanted to write off before even letting him take the field. Roberts was thrown right into the fire as Buck Showalter started him at second base and batted him in the leadoff spot. This shows a large amount of confidence on Buck Showalters part; the Orioles are still playing meaningful games so for a manager to start a player with a very large question mark above his head shows that Buck really does believe in this team and has confidence in shaking up the lineup.

If nothing else this one start showed that Brian Roberts can still ball with the big club. He may not go 3 for 4 every night but from what I saw yesterday, baring any injury, Roberts is going to be just fine and contribute greatly to a team that need an energy boost. This also allows The Great Andino to resume his better suited role of being a super utility guy. Andino led all second basemen with nine errors going into yesterdays game, but with the addition of Brian Roberts back into the lineup the number of errors from second should drop dramatically.

I understand there are still some skeptics about Roberts and even some who said they don’t care if he is healthy and would still like to see him released or traded. BRob wont win all of Charm City back after just one 3-for-4 game but it was a damn good effort and if he keeps it up I have a feeling we will be seeing a lot more #1 jerseys on game day and a lot more W’s!

Roberts shines in return

June 13, 2012

Welcome back indeed, Brian Roberts.

The Orioles second baseman made his long-anticipated return last night against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and he did not disappoint.

In his first at-bat, leading off the bottom of the first inning, Roberts had a vintage BRob-type AB. He worked the count to three-and-two, and on the sixth pitch he saw, laced a line drive to center field for a single. It was great to see not only because it was exactly the kind of AB we’ve come to expect from Roberts over his Baltimore career, but because without him in the lineup, there has been pretty much nobody on the team who even attempts to make the pitcher work on a regular basis (an even more glaring weakness with Nick Markakis temporarily out of the lineup).

His second AB was more Robert Andino-like than Roberts-like, as he struck out on three pitches.

Following that hiccup, though, it was more good from Brian. He singled in his final two official AB, the second of which came hitting from the right side, and added an RBI sacrifice fly for good measure.

Roberts’ final line: 3-4, 3 singles, 1 RBI (somehow he never managed to cross the plate, despite the 2-3-4 hitters in the O’s lineup going a blistering 8-15 with 5 RBI). Click here for video highlights from MLB.com.

It was a performance that fans – and Roberts himself – will not soon forget. Following the game, Brian admitted that when he first stepped to the plate to a standing ovation from the Oriole Park at Camden Yards crowd, he was a little more “emotional” than he expected to be, and had to take a moment to compose himself. Listening to him speak in the post-game press conference, it was tough not to get emotional ourselves as fans.

“I’m just so grateful. I sometimes don’t have words for what I’ve been through and where we are now. I’m humbled and grateful to have the opportunity.”

“I actually got a little more emotional than I thought I was going to,” he said. “It took me a second to gather myself. It was very special and much appreciated. That’s for sure. Everyone has been so good to me here in my career. The fans have been so great and supportive of me the whole time. That was very special.

“It’ll be one of those (memories) that sticks out for sure. There’s not a ton of games that stick out in your mind after a lot, but you have your few. Certain that will be, as much as my brain allows me to remember, it’ll be one that’s good.”

Let’s not forget – this is a guy who, as recently as last fall, couldn’t even walk his dog or take a trip to the grocery store without becoming dizzy and nauseous.

While we will all hold our breath every time Roberts slides hard into a base or makes a diving attempt at a ground ball for the rest of his career, for one night at least, Brian looked like his old self, and gave O’s fans hope that he’ll be able to finish out his career in B’More on his own terms, as the productive and professional player he has always been.

And what did the guy he replaced in the lineup, Andino, think about B-Rob’s return?

Well, I’m not sure, but looking at this picture, I’m thinking it was something along the lines of…

“Dis mufugga….”

Kidding, of course. After the game, Dino gave Roberts a big ol’ bear hug in the hand-shaking line.

Anyway, despite Roberts “taking Andino’s job,” Robert should be given the opportunity to start at third base more often than not moving forward. Wilson Betemit can’t hit his way out of a wet paper bag lately, and last night he misplayed a pop-up that led to Buck Showalter inserting Andino – who had been on the bench – at third.

As Roberts discussed his play on the field directly after the game with the MASN booth, O’s fans knew what was coming – a shaving-cream pie in the face, most likely from Adam Jones. After some of the shaving-cream punches we’ve seen Adam deliver this year though – I swore he damn near broke Nick Johnson’s nose a month or so back – we were hoping AJ would take it easy on B-Rob.

And take it easy he did (gif c/o Baltimore Sports Report)

Awwww, AJ. So gentle.

The O’s attempt to take the series from Pittsburgh tonight – in what would be their third consecutive series win – but their starter for the game is currently up-in-the-air after Brian Matusz took a foul ball off his nose yesterday during a bunting drill. Stupid interleague play.

Brian Roberts expected back in lineup tonight

June 12, 2012

Three hundred and ninety-two days after he last suited up for the Baltimore Orioles, second baseman Brian Roberts is finally expected back on the field at Oriole Park at Camden Yards tonight.

After playing in 159 games for the Birds in 2009, Roberts played only 59 in 2010 before going out with concussion-like symptoms after hitting himself in the head with his bat following a strikeout. He returned on opening day in 2011, but only made it through 39 games before the symptoms returned.

Roberts has been rehabbing heavily for the past year, working with the best concussion specialists in the country. His story is extremely sad, as a special on ESPN last year detailed. Most O’s fans and observers never expected Roberts to play another game. The fact that he has been able to come this far is a small miracle in itself.

Now the question is, can Brian be even 70-80% of the All-Star that he once was?

At 34 years old, and coming off such a severe injury, nobody is sure what kind of performance to expect from B-Rob.

Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it – even a 75% Brian Roberts is likely more productive at the top of the O’s lineup than anybody who’s been there this year since Nolan Reimold went out.

Endy Chavez is hitting .167 with an OBP of .198. Robert Andino has been slightly better, at .243/.295, but strikes out WAY too much. Xavier Avery started hot, but dropped down to .217/.299 before being sent back down to the minors to play every day.

Nothing even close to Roberts’ career .281/.353/.416 line.

If Roberts can be his old self defensively, he also represents a step up on defense for the Birds. Not necessarily over Andino – who has played his position well – but because with him at second, Andino could potentially be moved to third base, where he is much better with the glove than Mark Reynolds or Wilson Betemit.

Welcome back, B-Rob. All of B’More will be pulling for you.

The newest Baltimore tailgate anthem – Purple Solo Cup!

June 5, 2012

This past weekend was the 48th annual Ravens Roost convention in Ocean City, Maryland (yes, 48. It was the Colts Corral Convention previously), and for about the eighth consecutive year, Goob and I were in attendance. This year, we re-wrote the lyrics to Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup” to better suit the occasion, and Goob sang it (several times). If you weren’t there, first off I’m sorry. But secondly, here is the video evidence. Lyrics within the video and below:

Now a purple solo cup is the best receptacle
for barbecues, tailgates, and Ravens festivals
and you sir, do not have a pair of testicles
if you prefer drinking from glass

A purple solo cup is cheap and disposable
and if the Browns ever win something, they’ll be decomposable
and unlike a Pittsburgh fan, my house is not forecloseable
Steeler Nation kiss my ass

Purple Solo Cup, I fill you up
It’s a Ravens Party! It’s a Ravens party!
I love you, Purple Solo Cup
I lift you up, proceed to party! Proceed to party!

Now I love to hold you up and cheers for a sack
Even better when it’s Big Ben on his back
Because when he gets hit and his nose goes “crack”
well that my friends is kinda…funny

But I have to admit the fans get smitten
Admiring how sharply “Goob” is written
On you with a sharpie when I get to hittin’
the tailgate lots to get drunk!

Purple Solo Cup, Steelers really suck
It’s a Ravens party! It’s a Ravens party!
Purple Solo Cup, Steelers really suck
proceed to party! Proceed to party!

Now I’ve seen you in blue and I’ve seen you in red
but “give me purple” is what I said
‘cuz you’re the Ray-Ray to my Ed
and we’re all just Wacko for Flacco!

Purple Solo Cup, you’re more than just plastic
You’re more than amazing, you’re more than fantastic
and believe that I’m not the least bit sarcastic
when I drunkenly look at you and say…

Purple Solo Cup, you’re not just a cup
You’re my…you’re my friend.
Thank you, for holding all my beer.

Purple Solo Cup, I fill you up
It’s a Ravens Party! It’s a Ravens Party!

Solo Cup!

Steelers Suck!


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