Archive for August, 2012

Orioles have golden opportunity to climb back atop division standings

August 31, 2012

We have heard countless times from Buck Showalter over the past month that no mater what the current wild card or division standings may look like, his club still has its eyes set on catching New York. Many may laugh that thought off as surely none of us would have written in the Orioles as the division winner for the AL East this year – but given the current standings the O’s are in the perfect position to prove us all wrong.

Three games separate the Orioles and the Yankees.

Three games will be played this weekend in New York between the two clubs.

By Labor Day these two teams could be tied atop the division.

Who saw this coming back in April when every publication had the Orioles losing AT LEAST 90 games?

These Orioles have a method to winning games that still has a lot of fans shaking their heads, but its a method that works. There is no quit with this team – Buck wont let “quit” happen. This is what they have been hungry for all season, this chance that is in front of them is what they have been chasing since first relinquishing the division lead way back in June. Dont feel that this was some lucky run the Orioles have been on all season; yes luck has played its part in things, but the goal has not changed since day one -win the division.

If that is in fact going to happen the Orioles will need their best stuff – injuries or not, this is still the Yankees we are talking about, and regardless of who they trot out there its never a easy outing for Buck’s club and they know that. You can see composure on this team that we have not seen in years. They do not falter or implode and whether they are winning by 10 or losing by 10 the focus and emotions remain constant.

Im excited…everyone should be excited! This is what we have all wanted for a long time – the Orioles are playing a meaningful series against New York late in the season in a battle for the division crown. We are in a pennant race and there is little to show me that this team doesn’t deserve to be in the position they are in. Perhaps its the Orange kool-aid I have been drinking or maybe its the simple belief that no team can just keep losing forever. Whatever it is I have a good feeling about this series. If the Orioles play their best baseball, this team will be back atop the division standings.

And when it happens all will be right in the world of baseball.

Despite missed opportunities, McLouth's two-run bomb lifts O's over White Sox

August 27, 2012

“Every game there’s a different star, that’s the magic of Orioles baseball!”

Nick Markakis twice came up with the bases loaded, and twice failed to deliver a single run.

Adam Jones was 0-for-4 on the night.

The team left eight runners on base.

No matter. The O’s have Lew Ford and Nate McLouth!

That’s right, in another improbable Orioles victory during this summer of improbable Orioles victories, Ford’s solo shot in the second inning and McLouth’s bases-loaded walk in the sixth and two-run bomb in the bottom of the eighth provided all the offense the O’s would get…or need.

The White Sox strung together a couple lucky hits in the top of the eighth off Pedro Strop to take a 2-1 lead, and it looked like the Birds were going to regret all of their earlier missed opportunities.

Mark Reynolds though – who displayed a stellar pitching eye all night – drew his third walk of the evening with one out in the bottom of the frame, bringing up McLouth.

I was really rooting for McLouth in this at bat, and for more than just the usual reasons. During his sixth inning AB, I noted that he did a good deed earlier in the day, going down to BARCS Animal Shelter in Baltimore. I’ve volunteered at BARCS as a dog walker and I love to see my athletes giving their time to great causes like this.

I had my fingers crossed that karma would smile upon Nate.

And smile it did, in the form of a 1-0 grooved fastball from Chicago reliever Brett Myers. The O’s left fielder jumped all over it, putting it on the flag court in right field and putting the Birds up for good.

Jim Johnson allowed a baserunner to second but no further to record his MLB-leading 40th save.

The O’s are now a ridiculous 24-6 in one-run games, and have won more games – 70 – then they won in all of 2011. It was their 13th consecutive one-run win, a new team record. They are a season-high (tie) 13 games over .500. At the time I’m writing this, Tampa is losing 6-5 in the eight inning in Texas, and the Yankees are tied at seven with Toronto in the bottom of the tenth.

It’s a pennant race in B’More, and the calendar is about to flip to September.

Orioles magic continues to roll along.

Joe Saunders compares favorably to current back-end O's starters

August 26, 2012

Earlier this afternoon, the Orioles completed a waiver wire trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks to send Joe Saunders to Baltimore for relief pitcher Matt Lindstrom. Lets break this trade down.

Joe Saunders is coming to town to fill the fifth rotation spot previously held by Tommy Hunter. Hunter has an ERA of nearly 6 (5.95), while Saunders’ is 4.22. The MLB average ERA is is 4.03, and the Orioles’ is 4.11. Saunders is just .19 points above league average and .11 above team average, while Hunter is 1.92 above MLB and 1.84 above the team.

Saunders WAR total this season is 1.7. This means, if the Diamonbacks were to not have Saunders on their roster, they would have lost 1.7 more games than they already had. Tommy Hunter’s WAR is a whopping -0.8. Matt Lindstrom, the pitcher that the Orioles traded, had a WAR of .04 coming out of the bullpen (meaning he is expendable).

The FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) measures what a player’s ERA should have looked like over a given time period, assuming that the balls in play and timing were league average. The FIP of Joe Saunders is 4.19, which is slightly below average. Though this may not be astounding, compared to the FIP’s of Tommy Hunter (6.18), Brian Matusz (5.10), and Zach Britton (5.13), Joe Saunders is actually acceptable.

Dan Duquette’s reasons for adding Saunders were to give the Orioles another solid left handed starter and to allow young starters Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez six days of rest.

All around, it looks like Joe Saunders is an upgrade over any other back-of-the-rotation starter on the Orioles roster, making this trade a good one.

 

What do Chris Davis and Babe Ruth have in common?

August 24, 2012


On Friday night in Baltimore, Chris Davis bashed three home runs to help the Orioles beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-4.

That feat is extremely impressive in itself, as Davis set new career highs in home runs (23) and RBI (64), with still well over a month to play in the 2012 season. However, Davis joined incredibly rarified air with the 3-dinger performance, due to something he did over three months ago.

Back in May, Chris Davis pitched in the O’s 17-inning win over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. The Birds took the lead when Davis was on the mound, and, as a result, he recorded the victory.

And so, on Friday night in Charm City, with the surprising Orioles still very much alive in the American League East and Wild Card races, Chris Davis joined Babe Ruth and Jim Tobin as the only players since 1900 to record a victory on the mound and hit three home runs in the same game in the same season. Ruth accomplished the feat in 1930, and Tobin in 1942 – Davis is the first player in 70 years to do it.

It’s just another footnote in what has been a wild, wacky, improbable, and most of all AWESOME baseball season in B’More.

Earlier this year, Davis hit a home run despite breaking his bat on the swing. 

Throw in the aforementioned career highs, putting himself in the same sentence as Babe Ruth, and maybe – just maybe – being a part of a magical postseason run, and it’s safe to say that Chris Davis won’t soon forget 2012.

Neither will we O’s fans.

Let’s go Birds.

 

Orioles need a good home stand, but powerful teams are coming to town

August 24, 2012

The Orioles kick off a seven game home stand tonight that will have the Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago White Sox in town for three- and four-game series respectively. The Orioles have fared well against the Blue Jays this season going 5-4 including a three game sweep at home against the rival AL East club.

While the Orioles are still poised to make a solid run at one of the two American League wild card spots, Toronto’s playoff hopes have all but dried up as they sit dead last in the East with a 56-68 record. This does not mean that they will be a pushover as almost no club has been this year for the Birds and you can expect a banged up Blue Jays squad will do anything they can to prove they are better than their record, especially if it means playing spoiler against a division opponent.

Despite injuries and a deceiving record this Toronto club still loves the long ball as they sit 3rd in the majors with a total of 163 dingers, one behind the Chicago White Sox who come into Camden Yards for a four game set starting Monday. Add in the fact that all these games will be played at the hitter-friendly park that is Camden Yards and you can see why this seven game stretch could be a tough one if the Orioles starting pitchers are unable to keep the ball in the yard.

With Zach Britton going tonight and Chris Tillman getting the  nod tomorrow it is anyone’s guess how these games will go. In a perfect world Britton duplicates the success he had against Detroit and delivers another quality start in hopes of deflating his ERA which currently sits over six runs per game.

Tillman, also coming off a win against a very good Texas club that took two of three from the Orioles, has been a great addition to the starting rotation as he sits on a 6-2 record with a 3.71 ERA and another quality start for him would only further cement his spot in the Orioles rotation.

This series may not mean anything but bragging rights to Toronto but it could mean a hell of a lot to the Orioles if they cant take at least two of the games, as they would lose seriousground on both Tampa and other wildcard hopefuls such as Oakland, Detroit and even Chicago.

It’s great to be right in the thick of the playoff hunt and to see the Os playing meaningful baseball this late in the season but if they want to play the games that the city has wanted for  14 years they are going to have to get through Toronto first.

Orioles tame Tigers, take two of three in Detroit

August 20, 2012

The Detroit Tigers had won 16 of their last 19 contests at Comerica Park going into the start of the three-game weekend series with the Orioles this past weekend.

After a 5-3 win on Friday night, Jim Leyland’s team had run that streak to 17-of-20, and had pulled even with the Birds in the American League Wild Card standings.

For the O’s, things were looking a bit grim – after losing the final game of an otherwise stellar 7-3 home stand, Buck’s club found themselves in a two-game losing streak with five very tough games still remaining on the road trip to Detroit and Texas.

A “snowball effect” of sorts seemed to be getting started, and it was rolling in the complete wrong direction.

But – as they have done time and again here throughout this improbably 2012 season, the Orioles once again stared adversity in the face, slapped it with an orange-gloved palm, and went on their merry way piling up wins.

By taking the final two games of the three-game set, the O’s leave the Motor City and head for Texas with a record of 66-55, eleven games over .500 and one game back of the Tampa Bay Rays for the first Wild Card spot (0.5 ahead of Oakland for the second).

Things were looking grim on Sunday afternoon, as Wei-Yin Chen spotted the Tigers a 5-run first inning lead. Chen would then buckle down however, and the rookie didn’t allow a single run over the next four innings. Those four innings were enough time for his teammates to come to life against Detroit pitcher Doug Fister, who had been 6-1 over his previous seven starts.

Saturday night’s hero,Chris Davis, led off the second inning with his second home run in as many games. After a Mark Reynolds single and a Taylor Teagarden walk, Nick Markakis and J.J. Hardy hit back-to-back two-out doubles pulling the O’s to within 5-4.

Two innings later, in the top of the fourth, Markakis and Hardy again played key roles, each drawing a walk with two outs. Nate McLouth lashed a triple to right-center, scoring both, and then came around to the plate himself on a single by Adam Jones.

Six of the Birds’ seven runs were scored with two outs, and the 7-5 lead would be plenty as Luis Ayala, Darren O’Day, Pedro Strop, and Jim Johnson combined for four scoreless in relief of Chen.

Of course, things don’t get any easy for the Fightin’ Showalters. A three-game set against the AL West-leading Texas Rangers (70-50) is on deck, with Miguel Gonzalez getting things started against Ryan Dempster tonight in Arlington. Dempster, a trade-deadline acquisition from the Chicago Cubs, has made three starts for his new team. In two of those starts (8/2 against the Angels and 8/13 against the Yankees), he was charged with eight earned runs. In the other start (8/7 against Boston), he shut out the Red Sox for 6.2 innings.

Let’s hope the Birds’ bats stay hot in the Texas heat and they can get to Dempster. By winning two of three in Detroit, they have given themselves some breathing room heading into another tough series, but the teams ahead of them and behind them all keep winning – so they have to as well.

The Orioles used a Crab Race to choose their fantasy football draft order

August 15, 2012

Hat tip to Dan Steinberg at DC Sports Bog for this one.

My fantasy football draft party is this Sunday. I’m already dreading going to the store and picking up posterboard to make that damn draft board for the seventh straight year or whatever it is (stop being a cheapskate and just buy one, I know. Too late, unless you know somewhere that I can go out and get one instead of ordering it online). Anyway, your fantasy draft/s is/are probably soon too.

You know who else’s is soon? The Baltimore Orioles’ team league.

And, according to Darren O’Day, the Birds have no use for the typical “pick your name out of a hat” process to choose their draft order. They instead went with that time-honored Maryland tradition, the Crab Race.

@DOday56

Take it away, Dan.

Because, you see, the Orioles held a crab race to determine the order of their fantasy football draft.

I should probably add “apparently” somewhere in this item, because this is all based on an image posted online by Darren O’Day, the Orioles reliever who studied animal biology at Florida and “envisioned fulfilling his life-long dream to become a veterinarian.”

“Thanks to Cravin’ Crabs for providing the athletes for the Orioles fantasy football draft order crab race,” O’Day wrote on Wednesday.

Then he posted the above image, writing that DH Chris Davis “picked the Adrian Peterson of crabs to win first pick. This dude was stiff arming and juking everyone.”

So I feel comfortable saying that the Orioles apparently held a crab race to determine the order of their fantasy football draft, or possibly Darren O’Day was just making a joke.

 

Long ball powers O's past Red Sox in series opener

August 15, 2012

Just as they’ve done all season, the Orioles once again made their living on the back of the long ball last night, using home runs to take the first game of the three-game set from the Boston Red Sox.

Omar Quintanila got things started in the bottom of the third with a solo shot off Boston starter Josh Beckett. Amazingly, it was Quintanila’s third Orioles home run in only 68 at bats, after he had managed only three home runs over his previous 592 ABs in the majors (h/t @Britt_Ghiroli).

It just goes to show that, if you’re a member of the 2012 O’s, you’re going to be predisposed to the long ball.

One Oriole who has been just the opposite of Quintanila though – that is, quite disappointing in his home run production this season – is Mark Reynolds. Reynolds hit 37 dingers for the Birds in 2011, and hasn’t hit fewer than 28 in a season since his rookie year back in 2007. This year has been quite a struggle for “The Sheriff” though, as he entered last night’s contest with only nine home runs all year.

However, in a show of power that O’s fans can only hope is a sign of things to come, Reynolds put up his first tw0-home run game of 2012, hitting a solo shot just over the right field wall in the bottom of the fifth and then launching a 3-run bomb in his next AB in the sixth.

Reynolds’ second home run came on the first pitch from Boston reliever Mark Melancon, who replaced Beckett with the Birds leading 4-1 in the bottom of the sixth. That is a notable piece of information because Reynolds’ prior two-HR performance, in September 2011, also came against the Red Sox, with both bombs at the expense of Beckett.

The 7-1 lead was more than enough for Wei-Yin Chen, who bounced back from a loss in his previous start against Kansas City. Chen got into a few jams against the Sox lineup, but time and again managed to escape with little-to-no damage. His final line was 6 IP 9 H 1 ER 1 BB 4 K, improving his record on the year to 11-7, and lowering his ERA to 3.70.

With the win, the O’s guaranteed themselves a winning record on this 10-game homestand. However, with two games remaining, a 6-4 record would have to be considered a disappointment. Baltimore needs to keep their foot on the gas and win this series against Boston, as doing so would result in a 7-3 or even 8-2 homestand, which is exactly what the doctor ordered for continued contention.

At 63-53, the O’s are back to 10 games above .500 for the first time since they were 41-31 on June 24. They are tied with Tampa both for second place in the AL East, six games back of the Yankees, as well as at the top of the Wild Card standings, with both teams 1.5 games up on Oakland and Detroit, and 2.5 up on the LA Angels.

Tonight’s starters are Miguel Gonzalez (4-2, 3.42), who has allowed just one run over his previous two starts spanning 15 total innings, and Aaron Cook (3-5, 4.70). Cook had lost his previous four decisions before giving up just one run over seven innings against the Texas Rangers on August 6.

Let’s go Birds – take the series tonight.

Machado wins co-AL Player of the Week in his first "week"

August 14, 2012

Despite playing in only four games, Manny Machado’s production during that short stretch was enough to earn him American League Player of the Week honors (sharing the award with Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez).

In his four games, the O’s young third baseman went 6-for-16 with three home runs, one triple, one double, five runs scored and seven runs batted in. Those numbers are good for .375 batting average and a 1.0625 slugging percentage.

Hopefully it will be the first of many such awards for Manny.

While nobody expects Machado to keep up quite this blistering pace, if he can continue to be a consistent contributor, his spark could be just what the Birds need to keep up the momentum of this “Why Not?” 2012 campaign as the calendar moves into late August and September.

Knock-Knock. Who's there? Not Orioles fans.

August 12, 2012

The following is a guest post from Mike Randall at The Boh Pen, who was kind enough to let us re-post this very timely piece he wrote over the weekend. 

If there is one thing fans of anything Baltimore hate, it’s when Pittsburgh does something better than us.

It’s worth pointing out that attendance from Friday night’s 7-1 Orioles win was 17,277. It was the Orioles’ 6th win in the last 7 games, improving their record to 61-52. It also featured Manny Machado, the club’s top hitting prospect, going deep not once, but twice, in just his second major league game.

At the same time, the Pittsburgh Pirates played in front of a SELL OUT crowd of 38,702 at PNC Park. They would lose to the lowly San Diego Padres, dropping their record to 63-49. If the playoffs had started Saturday, both the Orioles and Pirates would be in for the first time in well over a decade, closer to two for Pittsburgh.

Just in case some Orioles fans aren’t getting the point, The PITTSBURGH Pirates fans, with a similar history of futility, are doing better at supporting their team.

That’s a fact. It’s been a hot topic the last couple nights on the talk radio shows. All I hear is excuses from Baltimore fans about why they don’t want to, or can’t go to an Orioles game.

I watch the game from home because it’s more enjoyable on TV.
First of all, no it’s not. Second, you’re making up an excuse to cover up another excuse. You can’t smell Boog’s BBQ, or catch a foul ball from your recliner. “Where were you when Manny Machado hit two home runs in only his second game?” “Sitting in my living room, alone. Cause it’s so much fun being alone.”

People are probably just on vacation.
Sure. I guess people in Pittsburgh don’t go on vacation. I seem to remember Labor Day weekend being the big vacation weekend. Not August 10-12. I’ve met quite a few people at the bar this week who we’re in town to watch the Orioles on their vacations. Coming in from Harrisburg, State College, even Blacksburg, Virginia. We’ll see how many people are on vacation when 70,000 Ravens fans show up to Friday’s preseason game that means nothing.

I can’t afford to take my family to a game.
I know there are people out there who are going through some tough times. You absolutely should be keeping a roof over your head, and keeping your kids fed and clothed before taking in a baseball game. But do people realize you can bring food and drinks into the game? They don’t force you to buy a $5 hot dog, or $6 soda, or $8 beer. You can get some cheap $9 tickets, and not spend a single dime once inside. You can’t go out to dinner for that cheap, you can’t go to the movies for that cheap. Name somewhere else a family of four can go have three hours of fun for $40. Then again, 70,000 people don’t seem to mind dropping $100+ to see the Ravens play.

I don’t like our owner so I’m not going to a game to support him.
I didn’t know Peter Angelos plays third base. Listen, if you have a cable bill, your are supporting Peter Angelos. When you go to a game and cheer for the Orioles, you’re not cheering for Peter Angelos. You’re cheering for Nick Markakis, who has been here through the worst of times and finally is playing meaningful baseball games in August. You’re cheering for Adam Jones who decided he loves Baltimore so much that he wants to play here at least through 2018. You cheer for Manny Machado, a rare 20-year old who gets a shot to play in a major league ballpark. That’s who you are showing your support for when you go out to a game.

If they actually make it into the playoffs I’ll go to a playoff game.
Please don’t. Save those tickets for the die hard fans who really do care. It will mean more to us than someone like you could even fathom. Greedy ****.

It’s going to take more than a few months of winning to make up for 14 years of losing.
This isn’t “Let’s Make A Deal.” So, we’ll see you in 2026? Is that what you’re telling us? They are winning! Enjoy the moment. It’s so tough to win in baseball in the division we’re in and with the payroll we have. Take advantage of this.

No one wants to go see the Seattle Mariners or Kansas City Royals.
Correct me if i’m wrong, don’t we go to see, I don’t know, THE HOME TEAM? Isn’t that why we should be going? Most Orioles fans are deterred from going when the Yankees are in town anyway. By the way, the Pirates hosted the 50-64 San Diego Padres. The worst team in baseball, the Houston Astros, also drew more fans than the Orioles did when they hosted the 51-60 Milwaukee Brewers.

The weather didn’t look so promising.
Yes, someone actually said this last night, referring to the 30% chance of rain. Even though when you took a look at the radar, there was nothing coming. So now people are afraid to get a little wet. Or a little hot.

I guess after all of that, the point is that if you really want to go to games, you’ll find a way to go. If you don’t want to, then you won’t. Unfortunately, more people probably have already made up their minds that they just don’t want to go, and that’s a shame for the 25 guys in the dugout every night who are busting their asses to bring Baltimore back out of the basement it’s been locked in for over a decade.

The Orioles ARE a winning team in the most beautiful ballpark in baseball, and they can’t find a way to fill it. We can’t consider ourselves some of the greatest fans if this is the case. It would be nice if more than 17,000 people would go and show some love for Eddie Murray on the day he gets honored with his statue in the left field court. If the game doesn’t sell out for Cal Ripken’s statue unveiling, I will be furious.

I’m not here to beg people to go, I’m not here to sell tickets. I’m just saying that Pittsburgh is supporting their team, and Baltimore is not. Take that and do what you like with it.


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