Archive for September, 2012

O's tie franchise record for HR in a game

September 27, 2012

Now that’s how you get the bats out!

After I spent yesterday lamenting the lack of offense that had engulfed the Birds over the past four games, they broke out in a big way in their final contest with the Blue Jays of 2012.

Though it looked to be another case of a struggling starting pitcher getting the better of them, as Carlos Villanueva allowed only one run on two hits – the run on a Nate McLouth home run to lead off the game, the second hit an Adam Jones double with two outs in the fourth – through four innings, everything changed in the bottom of the fifth.

Jim Thome led off the inning with a solo home run to right that tied the game at two. After two quick outs, Manny Machado finally belted his fifth home run of the season, giving the Birds a 3-2 lead that they would not relinquish.

However, they were just getting started.

McLouth and J.J. Hardy followed with singles, and Chris Davis finished up a great at bat with a three-run home run to right-center field that put the O’s up 6-2.

Mark Reynolds added a two-run dinger in the bottom of the sixth to pad the lead to 8-2.

Davis homered again in the bottom of the seventh with Hardy again aboard to make it 10-2.

Then in the bottom of the eighth, Machado capped things off with yet another bomb, this one a two-run shot to round out the scoring at 12-2.

If you’re counting, that’s SEVEN home runs by the Birds in one game, and six in the span of only four innings.

McLouth (1st), Thome (5th), Machado (5th), Davis (5th), Reynolds (6th), Davis (7th), Machado (8th).

It was just the second time in O’s history that they have hit seven home runs in a single game, with the other occurrences coming on August 26, 1985, and May 18, 1967.

The win was not only crucial because it secured the four-game split with Toronto and showed that the Birds still have some pop in their bats, but also because every other team that we care about won as well.

The Yankees, A’s, Angels, and Rays were all victorious on Wednesday, so the win kept them all in the Birds’ rearview for the moment.

Starting play on Thursday, the O’s are 89-67, 1.5 behind NYY in the AL East, 0.5 up on Oakland for the top Wild Card spot, 2.5 up on Anaheim, and 3.5 up on Tampa.

The O’s are idle today, but in other action the A’s finish up their series with the Rangers at 2:05 ET, the Mariners and Angels conclude things at 3:35, the Yankees start a four-game set in Toronto and the Rays start a four-game set in Chicago tonight.

So there will be PLENTY of scoreboard watching going on. Let’s go Blue Jays, Mariners, Rangers, and White Sox!

Starting Friday, the Birds welcome in the Boston Red Sox for their final home series of the regular season. The Sox are a struggling bunch at the moment, having lost two straight and six of seven (two of those coming at the hands of the O’s), but don’t think they won’t have revenge for 2011 on their minds when they come to town.

Let’s hope the Birds’ bats stay alive and mighty to close out the season. They need to jump out to a big lead in every game against the BoSox and get a critical sweep to continue to control their own destiny.

It's not the time for this

September 26, 2012

Much to the chagrin of Birdland, the O’s appear to have fallen into one of their signature team-wide slumps at exactly the wrong time. While the other American League contenders are all surging towards the finish line – the Yankees have lost two of three but are 8-2 over their last 10; the Angels have won four in a row, and even the Tampa Bay Rays (who we all wrote off for dead a week ago) have won six in a row and are still lurking around in the Wild Card standings – the Birds have dropped three of four after winning a season-high six in a row last week.

Though they have still won seven of ten overall, Buck’s club needs to turn things around here in their final home stand of 2012, lest the last six months of work all be erased in a single week.

I said on Monday that anything less than three of four from the Toronto Blue Jays would have to be considered unacceptable. Well, that ship has sailed – now the only question is “how unacceptable will things be?” The Birds need a win tonight to manage a split of the four game set.

After a relatively comfortable (by their standards) 4-1 win in the first game of the doubleheader Monday, the O’s have spent the last two games making poor Blue Jays pitchers look like aces. Ricky Romero had lost 13 consecutive starts dating back to June, but escaped bases-loaded jam after bases-loaded jam on Monday night with minimal damage, ultimately handing the Birds a 9-5 defeat.

By my count, the Orioles loaded the bases FOUR TIMES on Monday night, and got a total of two runs combined out of all four chances.

The word unacceptable again comes to mind.

Tuesday night, they made Aaron Laffey (and then four Jays’ relievers) look like Justin Verlander. Laffey, who was unable to escape the third inning in his previous two starts, made O’s hitters think that grounding out to shortstop was the end-all be-all of their existences. The Cumberland, Maryland native got into the sixth inning on something ridiculous like 60 pitches before giving way to the bullpen.

Despite a strong start from Joe Saunders, the O’s were shut out at home for just the second time all year – the first coming at the hands of the aforementioned Verlander.

The O’s had only six hits, and just one extra base hit, which didn’t come until Chris Davis doubled in the ninth. Just to add insult to injury, the O’s loaded the bases down four in the bottom of the ninth, only to once again come up completely empty.

The sky hasn’t completely fallen. The O’s are still two games up on Anaheim in the loss column. They’re still just 1.5 back of New York for the division. They’re still calculated to have a 91.7% chance of making the postseason.

But they need to start hitting.

They get the chance tonight, as Carlos Villanueva takes the hill for Toronto. Carlos has pitched to a 7.36 ERA over his past four starts, and gave up seven runs in just 2.1 innings to the pathetic Tampa offense in his last start.

Let’s get the bats out and salvage the four game split.

Birds can't pull off second Fenway sweep, but still win another series

September 24, 2012

Despite some late inning drama – it looked like Orioles Magic was going to be in full effect in the top of the ninth in Fenway on Sunday after the Birds put runners on second and third with only one out – the Orioles were unable to sweep the Red Sox in Fenway Park for the second time in 2012. It would have been the first time in team history that they had managed that feat.

However, Buck’s Birds still come home today for the season’s final home stand with a very strong road trip in their rear view mirror. After losing two of three in Oakland to start the trip, they won six straight over the A’s, Mariners, and Sox to close out the trip at 6-3.

The Yankees have been hot as well, and took two of three from Oakland in the Bronx to maintain their thin one-game lead over the Birds in the AL East.

In the Wild Card standings, the O’s are a game up on Oakland for the top spot and 4.5 up on the Angels for the second spot.

They can pick up ground on everybody today if they can manage a sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays in a doubleheader that starts in Baltimore at 4:05.

The Blue Jays have been mailing it in of late, losing six in a row and eight of their last ten. Last week, they were swept in a doubleheader by the Yankees, doing the Orioles absolutely no favors. The Birds need to match New York’s feat today to avoid losing crucial ground.

In fact, anything less than three of four from Toronto has to be considered a monumental disappointment. The stretch run is here. The time for losing is over.

Let’s jump out on the Jays early, and watch them pack it in.

Henderson Alvarez takes on Steve Johnson in Game 1, and Aaron Laffey goes against Wei-Yin Chen in the nightcap.

Let’s. Go. O’s.

O's play 4.2 games in Seattle, gain 3-game sweep

September 20, 2012

The Orioles played two very 2012-Oriole-esque games to earn a sweep of the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. After taking game one in very non-Oriole fashion, 10-4, the next two games were much more their style.

In game two, the Birds trailed 2-0 for pretty much the entire game before scoring twice in the top of the ninth inning to tie it up. Neither team would score again until the O’s pushed home two in the BOTTOM OF THE 18TH to take a 4-2 win. After playing a double-header and only getting a single win out of it, Buck had to make a drastic move.

Because the bullpen was so taxed, he was forced to call up 2011 draft pick, phenom Dylan Bundy. After the front office squashed some rumors about a month ago, Bundy was not expected in Baltimore this season. However, if game three starter Joe Saunders got in trouble, Bundy would be making his major league debut.

Fortunately, Saunders matched Mariners Ace Felix Hernandez pitch-for-pitch, allowing only a single solo home run to Franklin Gutierrez in pitching eight strong innings.

Unfortunately, the O’s managed only a single run themselves, when Chris Davis scored from first base on a Mark Reynolds single in the fourth. And so, to extras we went, yet again.

Adam Jones had finally had enough of the free baseball nonsense though, and launched a two-run home run in the bottom of the 11th to put the O’s up 3-1. Despite getting some runners on against Jim Johnson in the bottom of the frame, the Mariners ran themselves out of any potential rally as Michael Saunders was caught trying to steal second by Taylor Teagarden for the M’s 33rd and final out.

Jones made some MLB history with his 30th jack.

Take it away, Steve Melewski:

When Adam Jones blasted Josh Kinney’s pitch over the fence in the 11th inning in Seattle to help the Orioles gain a sweep of the Mariners, he made Major League Baseball history.

Jones is the first player ever to have at least four homers in the 11th inning or later in one season. That great stat comes from Elias Sports.

Jones is batting .261 (6-for-23) when he hits in extra innings in 2012, and four of the six hits are homers. He has 10 RBIs and an OPS of 1.153 when batting in extra frames. Clutch indeed.

It was also the Orioles’ FIFTEENTH consecutive extra inning win here in 2012. It’s the longest single-season streak since the Cleveland Indians won 17 in a row way back in 1949! The Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets won 21 and 16 in a row, respectively, more recently, but their streaks each spanned two seasons, with the Pirates doing it in 1959-60, and the Mets in 1984-85.

The O’s are now an incredible 21 games over .500 at 85-64, and currently sit 0.5 games behind the New York Yankees for first place in the AL East. If Toronto can beat the Yanks tonight, the O’s will enter their three game weekend series at Fenway once again tied for first.

They’ve also tied the Oakland A’s for the top Wild Card spot thanks to a little losing streak by Billy Beane’s boys. They’re four games up on the Angels for the final WC spot with 15 games to play.

Orioles Magic keeps befuddling the experts and spitting in the face of all rationale. Here in Baltimore, we could care less.

The O’s – and we fans, who stayed up well past 1 AM eastern time these last few nights – get a well-deserved rest today. We’ll all be watching the Blue Jays (and Rangers) hoping they can pull off victories.

It took 14 innings, but the Birds ended 14 years of losing yesterday

September 14, 2012

Though I was in attendance for the first 10 innings of the Rays-Orioles series finale on Thursday afternoon, I unfortunately had other obligations that forced me to leave before the game had concluded.

I’m bummed about that, because I really wanted to be in the stands at Oriole Park at Camden Yards when the O’s officially put an end to their streak of 14 consecutive losing seasons.

That’s right. Those outside of Birdland may not have noticed, but yesterday the Baltimore Orioles won their 81st game, securing their first .500 or above season since 1997. It was the second longest current streak in the majors, behind only the Pittsburgh Pirates. With the Pirates looking like they too will end their losing streak this year, it’s nice that the O’s were able to avoid becoming the holders of that dubious title.

Of course, in typical 2012 Orioles fashion, the win was not without drama or late heroics. A seventh-inning double from Taylor Teagarden (who doesn’t hit much, but when he does, they are HUGE hits) scored Manny Machado and Robert Andino, giving the Birds a short-lived 2-1 lead.

Tampa would tie the game in the top of the eighth, and that would be the last run either team would score until the bottom of the 14th.

In that 14th, it was again Machado (a hero Wednesday as well) who rose to the occasion, looping a line drive into left that barely evaded the diving attempt by Rays left fielder Matt Joyce.

The win completed the O’s first home sweep of Tampa since 2007, a sweep during which they extended their lead over the Rays in the division and wild card races to four games. It was also the Birds’ 13th consecutive extra inning win. They are now 13-2 in extras on the year after starting the season 0-2.

As always, things don’t get any easier. The O’s now embark on a nine-game road trip that takes them to Oakland, Seattle, and Boston. Oakland is rolling along just as B’More is, and are coming off a very impressive 3-of-4 series in Anaheim. Seattle has played much better ball since the All-Star break, and Boston – while dismantled and slumping – would love to exact some revenge on the Orioles for last year.

While closing the book on 14 consecutive years of losing is extremely cathartic for O’s fans, this team has much larger goals in mind. If they can play just .500 ball over their final 20 games, they will end the season with 90 wins. Hitting the 90-win mark SHOULD earn them, at the very least, a spot in the postseason.

And what better way to get back into winning ways in Baltimore than to do so with such a ridiculous bang?

Late October baseball in Charm City?

Oh yes, please.

Machado makes incredible play, scores on McLouth's walk-off as Orioles Magic rolls on

September 12, 2012

 

Eventually, we’re going to run out of ways to describe the incredible ways in which this 2012 Orioles team continues to win.

On Wednesday night, it looked like the Tampa Bay Rays had the O’s against the ropes. With closer Jim Johnson on to try to extend a 2-2 tie into the bottom of the ninth, Tampa appeared to have covered the corners with two outs on an Evan Longoria infield single.

Longoria hit a slow tapper down the third base line – because, of course he did; Johnson leads the league in those kind of dribblers by a wide margin – and Random Tampa Baserunner (like Random Henchman in a James Bond movie) who had just stolen second cruised in to third as Manny Machado bare handed the roller.

It was obvious to all that Manny didn’t have a play at first, and his wisest course of action was to “eat” the ball. Machado, though, showed some 20-year old swagger (a word I’m about 5-10 years too old to use) and pump faked the throw to first. Random Tampa Baserunner – (Ok, it was Rich Thompson) bit, ready to go home if the youngster made the mistake of throwing the ball to first.

Machado turned after his pump fake and tossed to J.J. Hardy, who had snuck in to cover third behind Thompson, who himself was now several steps from third base.

And just like that, the threat was over, and the O’s had a chance for the walk-off win.

Who led off the O’s half of the inning?

Machado, of course (as so often happens…).

The rookie hit one off the end of the bat that fell in to left field, largely because the Tampa outfield was playing extremely deep to try to cut off any deep knocks.

Following the single, Robert Andino laid down a perfect bunt to move Machado to second with one out.

Nate McLouth stepped to the plate, and took the Kyle Farnsworth offering deep into the right field corner. When the ball was hit, I didn’t think it had any chance to be fair, but, sure enough, it hit about a foot inside the yellow line to the right of the Esskay Scoreboard.

Game, Orioles.

The O’s are now 80-62, a season-high 18 games over .500. It’s the first time they’ve won at least 80 games in a season since 1997, and they remain in a tie for the AL East lead with the New York Yankees. By virtue of winning the first two games of the series against Tampa, they’ve extended their lead over the Rays for the second wild card spot to three games.

They go for the sweep Thursday at 12:35, as Wei-Yin Chen takes on Jeremy Hellickson.

I can’t wait to get out to the yard. See you there.

Orioles-Rays series primer

September 11, 2012

The standings in both the American League East and AL Wild Card races are tighter than an adult large shirt on C.C. Sabathia.

In the division, the Yankees are just one game up on the O’s, who are in turn just one game up on Tampa. For the Wild Card, Oakland is two up on everybody for the top spot, and the O’s are holding the second spot by a game over Tampa and 1.5 over the LA Angels.

Yeah, things are tight with just three weeks left to play.

All that said, things don’t get any easier or less crucial for the O’s following their weekend series split with the Yankees, as those aforementioned Tampa Bay Rays come to Baltimore for a three-game set.

On Tuesday, Jason Hammel makes his second start after coming back from a knee injury. In his first back, last Thursday, he was very good, giving up just one run on six hits in five-plus innings. He was denied the win after a furious late Yankees comeback, but the O’s ultimately came out on top.

Hammel was the Birds’ Ace for much of the season before getting hurt, and they’ll need his dominating performances to make a reappearance here down the stretch.

He opposes Matt Moore of Tampa, who has lost his previous two starts. The lefty is 10-9 with a 3.66 ERA, but gave up six runs (four earned) on eight hits in 6.1 against New York last Wednesday. He did still manage nine strikeouts, however.

Wednesday, Miguel Gonzalez (6-4, 3.62) takes on Alex Cobb (9-8, 4.28), and Thursday Jeremy Hellickson (8-10, 3.33) takes the mound against – well, the O’s haven’t said yet.

Tampa is on a tear lately, having won six of eight games in September (B’More is 5-4), including taking two of three from the mighty Texas Rangers over the weekend. On the bright side, the O’s will at least miss Rays Ace David Price this time around.

The O’s need to take two of three from the Rays – anything less will see them, at the very least, tied with Tampa when they leave town.

Get out to the Yard and support your O’s this week, Baltimore. If great orange crowds can do our part to power them to victories, we might just be able to keep this improbable run going, even after losing table-setter Nick Markakis, thanks to that aforementioned fat ass Sabathia.

Changing of the guard in the AL East

September 9, 2012

Amidst all the Oriole magic that has been occurring this season I keep finding myself asking the same question, especially after each victory that comes against New York and Boston.

Are we seeing a changing of the guard in the AL East?

Are we seeing our Baltimore Orioles take the step from losers to contenders?

I don’t want to get ahead of myself here because the Yankees are still the Yankees and when a team has an owner and front office such as theirs that is always willing to spend money they can never really be counted out.

So what are we seeing? These birds are for real. If you still have any doubts about their legitimacy go watch Thursday night’s game again. If you still think they are pretenders after watching that, I’ll pay for the Mayflower van to take you to another baseball city.

I think we are seeing the emergence of a long run of winning seasons in Baltimore. The culture has changed around not just the players but around the whole city of Baltimore. This fan base realizes that Oriole Magic is happening here and they are feeding off it like starved hyenas.  Although I was not at Camden Yards Thursday night I was watching from college; It was an amazing feeling to watch the Orioles win in a manner that only Baltimore fans can truly appreciate after watching a season with so many similar up and down instances. To see a crowd so electric, with so much intensity, gave me chills. The hair stood up on the back of my neck when Adam Jones crushed that home run to break a 6-6 tie moments after Pedro Strop blew a 6-2 Orioles Lead.

That is the difference this year. That is the difference Buck Showalter has made.

He has instilled into every one of these players’ minds that they are one team that has one goal. So when Pedro has a bad night ( which is something we have rarely seen from the setup man) someone is there to pick him up. Thursday night the whole team picked him up, and tomorrow night someone else might need to be picked up and this team is ready for whatever that may entail .

We have seen a huge overhaul of this Orioles Franchise from top to bottom since Buck Showalter got here. The farm system has been vastly improved and filled up with good young talent, Dan Duquette has been a wizard all season pulling off head scratching moves that have filled key needs on a team no one expected to win 70 games. The Orioles are raking in their division and have been warriors on the road. Duquette has also vastly improved the international scouting department and insisted that this season is not a one year wonder but instead wants to build a franchise that will be competitors for years to come.

With Boston hitting the reset button, New York full of injuries and age becoming a factor, could we be seeing the start of the Baltimore-Tampa era in the Al East?

I believe so, and its been a long time coming. Enjoy this Baltimore, savor this season, remember how you felt when the losing began to fade. These are the days my generation has dreamed of, first hearing the stories of Oriole Magic back in the the good old days but now actually experiencing Oriole Magic for myself I can fully understand how special baseball can be in Baltimore.

On Cal Ripken night, Birds show Yanks who the real bombers are

September 7, 2012

photo c/o our peeps over at IhateJJRedick

It was a magical Thursday night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

In a game that was the biggest September contest in the stadium since 1997 (until Friday’s game, of course  – they only get bigger at this point), the Orioles jumped out to an early lead, withstood a furious late Yankee comeback, and took the first game of the crucial four-game set.

Prior to the game, the Orioles held their fifth of six bronze sculpture unveiling ceremonies this season. Previously, Frank Robinson, Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, and Eddie Murray were honored. On this night, which was the 17th anniversary of his record-breaking 2,131st consecutive game, Cal Ripken, Jr. was in the house to take his place among the immortalized Oriole greats.

Between the pre-game ceremony for Cal, and the video montage that went along with it, Cal speaking and throwing out the first pitch, a very classy moment of silence held by the Birds for the late Art Modell, and the 46,298 (90+% O’s fans) giving the “O” during the Spar Spangled Banner all we had, the emotion at the Yard was absolutely off the charts before the first pitch was even thrown.

They even played “Seven Nation Army,” showing some solidarity with the purple birds that live across the street. The crowd responded favorably, to say the least.

I remarked to my dad that I was getting the feeling I get watching the Ravens come out of the tunnel at M&T Bank Stadium. I can honestly say I’ve NEVER had that feeling at an Oriole game before Thursday night. I’ve been to playoff games at OPACY before, but I was 14-15 years old, and too young to fully appreciate the atmosphere and situation. I don’t want to overstate it – because yes, it is “just a game,” – but you true sports fans know exactly what I’m talking about.

It was also the most fun I’ve ever had at an O’s game, and I’m 30 years old.

I’ve had fun at O’s games before, yes. But never when the O’s are fighting for first place with the Evil Empire in September. I would compare it to this – I had a blast in college at UMBC. Even though it’s definitely not a school that’s known for its parties, I had great friends and we knew how to entertain ourselves. But that first time I went to visit friends at the University of Maryland College Park, it was like “oh. OHHHHHHHHH. THAT’S what all the fuss is about!”

That’s what it feels like going to these truly meaningful O’s games for the first time since Bill Clinton was in office. Completely incredible.

Anyway, back to the game.

The O’s bashed SIX home runs (their most since 8/28/07 against Tampa), including two more from Mark Reynolds, who is hitting in a league of his own right now (Adrian Beltre is close, I suppose). Reynolds now has three two-home run games against the Yankees in the last week, after doing it twice in the Bronx on Friday and Sunday.

Honestly, I’m surprised Mark hasn’t felt any chin music from the Yankees pitchers yet. You better believe it’s coming – stay on your toes, Sheriff.

Also homering were Matt Wieters, who got things started with a 3-run shot in the first that just squeaked over the left field wall and inside the foul pole, Robert Andino, and Chris Davis.

None of the home runs were more clutch than the one Adam Jones hit in the bottom of the eighth though. After the Yankees had stormed back to tie the game at six with five runs in the top of the inning, it felt like all the air had been let out of the stadium.

I said to my dad, “you know he’s going to be swinging for the fences here.”

I didn’t mean it as a good thing.

I should have.

Jones took the 1-2 offering from David Robertson DEEP into the left field seats to put the Birds back on top. Before all was said and done, the O’s would score four runs before the Yankees bullpen was able to record even a single out in the bottom of the eighth.

Here’s MLB.com video of the home run. Click it. Watch it. Do it again.

Isn’t it glorious?

I’m still pumped as I sit here at 1 AM typing this, and I’m going to go right back up to Eutaw Street and do it all over again tomorrow. I’m realistic enough to know that it won’t be 90% O’s fans again, and that we probably won’t hit six home runs again, and that the atmosphere I was immersed in tonight may not be duplicated, but I still can’t wait.

The incredible season rolls along. The Birds can take over first place by themselves with another victory Friday night.

See you at the Yard.

 

Billy Ripken – stickler for alphabetical order

September 5, 2012

Though the O’s only pulled into a tie for first last night with the New York Yankees – rather than passing them – MLB Network’s Billy Ripken couldn’t help but move the O’s ahead of the Skanks on the big board, citing “alphabetical order.”

Ripken and colleague Harold Reynolds (both former Orioles, of course) couldn’t stop singing the praises of Buck’s Birds last night, several times calling them the biggest story in baseball. Reynolds went so far as to suggest that they are the biggest story in sports.

This in stark contrast to ESPN, of course, who would rather the O’s (and any team not named Yankees or Red Sox for that matter) be off the board completely.

Though this was a nice touch by the four letter network last night on their home page:

“The chase is over” huh? On September 5?

Anybody else get the feeling that they’re trying to jinx us?

Anyway, thanks Billy.

P.S. That bird is by far the most gorgeous logo on the board, and it’s not close.


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