Baltimore Orioles continually out-done by small ball

Keep in mind, the Baltimore Orioles seemingly have no issue with power-hitting clubs like themselves. They handle New York, Boston, and Toronto fairly easily. The same is true of Washington when the teams play, among other teams. It’s the small ball teams with whom they struggle.

And my theory is that the issue lies in the name; small ball is just that: small. Teams such as the Minnesota Twins don’t look for the big blasts or the majestic home runs. They’re happy with just the one run here or there. So while teams like the Orioles are sitting on fastballs that they can hit out, small ball teams look just to get on base and they’re happy with that.

Small ball or not, Chris Tillman needs to be better than he was in today’s game. Tillman’s line: 5.0 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 3 K. The issue was that at the beginning Tillman was throwing ball one almost immediately to every batter. That enabled Minnesota hitters to work from ahead, and they could in fact sit on pitches they wanted to get on base.

Minnesota put three runs on the board in the first, and two in the second. That drained the energy from the crowd right off the bat. Granted however, the Birds did make a comeback in this one to make it close. They got solo home runs off of Hardy in the third, and Davis and Schoop in the seventh. They did have the go-ahead run at the plate in the last of the ninth, but they recorded the final out and the game was over.

One mark of the Orioles has also been that they seem to be forced into playing their opponents’ game, which in this case was small ball. Yes they hit three home runs this afternoon – but three solo home runs. They couldn’t get anything in with any runners on base.

So why is it that small ball always seems to come up and bit the O’s? And the answer to that is even the worst Oriole hitter is looking to hit-for-power. So they’ll let pitches go by unless they think there’s a chance the ball can be driven. And that’s why strikeouts can be so high.

Instead, teams like Minnesota and Kansas City don’t let good pitches go by. Their attitudes appear to be that just getting on base makes a difference. And of course, it does. So whether they can drive the pitch or not, they’re looking for balls they can put in play.

I think it’s overly simplistic to suggest that the O’s should simply play small ball. Keep in mind that they’re a roster full of poewr hitters. If you try to take guys out of their element things will get worse. So the only way forward is to continue with big ball, and hope their bats snap out of the funk in whcih they’ve been.

Baltimore Orioles make a hard-luck loser of Dylan Bundy

Don’t blame starter Dylan Bundy for the Baltimore Orioles’ loss last night. It’s really tough for a starting pitcher to hold things together when the bats don’t provide for any runs. Bundy turned in a quality start in fact and on paper last night, and he more than put the Birds in a spot to win. Bundy’s line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 7 K.

You just aren’t going to be much better than Dylan Bundy was last night, especially in a steady drizzle that was omnipresent during the game. Unfortunately however, one guy was just slightly better: Minnesota’s Santana. He pitched a complete game two-hit shutout against one of the best offenses in baseball. That shouldn’t take anything away from Bundy, however of course it did mean he took the loss as opposed to winning the game.

Minnesota got on the board in the top of the fifth with an RBI-single from Buxton. Two innings later they got a solo homer from Dozier. And that’s your ballgame in the sense of scoring The Orioles did take six walks, but combined with only two base hits they never really threatened. And unfortunately they’ve now dropped the first two games of the series.

But the good news is that with an afternoon game today, the Birds only used one reliever. Bundy was able to go seven innings, which really helped save the bullpen for today’s game. Buck Showalter discussed this after the game (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

There’s just a rhythm to it, but like I’ve said many times, your momentum is who’s pitching for you and who you’re facing. You can be swinging the bats as good as can be swung and you get a guy like that on top of his game and it can make you look that way. That’s what’s frustrating about last night, because you knew you had two pitchers that had kind of been struggling. One of them was going to kind of semi-right the ship and one of them wasn’t.

The real benefit is that the Birds can be a bit more cavalier with the bullpen in a sense this afternoon, because tomorrow is an off day. So one way or another, the bullpen will be rested going into Friday’s series opener in Houston. So in that sense the O’s are in a good spot.

The aforementioned series finale with Minnesota is this afternoon at Camden Yards, as the O’s will try to salvage one. Chris Tillman gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Minnesota’s Jose Berrios. Game time is set for just after 12:30 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Ubaldo Jimenez struggles again

The chorus of fans calling for the Baltimore Orioles to release Ubaldo Jimenez grew louder during and after last night’s 14-7 loss to Minnesota. Jimenez’s line: 4.0 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 3 K. Jimenez seemingly pitched from behind in almost every count. The outs that he did record were a struggle.

However the most incriminating part was that he gave up a five-run lead. An RBI-double by Mancini and an RBI-single by Hardy in the second inning got things started. It appeared that the Orioles were heading in the right direction. Adam Jones then followed with a three-run homer later in the inning. That was his 125th career home run at Camden Yards, which makes him the ballpark’s new leader.

However Minnesota started to chip away at an Orioles lead they would eventually overtake. Mauer grounded into an out which scored a run in the third, and Kepler’s solo homer in the fourth cut the lead to 5-2. But it looked as if the Birds were going to keep tacking runs on as well, as Machado’s RBI-double in the last of the fourth ran the score to 6-2.

However Jimenez loaded the bases in the fifth with nobody out, and after Minnesota scored two runs in the inning he was removed. Minnesota would go on to put up four runs in that fifth inning, and when the smoke cleared the game was tied. The question is whether or not this was Jimenez’s last start. Time will tell.

In fairness to Jimenez, Minnesota didn’t let up once they got going. Many fans are going to say that Jimenez gave them confidence and so forth – maybe they’re right for all I know. But I think it would be different if the deluge of runs had ceased once Jimenez left the game. If anything, it got worse.

Minnesota put up six runs in the sixth, and then two more in the ninth on a two-run homer. The O’s did get one back in the last of the ninth on an RBI-single by Joseph. But the fact is that Minnesota hitters were just seeing the ball very well last night. Was Jimenez good? Not in the least. But again, had Minnesota been shut down immediately after he left the game, it would be different.

You can’t blame Jimenez for the six-run fifth, which in my view broke the Orioles’ back. You can’t blame him for the fact that one of those runs scored on a balk when Crichton fell off the mound as he was winding up. Yes, he needed to exit the game when he did – there’s no question. But let’s be fair about critiquing him; furthermore, the fact that Oriole bats went to sleep after he left isn’t something that attributable to him.

Am I saying that Jimenez isn’t struggling mightily? No, because he is. And that would need to change for him to stay in the rotation. I’m merely saying that it’s never one person’s sole fault that a team wins or loses. Put blame where blame is due – but not blame that doesn’t befit that person.

So…should the Orioles remove Jimenez from the rotation? The first question is with whom do they replace him? I suspect Asher might be the answer if that route is taken and Jimenez is sent to the bullpen. Another option is for them to defer the decision and simply skip Jimenez in his next turn in the rotation. The O’s have an off day Thursday, so that’s a possibility. In the mean time he could work long relief out of the bullpen and give the O’s an additional arm out there. My personal opinion is that this is the best option. (The fringe option would be that they could invent an injury and send him to the DL.)

The one option that the Orioles shouldn’t consider is DFAing him or outright releasing him. As I’ve said many times, the Birds are on the hook for his salary whether they like it or not. It would be an incredibly poor decision from a business standpoint for the to decide to cut him and be forced to continue paying his salary. Worse yet, someone else would have the option of picking him up – on the Orioles’ dime.

The Orioles will try to even the series tonight at Camden Yards. Dylan Bundy gets the start for the Birds, and he’ll be opposed by Minnesota’s Ervin Santana. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Wade Miley done in by an error

Wade Miley pitched a good game for the Baltimore Orioles this afternoon. A very good game. Miley’s line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R (0 earned), 1 BB, 3 K. The problem was that Toronto’s Estrada didn’t just pitch well (like Miley did). He pitched in an unbeatable manner.

The O’s couldn’t muster nary anything off of Estrada. To his credit, he pitched to the strike zone that was set out by the umpire – as opposed to what he thought the strike zone should be. But in a certain sense, the O’s are lucky they were able to get a hit off of Estrada.

In games like these, unfortunately someone has to be the hard-luck loser. And today it was Miley. But save for one bad pitch, it was through no fault of his own per se. He retired the first two hitters in the game, and had the third in essence retired on a semi-routine ground ball to Schoop at second. However Schoop bobbled the ball twice, and had to eat it – allowing a runner to reach base.

Following a subsequent single, Travis smacked a curve ball over the left field fence, giving Toronto a 3-0 lead. If you’re going to commit an error, doing so with two outs and nobody on is the way to go. But as we saw today, even that can snowball. As I said above when I gave Miley’s pitching line, all three of those runs were unearned.

They were also all that Toronto needed. At the time, you felt that perhaps the O’s had a shot at coming back given the power their lineup represents. But Estrada shut Oriole bats down all day long. Adam Jones smacked a solo homer in the last of the fourth, but other than that the bats were fairly quiet and the Birds fell 3-1.

Incidentally, that home run was Jones’ 124th at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. He’s now tied with Raffy Palmeiro for the most all-time homers at the ballpark. Buck Showalter commented on this after the game (quote courtesy of Mandy Bell and Gregor Chisholm, MLB.com):

Think about all the people who have played here in the past 26 years. He’s going to be hard to catch. He’s such a post-up guy. He comes in here and very quietly has thee hits. But he’s got really great recuperative power, and he loves to play. He knows how much we depend on him. He doesn’t shirk that responsibility. I don’t think it surprises anybody, but it’s a reminder of how good he’s been for a long period of time here.

While you never want to lose games, the Birds took two-of-three from Toronto this weekend. If you keep winning series’, you’re going to find yourself in good shape. Especially when your next opponent is playing a doubleheader at home to make up a rain out today before flying to Baltimore late this evening.

And the opponent I referenced are the Minnesota Twins, who come to Camden Yards for the first of three tomorrow night. Ubaldo Jimenez gets the start for the O’s, however Minnesota has not yet announced a starter for game one. (Presumably due to the doubleheader.) Game time is set for just after 7 PM tomorrow evening.

Baltimore Orioles: Beef Welington wrecks Poutine

Beef Welington might have overtaken crabs as the favorite food of most Baltimore Orioles fans – just for a few moments last night. Catcher Welington Castillo was starting to heat up when he went on the DL a few weeks ago. But he’s been white hot this week since coming back. Just ask Toronto.

Kevin Gausman needed a good start last night, and for the most part he got it. Gausman’s line: 6.0 IP, 10 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 5 K. I always say that pitchers will get themselves in trouble – it’s the nature of the position. What matters is if as a pitcher you can get yourself out of trouble. Gausman did that right off the bat when he loaded the bases with nobody out in the first. He induced a ground ball double-play which scored a run, and then struck out the next hitter.

That set the tone for the game, because you can look at it as in essence a win for Gausman. Luckily for the Orioles this is an AL East game – not one against the Kansas City Royals, who would have celebrated that one run to the nines because they play small ball. Giving up one after that situation is all but meaningless.

Sure enough, the Birds battled back immediately. Mark Trumbo‘s RBI-single in the last of the first tied the game. Two innings later, it was a solo home run by Manny Machado which gave the O’s a 2-1 lead. But not to be outdone, two innings after that it was Trumbo again who smacked a home run, this one of the two-run variety.

But as I said, this is the AL East; Toronto may be decimated by injuries, but they’re a power hitting club also. Smoak’s solo homer in the sixth brought them to within 4-2. However it was Baltimore’s longtime nemesis who dealt the O’s what would have been a crushing blow to a more faint-hearted team. Bautista’s three-run homer in the seventh put Toronto back in the lead at 6-4.

But notice what I said above: that would have been a crushing blow to a more faint-hearted team. Neither baseball, nor this world belongs to the faint of heart. It belongs to the brave. And once again it was Castillo who reached deep inside of himself and gave the Orioles the lead back. His three-run homer in the last of the seventh was his third big home run against Toronto in a span of about 24 hours.

Regarding those three homers; the first one tied a game, the second one gave the O’s a walk off win, and the third one gave them the lead back. Castillo as I said has been hot all week since returning from the DL. But he’s absolutely wrecked Toronto thus far in two games. Too bad that odds are he’s going to sit today with a day game after a night game!

The other good news from the Orioles’ standpoint is that the back end of the bullpen was as solid as ever last night. O’Day sent Toronto down 1-2-3 in the eighth, and Brach did the same in the ninth. A little bit of rest will in fact help guys to re-charge their batteries!

The O’s will go for the sweep this afternoon in the series finale at Camden Yards. Wade Miley will get the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Marco Estrada. Game time is set for just after 1:30 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Beef Welington served cold to Toronto

It sees that all Welington Castillo has done since returning to the Baltimore Orioles from the DL is hit home runs. There was just a bit of trepidation in letting Wieters walk on the part of some Orioles fans this past off season, however Castillo’s filled that void very well. He certainly paid off last night against Toronto.

The Birds were able to get some stability out of their starting pitching as well, as Chris Tillman had a good outing. Tillman’s line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 4 K. That’s a quality start, if you’re keeping track at home. The Orioles’ pen was solid as well for the first time in awhile, however it’s important to note that while the O’s dropped the final two games in Detroit, many of the relievers weren’t used. It’s amazing what some rest will do for guys.

The Birds took a 1-0 lead in the second on a Hardy RBI-single. However Toronto had a three-run inning on Tillman in the fourth, and suddenly things didn’t look so hot. With Toronto leading 3-1, it appeared that Orioles’ pitching had given up a lead once again.

However Tillman righted himself, and shut Toronto down after that. And two innings later he found himself off the hook when Castillo smacked a two-run homer which evened the game at three. It was a high fly ball to right that just kept carrying, and ended up leaving the ballpark. That was merely a harbinger of what was to come.

As the later innings wore on, it became evident that the O’s and Toronto would need to work a bit extra on this night to decide the game. The Birds retired Toronto in the top of the tenth, and then…the skies opened up. And I mean a torrential rain descended on the Inner Harbor. While obviously nobody wanted to stop the game at that point, there was little choice but for the umpiring crew to call for a rain delay.

The game resumed just before midnight after an hour’s delay. The Birds recorded two quick outs in the last of the tenth, before Mark Trumbo managed a bloop single to get on base. It was interesting to note that to that point every time Trumbo had been on base in the game he had scored. Obviously if he came around to score in this situation he would end the game.

And luckily for Trumbo, the hero of the day was coming up to bat. Welington Castillo did everyone a favor by ending the game with his walk off two-run homer, as it saved both teams from what could have been shaping up to be a marathon game. But obviously it was the Orioles who went home happy as victors, with a 5-3 win on the bat of Castillo over the AL East rivals.

Sometimes you have to do a little extra to win games, and this was one of those nights. Not only did the O’s have to go to extra innings, but they had to wait out an extra innings rain delay. But in the end, a W’s a W.

The series continues tonight at Camden Yards. Kevin Gausman gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Mike Bolsinger. Game time is set for just after 7:30 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Are the Birds tipping pitches?

The Baltimore Orioles lost their fifth of six games yesterday in which they had been leading at one point or another. And perhaps the sad part is that Dylan Bundy didn’t pitch horribly. He didn’t have good stuff per se, but save for one pitch at the end of his outing I felt he pitched well enough to put the Birds in a position to win. Bundy’s line: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 BB, 3 K.

The Orioles took an early 2-0 lead in the first inning on Chris Davis‘ two-run homer. And that could be good news for the Birds, because Davis’ bat is starting to heat up. One inning later they led 3-0 on Smith’s RBI-single.

However as has been happening frequently o late, Detroit got it all back in one fatal swoop. Martinez smacked a three-run homer in the third to tie the game at three. And that was only a harbinger of what was to come, although the Birds did fight back. Adam Jones gave the Orioles the lead back with a solo homer in the fifth, only to have V. Martinez smack a two-run shot in the bottom of the inning. Add in an Avila double, and the O’s trailed by two. Once again however, they made a run of it – with Smith’s solo homer in the seventh, but 6-5 was as close as they would get.

I mentioned that Detroit tied it above in one fatal swoop, as has been happening a lot of late. Combine that with the fact that in five of the last six games the Birds have lost leads, and perhaps it leads you to an interesting theory. Is it possible that the O’s are tipping pitches?

Obviously it wouldn’t be something that’s being done consciously, nor would it be something mechanical. Because obviously it would be an act that’s occurring over a wide array of pitchers and in various situations. The two Bundy pitches that were hit out yesterday weren’t bad pitches. They weren’t hung, and their locations were exactly where the catcher had set up. The hitters just seemed to know where they were coming.

I suppose the better question then is whether or not teams are stealing signs. Either way, perhaps the O’s need to look at how they’re calling games, because of late it’s with relative ease that teams are overtaking them. If a guy knows exactly what’s coming in terms of pitch location and/or speed, he has a huge advantage over you.

The Orioles head home after a tough road trip tonight to open a three-game set with Toronto. Chris Tillman gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.