Baltimore Orioles: Kevin Gausman was good but not good enough

Following last night’s 5-1 loss to Cleveland, Buck Showalter said that starter Kevin Gausman was “good.” But obviously he wasn’t good enough in a sense, as the Birds fell. Gausman’s line: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 9 K.

Saying he wasn’t good enough is probably a bit harsh. Gausman came within one out of a quality start last night. Save for the fifth inning, he was very good last night. And in fairness, Cleveland’s a team that will paper cut you to death. They’re incredibly adept at placing the ball exactly where fielders aren’t playing. They live and die by bloops and blasts.

It’s a tough sell to argue that a starting pitcher wasn’t good enough when he struck out nine hitters. Especially in 5.2 innings. Oriole bats didn’t do Gausman any favors either, as the Birds couldn’t muster any runs until the bitter end.

Cleveland got on the board in the fifth on an RBI-double by Perez. As I said above, they’re very good at placing the ball right where the fielder’s aren’t. In this case Perez smacked it between Jones and Kim in the outfield, and it went all the way to the wall. The runner scored from first as a result. That was only one run, however Lindor’s two-run homer later in the inning gave Cleveland a 3-0 lead.

Cleveland is one of the few teams who can seemingly toe the line between small ball and power. Their innings start innocently enough, with a base hit or a walk here or there. But that’s all they seem to need. Somewhere else along the way, someone else comes up and either hits the ball over the wall or finds a way to drive that runner in. And when you have guys who can hit the ball exactly where they ain’t combined with speed on the base paths, and yes people will often score from first.

Lindor would also smack an RBI-single in the ninth, followed by another RBI-single by Kipnis. The O’s would get on the board in the last of the ninth on Jonathan Schoop‘s RBI-double, but it was too little too late. The O’s actually missed their opportunity back in the seventh when they had the bases loaded, and couldn’t score.

And that’s as much a part of the Orioles’ problems of late as anything else. Other teams are making the Birds pay when they make mistakes. When they went through a stretch where uncharacteristic errors were occurring in the infield, opponents were finding ways to score and thus hold the Birds accountable. But when presented with an opportunity such as the bases loaded with nobody out, the O’s are letting other teams off the hook.

And much of that is the thirst for power. Believe me folks, I’m a power guy. I don’t necessarily think that piece mealing runs together through sac flies and double-plays is efficient. It might get you a run here or there, but power gets you more. However other teams know that Oriole batters are swinging for the fences when they come up – especially with the bases loaded. So if in some instances they focused on just getting a hit as opposed to a homer, there might be more runs on the board here and there.

Buck Showalter will be leaving the team today to attend the birth of his grandson. So congratulations are in order for Buck and his entire family! John Russel will manage the team in Showalter’s absence, and he’ll (Showalter) rejoin the Orioles this weekend in Tampa.

The series with Cleveland concludes this evening at Camden Yards with the Birds trying to even it. Wade Miley gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Cleveland’s Mike Clevinger. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Mucho magic from Manny Machado

You’d be hard-pressed to suggest that Manny Machado didn’t figure prominently into the end result in last night’s Baltimore Orioles game. When you smack two homers and score the go-ahead run, you were kind of important to your team. This is the same Machado that some members of the fan base would just as soon trade today, right? Just checking.

Chris Tillman struggled in his start, prompting some (including myself) to wonder if he’s truly healthy. Tillman’s line: 4.0 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 0 K. Tillman had trouble finding the strike zone overall, but he threw multiple pitches back towards the backstop. I have to believe that if he was having a physical problem he would say something. But based on results and what we saw last night it’s worth wondering if he’s truly healthy

Tillman gave up a two-run homer to Encarnacion in the first inning which gave Cleveland a 2-0 lead. Now to his credit he did settle down a bit in the second and regain some composure. However for most of his outing he was just a little on the wild side, and that’s concerning.

Manny Machado’s first home run came in the last of the first. It was only a solo shot, however it cut the Cleveland lead in half at 2-1. One inning later the Orioles had tied the game, as Jonathan Schoop smacked a solo shot of his own. Regardless of how much Tillman may have struggled, needless to say this was going to be no 12-0 rout.

Cleveland punched themselves back into the lead in the fourth on an RBI-single by Jackson. Later in the inning Lidor would add a two-RBI double, and the Birds trailed by three at 5-2. As a team, Cleveland refuses to give in at the plate. They foul off pitch after pitch. And that’s a problem that the Orioles have had in general with teams doing that. My theory is that Oriole pitchers are trying too hard to nibble, which is inducing guys to protect the plate.

The good news for the Orioles is that with their offense they’re never out of it. Machado smacked his second home run of the night in the last of the fifth, this one of the three-run variety. With one swing of the bat, the game was tied. And Tillman was off the hook for the loss.

However perhaps the key moment of the game was the top of the seventh when Blier loaded the bases with one out. The Orioles’ situation appeared tenuous at best. But Showalter went to Miguel Castro out of the bullpen, who struck out Gomes and induced Zimmer to ground out – which ended the inning. Castro did a heck of a job, preserved the tie, and allowed the O’s to remain in a position to move forward in the game.

Machado’s next at-bat came in the seventh, and he sent a high drive the other way to right field. He seemed to go into his home run trot, but the ball bounced off the wall and he ended up with a double. Could it have been a triple had Machado run harder? Probably. Hopefully for his sake, lesson learned.

Luckily for Machado and the Orioles it was a moot issue. Jones smacked an RBI-double, and the Orioles took a 6-5 lead. Cleveland would threaten in the ninth, but the O’s closed the door and evened the series at two with a 6-5 victory over Cleveland.

What happens with Tillman moving forward is beyond me. I don’t see them removing him from the rotation, however as I said I do question his health situation. This game was also the first big league victory in the career of Miguel Castro, who was the pitcher of record when the Orioles broke the tie. And after what he did in the seventh, it was well-deserved.

The series continues this evening at Camden Yards. Kevin Gausman will get the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: The case against selling

The Baltimore Orioles can probably accept a clunker of a start out of someone like Dylan Bundy. Mind you that Bundy’s been incredibly good thus far in 2017. Bundy’s line: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 3 BB, 2 K.

I suppose that it would have been better overall had the Birds not given up a total of 12 runs, however it only counts as one game. Bundy’s pitches were in essence catching too much of the strike zone, and Cleveland was capitalizing. Mind you also that Cleveland’s the defending American League champion.

And obviously, it wasn’t just Bundy. Every reliever the Orioles brought in seemed to have the same issues. I’ve said this before, but I often do have to wonder if someone isn’t inadvertently tipping pitches because there is the semblance that other teams know exactly what’s coming and when.

Many fans are calling on the Orioles to sell and sell now. Anyone who’s read this column in any form over time knows that I feel that would be a mistake. And there are several reasons why. First off, the current group are the Orioles’ best chance to win a title since the mid-1990’s. Yes that window is only open for so long; but if you close it yourself before you should, it’s closed.

People point to the fact that it would be better to get something for the likes of Machado and so forth as opposed to letting him walk for nothing. That may be a fair point, however wouldn’t it better benefit the Orioles if Machado re-signed in Baltimore? It’s easy to suggest that the O’s won’t offer the money he’ll want and so forth – and maybe they won’t for all I know. But people said the same thing about Davis, Trumbo – and even Jones back before he re-signed.

Going back to my point above about “self-closing” the window, the current group is also under contract for next year. So if the O’s busted up the gang to an extent this season, they’d also be sacrificing next year and onward to a point. Maybe Machado doesn’t start the season cold next year, and maybe the bullpen and the infield isn’t decimated by injuries. Furthermore don’t write off the rest of this season; while the O’s are struggling, they’re far from totally out of it.

The sell now crew loves to talk about how the O’s could get such a haul in return for Machado or Britton. Heck, I’ve even heard people say they should trade Jones as well. However keep in mind that Britton’s been hurt most of the year, and as I said above Machado started the year in a bit of a slump. Do we think that opposing GM’s wouldn’t use that to their advantage?

What I’m saying is that Britton might be an unknown commodity at this point, and Machado’s had his struggles at the plate. If the O’s were to decide to trade them, they might not be able to get in return what they otherwise would have. It sounds crazy to even suggest, but it’s true.

If you’re going to trade pieces like that, you’d better be sure that you’re getting either big league-ready talent, or true top prospects. Keep in mind that the Orioles didn’t get to where they are now by being passive on the trade market. Andy McPhail talked up and inflated the value of Bedard so that he could get Jones and Tillman in return.

Ultimately, if you close the window yourself there’s no guarantee that it opens again for a long time. Keep in mind that this franchise was missing from the post-season for 14 years. You can trade for all the “top prospects” that you want, but if they turn into duds you’re worse off than you were before.

So I’m saying that the only way forward is to stay the course for now. People have to look past the tops of their noses in the sense that these guys’ track records indicate that they’re much better than this. And they will be moving forward. Once everyone’s healthy.

The O’s will try to even the series with Cleveland tonight at Camden Yards. Chris Tillman gets the start for the Birds, and he’ll be opposed by Cleveland’s Josh Tomlin. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Ubaldo Jimenez, power rule the yard

Many Baltimore Orioles fans walked into Camden Yards yesterday afternoon wondering what they’d get out of Ubaldo Jimenez. Of course Jimenez was re-entering the rotation after spending roughly a month in the bullpen after being ineffective as a starter. What they got was a version of Jimenez that was worthy of a standing ovation coming off the field in the seventh inning. Jimenez’s line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 3 K.

With the exception of two solo homers, Jimenez shut down everything that St. Louis threw up against him. And solo homers, Seth Smith led the game off for the O’s with one in the last of the first. But solo homers won’t necessarily beat you – unless you allow them to. St. Louis did, and the Orioles didn’t. St. Louis would tie the game with a solo shot off of Piscotty’s bat one inning later – but that’s as close as they got…

…because in the last of the second Trey Mancini‘s solo homer gave the O’s the lead back. One inning later, Mark Trumbo chimed in with an RBI-single which extended the lead to 3-1. However I supposed that the only hitter with whom Jimenez struggled was Piscotty, as he smacked his second solo homer in the top of the fourth.

However the fifth inning was the coup de grace, both for the game and the series. Following an Adam Jones lead off triple, Trumbo came back to the plate, and sent a high fly ball towards left. And when I say high, I mean high – it looked like a golf shot up on the green. And it landed in the third row for a two-run homer, giving the Birds a 5-2 lead.

Schoop would add a sac-fly RBI later in the inning, and then Castillo an additional two-run homer in that fifth inning. One inning later Manny Machado‘s RBI-single ran the tally to 8-2. The O’s were in the driver’s seat, and Jimenez was dealing. And as I said above, when he completed the seventh inning at well over 100 pitches, the Camden faithful gave him a standing ovation as he came off the field.

After Jimenez left the game however, St. Louis made an attempt to get back into the game. Fowler smacked a two-run homer in the eighth, and Molina a solo shot. That brought them to within 8-5, however Brad Brach shut St. Louis down quickly in the ninth, and the Birds went home with a game and a series victory.

This was a classic Camden Yards game in which the ball was flying – and by flying I mean high and deep. Perhaps more than anything else, this game should show why the Orioles can’t consistently play small ball the way that some fans seem to think they can or should.

Granted St. Louis isn’t an AL East team (or even an American League team for that matter), however you win games in the AL East via the long ball. That’s what Camden Yards was built for, and that’s true of most of the other ballparks around the division. Now it goes without saying that you aren’t always going to have home runs at your disposal, however power should be the bread and butter of an American League East offense. (And when I say power, I mean more than just home runs; the Orioles hit two triples yesterday as well.)

And of course in yesterday’s game the other factor was Jimenez. He may have turned in his most successful outing in almost two years for the Birds. His next task is to continue on that path, which is easier said than done. But he was incredibly good against a fairly potent lineup yesterday, which is a good sign.

The one concerning thing from yesterday’s game was J.J. Hardy leaving the game after being hit on the wrist. He got an x-ray, and the Orioles apparently saw something concerning on the results. Nothing official yet, however it does appear that he’ll be headed to the already crowded DL.

The Orioles now open a four-game series with Cleveland at Camden Yards. Dylan Bundy gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Cleveland’s Corey Kluber. Game time is set for just after 7 PM this evening.

Baltimore Orioles: You can’t keep good bats down!

The script appeared to be the same for the Baltimore Orioles yesterday. Wade Miley gave up an unearned run off of a Jonathan Schoop error early in the game, which all but should have assured a St. Louis victory. Nary a few moments later, it was 9-1. Yes folks, 9-1…in favor of the O’s! Miley’s line: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 6 R (5 earned) 4 BB, 8 K.

Schoop booted a ball in the first inning which allowed Carpenter to score from third. But that was as close as St. Louis got. Jones and Trumbo smacked back-to-back homers in the last of the first, putting the Orioles ahead for good.

J.J. Hardy smacked a two-RBI double to center in the last of the second, which was followed by a two-run homer by Manny Machado. Add an addtional two-RBI double by Mancini and an RBI-single by Schoop, and suddenly the tables had turned and the rout was on!

However St. Louis didn’t necessarily go quietly into the night. At 9-1 it was fairly clear that the game was over for all intents and purposes. But suddenly it was 9-3 after DeJong’s two-run homer. Yet the O’s weren’t about to cease piling it on. Machado scored on a wild pitch in the last of the fourth, and Schoop (who more than made up for his error) launched a two-run home run which ran the score to 12-3.

St. Louis would net home runs by Molina and Fowler to reach a final tally of seven, but even then the Birds didn’t stop. Schoop launched a second homer (a solo shot) in the last of the seventh, and Hardy added on an RBI-single. One inning later Mancini scored on a pass ball, running the final to 15-7.

These are the types of games that teams have sometimes when they’re breaking out of bad stretches. The Orioles’ offense was well-balanced yesterday afternoon in terms of scoring off the long ball and in other manners. Detractors will point to the fact that they gave up seven runs, and it’s a fair point. But the goal is to win games, and the Orioles did that yesterday.

The key obviously was the second inning, when they put up the nine runs. That effectively ended the competitive part of the game, which was Showalter’s view as well in as many words (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

It’s a good pitcher, good pitching staff, and just grouped together a lot of good at-bats. I think they know in the American League and in the major leagues period, you never know how much is going to be enough. You better make hay while you can.

The O’s will have a chance at taking the series with St. Louis this afternoon at Camden Yards on Father’s Day. Ubaldo Jimenez returns to the rotation and gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by St. Louis’ Lance Lynn. Game time is set for just after 1:30 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Are there issues unseen?

As has been the case with a couple of other starters of late, Kevin Gausman put the Baltimore Orioles in a spot to win last night. And I say that contrary to what the final numbers may say. Gausman’s line: 5.2 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 7 K. That isn’t to say that he was perfect or couldn’t have been better – because that isn’t the case. But all you can ask of a starter is that he gives the team a chance to win, and Gausman did that.

Gausman ran into some trouble in the third when he loaded the bases and Fowler walked in a run. Piscotty then added a sac fly-RBI, and the O’s trailed 2-0. However Gausman did a good job of minimizing the damage to only two runs. And in fact, Machado’s sac fly-RBI in the last of the third brought the O’s to within 2-1.

However one of the few mistakes that Gausman made was hanging a slider to DeJong in the fourth, which went for a two-run homer. DeJong would also add an RBI-single in the sixth after Gausman left the game, however the run was charged to him. When I say that he put the O’s in a spot to win the game, I mean that when he left the score was 4-1 – well within striking distance. It didn’t get blown open until afterwards.

Gausman wasn’t lifted due to ineffectiveness. If anything he was fairly on his game last night. He had multiple at-bats where St. Louis hitters fouled off pitch after pitch. When all was said and done, he had thrown 116 pitches.

Carpenter would smack a two-run homer later in that sixth inning off of Gabriel Ynoa to run the score to 7-1. Ynoa had just been called up to replace the just-DL’d Wright. And he wasn’t a bad bet in that situation because he had never given up a big league home run. That obviously changed very quickly.

A solo homer by Fowler gave St. Louis an 8-1 lead, which in the eighth grew to 10-1 on a two-run home run by Phan. Gyorko also smacked a solo shot in the ninth, as did Trey Mancini of the Orioles. This left the final as an 11-2 loss for the Orioles.

There’s some disconnect on this Orioles team right now, and it’s tough to pinpoint from where it’s coming. There are multiple reports out there regarding the at-times rocky relationship between Showalter and Duquette – is it possible that tension spills onto the field? I would say no. Both men are at heart professionals; they wouldn’t allow something like that to affect the players.

The Orioles’ clubhouse is famously close, and in the past that has really carried them. Has that somehow changed? I would severely doubt it, however you never know. Furthermore even guys who are just called up are making unforced errors. Ynoa struck out the first two hitters in the seventh, only to allow a base runner on an error committed by he himself. It’s doubtful that even a player just called up would be making errors on the field because of a rift in the clubhouse.

What you do have is a team that recognizes it’s struggling, and that’s pushing way to hard to win. It’s understandable, however often times you have to battle yourself to snap out of a streak like this. And this is true in real life as well as in sports sometimes.

The series continues late this afternoon at Camden Yards. Wade Miley gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright. Game time is set for just after 4 PM this afternoon.

Baltimore Orioles’ Chris Tillman deserved better

Contrary to what his numbers state, Chris Tillman turned in his best outing of the season yesterday. And no, that’s not said with sarcasm – he put the O’s in a position to win. Tillman’s line: 5.1 IP, 11 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 6 K. Again, the numbers don’t indicate that; but it’s true.

Tillman ended up a hard-luck loser yesterday in my book. The bad news is that the Orioles fell to 1-7 on what was a disasterous road trip. The good news is that the rotation has actually gotten better, as has the bullpen. After Tillman exited yesterday the ‘pen didn’t give up any runs.

Tillman kept Chicago off the board until the last of the fourth when Davidson smacked a solo home run. They say however that solo homers won’t beat you for the most part, and that was certainly true yesterday. One inning later Caleb Joseph‘s RBI-double tied the game at one. However despite having numerous runners on base, that’s all the Orioles could muster.

And incidentally, that’s my argument against small ball right there. If you think small, you’re going to be small. Granted at the time, that was a big hit by Joseph because it tied the game. But with the power of which this Orioles team is capable, they should have gotten more than one run in that inning.

With nobody gone in the sixth, Tillman had runners at first and second with Smith coming to bat. Conventional wisdom said that this could be a bunt situation, however Smith’s a guy who had never laid down a sac bunt in his life. Furthermore Chicago had Garcia, a young player, on deck. Would he be able to get those runners home?

In fact, Chicago disregarded those factors and had the sac bunt on. And go figure, Smith still doesn’t have a sac bunt to his name…because he froze the Oriole infield when he laid the bunt down, and it ended up being an infield single. That’s why I say that Tillman is a hard-luck loser, because the defense behind him failed him in that instance. It doesn’t happen a lot, but when the Oriole infield makes mistakes other teams take advantage.

Tillman struck out Garcia, however that brought Cabrera to the plate and his two-RBI single gave Chicago a 3-1 lead and chased Tillman. Abreu would later walk in a run and Garcia would add a sac fly-RBI to run the score to 5-1. Throughout this bad stretch for the Orioles, opponents have always taken advantage of every Oriole miscue like clockwork. Yet, the O’s seem to invent ways to let their opponents off the hook – like only netting the one run in the fifth inning.

Castillo would smack a solo homer for the O’s in the top of the ninth, but this goes as another loss at 5-2. Again, opponents are really getting rich off of mistakes that the Orioles are making. And they’re rare mistakes at that, such as balls dropping in the outfield, errors in the infield, and so forth. They’re probably made out of frustration and an overwhelming sense of urgency, but other teams are making the Orioles pay for every mistake they make. The Birds need to find a way to flip that script – and quick.

The Orioles will now come home in hopes that some home cooking will give them some help – they’ll open up a three-game interleague series against St. Louis. Kevin Gausman will get the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by St. Louis’ Carlos Martinez. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.