Baltimore Orioles: The Captain lifts Birds to victory

Adam Jones is the Baltimore Orioles’ captain. That may well be an unofficial title in a sense, however you know the attributes when you see it. He’s the captain, and thus the leader of this team. While those qualities can manifest themselves in various ways, last night they did so in the form of putting the team on his back and winning the game.

Ubaldo Jimenez was ineffective in his short outing, however the weather may well have played a role in that. The game was played in various spouts of rain, and under the threat thereof for the entire night. There was even a brief 18-minute rain delay late in the game. Jimenez’s line: 3.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 5 BB, 3 K.

The Orioles didn’t even have time to blink before they found themselves down 1-0 on a solo homer by Dickerson in the first at-bat of the game. Tampa’s always been a non-traditional team, and there’s nothing that speaks to that more than the DH batting lead off and homering in the first at-bat. The O’s would even the score on Davis’ fielder’s choice-RBI in the last of the third.

Tampa caught a huge break in the fourth inning when Peterson smacked what was ruled a two-RBI double to give them a 3-1 lead. The Orioles challenged, as the ball appeared to have landed foul in right field. However the umpires ruled that ther wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the call on the field, and the ruling was upheld. Apparently the mark left by the ball on the foul side of the line wasn’t enough to sway the umpires.

However the Birds evened things up later in the game with back-to-back solo homers by Kim and Schoop. And we played on, in one of the most dismal forecasts known to Major League Baseball. Honestly I was shocked that the game was allowed to continue. However I suppose that the forecast tonight isn’t any better, and the umpires felt that it was worth doing whatever they could to get the game in.

And that brought Jones to the plate in the last of the seventh with a runner on base. He sent a high drive to left, which landed about ten rows up in the grandstand, giving the O’s a 5-3 lead. They would knotch one more on a sac fly-RBI by Schoop in the eighth, and the O’s ended up with a 6-3 victory in game one of three.

Leadership isn’t something that can be learned or acquired. You either have the ability or you don’t. Adam Jones was traded to the Orioles prior to the 2008 season, and literally since day one he’s shown that he was a born leader. That’s not something that should be taken lightly, because he’s been the center piece of the revival the Orioles have seen since 2012.

And I don’t say these things simply because he hit the go-ahead homer last night. That’s a big factor in the here and now, however the fact is that Jones has a lot of clout in the clubhouse. Guys recognize him as the leader of this team. And quite frankly there’s nobody more humble and decent that could hold that title. It’s because of his play on the field, his actions in the community, and the way that he carries himself, that he’s the Orioles’ captain. And that’s true whether it’s an official title or not.

Incidentally, Boston reliever Matt Barnes was suspended four games for his actions on Sunday in throwing a pitch towards Machado’s head. Based on some reactions I’ve seen online, it seems that many fans think that’s too light, and I might tend to agree. I thought he would have gotten between 5-10 games. But that’s the penalty as it stands now. Barnes is appealing this, and of course will be allowed to play while the decision is under appeal.

The series continues this evening at Camden Yards – weather permitting. Wade Miley heads to the bump for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Erasmo Rodriguez. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles’ Manny Machado head hunted in loss

Manny Machado being at the center of controversy once again was the story of the Baltimore Orioles’ loss to Boston yesterday. In fact, the game itself wasn’t very memorable from either Boston’s or the Orioles’ standpoint. But what happened at the end of it was, and will probably be a hot topic all day and perhaps all week.

But because I like to be precise, the Orioles did fall yesterday, 6-2. Kevin Gausman suffered another lackluster outing, although he looked slightly better than he did in his last start in Cincinnati. Guasman’s line: 5.1 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 4 K. Eight pitches into the game, it was already 4-0. Betts smacked a three-run homer in the first, followed by a solo shot by Ramirez.

Moreland would add a two-run home run for Boston in the fifth, and later in that inning Benintendi smacked an RBI-single – and was thrown out trying to extend it into a double to end the inning. However Oriole bats were quiet all day, mustering only one hit against Boston starter and former Orioles’ prospect Rodriguez.

Following the aforementioned incident, Manny Machado would smack an RBI-double in the last of the eighth. And the Birds actually had the tying run in the on-deck circle in the ninth following a Kim RBI-single. However it wasn’t to be, the Birds fell by the above-mentioned score of 6-2.

But again, that wasn’t the story of the game yesterday. When Machado came up to bat in the eighth inning with a runner on second, Boston reliever Matt Barnes threw a pitch towards Machado’s head area. Initially the play was ruled a hit batsman, however eventually the umpires reversed that call, and rightfully so. The ball clearly smacked off of the top of Machado’s bat before hitting him. As soon as the ball hits the bat, the play is dead and it’s a foul ball.

However that doesn’t excuse what Barnes did. As soon as the incident happened, he was ejected by the home plate umpire. Contrary to what several Boston writers were tweeting at the time, yes you can be tossed for not even hitting a guy – if the umpire feels there was malicious intent, you can go.

There’s no doubt that this was “retaliation” for the incident on Friday night with Machado and Dustin Pedroia…who incidentally was nothing but class about the whole thing. He seemed to be the one guy who understood that while it was unfortunate, what Machado did wasn’t intentional.

That aside, I try to simply report the news and sometimes offer a slightly vanilla opinion on it. As a writer, I feel it’s not necessarily my place to call someone out in a sense. But in this case I’m going to come out and say that what Barnes did was GUTLESS. Again, withstanding the fact that in my view and in the view of many (including Pedroia) the Machado slide was clean, I have no issue with a team wanting to hit someone for something like that. But there’s a right way and a wrong way. Hit them in the thigh, foot, back, etc. But DON’T EVER throw at someone’s head. That jeapardizes someone’s career, and yes perhaps even their life.

Both Barnes and Boston manager John Farrell predictably said after the game that the pitch slipped. Ironically, I might tend to agree in a way. I don’t think that Barnes purposely targeted Machado’s head. But I think that he definitely wanted to hit him, and he missed his spot. Farrell tried to hide behind the fact that he was simply pitching him up and in (quote coutesy of Darren Hartwell, NESN):

It’s a dangerous pitch. No one likes to see it. But if you look at the attack plan of our right-handed pitchers, there’s an area in above the hands that you’re trying to go to. And unfortunately, it does get away from (Barnes) in that spot.

However the fact that the catcher sets up right down the middle and has to go way up and in so as to try to catch the ball indicates otherwise. MASN cameras also caught Pedroia in the dugout yelling out at Machado indicating that the pitch didn’t come from him. After the game, Pedroia (again who’s always been the epitome of class) said that he felt his own team handled it poorly, and he apologized to Machado and the Orioles. When your own team leader and de facto captain is saying that, it’s pretty incriminating.

Buck Showalter wasn’t about to get involved in a tet-a-tet of words after the game, but he did indicate that the Oriole players weren’t really happy with what happened (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

It’s two good teams competing for something that a lot of teams really want and they have the passion, and when things like that get going into it, that’s unfortunate. I was really impressed with the courage that our guys showed today because they all, believe me, trust me, wanted to do something about it. Takes a lot more sometimes to do that.

MLB is looking into the matter, as well as into several pitches that were well inside that starter Rodriguez threw towards Machado earlier in the game. I’ll be honest, I would argue that it would be unfair to discipline Rodriguez for anything. My personal opinion was that he didn’t have any intent to hit Machado. Barnes is a different story. He should receive a five-game suspension at least – if not ten.

Weather permitting, the Orioles open up a three-game set with Tampa at Camden Yards this evening. Ubaldo Jimenez takes to the mound or the Birds, and he’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Chris Archer. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Autism Awareness Day at the yard

As Baltimore Orioles fans make their way to Oriole Park at Camden Yards this afternoon for the series finale against Boston, there’s something special about today’s game that they should know. The Orioles are declaring today “Autism Awareness Day” at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. My hope in fact that it’s the first “annual” Autism Awareness Day.

The Orioles are very close to this particular cause, because it’s affected various high-profile members of the organization. Former Oriole B.J. Surhoff‘s son has autism, as does the stepson of Hall of Famer Jim Palmer. OriolesReach (the team’s charity wing) does a lot of outreach with Autism Speaks, among other charities dedicated to the cause, as well as Maryland Special Olympics.

And I can tell you that I’ve researched both organizations, and they’re both wonderful. Now with that said, the purpose of me writing about this today is personal. Autism has touched my own family, thus it’s a cause that’s very close to my heart. And I appreciate the fact that the Orioles have picked this particular cause in which to get involved.

Anyone who doesn’t already have tickets to today’s game but wants to purchase them can do so by visiting this special link. If you purchase tickets through this portal, $5 of every sale will go to Autism Speaks. So that’s a hefty donation at the end of the day that the Orioles will be making to that charity.

Fans needing to visit a “Quiet Room” during today’s game can also stop at Suite 73. This will provide a spot for families to watch the game without the noise of the stands, which can sometimes be overwhelming for kids with autism. Autism Speaks will also be participating in the ceremonial first pitch this afternoon, and they’ll have representatives at the Information Booth inside Gate D.

Again, I’m personally very appreciative that the O’s have taken up this specific cause. So in closing, all I can say is thank you!

Baltimore Orioles battle back on arm of Jayson Aquino

I’m the first one to tell you that I raised an eyebrow at the Baltimore Orioles giving Jayson Aquino his first start last night (and his big league debut). The Orioles also had Asher, who looked very good last week – I personally thought that he should have started. However that’s why they pay Buck Showalter to make these decisions and not me…

…Aquino proved that he belonged and proved why I’m a writer and Showalter’s the manager. Aquino’s line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 2 K. It’s tough to have a better first start and major league debut than that. Aquino continued the Orioles’ string of quality starts, and put his team in a spot to win.

They did have to play just a bit of catch-up however, as Boston took a 2-0 lead on Bradley’s two-run homer in the third inning. Incidentally, all of this was pushed back about a half hour, as the game actually began with a 30-minute rain delay. Quite frankly it’s almost miraculous that the delay lasted only thirty minutes, as it rained all day in Baltimore.

But the Orioles battled back on inning later in the last of the fourth. Trey Mancini tied the score as abruptly as Boston had taken the lead with a two-run homer of his own. And the Orioles decided to go back-to-back with the home runs, as Jonathan Schoop added a solo shot just a moment later which gave the O’s the lead at 3-2.

Just for good measure, they decided to add a run without smacking the ball out of the ballpark later in the inning on Adam Jones‘ RBI-single. And when you get solid pitching (both starting as well as out of the ‘pen), that’s all you need. Get yourself a nice little two-run lead, and you’re good to go. Boston never really threatened, and the Orioles took game two, which guarantees them another series victory.

We still have to throw in the disclaimer that it’s very early in the season. The Orioles have only played 16 games, which incidentally is less than what most other teams have played. But remember what I kept saying throughout spring training: if you’re going to play these spring games, you might as well win them. The same is true of these early season games, the only difference being of course that they actually count.

So yes it’s still very early, and there’s a long way to go. But at 12-4, the Orioles have the best record in baseball. Not only that, but they’re playing good ball right now, and winning games by fighting and battling. Most importantly, they’ve started to get very good starting pitching, which is the best way to win games in MLB.

And they’ll try to keep that string of quality starts going this afternoon in the series finale against Boston at Camden Yards. Kevin Gausman will head to the mound for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by former Oriole prospect Eduardo Rodriguez. Game time is set for just after 1:30 PM.

Baltimore Orioles’ win marred in a Manny Machado controversy

Whether or not actions such as these are intentional or not, Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles has controversy find him. He’s just one of those people. And I don’t say that in an accusatory manner, because I’ve noticed that I’m one of them also. And I can tell you from my own experience that I don’t seek it out – it just finds me. But when it hits, it’s not as if one can simply walk away.

The Orioles got yet another great outing from a starting pitcher, this time Dylan Bundy. As I said yesterday, it all begins and ends with starting pitching. And with that said once again, Bundy really put on a great show on the Orioles’ behalf yesterday. Bundy’s line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K.

The Orioles took a 1-0 lead on an Adam Jones RBI-single to right field in the third inning. Manny Machado would also smack a solo shot over the center field wall in the last of the fifth. And that’s your ballgame, folks! All you need is two runs (actually one) when you get solid pitching as such.

It’s also worth noting that Brad Brach has three consecutive saves that were all pretty flawless. Brach has admirably been filling in for the Orioles’ injured closer (Britton), who’s getting closer to returning. And that’s been a load off of the mind of Buck Showalter, as Brach’s taken the ball and been running with it.

Regarding the aforementioned Machado incident; he executed a hard slide into second base, which took out Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia. The replay showed that the slide might have been a bit later than normal, however simply a hard slide to try to break up the double-play – which Machado did. However Machado’s cleat popped off the bag, spiking Pedroia in the calf. That had Boston fuming during and after the game. (It also got their third base coach tossed in the top of the ninth when he decided to continue the argument.)

It’s tough to interpret intent – most of the time. So I can’t say whether or not Machado did this on purpose. However I’ll give you my opinion, which is that while it was a bit late and yes a hard slide, the spiking wasn’t intentional. Machado’s spike made contact with second base, and then popped off and scraped Pedroia. If he was going to intentionally do that, would he not have just gone at Pedroia directly?

Furthermore, after realizing what he had done, he attempted to catch Pedroia as he fell down. That hardly seems like the actions of someone who did something like that on purpose. It would seem to me that one would have to be a pretty good actor to pull all of that off and make it look like an accident. And keep in mind that these plays are all bang-bang in a sense – they evolve quickly.

What happens moving on from here obviously is unknown. There are two games left in the weekend series, and loads left in the regular season between these two teams. Does Boston decide to throw at Machado or someone else? Tough to say. Nothing could happen, or the benches could clear – or something in between.

Again, Machado seems to be the type of guy who just has controversy find him. And I’ll say it again, I’m the same way for whatever reason. I could have someone bump into me on the street and suddenly start saying hey man cool it and back off! So I’m not accusing Machado of anything, because I know the type of predicament in which he can sometimes find himself. It happens to me all the time.

Believe me folks, it’s not something that you seek out – controversy just finds you. So speaking for myself, I try to keep my nose clean and my head down. And I’m sure Machado tries to do the same, but unfortunately sometimes lightning rods are unsuccessful at deflecting controversy. Again, it happens to me all the time!

The series continues tonight at Camden Yards. The Orioles will be starting Jayson Aquino for the first time this year, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Steve Wright. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Bite the bullet on Manny Machado?

A lot has been made over the past year or so about the Baltimore Orioles’ situation with Manny Machado. And if you look down the road a piece, the Washington Nationals are in the same bot with Bryce Harper. Both players will be free agents after next year, and they’re expected to get obtuse paydays – even by MLB standards.

At the most recent home stand, a New York fan was seen wearing a #13 jersey in pinstripes with MACHADO taped onto the back. (Never mind the fact that New York doesn’t put names on the backs of their jerseys…) And in Washington they’re seeing similar sentiments regarding Harper. Fans in both camps are already preparing for the player’s departure – and perhaps with good reason.

There are only a few teams who would potentially be willing to pay the amount that industry experts are saying Machado and Harper will be garnering on the open market. New York, Boston, the LA Dodgers, and perhaps the Chicago Cubs are thought of as teams that could afford that. But could the Orioles?

Only the Orioles know that for sure. However I would say that they probably could, if you factor in the MASN money. In fact, the premise of the article assumes that they could in theory afford Machado at $35-$40 million a year for 8-10 years. So let’s use that as a given…

…what I’m saying is that the Orioles should pony up and sign him  – NOW. If the Orioles were going to deal Machado, the time to do it would have been this past off season. With two years left of team control, he would have been at his peak value. So in my view, that’s not an option – if it ever was one to begin with.

So the only option would be for the Orioles to sign him, and sign him now. First off, the Orioles are the only team who can legally negotiate with Machado right now. No agent or player would legitimately be able to bounce an offer off of another team. If Machado hits the open market, it’s going to be ugly – for the Orioles. The same is true with Harper in Washington. The Orioles might well decide to make an offer of ten years $350 million with Machado on the open market. But NY would go up to $360, Boston up to $370, etc.

So the only real option the Orioles have if they want to dictate the market is to make a mega-offer right now. Or at some point prior to next year. Do I think it’s fair that salaries have gotten that out of control? Not in the least. My personal opinion is that baseball needs a salary cap. Am I saying that Machado is priceless? I’m not going that far – but I’m saying that he’s the best third baseman in the game today, and he’s a player the Orioles can’t afford to lose.

This is all very easy to say about someone else’s money. But keep in mind that odds are the Orioles would be playing against Machado 18 times a year. Do Orioles fans really want to see Machado coming into Camden Yards and flashing his defensive magic against their team? I would suspect not. So the only alternative is to sign him.

Baltimore Orioles win behind a stellar Wade Miley effort

Wade Miley turned in perhaps the best start of the season by any Baltimore Orioles’ pitcher in their 2-1 win over Cincinnati.

If you would have told me that the Baltimore Orioles would take two-of-three in Cincinnati this week and the two games they won were going to be pitcher’s duels, I’m not sure I would have believed you. Yet if it was possible to one-up what Jimenez did on Wednesday, Wade Miley did it last night. Miley’s line: 8.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 11 K.

Let that sink in for just a moment; eleven strikeouts! This was by far the best outing Miley’s had as an Oriole. The only downside was that he didn’t get credit for the win. However the fact is that he did more than just put his team in a spot to win. When you pitch eight innings (longer than any other Oriole pitcher this year) and give up two hits, you got the win – whether the box score says so or not.

After the game Miley said that he did what all starters try to do, in going deep into a game – and it worked (quote courtesy of Brittany Ghiroli, mlb.com):

All our starting pitchers try to go out and get as deep into a ballgame as we can. We were able to get some early outs and get deeper into the ballgame.

Miley got ahead of hitters early, and didn’t let them off the hook for the most part. That’s always a recipie for a deep outing and a quality start. Again, the only downside was that the O’s couldn’t get Miley the win.

The Birds took a 1-0 lead in the second on a Jonathan Schoop solo home run, however two innings later in the fourth Cincinnati’s Votto followed suit. Two solo homers (one on each side), and a 1-1 tie. And on they played after nine innings.

Incidentally, the Orioles had two runners thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple last night. The first one (involving Manny Machado) was fairly close, although in my view he should have stayed at second base. The second one (involving J.J. Hardy) had the runner out by a country mile. You live and learn I suppose.

However Hardy made up for it in the tenth inning. With a runner at second base, he worked the count and sent a liner into center field for a base hit. That brought Trumbo into score, and the O’s held a 2-1 lead – which turned into a 2-1victory.

Both this game and Wednesday’s game would have been losses in the past for this team. That shows that it really does begin and end with starting pitching. However in the past the Orioles haven’t faired well when they were in situations where they had to play small ball. This time around they did what they had to do to win the games, and that’s a good sign.

The O’s now head home after a long nine-game road swing to open up a three-game set with Boston. Dylan Bundy heads to the mound for the Orioles tonight, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Drew Pomeranz. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.