Baltimore Orioles sail to victory behind Dylan Bundy

It begins and ends with starting pitching, and the Baltimore Orioles finally got a noteworthy starting performance – in this case from Dylan Bundy. Save for one inning (in which he threw two bad pitches) Bundy kept Tampa hitters guessing the entire game. Bundy’s line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 8 K.

This is a start and a game that the Orioles must build off of if they’re going to make a season of this. That means scraping together a win this afternoon in the series finale to take the series. That would also mean starting a winning streak, and gaining some momentum.

The best part of yesterday’s game for the Orioles was that Bundy had some help from his friends. The O’s got the lead in the second inning when Welington Castillo smacked a two-run homer – following one of several Oriole hit batsmen on the day. One inning later Adam Jones added a solo shot of his own, and the O’s led 3-0.

And it’s a good thing Jones added on that run. Because Tampa struck in the third, and with two outs at that. It’s continually amazing to me that the O’s will record two outs and then the opponent will strike. Are they letting up a bit; perhaps mentally they’re already back in the dugout? Tough to say. Nevertheless, Tampa got back-to-back homers; a two-run shot from Dickerson, and a solo from Longoria to tie the game.

However that was the only hiccup that Bundy had on the day. He straightened himself out quickly, and started mowing Tampa hitters down again. Yet the Birds still couldn’t score for awhile – until the seventh inning.

The Birds had Mark Trumbo at the plate with two outs and a two-strike count. Two runners were in scoring position, having been moved there by an Adam Jones groundout. Mind you folks, while Jones couldn’t drive in a run he did move the runners over. And perhaps it’s at-bats like that which have been the missing link for the Orioles of late. Because it set Trumbo up nicely.

Trumbo sent a double to the gap in left center, which went all the way to the wall. It drove in two runs, which gave the Orioles the lead at 5-3. But the Birds weren’t done yet. Mancini immediately smacked a two-run homer which broke the game wide open. One inning later Machado would add a sac fly-RBI, and the Birds cruised to an 8-3 victory.

It also snapped their record-tying streak of 20 games in which they had given up five or more runs. That’s a monkey that everyone in the clubhouse is going to be happy is off their backs. But whether they had won 8-3, 8-0, or 8-7, the Orioles would take it either way. If you only score one more run than the opponent after 27 outs, you still win. And that’s the important stat.

The O’s will go for the series win this afternoon at Tropicana Field. Chris Tillman will get the start for the Birds, and he’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Jake Odorizzi. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Fear can dominate

Ubaldo Jimenez struggled mightily last night, which set the tone for the Baltimore Orioles’ 15-5 loss in Tampa. Jimenez’s line: 2.1 IP, 2.1 IP, 7 H, 9 R, 4 BB, 1 K. Jimenez flat out didn’t have it, as he gave up four runs in the first and third innings, and one in the second. In a sense, the game was over before it got going.

However without going into too much detail about the game itself, there’s one thing I’ve noticed about a lot of these lopsided losses. At some point along the way, the Orioles have turned into nibblers on the mound. And this is nothing new; the Birds have had several nibblers over the years, including the likes of Ponson, Lopez, and others. It’s just been awhile.

In a way, it’s not overly surprising. These days it seems that regardless of what Oriole pitchers throw out there is getting hit. Many of those pitches are getting hit hard…and far. However not all of them. Opposing hitters seem to have a knack for placing balls just perfectly so as to avoid Oriole gloves. Ultimately, guys are getting on base and that’s costing the Orioles runs on defense.

Trying to nibble on the corners is probably natural when you’re going through a spell like which the O’s are going through. The idea being that if you don’t throw the ball right down broadway, odds are they can’t hit it out of the ballpark. That, or if it’s just touching the black enough to be in the zone, maybe the hitter will see it as outside and let it go for a called strike.

The problem is that other teams know this. They know that the Orioles are struggling on all facets, and even in some instances through no fault of their own. Keep in mind that they’re without Hardy, Flaherty, Davis, and Britton right now. When your depth suddenly finds itself in the starting lineup, you aren’t going to be the same team. But that aside, opponents know that Oriole pitchers are nibbling on the corners. And they’re either letting those pitches go for balls, or…

…they’re hitting them. Because guess what? Pitches on the fringes of the plate aren’t necessarily going for homers, however they can be tapped into play. All of those bloop singles that fall just in front of outfielders, or grounders that just get by an infielder’s mitt? Those were on pitches that nibbled on the corners.

So yes, in a sense Oriole pitchers are afraid to make a mistake. But that fear is eating the team alive. And it doesn’t just manifest itself in pitch selection. A hitter gets a base hit or a walk with two outs when the O’s were already mentally back in the dugout, and suddenly a wild pitch gets uncorked because the pitcher’s trying too hard not to make a mistake…out of fear. And that leads to a mistake, which sets an inning up nicely for an opponent.

The only cure for this is in essence to throw youself out there and throw strikes. The Orioles need to get back to the power pitching that we’ve seen over the past few seasons. Because nibbling on the corners and in essence pitching from behind before the guy even steps in the box isn’t working for anyone…except opponents.

The series continues late this afternoon with Tampa at Tropicana Field. Dylan Bundy gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Jacob Faria. Game time is set for just after 4 PM.

Baltimore Orioles letting opponents off the hook

Part of the Baltimore Orioles’ problem is that they’re letting their opponents off the hook too often. Yet, they aren’t getting that same courtesy in return. And why in reality should they expect to get it? This is supposed to be the real world, right?

Wade Miley gave the Birds his typical outing, filled with pitches that were fouled off, and a few bloop hits. Miley’s line: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 3 K. That type of outing has been Miley’s trademark thus far in 2017, and while he’s had his good moments most of these five-inning stints are struggles. Not all of that is necessarily his fault or within his realm of control (such as these epic nine-pitch at-bats where opposing hitters foul off pitch after pitch), but it’s still been a struggle.

The Birds took an early 1-0 lead when Seth Smith worked his magic yet again and led the game off with a solo home run. However Cleveland almost immediately struck back, with an RBI-triple by Jackson in the second. Gomes followed with a softly hit RBI-single the opposite way to right field, giving Cleveland a 2-1 lead.

And right there, you almost see the story of this series for the Orioles. First off Gomes’ RBI-single was very softly hit, while the Oriole outfield was playing back. Secondly it was the opposite way. Cleveland seemed to have this uncanny ability to hit it where they ain’t, no matter how the Orioles played.

The Birds loaded the bases however in the last of the second. With nobody out, it looked like they were poised to pounce on Cleveland. However…the O’s let them off the hook (in a sense). Seth Smith sent a tapper back to the pitcher, who threw home for a force out. The catcher then threw to first base to complete a 1-2-3 double-play – keep in mind also how rare of a double-play that combination is. Yet the O’s manage to ground into one.

However the O’s re-loaded the bases, and for once it was an Oriole (Jonathan Schoop) who had an epic at-bat, He drew a walk, which forced in a run and tied the game. But that’s all the Orioles were able to get off of that sequence. They had the bases loaded twice in the inning (including once with nobody out), and they mustered one run.

But at that point it appeared that things were smoothing out for the Birds, Miley recorded two quick outs in the third inning, and was all but heading back into the dugout. And that could potentially be part of the problem. Sometimes you wonder if the O’s aren’t letting up just a little with two outs or even with two strikes. Because two walks and a single later, the bases were loaded.

That brought Jackson back to the plate, and once again he placed the ball perfectly – into the hole. His two-RBI single gave the Tribe a 4-2 lead. Gonzalez would smack a solo homer in the sixth, and Encarnacion an RBI-single in the ninth. The O’s would get a run back on Machado’s RBI-double in the last of the ninth, but it was too little too late. The Birds fell to Cleveland, 6-3.

To me the bases loaded situations early in the game show part of what’s been going on with this Baltimore Orioles team of late. Granted the O’s did net a run. And it was a big one at that, because it tied the game. But when you have the bases loaded and nobody out in an inning, you kind of have your opponent on the ropes a bit. By grounding into a double-play which doesn’t even allow a run to score, and then only scoring one run, you’re letting the other guy off the hook.

Instead, Cleveland held the Orioles accountable for loading the bases. And again, part of this is due to the fact that the O’s are probably swinging for the fences a bit too much. Now I’m on record as saying that I do believe that power is how the game should be played and won these days, but teams are using the Orioles’ aggression against them. The good news is that the run the O’s scored with the bases loaded came on a good at-bat by Schoop in which he worked the count and drew a hard-earned walk.

The Orioles now open a six-game road swing as they head to Tampa for three games. Ubaldo Jimenez will get the start for the Orioles this evening at the Trop, and he’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Chris Archer. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

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.