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Handing out Orioles awards at the All-Star break

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Handing out Orioles awards at the All-Star break

Posted on 16 July 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

Standing at 53-43 and sending five representatives to Tuesday’s All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York, the Orioles had quite the memorable first 3 1/2 months of the season filled with plenty of highs and also some lows.

Before manager Buck Showalter and the Orioles get back to business in Texas on Friday, I’ve composed my list of All-Star break awards. Some are more serious than others, but there was plenty to remember over the first 96 games of the 2013 season.

Most Valuable Player: Chris Davis
Skinny: Manny Machado deserves more consideration here than most will give him if you take his remarkable defense into account, but the Orioles first baseman is on pace to break franchise records for RBIs, slugging percentage, OPS, extra-base hits, and total bases as well as surpass the American League home run record of 61 set by Roger Maris in 1961. Who else could it really be?

Best Starting Pitcher: Miguel Gonzalez
Skinny: Chris Tillman received the All-Star nod, but Gonzalez has been the Orioles’ best starter, especially since posting a 2.88 earned run average in his last 10 starts upon returning from a May stint on the 15-day disabled list. The 29-year-old posted seven straight quality starts heading into the All-Star break and his 3.48 ERA is the best in the starting rotation.

Best Relief Pitcher: Tommy Hunter
Skinny: Darren O’Day earned consideration here, but Hunter’s ability to pitch more than one inning has saved the bullpen numerous times. With Luis Ayala traded early in the season and Pedro Strop unable to bounce back from his late-season struggles from a year ago, the Orioles would have been in major trouble with their bullpen without Hunter’s 2.41 ERA and 52 1/3 innings of work.

Biggest Surprise: Manny Machado
Skinny: With Davis taking aim at the record books, it’s difficult not to give him the nod here, but I would have predicted Davis to be more likely for a breakout season than Machado, who just celebrated his 21st birthday less than two weeks ago. We now see the third baseman as a doubles machine with a shot at the single-season record, but many thought Showalter had gotten too much Florida sun when he put the unproven Machado in the No. 2 lineup spot at the start of the season.

Biggest Disappointment: Jason Hammel
Skinny: The Opening Day starter was counted on to be the de facto ace and has instead looked like the weak link in the current starting rotation. His 5.24 ERA is worse than his career mark, but most of his other numbers align closely with his career statistics prior to his arrival in Baltimore last season.

Most Overrated Performer: Nick Markakis
Skinny: The Orioles right fielder was close to being voted into the All-Star Game, but he is on pace for career lows in batting average and OPS and has become more of a singles hitter in recent years except for his 2012 injury-plagued campaign. Markakis is still a good player, but the clamoring for his inclusion in the Midsummer Classic was more about his popularity and less about his production. Many will argue that catcher Matt Wieters deserves this distinction, but few tried to say he was deserving of All-Star honors with his poor offensive output this season.

Most Underrated Performer: Nate McLouth
Skinny: Even McLouth’s biggest supporters had to wonder if the second-half success he enjoyed last season was a fluke, but the left fielder continues to be a spark plug at the top of the order and on the base paths with a team-leading 24 stolen bases. He doesn’t do anything that blows you away, but McLouth makes a substantial contribution just about every night, whether it shows up in the box score or not.

Most Improved Player: Ryan Flaherty
Skinny: The second baseman hit .133 in his first 102 plate appearances before being demoted to Triple-A Norfolk and has batted .300 in 94 plate appearances since being recalled at the end of May. The simple fact that many are clamoring for Flaherty to play over veteran Brian Roberts says all you need to know about his improvement since the start of the season.

Biggest Injury: Wei-Yin Chen’s strained right oblique
Skinny: The Taiwanese lefty went down with the injury in mid-May, leaving a major hole in the rotation for nearly two months. Ironically, the long layoff may pay off in the long run for Chen, who tired down the stretch last year and should now feel strong for the remainder of the season after less wear and tear on his pitching arm.

Most Important Win: A 2-1 victory over the Yankees thanks to Adam Jones’ homer off Mariano Rivera on July 7
Skinny: Even Showalter downplayed the significance of the dramatic victory in early July, but the Orioles were on the verge of dropping their third straight one-run game to New York to complete a 1-5 road trip before Jones tagged the greatest closer of all time for his first blown save at Yankee Stadium since 2010.

Most Disappointing Loss: Jim Johnson’s meltdown in Toronto on May 26
Skinny: The Orioles sent Johnson to the mound with a 5-2 lead and needed only three outs to take three of four from the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. A double, two singles, a walk, and a Munenori Kawasaki double later, the closer had blown his fourth save in his last five chances and the Orioles had suffered a stunning 6-5 loss on a Sunday afternoon.

Most Exciting Moment: Chris Dickerson’s walk-off homer against the Tigers on May 31
Skinny: All-Star Game starter Max Scherzer had pitched brilliantly for eight innings before Detroit manager Jim Leyland turned the game over to Jose Valverde with a 5-3 lead in the ninth. Before an electric crowd of over 46,000, the Orioles staged a rally as Markakis hit a homer to lead off the inning and the part-time player Dickerson hammered a three-run blast into the right-center bleachers for one of the most exciting regular-season moments in Camden Yards history.

The Kevin Gregg-Michael Gonzalez Fireman Award: Pedro Strop
Skinny: The Orioles tried to stick with the volatile but talented Strop as long as they could, but you knew time was running short for the 28-year-old on June 29 when Showalter felt the need to warm up O’Day in his bullpen as the struggling reliever was working the ninth inning with an 11-3 lead over the Yankees. Sporting a 7.25 ERA in 29 appearances, Strop was dealt along with Jake Arrieta to the Chicago Cubs a few days later in exchange for starting pitcher Scott Feldman.

The Justin Duchscherer “Yes, He Was an Oriole” Award: Mike Belfiore
Skinny: If you’re asking who Belfiore is, you’re probably not alone as the left-handed reliever has twice been recalled to the 25-man roster this season but hasn’t appeared in a game. Chances are good he’s near the top of the list of players currently on the 40-man roster who could be designated for assignment should the need for a roster spot arise, but Belfiore does have a 3.67 ERA for Triple-A Norfolk this season.

The Jack Cust Baserunning Award: Alexi Casilla’s ninth-inning blunder against the Red Sox
Skinny: Trying to rally against Boston closer Andrew Bailey on June 15, the Orioles sent the speedy Casilla into the game to run for J.J. Hardy at first base with one out. After Ryan Flaherty lined a ball sharply to right fielder Shane Victorino, Casilla was inexplicably standing on third base as he was doubled off first to end the game. The utility infielder said after the game he knew the number of outs and simply misread the ball off Flaherty’s bat, but the play may have gone down as the Orioles’ worst pinch-running debacle since Manny Alexander was picked off upon running for Cal Ripken in a 1996 game that then went into extra innings.

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Orioles first baseman Davis to hit cleanup in All-Star Game

Posted on 15 July 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

Leading the majors with 37 home runs made Orioles first baseman Chris Davis an easy choice to hit cleanup for the American League in the All-Star Game and AL manager Jim Leyland agreed.

Appearing in his first Midsummer Classic after tying Reggie Jackson’s AL record for most homers before the All-Star break, Davis will hit in the fourth spot instead of more established sluggers such as Miguel Cabrera, David Ortiz, and Jose Bautista. The 27-year-old slugger homered in each of the final four games prior to the break and was the leading vote-getter for the All-Star Game being played Tuesday night at Citi Field in New York.

Of course, Davis won’t be the only Orioles representative in the starting lineup as center fielder Adam Jones will hit seventh and shortstop J.J. Hardy will hit in the No. 9 spot for the AL. The Orioles had more starters than any club in either league before National League manager Bruce Bochy named Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer as his designated hitter, giving the Rockies three starters.

Third baseman Manny Machado and late-addition pitcher Chris Tillman will serve as reserves on the AL roster as each is making his first All-Star appearance. The five All-Star selections are the most the Orioles have had since six players were named to the 1997 contest.

Here are the lineups for the 84th edition of baseball’s All-Star Game:

American League
LF Mike Trout, LAA
2B Robinson Cano, NYY
3B Miguel Cabrera, DET
1B Chris Davis, BAL
RF Jose Bautista, TOR
DH David Ortiz, BOS
CF Adam Jones, BAL
C Joe Mauer, MIN
SS J.J. Hardy, BAL

SP Max Scherzer, DET (13-1, 3.19 ERA)

National League
2B Brandon Phillips, CIN
RF Carlos Beltran, STL
1B Joey Votto, CIN
3B David Wright, NYM
LF Carlos Gonzalez, COL
C Yadier Molina, STL
SS Troy Tulowitzki, COL
DH Michael Cuddyer, COL
CF Bryce Harper, WAS

SP Matt Harvey, NYM (7-2, 2.35 ERA)

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Oriole’s All-Stars Head To New York For Mid-Summer Classic

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Oriole’s All-Stars Head To New York For Mid-Summer Classic

Posted on 14 July 2013 by brianbower

Major League Baseball will hold its annual All-Star game at Citi Field in Flushing, New York on Tuesday evening.

It has been a special season thus far from the Orioles and they will send five representatives including three starters to play in the mid-summer classic in 2013.

It is great to see the Baltimore Orioles are finally back on baseballs radar after so many down years. Prior to last season the Orioles haven’t had more than one All-Star since the 2005 season.

Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones will travel to his third All-Star game in his career where he will start. Shortstop J.J. Hardy will hold down his position making his second appearance in the summer classic, his first in an Orioles uniform.

Perhaps the biggest story for the orange and black before the break this year is the bat of first baseman Chris Davis. Davis will get the start at first base for the A.L. and  finished with 8,272,243 fan votes. Davis is the second first-time All-Star to lead the voting, joining Seattle outfielder Ichiro Suzuki (2001).

Davis furthered his cause for making the All-Star roster on Sunday when he hit his 37th homerun of the year joining Reggie Jackson for the most home runs hit before the break in American League history.

Young phenom third baseman Manny Machado will join his teammates in New York where he is slated to be a reserve behind the Tigers Miguel Cabrera. Machado is having a decent season where he leads MLB in doubles hit and is among the top ten in the league in hits.

Pitcher Chris Tillman has been named as a replacement for Justin Verlander, who’s starting today for the Tigers. This is the first All-Star selection for Tillman, 25, who’s 11-3 with a 3.95 ERA in 19 starts this season, with 89 strikeouts in 111 2/3 innings.

Below is a look at the history of the Baltimore Oriole’s players selected to the All-Star Game.

 

SEASON PLAYER
2012 Adam Jones, Jim Johnson, Matt Wieters
2011 Matt Wieters
2010 Ty Wigginton
2009 Adam Jones
2008 George Sherrill
2007 Brian Roberts
2006 Miguel Tejada
2005 Miguel Tejada, Melvin Mora, B.J. Ryan, Brian Roberts
2003 Melvin Mora
2002 Tony Batista
2001 Cal Ripken
2000 Cal Ripken, Mike Bordick
1999 Harold Baines, B.J. Surhoff, Mike Mussina
1998 Cal Ripken, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar
1997 Cal Ripken, Randy Myers, Brady Anderson, Roberto Alomar
1996 Cal Ripken, Brady Anderson, Roberto Alomar
1995 Cal Ripken
1994 Lee Smith, Cal Ripken, Mike Mussina
1993 Cal Ripken, Mike Mussina
1992 Cal Ripken, Brady Anderson, Mike Mussina
1991 Cal Ripken
1990 Cal Ripken, Gregg Olson
1989 Cal Ripken, Mickey Tettleton
1988 Cal Ripken
1987 Terry Kennedy, Cal Ripken
1986 Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, Don Aase
1985 Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken
1984 Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, Mike Boddicker
1983 Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, Tippy Martinez
1982 Eddie Murray
1981 Ken Singleton, Eddie Murray, Scott McGregor
1980 Al Bumbry, Steve Stone
1979 Ken Singleton, Don Stanhouse
1978 Eddie Murray, Mike Flanagan, Jim Palmer
1977 Ken Singleton, Jim Palmer
1976 Mark Belanger, Bobby Grich
1975 Jim Palmer
1974 Bobby Grich, Mike Cuellar, Brooks Robinson
1973 Paul Blair, Brooks Robinson
1972 Bobby Grich, Jim Palmer, Pat Dobson, Dave McNally, Brooks Robinson
1971 Jim Palmer, Don Buford, Mike Cuellar, Boog Powell, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson
1970 Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, Davey Johnson, Dave McNally, Boog Powell, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson
1969 Paul Blair, Davey Johnson, Dave McNally, Boog Powell, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson
1968 Davey Johnson, Boog Powell, Brooks Robinson
1967 Andy Etchebarren, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson
1966 Steve Barber, Andy Etchebarren, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson
1965 Milt Pappas, Brooks Robinson
1964 Luis Aparicio, Brooks Robinson, Norm Siebern
1963 Luis Aparicio, Steve Barber, Brooks Robinson
1962 Jim Gentile, Milt Pappas, Brooks Robinson, Hoyt Wilhelm
1961 Jackie Brandt, Jim Gentile, Brooks Robinson, Hoyt Wilhelm
1960 Chuck Estrada, Jim Gentile, Ron Hansen, Brooks Robinson
1959 Gus Triandos, Billy O’dell, Jerry Walker, Hoyt Wilhelm, Gene Woodling
1958 Gus Triandos, Billy O’dell
1957 Gus Triandos, George Kell, Billy Loes
1956 George Kell
1955 Jim Wilson
1954 Bob Turley

 

Stats obtained from ESPN MLB

 

Follow me on Twitter @sportguyrsr

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Orioles pitcher Tillman added to AL All-Star team

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Orioles pitcher Tillman added to AL All-Star team

Posted on 14 July 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — In a surprise that arrived as the Orioles were recognizing their 2013 All-Star selections on the field prior to Sunday’s game, starting pitcher Chris Tillman was named to take part in Tuesday’s Midsummer Classic at Citi Field in New York.

Taking the place of Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander who pitched on Sunday, Tillman becomes the fifth Orioles player to be named to the American League All-Star team and the only pitcher. He is 11-3 with a 3.95 earned run average in 19 starts while serving as one of the club’s most consistent starting pitchers in the first half.

“It’s an honor,” Tillman said after Sunday’s 7-4 win over Toronto. “It was kind of a surprise to find out last minute. It’s special for the city and for me to go with my teammates.”

Tillman entered Sunday fourth in the league in wins and 23rd in ERA — a number that will prompt many to say he isn’t deserving of the honor — and owns a 20-6 record since June 25, 2012. He has the second-highest winning percentage among AL starters over that span, trailing only Detroit’s Max Scherzer.

Acquired along with fellow All-Star representative Adam Jones from the Seattle Mariners in the Erik Bedard trade prior to the 2008 season, Tillman is now the fourth of the Orioles’ five All-Star representatives this year who was originally acquired via trade. Third baseman Manny Machado was drafted with the third overall pick of the 2010 draft while Jones, Tillman, shortstop J.J. Hardy, and first baseman Chris Davis were trade acquisitions of former president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail.

“He’s not a secret around the league,” said manager Buck Showalter, who found out a couple days earlier that Tillman might be added to the All-Star roster. “He wasn’t drafted here. He got here in a trade. Somebody else is real smart. Not me, but somebody was smart getting him here. We’re lucky to have him, and he’s got an interesting future.”

This year’s All-Star Game will mark the first time the Orioles have had five or more representatives since the 1997 game when third baseman Cal Ripken, second baseman Roberto Alomar, center fielder Brady Anderson, starting pitchers Mike Mussina and Jimmy Key, and closer Randy Myers were all selected to participate.

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Wanted: Orioles Offense. 7 Day Wrap Up

Posted on 09 July 2013 by mattcostantini

 

 

So here we are Orioles fans, a week and a few days into July and the Orioles bats have become anemic.  So far this month there are only two players batting over .250, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis.  Aside from those two, you are seeing some sickly numbers across the board and it’s coming at the worst time possible, the Rangers are in town.

The Birds have gone a dismal 2 and 5 over the last 7 dropping series’ to the last place White Sox, the debilitated Yankees, and last nights 1st game against the Rangers.

In the series against the White Sox the O’s averaged just 2.6 runs per game, down from their season mark of 4.8.  Now far be it from me to say the White Sox batters shouldn’t be able to out-hit the Orioles with their 27th ranked offensebut c’mon!

“Well Chris Sale’s top 5 in ERA”

He didn’t pitch against us.

The worst part is that the Birds’ only win in the series came against Hector Santiago, who pitched a great game. Watching this series you would have thought they ran into the mid-90′s Braves judging by the starters stat lines(Santiago 7IP, 2ER, 9K’s Quintana 7IP, 0ER, 11K’s).  Orioles batters with runners in scoring position were non-existent going just 3-18 over the series (This will be an on-going theme for the rest of the article).  JJ Hardy will take the majority blame here with his 0-6 with RISP.  The starting All Star shortstop in the month of July is batting just .115 with only 1 extra-base hit.  It’s alright though because the Birds are headed to New York just after giving them the brooms.

The Yankees series gave the Orioles no breathing room as Ivan Nova put on an Oscar-worthy CC Sabathia performance (9IP, 3H, 2ER, 11K’s) but Baltimore still had the 2-1 lead going into the 9th!  Cue Jim Johnson, blown save number 6 in game 1.  Game 2 had a different feel as Chris Tillman struggled getting first pitch strikes and seemed a little wild all day.  Yankees take it 5-4, even though the Orioles got to Andy Pettitte early on.  The final game of the series saw a great comeback win in which Adam Jones dropped the hammer on Mariano Rivera with an eventual game winning 2-run shot in the 9th.  The bats continued their struggles through this series too, 2-17 RISP accruing 2 runs in 2 of the 3 games.  Momentum is now on the Orioles side with the Adam Jones late game heroics though right!?!?

Not at all when Scott Feldman got rocked by his former team (Rangers) in his Camden Yards debut allowing 7 runs over 5 and a third.  In all fairness Feldman had to pitch close to the vest all night as the Black and Orange converted just once in 12 opportunity’s with RISPMatt Wieters hit a 2-run homer in the 7th to somewhat absolve himself from the normal amount of heat he would take for striking out 4 times in a game.

If you just go by the numbers in the last 7 games, Matt Wieters is 0-6 with RISP, batting a mere .211.  The 2nd Base Trio of Alexi Casilla, Ryan Flaherty, and Brian Roberts are .156 reaching base just 7 times (Brian Roberts with the majority of at bats).  JJ Hardy and Chris Davis are both batting sub .125, although Davis has 2 HR and 5 RBI.  The only saving grace at this point is Adam Jones and Nick Markakis combining for a .339 with 8 runs.

Don’t worry O’s fans the pitchers will not be getting a pass here eitherJason Hammel and Scott Feldman need to be more consistent from start to start, a solid 1 run performance against the Yankees but allows 5 against the White Sox?(Hammel) and  2 in Chicago only to come home and get shelled by the Rangers. (FeldmanChris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez both get passes in my book as they have been the only consistent starters in this rotation.  Let’s all just collectively pray to the Baseball Gods that Wei-Yin Chen’s return Wednesday brings some stability to a wildly inconsistent (as of late) rotation.

On the injury front Steve Johnson is throwing in Sarasota which could get some of these over-used relievers a little R&R in the second half and Wilson Betemit on the other hand, well, who cares.

I for one can’t wait until the All-Star break hits so that the Orioles can get a rest and their heads away from their recent struggles.

-Matt Costantini

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Your Monday Reality Check: “I hope his pants get caught and a bloodbath ensues!”

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Your Monday Reality Check: “I hope his pants get caught and a bloodbath ensues!”

Posted on 08 July 2013 by Glenn Clark

Coming off what I’m sure you all will agree was a well-earned week of vacation, I thought quite a bit about writing a lengthy piece about Jim Johnson and the Orioles’ closer situation. Despite Johnson’s 1-2-3 ninth inning in Baltimore’s 2-1 win Sunday over the New York Yankees, the situation remains quite fluid and will be followed closely in the coming weeks.

Although I will point this out from an appearance I made Sunday morning on the SiriusXM Fantasy Sports channel…

That happened at 8am Sunday. Call me “Glennstradamus”?

But I’m NOT writing about that. No…because while I was sitting at Chase Field in Phoenix Friday night watching the Arizona Diamondbacks play the Colorado Rockies I had a thought cross my mind. The thought was furthered during that appearance I made on the SXM Fantasy Channel Sunday morning.

That thought has everything in the world to do with the movie Mallrats. Or at least kinda.

Stick with me.

If you listen to “The Reality Check” (and since I’ve seen the ratings-I KNOW you do), you’ve probably heard me discuss the fact that in a previous life, I was obsessed with director Kevin Smith and his films. I embarrassingly admitted just a few weeks ago to Allen McCallum that I went to see the movie “Jersey Girl” in theaters THRICE with different young ladies. I’m not even remotely proud.

If you’ve ever seen the movie “Mallrats” (and if not, go ahead and take the rest of the day off to view it. In fact, I’m broadcasting at Ryleigh’s in Federal Hill Monday afternoon courtesy of Pinnacle Vodka. Just bring your laptop and I’ll bring a copy of the flick you can watch before you head over to Oriole Park at Camden Yards.), you’ll probably remember Jason Lee’s character Brodie and his sincere respect for all things related to his local shopping mall. One particular issue he has is with a small child who sits down on the escalator, ignoring the dangers of getting caught.

A few escalator rides in, Brodie’s fears play out as the child gets caught and is hurt. If you don’t mind a tiny bit of foul language, here’s a clip…

The take away phrase in that clip would be “that kid is back on the escalator again!”

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Orioles well-represented in All-Star Game, including three starters

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Orioles well-represented in All-Star Game, including three starters

Posted on 06 July 2013 by Ryan Chell

Manny Machado turned 21 Saturday, and he received the perfect birthday gift from the Oriole and baseball fans out there.

His first All-Star appearance.

Machado, the Orioles young spark at 3B, was named an AL All-Star Saturday as a reserve.

“I mean, I worked hard in the off-season to set my goals, and obviously for this, to make the All-Star Game and the playoffs as a team,” Machado told MASNSports. “You really don’t anticipate it until it happens. Now, it’s here. I’m going to be an All-Star. That’s pretty great, pretty exciting to say.”

In just his second season in the majors, Machado is currently hitting.316 with 6 HRs, 42 RBIs and leading the league in doubles.

His defense also has been noted, as he has just six errors in 270 chances at the hot corner.

Joining Machado in New York on July 16th will be 1B Chris Davis, SS JJ Hardy and OF Adam Jones.

Even better? Those three joining Machado will be starters for the AL.

With three starters, it is the biggest representation among the 1st team for the Orioles since 1997 when Roberto Alomar, Cal Ripken, and Brady Anderson took the field first for the American League.

No other AL Team has more than one starter.

The last time the Orioles had four All-Stars was 2005, when 2B Brian Roberts, SS Miguel Tejada, CL BJ Ryan, and 3B Melvin Mora all went to the Midsummer Classic-with Mora as a reserve.

Davis, who led the MLB in voting, is a legitimate MVP candidate as he is leading the majors in home runs with 33.

“It still feels good,” Davis told reporters postgame. “I think anytime you are getting that recognition not only from your fan base but from everybody across the nation, I think it feels good to know that people are watching. I think what we did last year toward the end of the season really kind of opened people’s eyes to the fact that there’s some good baseball being played in Baltimore.

Davis will be going to his first ever All-Star game. Along with his 33 HRs, Davis is also 2nd in the majors in RBIs to last year MVP and Triple Crown candidate, Miguel Cabrera.

Davis is also sixth in the majors with his .324 batting mark and is 14th in hits with 102.

OF Adam Jones, who will be going to his second consecutive All-Star game and his third in four years, is currently hitting .287 with 15 HRs and 59 RBIs for Buck Showalter’s squad.

Despite a threat from Angels OF Mike Trout, Jones was the leading vote getter among AL OFs. It marks his first ever start.

SS JJ Hardy makes the team as a two-time All-Star-his first as an Oriole and as a member of the American League.

It’s also his first ever start; he last made the NL All-Star team in 2007 as a member of the Brewers but lost out on a starting bid to Jose Reyes.

“It means a lot,” he said. “I’m very appreciative of all the fans in Baltimore and everyone else that voted. It means a lot to me.

Hardy led all AL SS in home runs (15) and RBIs (46) and has a .980 fielding percentage in 350 chances.

Not making the team was catcher Matt Wieters, a two-time All-Star and OF Nick Markakis. OF Nate McLouth had consideration for some of the voting process but also will not be headed to Citi Field come July 16th.

The game will air on Fox.

Follow WNST for all your Orioles news! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Machado’s key play allows Orioles to turn tables on Yankees

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Machado’s key play allows Orioles to turn tables on Yankees

Posted on 29 June 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — Manny Machado knew he was taking a major chance.

Tagging up from second base with two outs and the Orioles trailing the New York Yankees by a run in the bottom of the sixth inning Friday night seemed hardly worth the risk to only move up 90 feet with your cleanup hitter coming to the plate.

Conventional baseball wisdom screams that you never make the final out at third base, but sometimes you need to push the envelope against an ace like CC Sabathia, who hadn’t allowed a hit through the first five innings. Manager Buck Showalter said afterward that you can’t become “a prisoner to the book” in those rare moments as Machado followed his two-run double earlier in the inning with the aggressive decision to move up to third.

“It’s a do-or-die play. It’s something that Buck allows us to do — to play our game,” Machado said. “If you have a shot for it, go for it. I wanted to take the extra base.”

It was an eyebrow-raising decision that paid off as Yankees center fielder Brett Gardner made the catch flat-footed on J.J. Hardy’s fly ball to medium deep left-center and Machado slid into third ahead of the throw, moving 90 feet closer to home plate. Moments later, Adam Jones sent a dribbler down the first-base line for an infield single, allowing Machado to cross the plate with the tying run.

The 20-year-old wouldn’t have scored on the play had he not made the bold baserunning decision.

The good fortune was a case of preparation meeting opportunity as the Orioles tied the game and ultimately completed a 4-3 comeback win to open a three-game set and move a game ahead of the Yankees in the loss column for second place in the American League East.

Machado’s play was reminiscent of the countless times the Yankees would take advantage of a moment of weakness, with shortstop Derek Jeter headlining the list of players to do it against the Orioles time after time. Like clockwork, the underdog Orioles would work to build an early lead in many games prior to last year, only to see the Yankees chip away and ultimately surge ahead in the late innings for a demoralizing loss.

Of course, the Orioles have no reason to be intimidated by the Yankees these days as the division rivals are tied 15-15 since the start of the 2012 season, including the five games played in the American League Division Series last October. Friday night was the latest example of Baltimore turning the tables against an injury-plagued Yankees club.

“I tell guys all the time, if you feel something, you’ve got a good feel, go for it,” said Showalter about Machado’s tag-up. “I have the other part of it after it’s over, but I’m going to be upset if you feel something and don’t go for it. That’s the type of intelligent recklessness you have to have.”

Nate McLouth delivered the big blow an inning later as he homered over the right-field scoreboard to give the Orioles the lead for the first time all night. The game-winning homer brought back memories of last year’s ALDS Game 5 when he hit a potential game-tying drive off Sabathia in the sixth inning that was ruled foul despite the Orioles’ claims that it nicked the right-field foul pole at Yankee Stadium.

The left fielder wasn’t interested in revisiting that call but was asked whether he thought back to that moment last October as he was rounding first base.

“I wasn’t out of batter’s box before I thought that,” McLouth said. “Off the bat, I knew it had the distance. It stayed true, it stayed straight, and I was happy about that.”

The Orioles were also happy with the relief work of rookie Kevin Gausman, who followed T.J. McFarland’s rough start with 4 1/3 shutout innings to keep the early deficit at 3-0 and make the eventual comeback possible. The 22-year-old earned his first major league victory in the process.

Tommy Hunter followed Gausman’s effort with two dominating innings to earn his second career save as closer Jim Johnson received a second night off after working three consecutive games earlier in the week.

It wasn’t a dominating performance by any means, but the Orioles were just a little bit better — possibly as little as 90 extra feet in the case of Machado’s sixth-inning decision.

An early deficit, a critical play or two to orchestrate a comeback, and rock-solid bullpen work to seal the victory. The Yankees painfully showed them that sequence for so many years, reminding that it’s often the little things that lead to big wins.

But the Orioles quickly reminded everyone that even a victory over Sabathia is only as significant as the next day.

“It’s big to win against their No. 1 in the first game of the series,” Machado said, “but it’s a new game tomorrow.”

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Who’s your favorite in the AL East with July right around the corner?

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Who’s your favorite in the AL East with July right around the corner?

Posted on 18 June 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

The American League East is what we thought it would be — sort of.

The Orioles entered play on Tuesday trailing the first-place Red Sox by only two games and fourth-place Tampa Bay was only five games back in what’s been a very competitive division. The biggest surprise might be the unexpected flip-flop of Boston and Toronto as the Red Sox were regarded by many as the weak link in the division and the Blue Jays were the winners of the offseason after a plethora of big acquisitions that haven’t paid off to this point in the season.

As we approach the midway point of the season, it’s clear to see the Orioles’ biggest flaw is the starting pitching that’s posted a 4.80 earned run average, ranking 13th in the AL. The trickle-down effect on the bullpen has helped contribute to some regression that was expected anyway after a remarkable 2012 performance.

While there is some potential for improvement from within with left-hander Wei-Yin Chen on track to return by early July, questions will remain when Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez have been the only consistent pitchers in the rotation. Perhaps Zach Britton and Kevin Gausman can provide a boost in the second half similar to the one offered by Tillman and Gonzalez last season, but most believe the Orioles must address their starting pitching if they’re to give themselves a good chance to win the division.

However, flaws and concerns exist with each of the other four clubs in the division as well.

As surprising as the Red Sox have been sitting in first place under new manager John Farrell, Boston is currently dealing with concerns in their starting rotation as Jon Lester has been ineffective and Clay Buchholz is dealing with a neck injury. The Red Sox lead the majors in runs scored, but they’ve also had concerns in the bullpen that could come back to haunt them in the second half.

The Yankees’ early-season fountain of youth has seemingly dried up as their offense ranks 10th in the AL in runs scored and is still without Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez and has already lost Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson to the disabled list a second time. New York’s starting pitching is keeping them competitive, but you wonder whether so many absences are finally catching up as the Orioles recently moved into second place.

Tampa Bay might be the most intriguing of the AL East clubs — and not because they were my preseason pick to win the division — as the Rays lineup has been much better than anyone expected (fifth in the AL in runs). However, the pitching has been a major disappointment, ranking 11th in the AL in ERA as All-Star closer Fernando Rodney has been a shell of his 2012 form and 2012 Cy Young Award winner David Price is on the DL. You’d have to think the Rays will pitch better as the year progresses, but it’s difficult imagining the lineup continuing to produce in the second half like it has.

Toronto has played better of late after winning six straight games, but the Blue Jays lineup ranks eighth in the AL in runs scored and 14th in team ERA as starters R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, and Josh Johnson haven’t lived up to expectations. The Blue Jays face an uphill climb, but they are capable of holding their own against the rest of the division as we’ve seen in their games with the Orioles.

Based on what we’ve seen over the course of the season, it’s difficult not to like Boston’s chances because of the relative consistency they’ve received from their offense and starting pitching, and Tampa Bay is also dangerous if it can get Price back while maintaining a similar level of offensive production. However, the Orioles might just be good enough to prevail in the AL East with a very good lineup, excellent defense, a solid bullpen, and even mediocre starting pitching.

Of course, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t still try to upgrade by the trade deadline.

Seeing doubles

Third baseman Manny Machado entered Tuesday’s game with a major-league-leading 32 doubles in 71 games and is on pace to hit 73 this season, which would break the major-league record of 67, set by Earl Webb of Boston in 1931. The franchise record is held by Brian Roberts, who hit 56 back in 2009.

At one point do we simply start referring to doubles as “machados?”

The soon-to-be 21-year-old entered Tuesday also leading the majors in hits (99) and multi-hit games (29). Over his last 51 games, Machado has 24 multi-hit games and is batting .346 with 26 doubles, two triples, three homers, 34 runs scored, and 26 RBIs in his last 51 games.

Machado hasn’t hit a home run since May 5, but it’s amazing to think what type of home-run potential he might have as he gets stronger and simply puts a bit more loft on some of those line drives as he continues to develop as a hitter. Even though he’s on pace to break a doubles record that’s more than 80 years old, Machado may only be scratching the surface of his potential as a run producer and power hitter.

With Machado leading the majors in doubles and Chris Davis hitting more homers (24) than anyone in the big leagues, they can become just the second pair of teammates to lead the majors in doubles and home runs in the same season. According to STATS, the only other time it’s happened was 1927 when Babe Ruth led the majors in homers (60) and Lou Gehrig in doubles (52).

The New York Yankees went on to win the World Series that year.

Suffering at second base

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You couldn’t ask for a better year for Dad

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You couldn’t ask for a better year for Dad

Posted on 16 June 2013 by Luke Jones

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person; he believed in me.” – Jim Valvano

As we spent the day honoring our fathers, grandfathers, or any man who’s embraced the enormous responsibility of being called “Dad,” it’s easy to reflect on what was a great year for Dad if he’s a Baltimore sports fan.

Perhaps you were lucky enough to cherish the Orioles’ first playoff appearance in 15 years with the man who held your hand as he walked you through the gate at Memorial Stadium or Oriole Park at Camden Yards countless times or sat down to watch with you on TV or just happened to put the ballgame on the radio as he drove you nowhere in particular. Witnessing a raucous and packed Camden Yards wave rally towels for Games 1 and 2 of the American League Division Series was as good as it gets after 14 seasons largely filled with misery and eventual apathy.

The Ravens’ second Super Bowl championship undoubtedly meant more if you can remember your father crying when the Colts skipped town in the middle of the night or you spent a large portion of your childhood wondering with Dad if Baltimore would ever get another NFL team as autumn Sundays were all too quiet for far too many years. Whether you made the once-in-a-lifetime trip to New Orleans or celebrated at home with the rest of Charm City as Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and John Harbaugh raised the Vince Lombardi Trophy, the feeling accompanying that bear hug, high five, or glowing smile will never be forgotten by those fortunate enough to share them with their fathers.

It was the perfect way to bid farewell to Lewis, who was the omnipresent figure teaching Baltimore to “raise the roof” and to remember what it felt like to have an NFL team in the infancy of the franchise and making an improbable return from injury for the “last ride” of his career, entering the pantheon of the city’s all-time best sports figures over the last 17 years.

The last 12 months have been a wonderful time to spend with Dad, but many weren’t able to share those special memories with the man holding so much influence over not just their Baltimore sports fandom but in other aspects of their lives. For those individuals, his presence may no longer be here physically, but his spirit lives on through every pitch and each snap, the cheers and moments of disappointment, and with each breath his son or daughter takes.

I once heard someone say that when you lose your father at a young age, you spend the rest of your life trying to make him proud. Truer words have never been spoken if you’ve found yourself in that unenviable position, regardless of how old you might be.

Sunday marked the ninth Father’s Day I’ve spent without my dad, but his smile and embrace were felt as strongly as ever while watching what transpired on the Baltimore sports scene over the last year.

Many landing in this wonderful but difficult business of sports media will point to the influence their father had in sharing a love for sports, writing, or both at an early age. My dad didn’t live long enough to see me take the unique path to where I am today that began with five rewarding years in public education, continued with a unique media competition at WNST.net, and eventually turned into a full-time opportunity to cover the local teams with which I grew up. But he’s the biggest reason why I’m doing what I love today and he – along with my mom, of course – was my biggest fan in whatever I tried to accomplish.

I miss his physical presence and voice every day after nearly nine years without him, but I know he’s been right there with me along the way, starting with the first Ravens game I attended without him in 2004 when I sobbed uncontrollably just six days after he died – the emotion came immediately after Reed returned an interception 106 yards for a touchdown in the closing seconds to wrap up a victory against Cleveland — and continuing each time I walk into the press box or cover another training camp practice in the sweltering heat of Owings Mills in August.

Your perspective changes when you work in media as you get to know athletes and coaches – for better or worse – and remember the obligatory rule of no cheering in the press box. You have a job to do, so the manner in which you watch and enjoy games changes from your previous experiences as a fan. What was once only a passion becomes a profession, with responsibilities that accompany such an awesome job.

But it doesn’t change how you feel inside, especially when you had the kind of relationship I enjoyed with my father through the first 21 years of my life. There isn’t a time that I’m walking to my car after a late night at Camden Yards or an afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium in which I don’t think of Dad, silently asking him what he thought of the game.

I can almost hear his opinions on Flacco, Harbaugh, Adam Jones, and Manny Machado even though each of those individuals came along years after his passing. And I know I’m not alone in sharing the sentiment that my late father has enjoyed the best seat in the house over this last year in particular.

What a year it was, Dad.

As the Orioles were on the verge of clinching their first postseason berth since 1997, one of the most unique scenes of the year occurred on the final home date of the regular season. Moments after a win over the Boston Red Sox, manager Buck Showalter and his club of talented but unproven players mixed with a few journeymen stood on the field watching a game between the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels on the video board, with the outcome determining whether the Orioles would officially clinch a spot that afternoon or would need to wait a little longer.

It was a unique scene in which players and coaches transformed into fans just like the 41,000 gathered at the ballpark that afternoon. And it was a moment that brought a lump in my throat and moisture in my eyes as I thought of the countless games at the ballpark with my dad, who served as an usher for nine years at Memorial Stadium and was with me for virtually every game I attended through 2004.

I could remember the many times talking to him when I was away for college at Syracuse and how he’d inevitably fit into every conversation, “The Orioles still stink.” Truthfully, the language was a bit more colorful, but it was a running joke to mask the annual disappointment we both held.

In that moment sitting in the press box on that Sunday afternoon, I thought to myself, “Not anymore.”

Lucky enough to be at Yankee Stadium to cover the ALDS last October, I wore my favorite shirt to Game 5, a maroon polo that belonged to my dad and my grandfather before him. The color has faded to a light salmon and it has a few more holes around the collar and shoulders than I’d like to admit, but the shirt was the only garment of choice as the Orioles were unfortunately eliminated in a highly competitive series in which fans could still be proud of the club’s remarkable season.

A few months later, I wore the same shirt as I settled into my seat in the auxiliary press box at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for Super Bowl XLVII. Coincidence or not, there was something fitting about the seat to my left somehow remaining empty throughout the game as I thought back to 12 years earlier and the giant hug shared with my dad as we watched the closing seconds of Super Bowl XXXV on TV. I remembered the many conversations about our dream of one day attending a Super Bowl together and hoping we would get another chance.

As the confetti fell and I quickly made my way downstairs for post-game interviews, I felt the same lump in my throat and moisture in my eyes that I did on that final day of September in Baltimore a few months earlier.

I suppose it wasn’t exactly how we pictured it, but we did make it to a Super Bowl, Dad.

It would be difficult to ask for a better sports year as we spent Sunday honoring our fathers in various ways. Whether you took him to the ballpark or got together to watch the Orioles on TV, shared a meal, called him on the telephone, or simply spent a few moments lost in memory, I can only wish and pray you’re as lucky as I was – and still am — to have had such a wonderful dad.

His love of Baltimore sports and, more importantly, the valuable life lessons he offered about what it meant to be a man, a compassionate friend, a devoted husband, and a father are ones I remember and still try to fully grasp as I approach my 30th birthday and dream of one day having a family of my own.

Whenever someone who knew him tells me how much I resemble him, I smile proudly after once cringing when I was a teenager — though I’ll promise to refrain from growing his trademark mustache.

I feel his presence at every game, imagining him chomping on peanuts or popcorn while making an absolute mess, and it makes me smile far more often than I cry all these years later.

I’ll never stop trying to make him proud, hopefully experiencing a few more years like this past one along the way.

I hope you enjoyed it, Dad.

I know I did.

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