Tag Archive | "Baltimore"

Ravens unlikely to have starting left side of line against Atlanta

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Ravens unlikely to have starting left side of line against Atlanta

Posted on 17 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are likely to be without the starting left side of their offensive line for the second straight week after tackle Eugene Monroe and guard Kelechi Osemele were both listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Neither lineman participated in Friday’s practice after both worked on a limited basis Thursday, meaning the Ravens are likely to go with the rookie combination of James Hurst and John Urschel for the second consecutive game. There had appeared to be some optimism that Osemele would return after missing last Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay since he had been a limited participant on Wednesday and Thursday, but he will need at least another week to recover from the hyper extended knee he suffered against the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 5.

Ideally, head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens would like to have Monroe and Osemele back in the lineup for a key road game against the Cincinnati Bengals next week, so the fact that both were able to get on the practice field this week bodes well for their status.

To no surprise, defensive end Chris Canty (wrist surgery) and defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi (ankle) were officially ruled out for Sunday’s game.

The Ravens listed five players as probable to play against Atlanta, including rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (meniscus surgery), who could be playing for the first time since injuring his knee on Sept. 11.

In remains unclear whether the Ravens will elect to activate safety Will Hill from the reserve-suspended list or defensive tackle Terrence Cody from the reserve-physically unable to perform list after both players practiced fully all week. Harbaugh would not tip his hand whether either would be moved to the 53-man roster by Saturday’s 4 p.m. deadline to make them eligible to play against the Falcons.

“It depends on some other things. There’s a domino effect to some of that,” Harbaugh said. “But they’re both capable of playing, physically. They’re both ready. They had a good week of practice, and they showed that they’re ready to play.”

Atlanta officially ruled out wide receiver Harry Douglas (foot) and listed six other players as probable for Sunday’s game.

Carl Cheffers will be the referee for Sunday’s game against the Falcons.

According to Weather.com, Sunday’s forecast calls for sunny skies with temperatures in the low 50s and winds up to 15 miles per hour.

Baltimore will don its black alternate jerseys for the second time this season and the 18th time in franchise history. The Ravens hold a 12-5 record when wearing the black jerseys and are 9-2 under Harbaugh. Earlier this season, the Ravens won 38-10 when they sported their all-black uniforms against the Carolina Panthers.

Here is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: DT Christo Bilukidi (ankle), DE Chris Canty (wrist)
DOUBTFUL: T Eugene Monroe (knee), G Kelechi Osemele (knee)
PROBABLE: WR Kamar Aiken (concussion), WR Marlon Brown (pelvis), TE Owen Daniels (non-injury), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury)

ATLANTA
OUT: WR Harry Douglas (foot)
PROBABLE: DT Jonathan Babineaux (knee), G Justin Blalock (back), WR Devin Hester (hamstring), WR Julio Jones (ankle), LB Prince Shembo (knee), LB Nate Stupar (knee)

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Personnel diversity providing improved results for Ravens offense

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Personnel diversity providing improved results for Ravens offense

Posted on 16 October 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — New faces, new injuries, and a new system would be more than enough for the Ravens offense to be struggling through the first six weeks of the 2014 season.

Except it hasn’t.

In fact, a year after searching up and down the roster — and outside of it — for solutions to cure the offensive woes, the eighth-ranked unit in the NFL now finds itself with plenty of diversity that’s provided different results as the Ravens are off to a 4-2 record. Tied for fifth in points per game, Baltimore has transformed its offense from a liability to a strength in less than a year’s time as they’ve already scored 26 or more points three times compared to last year’s total of four games reaching that barrier.

Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak is still chasing consistency with his unit — the Ravens have two games in which they’ve scored fewer than 17 points — but the overall results have been impressive in his first season on John Harbaugh’s staff.

“We just have to stay focused on us. That’s what I told the guys,” Kubiak said. “Let’s not get too consumed with who’re playing or those types of things. If we play the way we’re capable of playing and do our jobs, we’re probably going to move the football.”

While it’s obvious the offseason additions of Steve Smith, Jeremy Zuttah, Owen Daniels, and Justin Forsett have paid significant dividends, the Ravens have faced plenty of adversity on the offensive side of the ball that could have led to their demise. The abrupt release of Ray Rice and the season-ending injury to Dennis Pitta took away a large portion of production from past seasons, but Baltimore has thrived without them.

Three running backs — Forsett, Bernard Pierce, and Lorenzo Taliaferro — have received at least 40 carries each and the Ravens are averaging 4.7 yards per carry, good for sixth in the NFL. Viewed as little more than a depth signing in the offseason, Forsett has averaged a league-best 6.4 yards per carry, which is more than twice as productive as the Ravens’ league-worst 3.1 yards per attempt in 2013.

“He gets the most out of his ability,” said Kubiak about the 29-year-old Forsett, who’s already rushed for more yards in 2014 than his two previous seasons combined. “He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he does a great job in pass protection. He’s a three-down player, so he’s a guy that you can keep on the field all the time in what you’re doing. The thing he’s doing right now [is] he’s finding a way to make a big play every week.”

The Ravens’ three-headed monster at running back has been discussed at length, but they continue to use an extensive collection of pass catchers for quarterback Joe Flacco to throw to. The 35-year-old Smith has clearly led the way with 35 catches for 573 yards and four touchdowns, but 13 different players have already caught passes this season with rookie Michael Campanaro and former practice-squad member Kamar Aiken catching their first career scores last week.

The different personnel groupings at the receiver position have allowed Kubiak to keep the veteran Smith as well as Torrey Smith fresh during games, but they’ve also created problems for opposing defenses. It’s been a pleasant change from last season when the Ravens did see 15 different players catch passes, but Flacco struggled to find any he could consistently rely on to make plays beyond Torrey Smith and Marlon Brown.

Those weapons have made it easier for Flacco, who’s posted a career-high 97.8 passer rating and is on pace to throw a personal-best 32 touchdowns compared to just eight interceptions.

“The one thing as an offense you never want to be is predictable,” Steve Smith said. “A lot of times people may think when these [younger] guys come in, it’s not a pass play — it’s not a play where they’re getting the ball. So, that just shows you that we do have guys that may not be starters but have the big-play ability [against] other teams and in the game. That just shows that those guys can play.”

Perhaps no other position group has benefited from improved depth more than the offensive line, which has become arguably the Ravens’ biggest strength in 2014 after it was nothing short of a disaster last year.

Zuttah and Rick Wagner have solidified the center and right tackle positions, respectively, but the Ravens have remained successful even with injuries to left tackle Eugene Monroe and left guard Kelechi Osemele. The Ravens have won two of the three games in which rookie free agent James Hurst has started at left tackle for Monroe and are 1-0 with rookie John Urschel playing in place of Osemele.

Those were the kinds of injuries the Ravens couldn’t overcome last year, but the offensive line has continued to thrive in Kubiak’s system.

“It’s not just us,” said right guard Marhal Yanda about the improvement. “It’s the backs, it’s Joe [Flacco], it’s the tight ends, it’s Gary — it’s everybody. We’re in this thing together, and it’s definitely going well for us. We’ve had a couple of hiccups, but we’re just trying to continue to be consistent and get after them.”

It’s been a “strength in numbers” mindset with results that couldn’t be much better. And the struggles of last year become more and more faint.

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Ravens to hold annual TEAM Challenge next Monday

Posted on 16 October 2014 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Baltimore Ravens will host their third annual Ravens TEAM Challenge at M&T Bank Stadium on Monday (10/20) as part of the 2014 NFL/United Way Hometown Huddle. Approximately 120 local youth will test their physical endurance and ability to work as a team in order to complete various activities. At the end of the event, one group will be declared TEAM Challenge champions, based upon total points accumulated.

Under the guidance of Playworks Baltimore, selected students from Liberty Elementary School (Baltimore) will participate in challenges such as kickball, dodgeball, ultimate football and a series of relays. In addition, each student will receive a new pair of sneakers, provided by Under Armour.

Playworks currently delivers safe and inclusive play to 24 Baltimore City schools daily, with a goal to create a place for every child on the playground — a place where every kid belongs, contributes and is part of the game. Through it’s involvement in Hometown Huddle, volunteers will encourage children to bring out the best in themselves and each other, and kids will learn the value of fair play, compassion and respect.

Ravens players, including WR Marlon Brown, S Matt Elam, OLB Elvis Dumervil, TE Crockett Gilmore, S Anthony Levine, QB Tyrod Taylor, WR Steve Smith Sr. and DT Brandon Williams will join Ravens cheerleaders, mascot Poe and close to 75 volunteers (from the Lady Ravens Association, M&T Bank, Under Armour and United Way) in facilitating the activities and leading youth participants.

An NFL initiative, the Hometown Huddle is a day of hands-on activity celebrated by all 32 teams across the country in conjunction with the United Way. The Ravens TEAM Challenge integrates educational programming and the NFL’s PLAY 60 physical activities while focusing on three values: fitness, sportsmanship and academics.

Who: Baltimore Ravens players, cheerleaders, mascot Poe

Additional volunteers

Students from Liberty Elementary

What: Third Annual Ravens TEAM Challenge

Where: M&T Bank Stadium

1101 Russell Street
Baltimore, MD 21230

When: Monday, Oct. 20, 2014

Tournament time 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.

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Monroe returns to practice as Ravens continue to get healthier

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Monroe returns to practice as Ravens continue to get healthier

Posted on 16 October 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It remains unclear whether Eugene Monroe will play in Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons, but the Ravens left tackle took a significant step in his recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery by returning to practice on Thursday.

The 27-year-old worked on a limited basis for the first time since undergoing surgery on Sept. 24. In his absence, the Ravens have turned to rookie free agent James Hurst to handle a starting role with Baltimore going 2-1 over that stretch.

It would be ambitious to assume Monroe will be ready to play against Atlanta after a three-week layoff, but his return to the practice field bodes well for his status in next week’s key AFC North road meeting with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Four players on the 53-man roster did not participate Thursday as defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi (ankle), defensive end Chris Canty (wrist surgery), tight end Owen Daniels, and linebacker Daryl Smith were listed on the official injury report. Daniels and Smith each received a veteran day off after practicing without incident on Wednesday.

Starting left guard Kelechi Osemele (knee) practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day, an encouraging sign for his availability against the Falcons. The third-year lineman missed last Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay after hyperextending his knee in the Week 5 loss to Indianapolis.

The Ravens used Hurst and fifth-round rookie John Urschel on the left side of their line in the 48-17 win over the Buccaneers. Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak couldn’t recall every playing a game in which two rookies were starting and entrusted to protect the quarterback’s blindside.

“Never been around that. That was something else,” Kubiak said. “But, boy, you have to be proud of them. They worked really hard, and I think the guys around them played hard. Usually when you have a young guy step in, it’s about everybody else playing a little bit better, so you have to give the whole group credit for the way they stepped up.”

Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (meniscus surgery) practiced fully for the second straight day and could make his return to game action since injuring his knee in the win over Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

Safety Will Hill and defensive tackle Terrence Cody continued practicing after making their respective returns to the field Wednesday. The Ravens have a one-week exemption to decide Hill’s status after his six-game suspension expired this past Sunday, and many have pondered whether he’ll eventually emerge as the starting free safety in the secondary.

“We expect him to be a very, very good player back there,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “I think he’s very smart. He’s really kept up on everything. I think he’s done a good job the few days he’s been back practicing. It’ll be interesting to see how he progresses, but we think he’s the real deal.”

Meanwhile, the Falcons continue to be banged up at the wide receiver position as Harry Douglas remains sidelined with a foot injury and wideouts Julio Jones (ankle) and Devin Hester (hamstring) were limited participants for the second consecutive practice. Douglas has missed Atlanta’s last three games with a deep bruise.

Here is Thursday’s official injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DT Christo Bilukidi (ankle), DE Chris Canty (wrist), TE Owen Daniels (non-injury), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Kamar Aiken (concussion), T Eugene Monroe (knee), G Kelechi Osemele (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Marlon Brown (pelvis), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee)

ATLANTA
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Harry Douglas (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Devin Hester (hamstring), WR Julio Jones (ankle), LB Prince Shembo (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DT Jonathan Babineaux (knee), G Justin Blalock (back), LB Nate Stupar (knee)

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Future’s uncertainty always most painful as Orioles bow out of postseason

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Future’s uncertainty always most painful as Orioles bow out of postseason

Posted on 16 October 2014 by Luke Jones

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A sweep was a bitter way for a season to end after the Orioles won 96 games to secure their first American League East title in 17 years.

Overcoming season-ending injuries to Matt Wieters and Manny Machado as well as enduring the 25-game suspension and poor performance of slugger Chris Davis, the Orioles arguably had their most rewarding year since their last World Series title in 1983. But that magic and mojo finally expired against the Kansas City Royals, who didn’t embarrass Baltimore but was just a little bit better across the board as they won their first AL pennant since 1985.

Even if 2014 ultimately proves to be the Royals’ year — and an 8-0 postseason mark certainly suggests it is — the end still hurts.

“There’s a lot of positive things there. But it’s kind of shallow,” manager Buck Showalter said. “There’s so many things that during the year, it’s just an unspoken word, a look at each other, there’s a real respect for each other. And like I just told them, the game’s not always fair. Someone’s going to be extremely disappointed.”

The Orioles have quite a juxtaposition of half-full and half-empty outlooks as they conclude 2014, but the uncertainty of navigating another offseason and another 162-game marathon to try to get back to this same point next year — with a different outcome, of course — always makes you wonder if they’ll make it back. The AL East doesn’t figure to feature underwhelming versions of both the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox for a second straight year, so that alone forces you to take pregnant pause.

Even as disappointment wanes and fans begin to reflect on the Orioles’ third straight winning season and first division title since 1997, expectations have only soared for executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, Showalter, and the current club. But as is the case with any offseason, some change will be inevitable.

“You know, [2012] was unexpected, in ’13 we had expectations, and here we were doing something that hasn’t been done in a long time,” center fielder Adam Jones said. “I think expectations have risen a little bit in Baltimore and that’s good. I don’t mind expectations being risen, because I’m going to come back to spring training ready to get back to this position. It’s a great position to be in the ALCS.”

With those heightened expectations in mind, how do the Orioles improve for next season? As always, the quest will continue to improve their pitching depth while hoping 23-year-old Kevin Gausman takes another step forward, but do Duquette and Showalter tinker dramatically with an offense that relied too much on the home run?

The addition of some speed would benefit, but the Orioles also expect to have Wieters, Machado, and Davis back in the picture, which should provide significant overall improvement to the offense. But the lineup could look different without Nelson Cruz anchoring the cleanup spot.

After signing a one-year, $8 million deal during spring training to come to Baltimore, Cruz will be seeking a long-term deal for lucrative money, but he is 34 years old and coming off a career season in which he hit 40 homers. As we saw with Davis’ disastrous 2014 campaign a year after he hit a franchise-record 53 home runs, you don’t want to make a snap reaction based on a career season and set your price based on that.

Cruz acknowledged he may have played his last game with the Orioles after Wednesday’s 2-1 loss in Kansas City.

“It’s there, but I want to come back,” Cruz said. “We’ll just wait and see what happens. I love the clubhouse. I love all my teammates. The whole organization is great — even the guys you don’t see every day. I appreciate that.”

The Orioles also face difficult decisions with right fielder Nick Markakis and lefty reliever Andrew Miller, who will also become free agents. Miller was the club’s best pitcher in the postseason, but he is expected to receive an enormous amount of attention on the open market and could be paid lucratively to become a closer elsewhere.

Though they were able to re-sign shortstop J.J. Hardy to a contract extension last week, the Orioles know that Wieters and Davis will be free agents after 2015. Duquette was more aggressive this year than he was over his first two offseasons running the club as he signed Cruz and starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, so will we see the Orioles once again be bold to set up for another run next season or take a more conservative approach even though they face the loss of two more key players next winter?

It’s tough to say as even the career-long Oriole Markakis doesn’t know for sure if he’ll be back or if the organization will elect to go in a different direction as his power has declined over the last few seasons.

“I don’t know; you never know,” Markakis said. “Baseball is a funny game and anything can happen. Take some time off and see where that ball goes.”

It’s that unknown that makes Wednesday’s loss and the abrupt end of a terrific season that much more frustrating.

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Former Oriole Guthrie apologizes for post-game shirt

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Former Oriole Guthrie apologizes for post-game shirt

Posted on 15 October 2014 by Luke Jones

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On a day in which the Kansas City Royals were trying to officially advance to their first World Series in 29 years, Game 3 starter Jeremy Guthrie was apologizing to his former club.

The former Orioles pitcher issued an apology for wearing a post-game shirt stating, “These O’s Ain’t Royal,” adding that he made no connection with the play on words from the song “Loyal” by Chris Brown. Countless fans and members of the organization took exception to what was perceived as a sign of disrespect for a club that helped Guthrie revitalize his career when he arrived in Baltimore in 2007.

“Unfortunately for me, I used a lack of judgment in putting that shirt on after the game,” Guthrie said Wednesday afternoon. “Never changed, came in here, and wore it. What ensued was not what I intended. There was no intention to call the attention to the other team, friends, and former teammates, certainly not the organization and most definitely not their fans.”

Guthrie allowed one earned run and three hits over five innings in Game 3 as the Royals won 2-1 to take a 3-0 lead in the American League Championship Series. Guthrie said a few former teammates in the Orioles clubhouse reached out to him following the game to express they thought the shirt “was pretty low, a low blow, or inappropriate.”

In five seasons in Baltimore, Guthrie went 47-65 with a 4.12 ERA. He was traded to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for pitchers Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom before the start of spring training in 2012. However, Guthrie had remained a fan favorite in Baltimore over the last couple years prior to Tuesday night.

“Anyone and everyone that was offended, you’ll never see the shirt again,” Guthrie said. “The shirt was sent to me, and it will be sent to the garbage, because that’s probably where it belongs at this point. And I am willing to accept that. And any reaction that’s come my way, I understand it. I’ve accepted it. And I’ll move on.”

Perhaps the most damning fallout from Guthrie wearing the shirt was the amount of attention it received prior to the start of Game 4 as the Orioles try to become only the second team in major league history to erase an 0-3 deficit in a playoff series.

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Orioles so close, yet so far away in now facing elimination

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Orioles so close, yet so far away in now facing elimination

Posted on 15 October 2014 by Luke Jones

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The stigma of a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the Orioles’ performance against the Kansas City Royals in this year’s American League Championship Series.

The fact that Kansas City has scored in its final at-bat to win two games and prevailed by just one run in Game 3 supports the notion that the Orioles haven’t played poorly. In fact, their play has almost matched the Royals in a variety of ways as the clubs have played a competitive and highly-entertaining series to this point.

But none of that really matters now. There are no moral victories or bonus points for a narrow margin of defeat. And unlike a sport like boxing where a fighter has the chance of a late knockout after repeatedly being edged 10-9 in the early rounds, baseball affords no such structure.

If erasing an 0-2 deficit was a steep task, coming back from an 0-3 hole is conquering Everest, because there’s no way to do it other than to grind out four straight wins against the club that’s grinding better than anyone right now. Yes, the 2004 Boston Red Sox created a glimmer of hope for all teams in this scenario in becoming the first team to come back from an 0-3 deficit, but of the nine teams to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven LCS era, all but three completed a four-game sweep.

The Royals have been just a little bit better in each of the three games. And the Orioles have to feel so close, yet so far away from this series being very different.

“We’ve played three really good games, just fell short in each game,” center fielder Adam Jones said. “Now, we have a good idea of what the uphill battle is now. Just got to win.”

In the days leading up to the series, so much time was spent discussing the different offensive styles, but it was also pointed out how similar the Orioles and Royals were in every other phase of the game. And it’s been in some of those areas where the difference in this series have come.

As terrific as the Baltimore bullpen has been, the Royals have been better with Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and closer Greg Holland allowing only one earned run in 11 combined innings. Meanwhile, two of the Orioles’ big three — Darren O’Day and Zach Britton — didn’t get the job done in their opportunities in Games 1 and 2.

Defensively, both clubs were considered among the best in the majors, but it’s been the Royals who’ve made the spectacular plays. Call it luck in saying the Royals have had more opportunities to make those defensive gems, but they have certainly seized those moments when presented.

And the Royals’ offensive style — the ability to foul off tough pitches and the presence of speed on the bases — has put the pressure on Baltimore pitching while scratching across just enough runs to leave them one win shy of their first World Series appearance in 29 years. On Tuesday, it was an run-scoring grounder and a sacrifice fly that plated the Kansas City runs. In contrast, several deep drives from Orioles bats early in the game didn’t carry out of the ballpark on a windy night before the lineup slipped into a coma as Kansas City pitching retired the final 16 batters of the game.

The Royals have just had a little bit more in the tank than the Orioles, who haven’t played bad baseball but haven’t done enough to win, either.

“They’re a good team, they’re a scrappy team,” first baseman Steve Pearce said. “They don’t strike out, they manage to put the ball in play, and [they] get hits. That’s just the way the series has gone so far.”

The Orioles and their fans had held out hope that some of the breaks the Royals had received in terms of broken-bat hits, swinging bunts, and stellar defensive plays would eventually swing in their favor, but it now appears too late for that to make a difference. Players said the right things about focusing solely on winning Game 4, but there appears to be no slowing the momentum train that is the Kansas City Royals, who are the third team in major league history to win the first seven games of a postseason.

If the clubs had played two weeks ago or two weeks from now, the story could be much different as the Orioles were the superior team in the regular season. But that’s both the beauty and the cruelty of October as it isn’t about being the best team, but it’s about being the best team right now.

To expect the Orioles to just roll over in Game 4 would be to overlook everything they’ve accomplished over the last three years, but the resiliency they’ve shown over the last three years just doesn’t look like it’s going to be enough to stop the Royals. Whatever magic that fans have long proclaimed the Orioles to have just doesn’t appear to be as potent as what’s going on in Kansas City right now.

“If we can get one [win] under our belt and get a few things to work our way, we feel like we can get it spinning the other way,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Otherwise, we shouldn’t show up tomorrow. I know what our guys in our locker room feel like. They know they’re up against some good competition. But [there’s] always one more opportunity, which is tomorrow.”

And tomorrow could also bring the end of the Orioles’ season, even if it doesn’t feel like it should be over yet.

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Cruz on Royals: “They’re coming back” to Camden Yards

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Cruz on Royals: “They’re coming back” to Camden Yards

Posted on 13 October 2014 by Luke Jones

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After two days of hearing questions about the inflammatory comments made by Kansas City Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson, Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz finally bit just a little after downplaying any significance of the bulletin board material.

Dyson said after Game 2 of the American League Championship Series that he didn’t expect to return to Oriole Park at Camden Yards later in the series and that Orioles players didn’t believe they would, either. A day later during the teams’ workout at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, the reserve outfielder — who’s 0-for-2 attempting to steal bases over the first two games of the series — questioned how much fight the Orioles might have left.

Cruz was asked Monday whether he expected the series to return to Baltimore later this week, and the 34-year-old took the opportunity to finally take a veiled shot at Dyson.

“Oh yeah, ” said Cruz as he cracked a smile. “They’re coming back, too.”

To this point, the designated hitter has allowed his bat to do the talking in the playoffs as he’s hit .476 with two home runs and seven runs batted in over 22 plate appearances this October.

In 39 career postseason games, Cruz has hit an incredible 16 home runs and batted .306 with a 1.059 on-base plus slugging percentage. The veteran said the Orioles aren’t concerned with how anyone outside their clubhouse feels about their chances with a 2-0 deficit in the best-of-seven series, and they’re eager to prove it upon getting back on the field after Monday’s Game 3 postponement.

“There’s going to be talk. You can’t help it,” Cruz said. “There’s going to be talk, but you stay in the present and focus on whatever you need to focus on and whatever you can control.”

Most players have taken the high road in responding to Dyson’s confidence, but manager Buck Showalter and a couple others have taken a different approach in agreeing that the Royals have a right to feel good about themselves after winning two games at Camden Yards.

But that doesn’t mean the Orioles haven’t made a mental note as the series is now scheduled to resume on Tuesday night. And you do wonder why a player who’s had such a small role in his club’s success in Game 1 and 2 would find the need to act as the Royals’ spokesman.

“He’s trying to get his team jacked up. It is what it is,” closer Zach Britton said. “They should be confident. They played some good games, but we’re not going to let what he says dictate the way we go out and play, and we understand that.”

Gausman embracing relief role with eye on future

With Monday’s rainout, the Orioles hope to potentially find themselves planning for who might start a deciding Game 7 with the teams now set to potentially play five straight days.

That responsibility could ultimately fall on normal No. 5 starter Kevin Gausman, who’s worked exclusively out of the bullpen to this point in October. In two appearances spanning 5 1/3 innings — one outing each against Detroit and Kansas City — Gausman has allowed only one earned run and four hits while striking out six and walking two.

“I hope that we’re back here next year and the near future, and hopefully, I’m starting one of these games,” Gausman said. “That’s what I would like, obviously, in the future. But anytime you have success in the postseason, it definitely helps not only yourself but your confidence level and it says a lot about your career.”

Gausman has proven to be a valuable piece out of the bullpen after he got his feet wet in that capacity as a rookie last year. In his 15 relief appearances a year ago, the 2012 first-round pick pitched to a 3.52 ERA and struck out 11.3 batters per nine innings.

Showalter hasn’t shied away from using Gausman as more than just a long man out of the bullpen as he was trusted to keep the Orioles close in Game 2 of the AL Division Series, allowing his offense to eventually stage the comeback win. The 23-year-old was then used in Game 1 of the ALCS to keep the Orioles within one run as they tied the score while he was still in the game.

“It’s not so weird for me,” said Gausman about once again having a relief role after starting all season. “I feel like if we put any other starter down in the bullpen, it might take him a little while to get used to it. When I was told I was going out there, I wasn’t mad or upset. I just kind of took it as a challenge, and I think it’s really fun coming out of the bullpen. That’s when you have your best stuff, and you get to kind of showcase [it].”

Duquette wheeling and meal-ing

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette expressed confidence Monday that his club would be ready to play whenever the weather would allow the series to resume.

But he may have offered the line of the day when a reporter asked if he planned on signing anyone else to a contract extension to provide some material for media on a slow news day after Monday’s postponement.

“I’m going to sign the room service [bill] at the hotel,” he said.

Duquette signed shortstop J.J. Hardy to a three-year, $40 million extension with a vested option last Thursday.

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Game 3 of ALCS postponed due to heavy rain in Kansas City

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Game 3 of ALCS postponed due to heavy rain in Kansas City

Posted on 13 October 2014 by Luke Jones

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Trying to climb out of a 2-0 hole in the American League Championship Series, the Orioles will need to wait another day to narrow the gap with the Kansas City Royals after Game 3 at Kauffman Stadium was postponed Monday.

With heavy rain and high winds pelting Kansas City since Monday morning, Major League Baseball made its announcement 3 1/3 hours before the scheduled start time of 8:07 p.m. Game 3 will now be played at the same time on Tuesday night while Games 4 and 5 are scheduled to begin at 4:07 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday.

Managers Buck Showalter and Ned Yost confirmed that left-hander Wei-Yin Chen and right-hander Jeremy Guthrie would still make the start for their respective clubs in Game 3, but Game 4 now becomes more of a mystery. Game 1 starters Chris Tillman and James Shields would both be pitching on regular rest on Wednesday, and neither skipper ruled out his series-opening pitcher as a possibility.

Miguel Gonzalez and Jason Vargas were scheduled to square off in Game 4 before Monday’s postponement. Tillman completed a bullpen session on Monday and told reporters he would be prepared to start the fourth game of the series if called upon.

“Chen will pitch [Tuesday], and after that we’ll probably have a better idea,” Showalter said. “The weather report’s good [Tuesday], right? That’s about all I can tell you today until [pitching coach Dave Wallace] and I sit down and look at it a little bit.”

While the Orioles will need to do some significant work in Kansas City, the clubs now face the possibility of playing the final five games of the series over five straight days, which could make for some interesting decisions as to who would start games late in the series. The consensus among most players in the clubhouse following the announcement of the postponement was that a second day off in a row on Monday helped from a physical standpoint, but they downplayed any other psychological impact — positive or negative — for either side.

Showalter once again showed that he’s not allowing the pressure of the ALCS to affect his sense of humor when asked if having another night off would be a disadvantage for the Royals after their blazing start to the postseason.

“No, but I appreciate you throwing it out there,” said Showalter as he chuckled. “When you get good things going this time of year, it’s about who pitches better and plays better. I don’t think so. If anything, it’s great for the restaurant business in Kansas City. That’s about it. Room service is expensive in that hotel.”

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Ravens’ blowout win over Tampa Bay more fun than educational

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Ravens’ blowout win over Tampa Bay more fun than educational

Posted on 12 October 2014 by Luke Jones

If you missed the Ravens’ 48-17 win over Tampa Bay on Sunday, don’t feel bad.

So did the Buccaneers.

Earning their largest road win since a 31-point victory in Cincinnati in 2008, the Ravens responded exactly how you’d like after a disappointing defeat at Indianapolis in Week 5. There may not be such a thing as a statement game against what looked like the worst team in the NFL, but it was encouraging seeing Baltimore win so impressively on the road after struggling so often away from M&T Bank Stadium over the last couple seasons.

The Ravens’ 48 points were the second-highest single-game total in franchise history as they moved the ball with no resistance from the league’s 30th-ranked defense, particularly in the first half. It doesn’t get much better than that.

“It’s not going to always be like that, obviously, but you chase perfection,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s nice to see a reward like this for the guys.”

Beyond that, there probably isn’t anything earth-shattering to glean from Sunday’s win as the Buccaneers are now 1-5 after entering Week 6 with the second-worst point differential in the NFL. The 4-2 Ravens just reinforced the idea that they’re a good team that dominated a really bad one in sparsely-filled Raymond James Stadium.

Quarterback Joe Flacco tied Tony Banks’ single-game franchise record with five touchdown passes and did it in just over 16 minutes, the quickest to accomplish the feat in one contest since the NFL-AFL merger. But we already knew Flacco can be brilliant when his offensive line protects the pocket — even with rookies James Hurst and John Urschel blocking on the blindside — and he has sufficient weapons to throw to.

The seventh-year signal-caller continues to have one of the best seasons of his career after completing 21 of 29 passes for 306 yards and a 146.0 passer rating, which was also a personal best to go with the five touchdowns he threw. Through six games, Flacco has thrown 12 touchdowns to just three interceptions and has appeared a natural fit for Gary Kubiak’s system.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from Sunday’s performance was struggling wide receiver Torrey Smith catching two touchdown passes in the first six minutes of the game as he twice beat the Buccaneers secondary on inside routes. The fourth-year wideout said earlier in the week that he remained confident despite his slow start to the season, but it was tough not to wonder how his psyche was holding up after only 11 receptions and one touchdown through the first five games of 2014.

“That’s how I expect to play every week; it just doesn’t happen,” Smith said. “It’s important to build some positive momentum for myself to get going for our team. The better I play, the better situations our team will be put in. I understand that I have a major role on this team, which I love and embrace. It’s important for me to play at a high level all the time.”

The early lead allowed the Baltimore defense to pin its ears back as the pass rush swarmed overwhelmed Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon, sacking him five times and registering an incredible 15 quarterback hits. Tampa Bay managed just 101 total yards and no points in the first half as the game was over by the end of the first quarter.

Dean Pees’ unit didn’t maintain the same intensity level in the second half as the pressure waned and the secondary allowed Glennon to finish the game with 314 yards, but the Ravens didn’t need to take as many chances with such a comfortable lead.

Sunday’s win may not prove that the Ravens are a championship-caliber team just yet, but it was a fun afternoon in which Harbaugh’s team executed a game plan to perfection in the first quarter in another team’s stadium. Nothing really mattered after that, even as they continued to play well against a defeated team.

“It was nice to bounce back after a tough week,” said Flacco about his record day. “All that stuff really doesn’t matter. Really, anything we did after the first three touchdowns didn’t really mean too much at the end of the day. It was all just stats. That stuff feels good and looks good and it’s great and all that, but it really doesn’t mean anything. It’s all about winning the football game. That’s what we came here to do, and that’s what we did.”

And they had a blast doing it in convincing fashion.

 

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