Tag Archive | "Baseball"

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Former Orioles catcher E. Williams dead at 64

Posted on 31 January 2013 by WNST Staff

Former Orioles catcher Earl Williams died Monday night at the age of 64 after being diagnosed with acute leukemia last summer.

Known as a poor defensive player, Williams was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1971 as he hit 33 home runs and drove in 87 runs in his first full season. He followed that up with 28 homers a year later, prompting Baltimore manager Earl Weaver to covet the offensive catcher that offseason.

Prior to the 1973 season, Williams was traded with Taylor Duncan to the Orioles for second baseman Davey Johnson, pitchers Pat Dobson and Roric Harrison, and catcher Johnny Oates.

Williams was a flop in Baltimore, hitting .245 with 36 home runs in two seasons. Meanwhile, Johnson went on to have a career year in 1973 with 43 home runs and 99 runs batted in.

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Three Orioles named finalists for Gold Glove awards

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Three Orioles named finalists for Gold Glove awards

Posted on 29 October 2012 by Luke Jones

Major League Baseball will announce the Rawlings Gold Glove winners on Tuesday night with the Orioles having three finalists this season.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy, center fielder Adam Jones, and catcher Matt Wieters have been named finalists for the 2012 awards at their respective positions. Wieters — along with right fielder Nick Markakis — won his first Gold Glove last season and Jones nabbed his only fielding honor in 2009.

Hardy is competing with Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus and Seattle’s Brendan Ryan at the position. The 30-year-old committed only six errors and posted a career-best .992 fielding percentage in 2012 as he was regarded as one of the finest defensive shortstops in the league.

Jones is up against Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson and the Angels’ Mike Trout. The 27-year-old outfielder committed eight errors and had a .982 fielding percentage in 2012.

Despite committing a career-high 10 errors and five passed balls in his third full season in the big leagues, Wieters is up for his second consecutive Gold Glove. He is competing with Detroit’s Alex Avila, Yankees catcher Russell Martin, and Chicago’s A.J. Pierzynski.

The awards will be announced at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday night on ESPN2.

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Wolf to undergo Tommy John surgery, miss 2013 season

Posted on 24 October 2012 by WNST Staff

Veteran pitcher Randy Wolf will undergo Tommy John surgery for the second time and miss the 2013 season.

The left-hander appeared in five games and made two starts for the Orioles after being signed on Aug. 31, going 2-0 with a 5.28 ERA. Wolf, 36, plans to pitch in the 2014 season, but it’s unlikely to come in Baltimore as he was set to become a free agent this offseason.

The 14-year-veteran was released by the Milwaukee Brewers on Aug. 22 and was eligible for the Orioles’ postseason roster before tearing a ligament in his left elbow. His final appearance was a start in Boston on Sept. 22 before the injury was diagnosed a few days later.

Wolf is 132-117 with a 4.20 ERA in 376 career appearances in the big leagues.

 

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Reynolds’ hand good to go and other notes for ALDS opener

Posted on 06 October 2012 by Luke Jones

When Mark Reynolds was plunked on the left hand by Rangers starter Yu Darvish in the second inning of Friday night’s game in Arlington, the Orioles feared the worst for their first baseman.

The club saw Nick Markakis break his thumb after being hit by a similar pitch nearly a month ago, but the news was better for Reynolds, who stayed in the game to finish an 0-for-3 night at the plate. He is expected to be in the lineup against the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the American League Division Series.

“This guy is a very tough, durable man, but that one had a little different look in his face,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I initially thought it might be broken. I haven’t heard anything yet, but I’d be surprised if he’s not a player [Sunday] night.”

Showalter officially named right-hander Jason Hammel as his Game 1 starter, but he wouldn’t go as far as naming the rest of his rotation. Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez will likely be the next two in line to pitch in the five-game series, but an uncertain weather forecast could alter plans.

Sunday is expected to be a very rainy day, which could put the series opener in danger of postponement. This would mean the Orioles and Yankees would play the entire series in five days without a day built in for travel. A postponement would alter the Orioles’ plans for the 25-man roster, which must be finalized by Sunday morning at 10 a.m.

“Right now, we’re probably looking at Chen and Gonzalez in [Games] 2 and 3, but that could change, depending on the rainout,” Showalter said. “If we have a rainout, then a lot of things change because we can resubmit a different roster provided we don’t exchange lineup cards.”

Showalter would presumably go with Chris Tillman in the fourth game of the series in the Bronx, but what the Orioles decide to do after that remains to be seen. With no postponements, Hammel would be on regular rest for a potential Game 5, but left-hander Joe Saunders made a pretty convincing argument for his spot in the rotation after pitching 5 2/3 strong innings against the Rangers on Friday night.

As for the rest of the roster, Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette were to finalize plans after Saturday’s workout. The Orioles are monitoring the health of several players, including Wilson Betemit since the switch-hitter has seen his wrist improve dramatically since last playing on Sept. 13.

“There are a couple variables, like Betemit swung the bat and felt really good today,” Showalter said. “First time he took extended batting practice and he’s coming along quickly. We’re looking at a few injuries.”

The return of Betemit would give the Orioles a viable left-handed bat off the bench, regardless of whether Showalter would elect to use Thome or Betemit as the designated hitter in a given game. Betemit hit .302 against right-handed pitching this season, posting an .859 on-base plus slugging percentage. In contrast, Betemit is hitting only .140 from the right side of the plate against southpaws.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi revealed the rest of his starting rotation behind Game 1 starter CC Sabathia on Saturday. Veteran lefty Andy Pettitte will pitch Game 2 in Baltimore, Hiroki Kuroda in Game 3, and Phil Hughes in the fourth game of the series if necessary.

Sabathia would presumably return on regular rest for a potential Game 5 at Yankee Stadium, but those plans could change if Sunday’s game is rained out.

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Why tonight is special to me…

Posted on 05 October 2012 by Luke Jones

Tonight, we watch the Orioles compete in their first postseason game in 5,469 days.

In October 1997, I was a freshman in high school and sported a mouthful of braces. Earlier this week, I celebrated my 29th birthday.

Though very happy for the city of Baltimore and for all Orioles fans, I’ll think of four very special people in my life who are here in spirit but not in body tonight.

I’ll remember Grandmom’s amusing mix of optimism and fickleness with Grandpop hilariously needling her from across the room the entire time.

I’ll envision Pop sitting in his recliner, watching quietly but intently.

And I will picture Dad sitting on the couch next to me, hanging with every pitch as he screams and drops popcorn all over the floor.

They are the reason why I love baseball and why I’m in this business. And the thought of the four of them watching this one tonight brings a smile to my face.

Regardless of what happens over the next few hours in Arlington, enjoy this one for yourself and for those who loved the Orioles and are no longer with us.

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After fighting all year long, Orioles’ extra wait to clinch very fitting

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After fighting all year long, Orioles’ extra wait to clinch very fitting

Posted on 30 September 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — It was unlike any scene we’ve ever witnessed as the Orioles remained on the field after the final out of their 6-3 win over the Boston Red Sox Sunday.

An outpouring of raw emotion that better belonged in a storybook or movie script as fans applauded their efforts and hoped for a post-game celebration.

Joining most of the 41,257 spectators who remained in the ballpark in the moments following the game, players and coaches became fans themselves as they watched the top of the ninth inning of the Angels-Rangers game on the video board at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles hoped to celebrate the guarantee of a postseason berth with their home fans on their home field, but the Angels’ dramatic comeback victory against Texas closer Joe Nathan ended those thoughts as the club walked off the diamond with mild disappointment.

The standing ovation they received while walking to the dugout felt like the perfect ending for an imperfect finish to the day. Everything started so promising for the Orioles, who held up their end of the bargain by completing a three-game sweep of Boston. But as they’ve learned all season long, little comes easy as the teams they needed to lose didn’t on Sunday afternoon.

Entering the day tied for first place with the Orioles, the Yankees bounced back from an early deficit to win in Toronto. The Angels’ win in the first game of a doubleheader in Arlington kept the Orioles’ magic number at one for clinching a postseason berth as they boarded a plane to St. Petersburg for the final three-game series of the regular season.

The Orioles would finally clinch their first postseason berth since 1997 late Sunday evening as the Angels dropped the second game of the doubleheader in Arlington.

“It would have been a neat moment to share had it worked out, but you can’t really expect anybody to lose,” left fielder Nate McLouth said. “You’ve got to kind of take care of your business, but it was nice to kind of wave goodbye to the fans. It would have been neat to have clinched right there, but it was kind of a cool moment, anyway.”

There was nothing phony about the on-field viewing party as the Orioles planned to watch the conclusion of the Angels game together and thought it appropriate to watch with the fans. Players and fans hung with every pitch before Torii Hunter’s two-run double with two outs sent players toward the clubhouse and fans toward the exits for an anticlimactic finish to an incredible scene.

As special as it would have been to see the Orioles clinch at home and celebrate on the field at Camden Yards, you’re reminded of what this club is all about. Scratching and clawing their way to victories in 28 one-run games and 16 straight extra-inning games over the course of the season, there’s something fitting about the Orioles — and their long-suffering fans — having to wait just a bit longer to secure their first postseason spot in 15 years.

“It definitely was a little awkward because everything was kind of working [our] way, but we’ve had to fight for everything this year,” closer Jim Johnson said. “With the way that game finished up, this [race] is going to come down to the wire. Look at how last year finished; it was ‘March Madness’ in September. This game’s crazy. You never know what’s going to happen, and that’s the way this team’s been fighting all year.”

For manager Buck Showalter, the post-game scene was a reminder of just how far the Orioles have come since he arrived in Baltimore late in the 2010 season. He’s continually preached the need to win back fans by putting forth a product they’ll want to see over and over.

The Orioles have done that and then some — even if the crowds haven’t always reflected that — but the manager isn’t interested in taking any of the credit. Showalter wants the focus on his players, even if we all know how big a part he’s played in restoring that pride in the organization.

“I spent more time watching the players and their reactions,” Showalter said. “As I’ve gotten older, I try to really step back and take in a moment. I took a couple of scans around behind me in the stands. We want to keep that. That’s our responsibility. It’s our responsibility to play good enough baseball and conduct ourselves in a way that people want to come back and see what’s going on here with our team.”

The post-game clubhouse was what you’d expect as plastic tarps were folded up on top of lockers for a champagne celebration that wasn’t to be. To call it a letdown would be an overstatement with players aware they would clinch a postseason berth late Sunday evening if the Angels dropped the second game of the twin bill against the Rangers.

To clinch at home would have been exciting, but to clinch anywhere is what’s really important. And the Orioles were so close, they could taste it before departing for their series against the Rays..

“Who cares? If you’re in, you’re in,” said center fielder Adam Jones about not being able to clinch a spot at Camden Yards. “Nobody cares. I don’t care. You can do it home, road. We can clinch on the plane. We’re going to party somewhere.”

If Sunday was the final day of baseball at Camden Yards this season, the spontaneity of that scene between fans and players will go down as one of the most memorable moments in the history of the franchise.

And it was just the latest example of how far the Orioles have come by owning a Sunday in late September — even if the Ravens weren’t playing this weekend.

The Orioles hope they haven’t seen the last of Camden Yards this season, but the next few days will determine their fate.

“Hopefully, we can bring them something fun,” said Johnson, who’s noticed fans becoming more and more involved without being prompted by the scoreboard or public address system. “They’re into the game. They understand the situations, they stand up by themselves, they start their own chants, they’re into it. It puts more pressure on the other team, but it also gives you a little boost of adrenaline at the same time. If you can harness that, that’s a huge advantage.”

It’s an advantage the Orioles haven’t had — or needed to have — in a very long time.

And we’ll have to wait a little longer to see if they can take advantage of it in October.

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One year later, Orioles have real reason to celebrate

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One year later, Orioles have real reason to celebrate

Posted on 29 September 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — If you’re caught up in the hysteria of the Orioles’ impossible run to the postseason looking more and more like reality, you may not have noticed Friday marked the one-year anniversary of the 2011 season finale.

Of course, the final day of last season may go down as the most exciting in the history of major league baseball with division races coming down to the final inning of the year. Tampa Bay completed an improbable comeback win over the New York Yankees while the 93-loss Orioles knocked Boston out of the playoffs with a dramatic 4-3 walk-off win that ended with a Robert Andino hit to score Nolan Reimold in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The famed “Curse of the Andino” had been born as the Orioles celebrated like they had won the World Series. Yes, it was a fun moment in a make-believe sort of way and players were entitled to a night of celebration after the grind of a 162-game schedule, but the celebration was artificial — no matter how good it may have felt to eliminate the Red Sox from the postseason — knowing the Orioles had just completed their sixth straight season of 90 or more losses.

A year later, the roles are the opposite of what we’ve come to expect over the years as the Red Sox limped to town with a lame-duck manager and a gutted roster on the cusp of 90 losses. In contrast, the Orioles won their 90th game of the season in a 9-1 series-opening win over Boston and reduced their wild card magic number to three to clinch their first postseason berth since 1997.

Not one to gush over individual moments or buy into media concoctions, manager Buck Showalter was asked prior to Friday’s game whether the 2011 finale was the catalyst for the unexpected prosperity the Orioles found this season. His answer was surprising, even if it was delivered in Showalter’s unassuming way.

“I can’t say it didn’t help. It does,” Showalter said. “You create your own intensity and this is a self-starter group. I think once again, we fed off the emotions of our fans, too.”

No one should buy too much stock into the final game of the 2011 regular season being the main reason why the Orioles stand only a game behind the Yankees in the American League East entering Saturday. Just take a look at the roster and you’ll see too many different faces to believe what happened last Sept. 28 was a franchise-altering moment.

But it might have offered just enough of a taste of motivation to the holdovers from 2011 to push through the tough times while also remembering how difficult it was for the Red Sox to complete their postseason mission despite being in excellent position only weeks before the 2011 finale.

With a plethora of unlikely heroes contributing on any given night, the Orioles turned to second baseman Ryan Flaherty and starting pitcher Chris Tillman on Friday night to begin the most crucial series of the season — to this point, anyway — against Boston. Flaherty’s grand slam in the first put the game out of reach as the Rule 5 selection collected a career-high five runs batted in after languishing on the bench for most of the season.

A year ago when the Orioles were knocking the Red Sox out of the playoffs, Flaherty was stuck in the Cubs’ minor league system, uncertain where his future might take him. Now he finds himself in a platoon with Andino, receiving regular starts against right-handed pitching.

“It seems like every night it’s someone new, whether it’s a pitcher, hitter, a play in the field, something,” Flaherty said. “Just keep on riding it and, tomorrow, nine more innings.”

Not even invited to join the club last September despite being on the 40-man roster, Tillman began the 2012 season in Triple-A Norfolk as a virtual afterthought behind the other tabbed members of the cavalry in Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, and Zach Britton. Just over five months later, he’s the only one of the four in the starting rotation as Tillman looks to be a virtual lock for the potential postseason rotation.

He took Friday’s crucial start in stride as he didn’t allow a hit after Scott Podsednik led off the game with a bunt single and retired the final 14 batters he faced in eight stellar innings of work to improve his record to 9-2.

“There is not one game bigger than the other,” Tillman said. “I always try to go out there, go deep in the game and give my team the best chance to win. We are getting to the nitty-gritty here, but we have to focus on tomorrow’s game and not look ahead.”

Showalter’s best accomplishment among many this season has been his ability to balance out his players’ emotions on a daily basis. They’re never too high when they win or too low in defeat. And they’re never caught up in how big a certain game might be, an attitude that will serve them well over the season’s final week and into October.

These days, the Orioles clubhouse is anything but celebratory after wins as an outsider wouldn’t have a clue in figuring out whether the team had won or loss that night.

It’s a stark contrast from the on-field dog pile of a year ago over something that just wasn’t all that meaningful in the long run.

Or, so we thought.

No matter how you view the “Curse of the Andino” and what it meant to this club heading into the 2012 season, the Orioles have a real reason to celebrate this time around.

It’s no longer about playing the role of a spoiler or basking in the glow of a make-believe celebration because there’s nothing better to look forward to. The Orioles are for real and their slaughtering of the down-and-out Red Sox on Friday night was just the latest example in proving that.

Instead of deferring to the heavyweight and hoping to get lucky, they’ve become the team delivering the knockout blow.

Boy, how can things change in only a year.

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Orioles pitcher Hammel to throw off mound Saturday

Posted on 10 August 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Orioles starting pitcher Jason Hammel will throw off the front of a mound Saturday as he takes the next step in his recovery from right knee surgery.

Hammel will be in Baltimore for the throwing session and if the knee responds well the following day, the Orioles have a schedule in place for the right-hander to start bullpen sessions and then go on a minor league rehab assignment. The 29-year-old underwent surgery to have a piece of loose cartilage removed from his knee the week after the All-Star break.

“He’s had a ball in his hand for awhile now,” manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s not that long where it’s like a spring training thing with the arm strength. It’s not so much, for me, Saturday as it is how he feels Sunday. If he doesn’t have any issues there, then we can proceed with a plan to have a little more definitive date about when he’ll be able to pitch for us.”

Showalter’s estimated timetable all along has been early September for Hammel’s return to the Baltimore rotation, but the Orioles manager could see that being a bit earlier if the pitcher gets through Saturday’s session without any setbacks. A minor league rehab assignment would not need to be a long one, according to Showalter.

“It’s not like he’s going to have to go out and throw one or two innings the first time out and two or three the next time out,” Showalter said. “Once he gets healthy, it can move pretty quickly.”

Hammel last pitched for the Orioles on July 13 and has an 8-6 record with a 3.54 earned run average in 18 starts this season. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list on July 15.

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Baltimore Orioles Reach Key Seasonal Junction in Series Finale With Twins

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Baltimore Orioles Reach Key Seasonal Junction in Series Finale With Twins

Posted on 19 July 2012 by andrewtomlinson

It may not be a must win game for the Baltimore Orioles today in their series finale with the Minnesota Twins, but it is as close to one as you can get.

There is no such think as a “must win game” unless a loss would eliminate the team from the playoffs, or playoff contention. Instead, there are several key games throughout the length of the season and today’s game is one of them. A win gives the O’s a split with the Twins and a bit of a mental boost heading into a tricky four game series against the Cleveland Indians.

However, a loss this afternoon and the O’s will have won exactly one of their last six series, a road win over the Seattle Mariners during the July 4th week. They are currently sitting a half-game out of the race for the second Wild Card behind the Detroit Tigers and are a whopping 10-games back of the New York Yankees in the no longer close American League East. More important than all of that though could be the fact they only hold a half-game lead over the Boston Red Sox for second place in the East.

Looking at all those factors, it is probably clear to you that winning against Minnesota today isn’t just important, it is almost an imperative. All year one of the biggest questions in baseball has been about whether the Orioles are for real or not and just weeks ago there was heavy discussion about whether Baltimore should be buyers at the trade deadline. Now, because of the losing, everything is in flux. The O’s look a little like frauds wh0 can’t hit, can’t pitch and can’t string wins together and again look like a potential seller at the deadline.

A win against the Twins to split could change it all. Winning today is an important step to righting the ship and getting the team at least somewhat back on course. Perhaps they aren’t the runaway AL East Champs people believed they were in May or early June, but there is no reason this team cannot be at least competitive, if not a Wild Card team. In order to achieve those goals though, they have got to win on Thursday, otherwise every loss after it will not only move them closer to a below .500 record, but to a position where there is again a season of no-hope.

Baltimore may be a perfectly flawed team, which many think is an oxymoron, but they may have the right types of flaws to allow them to overcome their biggest obstacles. They don’t have a top lineup, but pretty everyone can hit for power, have a flawed pitching staff, but a bullpen that has been solid most of the year and all together a team suited to hang with the big boys, but not necessarily beat them.

Keep in mind, heading into the season the goal was never to beat the big boys, but rather carve a path back to baseball relevance. So far, they have begun to do that, but the team has reached a fork in the road with one path leading them towards eventually success and the other leading back to where they started before Spring Training. If they want to press on down the path they have been on, to a return to relevance, they have to show the fans and the rest world that despite a series opening loss to start the second half, they are not going to go quietly by dropping the first two.

Obviously there is a lot of baseball left, so there is no way to call Thursday’s game a must win. Looking at it though, you can see it is one the Orioles might have to win in order to keep their heads above water. If they can’t win, especially with one of their best pitchers in Wei-Yin Chen on the mound, it could mark the point in the year when the team enters full slide mode.

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Baltimore Orioles Need to Get Back on Winning Track to Have Successful Second-Half

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Baltimore Orioles Need to Get Back on Winning Track to Have Successful Second-Half

Posted on 14 July 2012 by andrewtomlinson

With the Baltimore Orioles in contention halfway through the season for the first time in what seems like forever, the key to making sure they do not fade is a strong second-half start.

The Detroit Tigers are in town this weekend, the first series of the second-half, and are on fire. Detroit has, with the win friday, won six in a row, are coming off of a sweep of the Kansas City Royals and have their three best pitchers starting in the series. Taking them down and containing a top-10 offensive team in every major category will not be easy. Perhaps the reason winning this weekend is important isn’t just because they are playing a team not that far out of the Wild Card race, but because Baltimore needs to avoid their own self-fulfilling prophecy.

It is no secret what everyone is waiting for, the slide. For the last few season the O’s have started strong and then faded as the season has gone along. Despite that, every year when they start hot, fans seem to think they are on their way back to prominence. This year though, the fans seem to have stayed pessimistic, thinking the team is still destined for failure.

On a Friday, with the Orioles in playoff position, one would expect Oriole Park at Camden Yards to be filled to capacity. Yet, the park was maybe half full and even that could be a generous assumption. It is almost as if the fanbase is just waiting for the slide and with the team in the midst of a three-game slump where they have lost four of five, many probably are wondering if the slide is here.

A win in this series though, would give the team confidence and the fan base a little bit more life. Perhaps that is what the team needs more than anything, confidence. To know the slide isn’t coming and they can win games. Knowing they can compete can be a huge part of being a successful team and maybe it is the thing the O’s need to finish above .500 for the first time since 2001.

Is this a perfect team? Aboslutely not, but it is a competitive team, something O’s fans haven’t had in a while. Despite the team not winning on Friday, they still have the pieces to have a productive winning season, which should be the goal. To many, it may sound like a defeatist attitude, not gunning for a playoff spot. Rome was not built in the day though, and is it going to be that bad for O’s fans if the team finishes with a winning record but not a playoff birth? Probably not, in fact it would be their best season in a decade.

Right  now, it is all about stringing together wins and believing the team is good enough to compete in the league, something it hasn’t been for a while. There are so many questions and speculations flying around about whether the Orioles need to make a move at the deadline to put them over the top, but with an organization building itself back to promenance, that cannot be move made when the goal should be to simply keep winning.

Yes, they need starting pitchers and yes they need consistent batters, but more than anything the Baltimore Orioles need to remember how to win. If they can do that, they will continue to win as an organization.

Even though a winning season, but not a great season, this year is not what fans want, it is definitely a step in the right direction. Once the O’s get back on the winning track, if they can string some strong games together, they will finish above .500 but just miss a shot at postseason glory. Coming up just short though, should set them up to succeed next year.

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