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Orioles halt Trumbo’s rehab assignment, option Harvey back to Bowie

Posted on 11 April 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles have hit the pause button on Mark Trumbo’s rehab assignment just a day after it began at Double-A Bowie.

The right-handed slugger went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts serving as the Baysox designated hitter on Tuesday, but he didn’t feel fully confident with the quadriceps he strained last month, prompting the training staff to shut him down for the time being. Trumbo returned to Camden Yards on Wednesday and will travel with the major league club to Boston this weekend, but it remains unclear when he’ll resume his rehab assignment and be activated from the 10-day disabled list.

 

“He just felt like last night, he just didn’t feel like pushing it,” said manager Buck Showalter, who didn’t want to classify the shutdown as a setback. “He thought he still wasn’t comfortable with that. I’m proud that he felt comfortable telling us that because you don’t want that setback that pushes it way back.”

The Baltimore lineup has struggled mightily to open the season, but Pedro Alvarez has been very effective as the designated hitter, the job primarily occupied by Trumbo last season.

The Orioles recalled infielder Engelb Vielma from Triple-A Norfolk and optioned right-handed pitcher Hunter Harvey back to Bowie. The move once again gives Showalter a full bench after the Orioles had carried an extra pitcher in the bullpen over the last few days, a result of some short starts and two extra-inning affairs at Yankee Stadium last weekend.

Harvey, the organization’s top pitching prospect, was called up to the majors on Monday, but he did not appear in a game. He will now make his Double-A debut for the Baysox at Harrisburg on Saturday and is expected to pitch two or three innings.

According to Showalter, the results of the magnetic resonance imaging exam on outfielder Colby Rasmus’ left hip were favorable with no surprises, but it remains unclear when he’ll return from the DL.

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Orioles designate struggling Rule 5 pitcher Cortes for assignment

Posted on 10 April 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles’ peculiar attempt to carry three Rule 5 picks on their 25-man roster didn’t make it through the second week of the season.

After giving up his second grand slam in only his fourth appearance in Monday’s 7-1 loss to Toronto, left-handed pitcher Nestor Cortes has been designated for assignment. The Orioles recalled right-hander Yefry Ramirez from Triple-A Norfolk to take his roster spot, giving them another fresh arm for a bullpen still trying to recover from a taxing four-game series against the New York Yankees.

Cortes will now be exposed to waivers and would be returned to the Yankees, his original organization, if unclaimed by the other 28 teams. Should he clear waivers, the Orioles could attempt to work out a trade with New York to keep the 23-year-old in the organization.

His ability to change speeds and arm angles received favorable reviews early in spring training, but that didn’t translate to the regular season as Cortes allowed four earned runs, 10 hits, and four walks in 4 2/3 innings. With a fastball averaging only 88 miles per hour, Cortes did not appear to have much upside as the Orioles had hoped to carry him in the bullpen as their long man similar to how they used former Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland in 2013.

“We knew it was going to be a challenge,” manager Buck Showalter said. “If we could have gotten a little deeper in our games with our starting pitching, I think I could have protected him more. We were forced into some things. I still think he’s got a chance to be a good pitcher, and we’ll see where it takes us.

“Regardless of what division you’re playing in, it’s the big leagues. Like I said, they’re going to have to pitch.”

Unlike Cortes, Rule 5 right-hander Pedro Araujo has shown impressive flashes over his five appearances, striking out 11 batters in 7 2/3 innings. His underwhelming 5.87 ERA is a product of a poor April 3 outing against Houston in which he was charged with four earned runs while retiring only two batters. On Sunday, the 24-year-old pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings while striking out five in the 8-7 comeback win over the Yankees in 12 innings.

Araujo entered the season having pitched only two innings above the Single-A level, but he’s shown a low-to-mid-90s fastball to go along with an impressive slider and a good changeup.

Outfielder Colby Rasmus underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam on his left hip on Tuesday. Placed on the 10-day disabled list over the weekend, Rasmus was projected to be sidelined five to eight days, but the Orioles want to make sure there isn’t anything more serious going on with the same hip on which he had surgery in 2016.

Mark Trumbo began his rehab assignment with Double-A Bowie on Tuesday, serving as the Baysox designated hitter and batting third. Out with a quadriceps strain since mid-March, Trumbo could be activated as soon as this weekend’s Boston series if deemed ready to go.

Starting pitcher Alex Cobb remains on track to debut at Fenway Park on Saturday and will complete his workday with Bowie on Wednesday.

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Orioles call up top pitching prospect Harvey, set Cobb’s season debut

Posted on 09 April 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — On the same day the Orioles announced when Alex Cobb would make his much-awaited 2018 debut, they surprisingly promoted their top pitching prospect to lend a hand to a tired bullpen.

Originally scheduled to make his three-inning debut for Double-A Bowie on Monday, right-hander Hunter Harvey was summoned to Baltimore as manager Buck Showalter was dealing with the fallout of a four-game set against the New York Yankees that included two extra-inning affairs. The 23-year-old will be available to pitch in relief after Showalter said as many as five relievers wouldn’t be available in Monday’s series opener with Toronto. Six relievers combined to throw 186 pitches over 11 1/3 innings in Sunday’s 8-7 win over the Yankees.

To make room for Harvey on the 25-man roster, left-handed pitcher Tanner Scott was optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk after pitching 1 2/3 innings on Sunday. Showalter admitted he’d prefer not using Harvey, but the Orioles needed more coverage behind starter Dylan Bundy with Rule 5 lefty Nestor Cortes and right-hander Mychal Givens being the only relievers not to pitch Sunday.

Baltimore’s bullpen covered an incredible 26 innings over the four games at Yankee Stadium before calling on Harvey, who allowed three earned runs and nine hits over seven innings of Grapefruit League action and spent most of the spring in major league camp. The 2013 first-round pick is less than two years removed from Tommy John surgery, but he posted a 0.96 ERA in 18 2/3 minor-league innings late last season.

“Physically, he’s fine. If not him, then who?” said Showalter, citing his preference to have a fresh right-handed pitcher against Toronto’s right-heavy lineup. “We had some options, but if you bring up a non-roster [pitcher] who’s out of options, you’re going to lose him going back [to the minors]. There’s a lot of variables there, but we think Hunter can serve a need here and potentially help him and the organization.”

Harvey hasn’t pitched above Single-A Delmarva in the minors, but other right-handers on the 40-man roster such as David Hess and Yefry Ramirez started minor-league games over the weekend, leaving them unavailable for Monday. The son of former major league closer Bryan Harvey was apparently the last fresh man standing.

While the length of Harvey’s stay in the big leagues likely won’t be long, Cobb is set to make his Orioles debut against Boston at Fenway Park on Saturday. In his extended spring start in Sarasota on Monday, Cobb allowed one earned run and six hits while striking out eight and walking one over six innings. He threw 93 pitches, making it clear that he’s just about ready to go from a pitch count standpoint.

The organization’s top free-agent acquisition in the offseason, Cobb will complete a bullpen session with Bowie on Wednesday before joining the Orioles on the road trip.

Outfielder and designated hitter Mark Trumbo is scheduled to begin his minor-league rehab assignment with Bowie on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Orioles will determine the next step for him after those games as the slugger could receive more minor-league at-bats or be activated from the disabled list in time for the Red Sox series.

Trumbo has been sidelined with a quadriceps strain since mid-March.

“He feels good. He’s going from 80-something degrees [in Sarasota] to 40 degrees [coming north],” Showalter said. “I’m going to let him make the call. It could be all the way through the weekend for that matter. I don’t know. When he feels like he’s ready, we’ll bring him.”

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2018 American League East preview

Posted on 29 March 2018 by Luke Jones

Below is a capsule of the five AL East clubs in their predicted order of finish:

1. BOSTON (2017 record: 93-69, first place)
Notable arrivals: DH/OF J.D. Martinez
Notable departures: SP Doug Fister, RP Addison Reed, OF Chris Young, RP Fernando Abad
Why to like them: Most teams dream of having a Chris Sale or David Price atop their rotation, but the Red Sox have both as well as former Cy Young winner Rick Porcello and all-world closer Craig Kimbrel.
Why to dislike them:
Health is a concern with Dustin Pedroia beginning the season on the disabled list, Price needing to prove he’s over his elbow problems, and other pitchers currently ailing.
Player to watch:
Martinez was paid handsomely for his career year at the plate in 2017, but the Red Sox are counting on him to fill the void of David Ortiz, whom the lineup missed dearly last year.
2018 outlook (94-68):
The other AL East giant owned the winter spotlight, but Martinez’s power bat and a healthier version of Price will be the difference in what should be an outstanding divisional race.

2. NEW YORK (2017 record: 91-71, second place)
Notable arrivals:
OF Giancarlo Stanton, INF Neil Walker, INF Brandon Drury
Notable departures: 2B Starlin Castro, 3B Todd Frazier, DH Matt Holliday, SP Michael Pineda
Why to like them: A team that was one win away from going to the World Series added the reigning NL MVP (Stanton) and his 59 home runs to a lineup that led the majors in long balls in 2017.
Why to dislike them: Despite their daunting lineup and elite bullpen, the Yankees didn’t improve a rotation counting on Masahiro Tanaka to rebound and CC Sabathia to fight off Father Time again.
Player to watch: It’s easy to point to Stanton or Aaron Judge, but the 24-year-old Luis Severino building off his superb 2017 season would make the rest of the rotation look that much better.
2018 outlook (90-72, wild card): The youthful Yankees were ahead of schedule last year, but Joe Girardi’s exit can’t be overlooked and even Houston stubbed its toe in 2016 before winning it all in 2017.

3. BALTIMORE (2017 record: 75-87, fifth place)
Notable arrivals: SP Alex Cobb, SP Andrew Cashner, OF Colby Rasmus
Notable departures: C Welington Castillo, OF Seth Smith, SP Wade Miley, SP Ubaldo Jimenez
Why to like them: The lineup will still hit plenty of home runs and the bullpen still has enough firepower to protect late leads until Zach Britton is ready to return to action.
Why to dislike them: The additions of Cobb and Cashner will help, but the embarrassment of finishing with the worst starter ERA in baseball just isn’t forgotten — or fixed — overnight.
Player to watch: How Manny Machado handles the pressure of his pending free agency and the move to shortstop will significantly impact the Orioles’ fortunes — now or potentially for the future in a trade.
2018 outlook (82-80): The late arrival of Cobb offers a more plausible path to a wild-card spot, but a few too many variables must break right for a club facing substantial changes at season’s end.

4. TORONTO (2017 record: 76-86, fourth place)
Notable arrivals: OF Randal Grichuk, OF Curtis Granderson, SP Jaime Garcia, SS Aledmys Díaz
Notable departures: OF Jose Bautista, INF Ryan Goins, INF Darwin Barney, RP Tom Koehler
Why to like them: The Blue Jays aren’t that far removed from back-to-back ALCS appearances and still have a strong rotation that finished first in the AL in starter ERA in 2016.
Why to dislike them: The days of Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion anchoring a loaded lineup are long gone as former AL MVP Josh Donaldson doesn’t have nearly as much help these days.
Player to watch: The 25-year-old Aaron Sanchez looked to be on the verge of stardom before his 2017 season was derailed by recurring blister problems that limited him to eight starts.
2018 outlook (80-82): Like the Orioles, the Blue Jays have enough talent to make a run at a playoff spot if things go their way, but the lineup and bullpen won’t give the starting rotation enough help.

5. TAMPA BAY (2017 record: 80-82, third place)
Notable additions: 1B C.J. Cron, OF Carlos Gomez, OF Denard Span
Notable losses: 3B Evan Longoria, SP Alex Cobb, SP Jake Odorizzi, OF Corey Dickerson, OF Steven Souza, 1B Logan Morrison
Why to like them: Chris Archer, Blake Snell, and Jacob Faria still give the Rays enough upside in a starting rotation that should remain competitive despite the subtractions of Cobb and Odorizzi.
Why to dislike them: The long list of Rays’ departures says all you need to know about outside expectations for 2018, even if Tampa Bay’s front office proves to be geniuses with its maneuvering.
Player to watch: The 29-year-old Archer has posted back-to-back seasons with an ERA above 4.00, making one wonder if he needs the change of scenery so many former teammates received this winter.
2018 outlook (73-89): The projection systems are higher on this team than casual observers, but the Rays are relying too heavily on spare parts and youth to be able to seriously contend this season.

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Labor Day weekend illustrates Orioles’ minuscule margin for error

Posted on 04 September 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles still have a pulse in their push for a wild-card spot.

Winning nine of their last 12 games was a must after falling four games below .500 two weeks ago, but the effort required for a 2-2 long weekend fit well with Monday’s holiday celebrating the unofficial end of summer.

Laborious.

Even with a 7-4 loss to the New York Yankees on Labor Day, the Orioles should feel fortunate. Instead of easily disposing of last-place Toronto in a four-game set, they were a bad pitch away on Friday and the subtraction of Welington Castillo’s game-tying home run on Sunday from finishing the long weekend on a five-game losing streak that would have wrecked their work from the previous week. They managed to come away with a four-game split that was an exhausting grind and left them vulnerable on Monday — even with top starter Dylan Bundy going to the hill.

After a blistering August at the plate, the Orioles have scored a total of 12 runs over the last four games, which included seven extra innings of play. In the two extra-inning wins over the weekend, the bullpen had to pitch a whopping 15 frames with much of that work going to Baltimore’s most reliable arms. Those innings took their toll as manager Buck Showalter confirmed after Monday’s loss that he wasn’t going to use three or four unidentified relievers in the opener against New York.

That’s why Bundy’s outing was so deflating as the Orioles needed their best starter to go at least six or seven innings to have any decent chance to win without a huge offensive performance. No one could have expected Bundy to duplicate the brilliance of a one-hit shutout in his last outing, but his short day was a death knell when the bats also went silent after three early runs.

Instead of being able to hand the reins of a close game over to a tough bullpen in the fifth, Showalter tried to squeeze extra outs out of his struggling starter and then had no choice but to turn to Miguel Castro, another young pitcher who’s had multiple long outings over the last 10 days. Castro struggled to throw strikes, eventually giving way to the likes of recent call-ups Richard Rodriguez and Gabriel Ynoa to finish the day. An expanded September roster allowed Showalter to rest his trusted relievers, but you’d prefer not using those extra arms when the outcome hasn’t fully been decided.

Monday’s loss and the weekend illustrated Baltimore’s minuscule margin for error.

Trying to give Bundy extra rest as much as possible since he’s already thrown a career-high 159 1/3 innings in 2017, the Orioles have continued to hand starts to Chris Tillman and Ubaldo Jimenez, who own the two worst ERAs in the majors among all pitchers with at least 80 innings. Those two still being part of a playoff contender’s six-man rotation in the final month of the season is an organizational failure from top to bottom, but the Orioles somehow still find themselves in the race.

Pitching on five days’ rest after a career-high 116 pitches last Tuesday, Bundy showed no dip in velocity, but his command wasn’t sharp from the get-go and the Yankees eventually exposed the deficiency in the fourth inning when he gave up three runs and needed 37 pitches to retire the side. Those struggles conjured unsettling thoughts of last season when Bundy posted a 5.11 ERA in September.

The Orioles’ formula for winning is difficult, but clear with 24 games remaining. They need to score runs at a prolific rate and use their bullpen to protect narrow leads in the late innings. The starting rotation merely needs to be mediocre like it was in August with an underwhelming 4.86 ERA and averaging 5.7 innings per start, which were dramatic improvements from the previous three months. We know this rotation isn’t going to lead the Orioles into October, but it has to be decent enough to keep them in games and not completely cripple the bullpen.

A 2-2 Labor Day weekend didn’t ruin their playoff chances, but it stretched their limits.

And we were reminded how little room the Orioles have for error with the days dwindling.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 3-1 win over Toronto

Posted on 27 June 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles winning their third straight game in a 3-1 final over the Toronto Blue Jays, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles jumped ahead early with Mark Trumbo’s two-run double with two outs in the first, but Adam Jones drawing a walk after falling behind 0-2 was the biggest at-bat of the inning. It was an impressive way to finish an eight-pitch battle with Joe Biagini.

2. Kevin Gausman showed good fastball command low in the strike zone as he pitched 5 1/3 innings to collect his first victory since May 31. You’d like to see him get deeper into the game, but he was able to build on encouraging signs from his last outing.

3. His command was shaky early in the game, but double plays in the first and second innings went a long way in allowing Gausman to settle down. He retired eight in a row after the twin killing in the second.

4. Toronto made some loud contact in the fourth, but Gausman dotted a 3-2 fastball at the bottom of the zone to strike out Josh Donaldson looking. That was one of his best pitches of the night.

5. Despite the Blue Jays featuring seven right-handed bats in their starting lineup, Gausman continued to use his split-changeup as his go-to secondary pitch and didn’t throw a single slider, according to Statcast. That’s an interesting development.

6. Thanks to the off-day, Buck Showalter was able to deploy his bullpen earlier than normal as Gausman was pulled after 99 pitches with a one-out jam in the sixth. That’s the kind of bullpen chain the Orioles have too frequently lacked over Zach Britton’s absence.

7. Mychal Givens was wild in the sixth, but he got Kendrys Morales to expand the zone for a strikeout to leave the bases loaded and then calmed down to toss a perfect seventh. His ability to pitch more than one inning as been huge all season for an undermanned bullpen.

8. The last seven weeks of Orioles baseball haven’t been easy, but watching Jonathan Schoop continue to grow as an offensive force has been fun. His two-out hits in the first and third started both of Baltimore’s scoring rallies on Tuesday.

9. I’ll never grow tired of watching encounters between Darren O’Day and Jose Bautista. The veteran reliever came out on top this time and has looked sharp in three scoreless innings since returning from the disabled list Friday night.

10. Brad Brach allowed a two-out home run to Troy Tulowitzki in the ninth, the first run he’d allowed since May 16. Other than his struggles from late April through early May, he’s done a commendable job filling in for Britton.

11. Hyun Soo Kim drew two walks, but he’s only 7-for-31 without an extra-base hit since the Chris Davis injury more than two weeks ago that led to more playing time for the left fielder. His season on-base plus slugging percentage is just .620.

12. The Orioles were one strike away from pitching a shutout four days after tying the major league record for allowing five or more runs in their 20th consecutive game. Baseball’s funny.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 11-4 win over Toronto

Posted on 16 April 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles winning an 11-4 blowout over Toronto on Sunday afternoon, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. What else can be said about Trey Mancini as he homered twice and tied a major league record for home runs in his first 12 games with seven? Buck Showalter has a good problem with Mancini, Seth Smith, and Hyun Soo Kim available for only two lineup spots.

2. Dylan Bundy continues to be superb so far in 2017 as he pitched six shutout innings to earn the win and lower his season ERA to 1.86. He’s allowed one earned run in 13 innings against the Blue Jays this month.

3. I still hold my breath seeing Bundy throw so many sliders given his history with the pitch, but there’s no disputing that being a game-changing pitch for his repertoire. It was a big reason why he struck out six and recorded 15 swinging strikes.

4. Bundy set the tone for the outing in the first inning after allowing a leadoff double and a bunt single. Instead of conceding early damage, the right-hander struck out Jose Bautista with a slider and got Kendrys Morales to ground into a 4-6-3 double play.

5. Craig Gentry went 3-for-5 and hit his first major league homer since 2013, quieting legitimate concerns about his ability at the plate. He shouldn’t be in the leadoff spot, but that was a strong performance from the veteran outfielder.

6. His homer wasn’t exactly a bomb, but Manny Machado needed that after seeing his average drop to .154 before his opposite-field homer off the foul pole in the eighth. I can’t imagine too many are concerned about the All-Star third baseman though.

7. Perhaps it’s only a coincidence that Gentry and Machado homered using one of Mancini’s bats, but that’s still a heck of a post-game story. Whatever works, right?

8. After collecting only two hits and struggling to make solid contact over his first 19 at-bats of 2017, J.J. Hardy is 7-for-16 over his last four games and doubled twice on Sunday. He isn’t the power hitter he used to be, but throwing dirt on him was premature.

9. Seeing Adam Jones crash into the center-field wall in the eighth inning of an 11-1 game was the last thing Showalter and the Orioles wanted to see. Fortunately, he appeared to be OK and has the off-day to rest up.

10. As if things weren’t going poorly enough for Toronto, J.A. Happ left the game with left elbow soreness in the fifth inning after fellow starter Aaron Sanchez was placed on the 10-day disabled list hours earlier. The Blue Jays have to be begging for a mulligan.

11. Zach Britton told reporters in Toronto that his left forearm strain is closer to his wrist than his elbow, but anyone invested in the Orioles will be holding their breath until the All-Star closer is back on the mound and looking like himself.

12. Yes, the Blue Jays have the worst record in the majors at 2-10, but the Orioles should be feeling good about themselves after continuing their division rival’s misery and taking three of four games at Rogers Centre, a place where they’ve struggled historically.

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Britton placed on DL with left forearm strain

Posted on 16 April 2017 by Luke Jones

The Orioles revealed concerning news Sunday morning as closer Zach Britton was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a left forearm strain.

Manager Buck Showalter told reporters in Toronto that Britton felt discomfort in his left forearm while throwing his slider in Friday’s 6-4 win over the Blue Jays. He did not pitch in Saturday’s 2-1 loss as Brad Brach would have served as the closer if a save situation had materialized.

Right-handed pitcher Stefan Crichton was recalled to take the open spot on the 25-man roster. Britton is eligible to return from the DL as early as April 26. The Orioles could not backdate Britton’s DL stint since Crichton had been optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday and did not spend the minimum 10 days in the minors.

It remains to be seen how long Britton will be sidelined despite Showalter expressing optimism that it would not be a long-term issue. The two-time All-Star closer has converted all five of his save attempts this season, but he has labored more than usual, allowing 10 hits and walking three in seven innings of work. On Friday, he allowed an earned run for the first time since Aug. 24, 2015.

The Orioles would presumably go with All-Star setup man Brad Brach as their primary closer in Britton’s absence, but Showalter did not commit to formally naming a replacement. Darren O’Day and Mychal Givens could also be used in save situations in the meantime.

Britton has converted 54 consecutive save chances, a streak tied for second longest in major league history. His 2016 season was regarded by many as the best ever by a reliever as he posted a 0.54 ERA and converted all 47 of his save opportunities.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 2-1 loss to Toronto

Posted on 15 April 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles falling 2-1 on a walk-off home run from Kendrys Morales on Saturday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. You won’t find a worse breaking ball than the one Tyler Wilson threw to Morales. Since Brad Brach warmed up in the top half of the inning, I was surprised to see Wilson still out there, but Brach was only available to close, according to Buck Showalter.

2. Marco Estrada labored early for the Blue Jays, but the starter gave the Orioles lineup fits with his changeup over seven shutout innings. Baltimore consistently has problems against pitchers who are more about finesse and changing speeds than velocity.

3. You never want to lose, but the performance of Alec Asher in his Orioles debut was an encouraging development for the big picture. Showalter couldn’t have asked for more from the former Philadelphia hurler, who was only acquired late in spring training.

4. Asher threw an impressive breaking ball to get some big outs when he needed them. He’s not going to overpower you with the two-seam fastball, so he needs his secondary stuff in order to compete.

5. The right-hander left a few too many fastballs up in the zone early as he benefited from some good defense behind him. The transition from the four-seam fastball to the two-seamer last year has paid dividends, but Asher clearly wants to live lower in the zone moving forward.

6. Asher certainly earned another opportunity as the fifth starter, but it’s fair to wonder how much of his success was the result of a Toronto offense that’s been woeful so far in 2017.

7. The Orioles certainly wasted early chances against Estrada, leaving five runners on over the first three innings. They went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position on Saturday.

8. Jonathan Schoop missed a golden opportunity to double off Jose Bautista with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. I’m still not sure what happened there as Darwin Barney then picked up the go-ahead RBI single off Donnie Hart two pitches later.

9. Adam Jones made a strong throw to the plate on Barney’s run-scoring hit to almost nail Bautista, but the one-bounce throw skipped away from Welington Castillo. The Orioles likely would have gotten a cleaner hop if that game were being played on grass instead of turf.

10. Craig Gentry showed in the ninth why the Orioles like him, stealing second and tagging up on a fly ball to go to third before scoring on Schoop’s game-tying sacrifice fly. His speed is an asset if he can hit a little bit, but that’s a big question right now.

11. You could tell by Mark Trumbo’s reaction that he missed a very hittable pitch from Estrada as he flied out to end the top of the third with two runners on. He was 0-for-4 and doesn’t have an extra-base hit since his walk-off homer and double on Opening Day.

12. Seeing all uniformed personnel wearing No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day has become one of my favorite traditions in recent years. The importance of this man to both baseball and America needs to be celebrated and remembered.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 2-1 win over Toronto

Posted on 13 April 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles earning a 2-1 victory to send Toronto to a franchise-worst 1-8 start, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. It was another nail-biting ninth for Zach Britton, but he converted his fourth save of 2017 and his 53rd consecutive overall, the third-longest streak in major league history. The lefty is going to blow one eventually, but the Orioles wanted to keep the struggling Blue Jays down.

2. Kevin Gausman turned in his best performance of the young season, showing much better fastball command and displaying better timing with his mechanics. His 64.9 percent strike percentage was much more in line with his career mark than what we saw in his first two outings.

3. Jonathan Schoop and J.J. Hardy drove in a run each in the top of the fifth after turning a beautiful double play in the second inning that involved a Hardy glove flip to Schoop. It was fun seeing that after their respective defensive struggles in Boston on Tuesday night.

4. Gausman was a ground-ball machine early in the game and induced 11 on the night. He only recorded three strikeouts and 10 swinging strikes, but he did a fine job keeping pitches down in the zone for most of the night.

5. The right-hander did lose his fastball command in the sixth as he missed low-and-away targets to leave fastballs up on consecutive doubles by Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson. However, he made quality pitches to Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin to conclude his night with a 2-1 lead.

6. After throwing 21 pitches in the fourth and 20 pitches in the fifth, you have to wonder if Gausman ran out of gas in the bottom of the sixth, especially after the Orioles were retired on five pitches in the top half of the inning. He needed a breather there.

7. Darren O’Day is looking more and more like himself after pitching a 1-2-3 seventh inning that included a Kevin Pillar strikeout and two grounders. It looks like he’s rediscovered his command after his first two rough outings in Baltimore.

8. After being the butt of jokes with a 135.00 ERA after his disastrous season debut, Francisco Liriano pitched exceptionally well with 10 strikeouts. It’s impressive to strike out that many on only 91 pitches in 6 2/3 innings.

9. I’m a bigger defender of Bobby Dickerson than most since third base coaches universally aren’t nearly aggressive enough, but his send of Trey Mancini with no outs in the fifth was brutal. He had no chance of scoring without a horrendous throw to the backstop or something of that nature.

10. Welington Castillo deserved a pat on the back from Britton after that ninth inning with several balls in the dirt. The catcher is also off to a good start at the plate hitting .385 with his new club.

11. It’s still early, but Craig Gentry is now 0-for-12 with six strikeouts. Buck Showalter playing him over Hyun Soo Kim — who’s never gotten any semblance of a real opportunity against lefty starters — is one thing, but batting Gentry in the leadoff spot is questionable at best.

12. The Orioles struck out 15 times with Gentry and Davis combining for seven of them. A strong pitching performance was exactly what they needed to win their third straight game over Toronto this season.

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