Tag Archive | "boston"

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 6-2 loss to Red Sox

Posted on 01 June 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 6-2 defeat to the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 50th game of the 2016 season.

1st — Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts’ three-homer night started off with two poorly-located Kevin Gausman fastballs in the first two innings. Betts wasted little time giving Boston a 1-0 lead as he hit a low 93 mph fastball that leaked back over the heart of the plate. His second long ball was even more costly as catcher Matt Wieters set up low and away and Gausman’s 95 mph heater ran up and in before Betts muscled it off the bottom of the left-field foul pole for a three-run shot and a 5-0 lead in the second inning. Those drives along with Dustin Pedroia’s first-inning homer provided all the damage Boston would need as Gausman would then settle down to pitch better over his final four innings despite allowing three homers — the second straight start in which he’s allowed that many — and throwing first-pitch strikes to just nine of the 26 batters he faced.

2nd — Former Baltimore prospect Eduardo Rodriguez was solid in his 2016 debut, but the Orioles bats were unproductive and impatient once again. Baltimore went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and failed to draw a walk in a game for just the fourth time all season. The frustrating approach was never more apparent than in the sixth when Manny Machado led off with a first-pitch double before Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, and Matt Wieters were retired on seven pitches — and the trio swung at all of them. If you want to have a good chance against the dangerous Boston lineup, your own offense needs more than four runs over the first two games of a series.

3rdThe best offense in the majors out-“Orioled” the Orioles for the second straight game with a total of four home runs. Betts hit his third homer of the night in the seventh inning off Dylan Bundy to extend the lead to 6-2 while the Orioles hit a few balls well with little to show for them. Filling in for Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field, Chris Young took away a potential two-run shot off the bat of Machado in the third when he made a leaping catch at the left-center wall. In the series’ first two games, the Red Sox homered seven times while Baltimore was without a home run.

Home — A long Chris Davis blast down the right-field line stood as foul after a replay angle that could have apparently overturned the call came too late. Manager Buck Showalter said the shot made it clear that the ball was fair and would have made it a 6-4 game in the bottom of the eighth, but other camera angles available to the New York headquarters during the review were inconclusive. … Gausman gave up a season-high five earned runs and matched a career high in throwing 113 pitches. … Davis, Trumbo, Wieters, and Jonathan Schoop combined to go 0-for-16 with seven strikeouts. … Adam Jones’s single in the first inning moved him past Melvin Mora for sole possession of 11th place on the Orioles’ all-time hits list. … In the sixth, Gausman committed the eighth error by Orioles pitchers this season after the staff committed a total of 10 in 2015. … The Orioles have now lost seven of their last nine games and 10 of their last 15. … Mike Wright will go to the hill on Wednesday night while Boston will start right-hander Joe Kelly.

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Wieters, Orioles in better position to endure Joseph’s absence

Posted on 31 May 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — There’s never good timing for the kind of injury Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph suffered as we collectively cringed watching him take a foul ball to the groin area during Monday’s game.

But with the defensive-minded backup undergoing surgery for a testicular injury and being placed on the 15-day disabled list, the Orioles are in better position to endure his absence than they’ve been in a long time. With three-time All-Star catcher Matt Wieters playing more frequently in May being nearly two full years removed from Tommy John surgery, the Orioles can feel more comfortable with the recalled Francisco Pena serving as his backup for at least the next couple weeks.

Wieters rarely caught on consecutive days upon returning to action last season, creating more of a timeshare behind the plate.

“It doesn’t change anything about Matt,” manager Buck Showalter said. “We’re not going to start pushing up his load and jeopardize something down the road. He may feel differently, but we’ll take it day to day. It shouldn’t change anything about that, but we’ll see.”

Wieters may never again start 135 or more games at catcher in a season like he did earlier in his career, but he caught on three straight days last week for the first time since having elbow surgery and has caught on back-to-back days five other times since the end of April, taking on more of a conventional workload for a starting catcher in recent weeks. Including Tuesday’s game against the Boston Red Sox, Wieters has served as the starting catcher in 14 of the Orioles’ last 21 games.

That is good news for the Orioles, who will now depend on a backup catcher with all of nine career games in the majors. Acquired from the Kansas City Royals in December, Pena at least had the opportunity to work with many of the club’s pitchers during spring training and had thrown out 11 of 23 runners attempting to steal while catching for Triple-A Norfolk this year.

However, the 26-year-old was hitting .200 with a .491 on-base plus slugging percentage in 87 plate appearances for the Tides. Joseph was off to a poor start at the plate this season with a .182 average, but the 29-year-old hit .234 with 11 home runs and 49 RBIs last season.

From an offensive standpoint, the Orioles hope Wieters can continue what he’s been able to do while receiving more regular at-bats in May. After hitting .214 in the first month of the season, Wieters entered Tuesday hitting .354 with three homers and a .933 OPS in May.

Just having him behind the plate more regularly is more of a relief for the Orioles while Joseph recovers.

“I feel good, but I also feel like Frankie’s a guy who can go back there and catch, too,” Wieters said. “I think that’s one thing we’ve always preached. We’ve got to be able to have guys at Double A and Triple A who can step in and play in a big-league game. We’re not going to call anybody up we don’t feel can go out there and catch in a game.

“Whatever needs to happen for the team to win games, I’m all for. But I have complete confidence in Frankie getting back there and catching a big-league game and getting wins.”

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 7-2 loss to Red Sox

Posted on 30 May 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 7-2 defeat to the Boston Red Sox on Monday afternoon?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 49th game of the 2016 season.

1st — Red Sox starter Steven Wright was superb in pitching his third complete game of the month, but the top five hitters in the Orioles lineup went 0-for-17 with six strikeouts against the knuckleballer. Baltimore is hardly the only team to look bad against Wright in his surprising start to the season, but his knuckleball was especially filthy as he recorded six 1-2-3 innings. Considering the issues the Orioles had with slower breaking pitches during the last road trip, Wright just wasn’t a good matchup with his ability to change speeds. The top half of the lineup was a non-factor throughout the day.

2nd — The Orioles already trailed 3-2 in the eighth, but their lack of an established lefty specialist cost them greatly. With Buck Showalter preferring to stay away from Brad Brach in the bullpen, much was put on the shoulders of rookie Ashur Tolliver and he couldn’t handle it, giving up a home run to David Ortiz and walking Travis Shaw before eventually giving way to Mychal Givens after a Blake Swihart single. Givens’ struggles against lefty bats continued as he gave up a three-run homer to Marco Hernandez to put the game out of reach.

3rd — Tyler Wilson pitched solidly against the best offense in baseball, but the solo homer allowed to Jackie Bradley Jr. in the sixth was deflating. The bottom of the Orioles order had figured out Wright enough to tie the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth, but the starter left a fastball over the plate that Bradley launched into the Baltimore bullpen to lead off the sixth. If the game had remained tied, Showalter might have handled his bullpen differently later in the game instead of turning to a rookie.

Home — After Baltimore plated two runs in the fifth, Chris Davis deviated from an effective opposite-field approach against Wright by grounding out to first with runners at the corners and two outs to end the scoring threat. … Replays showed that Xander Bogaerts’ first-inning dribbler that scored Boston’s first run bounced off his foot in the box, but the play wasn’t reviewable and Wilson failed to cover home plate as Caleb Joseph made the throw to first, allowing Mookie Betts to score from second base. … Nolan Reimold led off the two-run fifth with a triple and has now hit safety in 17 of 22 games this season in which he has had at least one at-bat. … Bogaerts extended his career-high hitting streak to 23 games and is batting .402 over that stretch. … Kevin Gausman will take the mound on Tuesday night against former Orioles prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, who will be making his season debut after dealing with a knee injury since spring training.

 

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 4-2 loss to Boston

Posted on 14 April 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 4-2 defeat to the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday night?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the eighth game of the 2016 season.

1st — The Orioles had their chances against Red Sox starter Joe Kelly in the early going and left nine men on base in the first five innings. They managed seven hits and five walks against the right-hander through five, but a two-run shot by Chris Davis was Baltimore’s only scoring for the night. Regardless of who’s pitching for your side, scoring two runs isn’t going to be a good recipe to win.

2nd — You can get the good Ubaldo Jimenez or the really bad one, but Wednesday brought the dentist-chair version as the right-hander threw 47 pitches through two innings, 70 pitches through three, and 90 pitches through four innings at chilly Fenway Park. Jimenez couldn’t command his slider or splitter and walked four batters while giving up six hits and four earned runs. The results probably would have been worse if not for a couple nifty double plays turned by his infield defense.

3rd — You’re never supposed to make the first or third out at third base, but the Orioles did both over the course of Wednesday’s game. First, it was J.J. Hardy being thrown out trying to stretch a leadoff double to right-center into a triple in the second inning. You could forgive the aggressiveness more if not for the fact that Kelly was already struggling with his control and you know the shortstop doesn’t run well. However, that miscue was trumped by Manny Machado getting thrown out trying to steal third base with two outs in the sixth and Davis at the plate as the possible tying run. The 23-year-old is a phenomenal player and had three hits on the night, but that was bad baseball.

HomeJoey Rickard saw his seven-game hitting streak snapped to begin his major league career and grounded out with the bases loaded in the second, hacking away at both pitches he saw after Kelly had walked two hitters in the inning. … After their first seven homers of the season were all solo shots, the last seven long balls the Orioles have hit have come with men on base. … Baltimore continued its streak of having at least eight hits in each of the first eight games to begin a season, a club record. … Tyler Wilson pitched for the first time since Opening Day, notching three shutout innings to save the rest of the bullpen. … Chris Tillman goes to the hill on Thursday night to begin a four-game set against the Texas Rangers in Arlington and will be opposed by lefty ace Cole Hamels.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 9-5 win over Boston

Posted on 12 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 9-5 win over the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the seventh game of the 2016 season.

1stJ.J. Hardy sliced a pair of opposite-field home runs inside the cozy “Pesky Pole” at Fenway Park and also hit a sacrifice fly to right that put the Orioles ahead for good in the top of the sixth inning. His first homer tied it at 2-2 in the third while his seventh-inning long ball busted the game wide open by giving Baltimore a 9-4 lead. It was the 12th multi-homer game of Hardy’s career and his first since doing it against St. Louis on Aug. 8, 2014. The three-time Gold Glove shortstop also provided a terrific defensive play with a diving catch of a liner off the bat of Blake Swihart that led to an inning-ending double play in the second and helped settle down starter Mike Wright for the time being.

2ndMark Trumbo continued to swing the bat exceptionally well and clobbered a 3-2 pitch for a long two-run shot over the Green Monster to tie the game in the sixth. The blast came at the end of a nine-pitch battle with Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz that included the Boston infield’s failure to catch a foul pop that would have sent Trumbo back to the Orioles dugout a few pitches before the big home run. The right fielder also singled, doubled, and scored three runs on a night that ended with him holding a .464 average with a 1.214 on-base plus slugging percentage.

3rdMatt Wieters was not off to a good start in the series after striking out four times on Monday and going down swinging in his first at-bat Tuesday, but the catcher contributed a critical two-run single to right-center in the seventh to open up a 7-4 lead. Those runs helped give an overworked Baltimore bullpen some breathing room in the late innings, which allowed manager Buck Showalter to rest the likes of Brad Brach, Mychal Givens, and Zach Britton.

HomeDylan Bundy took over for Wright holding a one-run lead to begin the bottom of the sixth inning and gave the Orioles 2 1/3 innings of quality work, allowing only one run in the process. The talented 23-year-old effectively mixed his changeup and slow curve with his fastball sitting between 92 and 94 miles per hour. … Joey Rickard struck out twice and grounded out twice before singling to left in the eighth, extending his hitting streak to seven games to begin his major league career. … The Orioles matched their high-water mark of 2015 by improving to seven games above .500 and have won seven in a row in a season for the first time since 2005. Dating back to the end of last year, Baltimore has won 12 straight regular-seaosn games. … The Orioles will send Ubaldo Jimenez to the hill in search of a three-game sweep on Wednesday night, and he’ll face Red Sox right-hander Joe Kelly.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 9-7 win over Boston

Posted on 11 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 9-7 win over the Boston Red Sox on Monday afternoon?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the sixth game of the 2016 season.

1st — Chris Davis was the hero after clobbering a 97 mph fastball from Boston closer Craig Kimbrel over the center-field wall for a long three-run shot in the top of the ninth. According to ESPN, it was Davis’ eighth go-ahead homer in the ninth inning or later since 2013, the most in the majors over that time. That blast wasn’t his only contribution, however, as he muscled a 1-2 changeup from Red Sox starter David Price over the infield for a two-run single in the third to get the Orioles on the scoreboard in response to an early 3-0 deficit. Davis also made several fine defensive plays at first base, something that was mentioned by manager Buck Showalter after the game.

2ndMark Trumbo didn’t have an easy day defensively moving over to play left field in front of the Green Monster, but his long three-run homer to right-center off Price gave the Orioles the lead in the third and was his first hit of the year that wasn’t a single. Despite the Orioles being the 30-year-old’s fourth club in the last four years, there’s no disputing his power potential and he showed it on Monday.

3rdMychal Givens was strong in his 1 1/3 innings, striking out four batters and escaping trouble created by T.J. McFarland in the sixth. Making his performance more impressive was that he did it against the top of the Boston order, striking out the likes of Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, and Xander Bogaerts. Givens has struck out six batters in 2 1/3 innings over the last two games.

HomeManny Machado collected his third multi-hit game of the year and scored two runs in the victory. … Jonathan Schoop hit his club-leading fourth double of the season to temporarily give the Orioles a 6-5 lead in the sixth, but he was later doubled off second base to end the inning. … Joey Rickard singled and drew the first walk of his career and has now earned a hit in all six games on the season. … Despite striking out 15 times, the Baltimore lineup drew a combined four walks against Price and Kimbrel and scored eight runs against the All-Star pitchers. … Yovani Gallardo failed to go more than five innings for the second straight time. … The Orioles are off to the best start in club history with a 6-0 record. … Mike Wright will make his season debut on Tuesday night against Red Sox veteran Clay Buchholz.

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Kim makes major league debut as Jones remains sidelined

Posted on 10 April 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — South Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim was set to make his major league debut on Sunday as the Orioles concluded a three-game set with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Kim was slotted in the No. 9 spot and playing in left field after not appearing in the first four games of the 2016 season. With Adam Jones sidelined with rib soreness for a third straight game, regular left fielder Joey Rickard was once again in center as Kim received his first start.

The 28-year-old hasn’t started in a game since March 25 and received just two more spring at-bats after that as the Orioles tried to persuade him to accept a minor-league assignment.

“We talked about it, but you don’t want to say too much,” said manager Buck Showalter about Kim making his regular-season debut. “There’s a fine line there — go play. He’s probably got enough things going on without me jumping in there too deep.”

As he predicted on Saturday, shortstop J.J. Hardy was back in the lineup after missing Friday’s game due to tightness in his left calf. However, Showalter continues to be cautious with Jones, who is improving but is still feeling some discomfort in the rib area at the end of his swing. The manager reiterated that the training staff does not believe that Jones is dealing with an oblique problem.

For now, the Orioles are willing to wait before considering putting the five-time All-Star selection on the 15-day disabled list. Jones hasn’t played since Wednesday night when he felt discomfort swinging in his final at-bat.

“It’s a concern because he’s one of our best players and he’s not playing,” Showalter said. “But it’s close we think; [we’ll wait] as long as it takes. You know that 10 days is as far as you can backdate something [for the DL], so 10 days? Then, if on the 11th day, he comes in and says he feels good, I’m fine with that, too.

“He’s worth waiting on.”

Kevin Gausman (right shoulder strain) was set to make a rehab start for Double-A Bowie on Sunday that was expected to last three or four innings. The right-hander would then make his next rehab start at Single-A Frederick on Friday and could be activated from the DL as soon as April 20 if all goes to plan.

Lefty reliever Brian Matusz (left intercostal strain) will pitch two to three innings for Bowie on Monday and is expected to be activated from the DL on Thursday when the Orioles begin a four-game series in Texas.

Showalter said pitching prospect Hunter Harvey experienced a mild setback with a groin issue he’s been dealing with since late March.

Right-hander Mike Wright will now make his 2016 debut in a Tuesday start against Boston after Saturday’s start was postponed. Chris Tillman will now make his next start against the Rangers on Thursday.

Below are Sunday’s lineups:

TAMPA BAY
2B Logan Forsythe
DH Logan Morrison
3B Evan Longoria
LF Corey Dickerson
1B Steve Pearce
SS Brad Miller
RF Steven Souza Jr.
CF Kevin Kiermaier
C Curt Casali

SP Jake Odorizzi (0-0, 1.59)

BALTIMORE
CF Joey Rickard
3B Manny Machado
1B Chris Davis
RF Mark Trumbo
C Matt Wieters
DH Pedro Alvarez
SS J.J. Hardy
2B Jonathan Schoop
LF Hyun Soo Kim

SP Vance Worley (2015 stats: 4-6, 4.02 ERA)

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2016 American League East preview

Posted on 04 April 2016 by Luke Jones

The Toronto Blue Jays became the first team with fewer than 95 victories to win the American League East since the 2000 season, a trend that will continue in another parity-driven season in 2016.

The AL East also held the best last-place team in the majors in 2015 as Boston finished just six games below .500

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

1. TORONTO (2015 record: 93-69, first place)
Notable additions: SP J.A. Happ, RP Drew Storen
Notable losses: SP David Price, OF Ben Revere, LHP Mark Buehrle
Why to like them: This wasn’t just the best offense in baseball, but the Blue Jays scored 127 more runs than any other club in the AL while leading the way in on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
Why to dislike them: The free-agent departures of Price and the dependable Buehrle put a lot of pressure on a starting rotation that was solid but unspectacular in 2015.
Player to watch: The 24-year-old Marcus Stroman is being counted on as the ace despite having only made seven total starts (counting the postseason) after a serious knee injury last spring.
2016 outlook (91-71): Toronto’s pitching is a notable question mark, but that lineup is far and away the biggest strength that any of the five clubs in this division have.

2. TAMPA BAY (2015 record: 80-82, fourth place)
Notable additions: OF/DH Corey Dickerson, SS Brad Miller, 1B Logan Morrison, OF Steve Pearce
Notable losses: SP Nate Karns, RP Jake McGee, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, 1B/DH John Jaso
Why to like them: The Rays sport the best starting rotation in the AL East and are on track to get the accomplished Alex Cobb back from Tommy John surgery later this season.
Why to dislike them: Tampa Bay’s bullpen was ninth in the AL in ERA before trading away the hard-throwing McGee and the lineup is improved but still doesn’t scare you.
Player to watch: Should Drew Smyly and Matt Moore show that their injuries are finally behind them, the Rays rotation that already led the AL in ERA a year ago will be scary.
2016 outlook (88-74): The Rays made just enough offensive improvement to propel themselves into contention and will snag one of the two wild cards in the AL.

3. BOSTON (2015 record: 78-84, fifth place)
Notable additions: SP David Price, RHP Craig Kimbrel, RHP Carson Smith, OF Chris Young
Notable losses: SP Wade Miley, SP Rich Hill
Why to like them: The Red Sox acquired the ace that they desperately needed and a dominant closer to go along with one of the best offenses in the AL.
Why to dislike them: There are still too many question marks in the rotation behind Price and there may not be enough bullpen depth to get to the dominant Kimbrel in the ninth inning.
Player to watch: The Hanley Ramirez outfield experience was a disaster in 2015, so the Red Sox are hoping a move to first base will help them collect on their hefty free-agent investment.
2016 outlook (85-77): There is clear upside with a club that played better late in 2015, but there are still too many questions about the pitching to make Boston the AL East favorite.

4. BALTIMORE (2015 record: 81-81, third place)
Notable additions: SP Yovani Gallardo, OF Mark Trumbo, DH Pedro Alvarez
Notable losses: SP Wei-Yin Chen, SP Miguel Gonzalez, OF Steve Pearce, OF Gerardo Parra
Why to like them: An offense that finished third in the AL in homers added two more bats with 30-homer power and the AL’s third-best bullpen could be better with Mychal Givens and Dylan Bundy.
Why to dislike them: The Orioles finished next to last in the AL in starter ERA and lost their most dependable starter (Chen) while replacing him with Gallardo, a solid veteran with declining stuff.
Player to watch: Kevin Gausman will begin the year on the disabled list, but his development is key in determining whether the starting rotation can improve enough to make the Orioles a viable contender.
2016 outlook (80-82): An offense that will hit a ton of home runs and a terrific bullpen won’t be able to overcome a starting rotation that needed to be upgraded and wasn’t this winter.

5. NEW YORK (2015 record: 87-75, second place)
Notable additions: RP Aroldis Chapman, 2B Starlin Castro, OF Aaron Hicks
Notable losses: SP Adam Warren, RP Justin Wilson, OF Chris Young
Why to like them: Once Chapman returns from suspension, the Yankees will sport the scariest bullpen trio in the majors and will be able to shorten games even more than they did in 2015.
Why to dislike them: New York finished 10th in the AL in starter ERA and is depending on too many veteran position players in the heart of the lineup to fight off Father Time.
Player to watch: Much attention will fall on Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia, but the key for the rotation will be whether Michael Pineda establishes himself as a legitimate No. 1-caliber starter.
2016 outlook (78-84): The lineup is littered with too many older players who won’t manage to stay as healthy and productive as they did last year when the Yankees secured a wild card.

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Alex Ovechkin scores his 7th goal of the season to help lead the Caps over Boston.

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Ovechkin Goal Jump Starts Caps in 4-1 Win Over Boston

Posted on 06 November 2015 by Ed Frankovic

After playing too loose, falling behind early, and ultimately losing, 5-2, to the Rangers on Tuesday night, the Washington Capitals really hoped to have a strong start against the Boston Bruins at the Verizon Center on Thursday night.

They did not get one.

The Bruins repeatedly put pucks deep on Washington early and throttled the Capitals in their own end with a vicious forecheck over the first 10 minutes. Luckily for the Caps, goalie Braden Holtby (28 saves) was razor sharp and the Caps were able to keep things scoreless.

Shortly after the 12 minute mark though, Justin Williams turned a puck over in the neutral zone while shorthanded and that gave the Bruins a three on two rush that they converted off of a fluky bounce. Suddenly Boston had scored for the first time since the spring of 2014 on Holtby (the Caps shut the B’s out three times in 2014-15) and they had a 1-0 lead.

But that’s all the Bruins would get as the Caps made some adjustments to get the puck out of their own end and from there things started to go their way.

“We just started doing what we were supposed to do from the start, we were too slow. We weren’t getting close enough to their high guy for their shots. We know they like to play a triangle game. We weren’t winning the races to the pucks and then it seemed like we got our legs a little bit,” said defensemen Karl Alzner.

That they did and with four minutes left in the opening frame, the line of Marcus Johansson, Nicklas Backstrom, and Williams had a dominant offensive zone shift. Then the Caps top line of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and T.J. Oshie built off of that momentum and buried one with the Gr8 scoring a greasy goal in front. Ovechkin would take a couple of cross checks in the back and slide one past Tuukka Rask (27 saves) to tie the game up. The Tim Kerr/Dino Ciccarelli type of goal absolutely lifted the spirits of the Capitals and those in attendance at the Verizon Center.

“Ovi [Alex Ovechkin] scores those highlight reel goals all the time. We talk about this is a team [Boston] that has a good goaltender. Their physical [defensive] core and you got to go to those hard areas to score goals against them. When one of your top scorers is known for his one-on-one and great shot, goes to the hard areas and gets one of those grinder, blue paint goals, it’s great,” said Coach Barry Trotz about the turning point in the hockey game, Ovechkin’s seventh goal of the season.

The Caps took the lead just 4:10 into period two when Brooks Laich scored his 1st goal of the season by doing what Ovechkin had done earlier, going to the front of the net. Dmitry Orlov’s point blast hit Laich en route and got by Rask. Washington increased the lead to 3-1 on a five on three power play with Backstrom saucering a sweet pass to John Carlson for a one timer. It was Carlson’s third goal of the season to go with nine assists and the way the Capitals players rotated to confuse Boston was a nice, new power play wrinkle.

From there on in, the Capitals clamped things down and gave the Bruins pretty much nothing the rest of the way. The Caps improved to 6-0-0 this season when leading after two periods by playing a nearly flawless final stanza. They held Boston to just one quality shot, which is impressive.

“I was really happy with the way we handled the third… We understood that they [Boston] were going to come with their d [defense] getting active, and we just stayed to the game plan, and just making sure we were making them come 200 feet and being on the right side of pucks when they got jammed up, and we protected the slot,” added Coach Trotz on the third period success.

“I think we were responsible, we changed our system a little bit, I think maybe gave them a different look and threw a wrench in their plans and we just played smart with the puck,” added Alzner, who sealed this one with an empty net goal with 1:50 remaining to close it out at 4-1.

One thing the coaching staff did for the third period that really worked was a juggling of the lines. Coach Trotz moved Andre Burakovsky up with fellow Swedes, Backstrom and Johansson, and he bumped Williams over with Jay Beagle and Jason Chimera. As a result, Boston was stymied getting only seven shots on the cage over the last 20 minutes. During the offseason Washington talked about developing a killer instinct and this third period performance was a big step in that direction.

Overall, this was an important bounce back victory after a disappointing result in New York on Tuesday. The Caps improved to 9-3 and matched the 1991-92 and 2011-12 teams for the best Washington starts to a season. That 91-92 squad I talk about often because I believe it was one of the Capitals all time best teams. The problem was the team that won the Cup in 1992, the Pittsburgh Penguins, were just a bit better, primarily due to their goaltending. Goaltending is a strength for the Caps these days and if they keep improving their overall play and stay healthy, this season should continue to be a fun and special one.

Notes: All three Caps defensive pairs played well with Carlson and Brooks Orpik leading the way in time on ice with 25:20 and 22:19, respectively. It was a super game for both and Carlson rightfully earned the first star…Orlov and Nate Schmidt both were excellent after being the best D pair against the Rangers. They logged 14:52 and 15:21, respectively. Each skates well and moves the puck out of the defensive zone quickly. The Caps have to be very pleased at the level of play they are getting from that pair so early in the season…Washington outshot Boston, 31-29, but were outshot attempted, 63-53. The Caps blocked 19 shots and did a good job of keeping the Bruins on the perimeter; especially in period three…Boston won the face off battle, 39-29. David Krejci was 11-3 for the B’s while Kuznetsov went 6-14 for the Caps…next up for the Capitals are the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7 pm on Saturday night at the Verizon Center. The Leafs are not good and are clearly one of the front runners in the Auston Matthews sweepstakes.

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Orioles can only wonder what might have been while looking to 2016

Posted on 17 September 2015 by Luke Jones

It was one year ago Wednesday that the Orioles officially clinched their first American League East title since 1997.

But this Sept. 16 brought a much different feeling as many in an announced crowd of 22,642 at Camden Yards were chased away by an early 9-0 deficit and the Orioles wrapped up their penultimate homestand of 2015 with a 10-1 loss to Boston.

Under typical circumstances, winning three consecutive series and completing a 4-2 homestand are nice consolations in a blowout defeat, but the Orioles now embark on a 10-game road trip trailing the second wild card spot by 5 1/2 games, needing a historic finish to even give themselves a chance. Baltimore not only would need to catch Houston, but three other clubs — Minnesota, Los Angeles, and Cleveland — must be passed in the process, making any loss devastating at this point.

The many reasons for the Orioles’ shortcomings are obvious in mid-September as a terrible offseason led to a maddeningly inconsistent offense and the starting pitching that was so strong last season completely fell apart in 2015. But even with the well-documented free-agent departures, the offensive struggles, and the poor starter ERA, the Orioles can still point to a stretch of 12 losses in 13 games that began in late August and lasted through Labor Day — their worst baseball over that period of time in four years — and wonder what might have been had they avoided such a dramatic slide.

Even going 6-7 over those 13 games — hardly an impressive feat — would have left the Orioles only 1/2 game behind Houston for the second wild card as they began a road trip against Tampa Bay, Washington, and Boston.

Of course, you can pick out any stretch of prosperity or futility over 162 games for these types of arguments as someone else could say the Orioles would be locked into last place had they not won 18 of 23 games in June. Ultimately, they’re right where they deserve to be after playing such inconsistent baseball over 5 1/2 months, but that 1-12 stretch that began with a stunning four-game sweep at home against the Twins will likely eat at Buck Showalter and his players throughout the winter.

Pondering next year’s rotation

With a 4.61 starter ERA ranking 14th out of 15 AL clubs and their most consistent starter Wei-Yin Chen set to become a free agent, the Orioles will be faced with the unenviable task of revamping a rotation that became their biggest weakness after being a strength in 2014.

Realistically, which pitchers make up your starting five next season?

Assuming super agent Scott Boras will command No. 2 starter money and a long-term contract for the 30-year-old Chen, the Orioles are unlikely to sign him and he may not bring the greatest return on a big-money contract anyway. The Taiwanese lefty remains on pace to allow a career-high 31 home runs and has never pitched 200 innings in a season, but he will still be difficult to replace.

Chris Tillman is in the midst of a poor season skewed dramatically by his nightmarish struggles against Toronto (15.50 ERA in five starts), but his track record over the previous three seasons all but guarantees him a spot in the 2016 rotation. That said, extension talks should be tabled for now.

Kevin Gausman hasn’t taken the step forward you’d like to have seen in 2015, but much of that can be attributed to the organization’s poor decision to put him in the bullpen to begin the year. Whether he ever becomes a top-of-the-rotation guy remains to be seen, but he’s shown enough to be one of the five.

Ubaldo Jimenez? You’d love to dump that contract, but there are 26.5 million reasons over the next two years to think a trade is unlikely to happen.

Miguel Gonzalez was in the midst of the worst two-month stretch of his career before going to the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis earlier this month, but he was too good for three years just to bury him. Maybe he shouldn’t be promised a rotation spot, but he’ll enter the spring with every opportunity to earn one.

Dylan Bundy will be out of minor-league options, but his lack of experience still makes him a long shot to fill anything but a long relief role to begin 2016. The former first-round pick needs to prove he can stay healthy before anything else is even discussed.

Sure, young pitchers such as Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright will garner looks — the latter seems destined for the bullpen with his latest struggles — but it’s clear executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette should be looking to add at least one impact starting pitcher — a second would really help — to augment the rotation. Beyond that, you can be cautiously optimistic that the track records of the incumbents will lead to at least a couple bounce-back performances in 2016.

Below Par-ra

Remember the angst over the Orioles needing to re-sign outfielder Gerardo Parra this offseason when he was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers for minor-league pitcher Zach Davies at the trade deadline?

The 28-year-old was in the midst of the best season of his career with a .328 average and an .886 on-base plus slugging percentage at the time of the trade, but he’s hit just .226 with a .619 OPS with Baltimore and has been worth -0.6 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference. Instead of providing the spark the Orioles needed for the final two months, Parra has been swallowed up by the Orioles’ 2015 corner-outfield wasteland.

At the time of the trade, the Orioles were essentially hoping to cash in on another club’s version of a 2014 Steve Pearce for the final two months, but Parra has been worse than the player he was over the first six years of his career when he sported a .720 OPS. His career .595 OPS against left-handed pitching makes him an obvious platoon player, which is how Showalter has used him over the last couple weeks.

Even if the club feels inclined to bring him back — to be fair, he’s better than what he’s shown so far with the Orioles — Parra should hardly be viewed as a priority and doesn’t deserve big-time money to stay as he’s been no better for the Orioles than the likes of Alejandro De Aza and Travis Snider were this season.

Managing Hardy

Watching J.J. Hardy post Belanger-like numbers for Ripken-like money in 2015 has been painful, but a portion of the blame probably needs to go to Showalter.

It’s no secret that Hardy has dealt with several physical ailments that have led to his OPS free-falling from .738 in 2013 to .682 last season to a career-worst .552 in 2015, but a simple look at his game log shows inadequate consideration for his long-term health. Not counting time he’s actually spent on the DL or when he’s missed a few games with a specific injury, Hardy has received very few games off over long stretches of time. For example, the veteran shortstop started every game the Orioles played from June 5 through Aug. 11, only enjoying rest provided by the schedule or the weather gods.

In order to salvage the final two seasons of a three-year, $40 million contract signed last October, not only does Hardy need to find a way to get healthy in the offseason and stay that way, but the Orioles can no longer treat him like a player who’s going to play 155-plus games a season. Periodic days off and resting him for day games after night contests like a catcher should become the norm for the 33-year-old dealing with back and shoulder problems. Sliding over Manny Machado or playing Ryan Flaherty at shortstop more often is worth it if it means Hardy can contribute more at the plate.

Hardy’s defense remains good, but his offense has been a substantial liability this season. No one should expect a return to his level of production from 2011-2013, but the Orioles need Hardy to at least offer what he did at the plate in 2014 to prevent his contract from being a total disaster over the next two years. More rest over the course of the season would appear to give him a better chance of doing that.

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