Tag Archive | "Chris Davis"

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Old concern surfaces for Orioles in extra-inning loss

Posted on 25 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Tuesday’s loss in Houston offered a glimpse at the major concern many had for the Orioles lineup in 2016.

Yes, the Orioles would hit home runs — their only scoring in the 3-2 defeat came on solo shots by Pedro Alvarez and Manny Machado — but the fear was that they’d strike out far too often, especially with the offseason additions of Mark Trumbo and Alvarez to an offense that finished third in the AL in strikeouts in 2015. On Tuesday, Baltimore did exactly that in striking out a season-high 19 times in the 13-inning defeat with 16 coming against the Astros bullpen over the final eight frames.

You wouldn’t know it watching the series opener at Minute Maid Park, but strikeouts really haven’t been the problem many anticipated so far this season. Even after the poor showing on Tuesday, the Orioles ranked a respectable eighth in the AL in strikeouts, a far cry from the predictions of them leading the league in both long balls and whiffs this season.

However, the last three games have brought concern with an unsettling total of 40 strikeouts. In fact, two of their three worst games of the season in the strikeout department took place on Tuesday (19) and Saturday (13).

Many of the strikeouts came at crucial times as Ryan Flaherty, Matt Wieters, and Joey Rickard each struck out with runners in scoring position to end innings. In the 12th, Adam Jones and Chris Davis whiffed against former teammate Scott Feldman with runners at first and second.

Unfortunately with the powerful Orioles lineup, you have to take the bad with the good. It’s easy to say no good can come from a strikeout, but plenty of bad can still take place from making contact such as hitting into a double play or having a lead runner thrown out on the bases, realities that make me less concerned than others over strikeouts — to a point.

It was unequivocally maddening for Orioles bats not be able to at least put the ball in play in a winnable game in which Chris Tillman pitched very well over seven innings and three of their top four relievers — Darren O’Day, Brad Brach, and Mychal Givens — combined to throw five shutout innings and 68 pitches.

You can only hope it’s more of an aberration than a sign of things to come.

Missing Hardy

Machado has filled in admirably at shortstop in place of the injured J.J. Hardy, but the Orioles have received nothing offensively at third base as Flaherty’s average fell to .189 after an 0-for-4 night.

Remembering Flaherty had hit a respectable .248 with a .713 on-base plus slugging percentage filling in for the injured Jonathan Schoop through July 4 of last year, I thought the utility infielder would provide some offense to help fill the void of Hardy, who isn’t exactly the same hitter he was a few years ago anyway. However, even with regular playing time, Flaherty has looked completely lost at the plate with a .491 OPS and a team-worst 31.7 percent strikeout rate entering Wednesday.

Since last year’s All-Star break, Flaherty has hit .156 with a .530 OPS in 178 plate appearances.

He has played good defense at third base, but it says a lot when fans are clamoring for the light-hitting Paul Janish to play over him.

Revisiting left field

Rickard continues to serve as the everyday left fielder and leadoff hitter despite a .683 OPS on the season and a .208 average since April 22.

Make no mistake, he’s been a nice find as a Rule 5 pick and shouldn’t be buried at the end of the bench, but why Nolan Reimold continues to receive so little playing time when he provides some on-base ability and power that could even be used in Rickard’s place at the top of the lineup is perplexing. I understand and agree that you’d rather not have Machado in the leadoff spot to better utilize his power, but a .309 on-base percentage from Rickard isn’t doing much to help the two-time All-Star selection hitting in the second spot, either.

It also speaks volumes that Hyun Soo Kim couldn’t draw a start against soft-tossing opposing starters Jered Weaver and Doug Fister over the last two games. He’s gone 2-for-14 in May with just four starts.

Even if you don’t buy the unfavorable defensive metrics for Rickard in the outfield, he isn’t so much better than Reimold in the outfield to justify him continuing to be in the lineup every day with his struggles at the plate. At the very least, manager Buck Showalter should strongly consider dropping Rickard in the order.

Bundy struggling

Plenty of fans continue to clamor for Dylan Bundy to start — especially with Ubaldo Jimenez’s intense struggles in May — but the young pitcher has allowed seven earned runs over his last 4 1/3 innings to raise his season ERA to 5.09.

The good news is that Bundy has stayed healthy, but the idea of him becoming a fixture in the rotation this season just isn’t feasible since he isn’t stretched out and isn’t really performing how a starter would need to. At the very least, you’d like to see him be able to consistently perform in some higher-leverage situations at some point this season.

The most disappointing aspect of his performance has been the inability to strike out batters as he’s fanned only nine in 17 2/3 innings. His average fastball has been 93.2 miles per hour, which isn’t bad but is hardly the kind of velocity that makes you salivate about his potential as a starter, either.

Tuesday night was a near-impossible spot for the young right-hander after he allowed a leadoff triple in the bottom of the 13th, but his performance hasn’t suggested he’s close to being ready to be a starter.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 10-0 loss to Mariners

Posted on 17 May 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 10-0 defeat to the Seattle Mariners 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 37th game of the 2016 season.

1st — It didn’t take much for Tuesday’s game to get out of hand, but a pair of 0-2 counts handled poorly by Orioles pitching in the fifth inning turned a close game into a blowout. Ubaldo Jimenez had given up a one-out single to Nori Aoki and was ahead 0-2 on Seth Smith before eventually walking him to put two men on for the heart of the Seattle order. This spelled trouble as Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz registered back-to-back RBI singles to extend the lead from 2-0 to 4-0. Brian Matusz then entered and quickly got ahead 0-2 on Kyle Seager before throwing a 90 mph fastball right down the middle that was clubbed for a three-run home run to make it 7-0 in the fifth. It was elementary after that.

2nd — It may not have mattered that much with the pitching struggles, but the Orioles bats failing to register a pulse put little pressure on Wade Miley, who entered the night with a 4.91 ERA and had given up eight homers in his first seven starts. In the first, the Orioles walked twice and made the Seattle lefty throw 30 pitches, but they didn’t seriously challenge him again until it was 10-0 in the bottom of the sixth. Baltimore was shut out for the third time all season and registered a season-low two hits in the lopsided defeat.

3rd — He was able to limit the damage to two runs in the first, but a 34-pitch opening frame from Jimenez set a bad tone coming off Sunday’s late-inning stumble. Their seven-game winning streak was bound to end, but the Orioles had to wait around 48 hours to get back on the diamond and their starter put them in a hole before they even stepped to the plate for the first time. Jimenez settled in for the second, third, and fourth, but the damage was done at the beginning and end of his outing as his ERA has ballooned to 5.60 after giving up six runs in 4 1/3 innings, his shortest start of the season.

Home — Entering the game to face a lineup featuring seven of nine hitters swinging from the left side, Matusz retired only two of the seven left-handed bats he faced as Seager’s three-run shot and Cano’s RBI double to left-center an inning later were particularly crippling. In 2016, left-handed hitters have gone 5-for-11 with a home run and five walks against the Orioles’ lefty specialist, who is sporting a 12.00 ERA in seven appearances since being activated from the disabled list on April 23. … Cruz went 3-for-3 with a home run, a walk, and five RBIs against his former club and has now hit safely in his last 13 games at Camden Yards, a streak dating back to Sept. 12, 2014. … Vance Worley pitched three scoreless innings and has now registered seven straight scoreless relief outings covering 13 innings this season. … Chris Davis recorded the only extra-base hit of the night for the Orioles with a double in the sixth inning. … Former Oriole and St. Paul’s grad Steve Johnson pitched a scoreless ninth for Seattle. … Chris Tillman goes to the hill trying to snap the Orioles’ two-game skid on Wednesday night while the Mariners will start right-hander Taijuan Walker.

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Orioles sitting pretty six weeks into 2016 season

Posted on 16 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Six weeks down, 20 more to go.

Just a simple reminder that it’s still early in 2016 as the Orioles begin a new week holding the best record in the American League by percentage points. But how can you not be optimistic about a club that’s already put together two seven-game winning streaks after no previous run of victories lasting that long since 2005?

Even after Sunday’s disappointing 6-5 loss to Detroit to snap their latest winning streak, the 23-13 Orioles are off to their best start through 36 games in 11 years. It’s quite an improvement from the many preseason forecasts — including this writer’s — expecting Baltimore to be no better than fourth or fifth in the AL East.

We knew the Orioles would hit plenty of home runs — they entered Monday leading the majors in that category — and their bullpen sports the best ERA in all of baseball, but the starting pitching was the major question mark. Through Sunday, Baltimore ranked a respectable seventh in the AL in starter ERA (4.22).

Can the Orioles sustain the success? That’s the question we’ve uttered so many times over the last five seasons whenever Buck Showalter’s club is in the midst of exceeding outside expectations.

No one can predict the future as it relates to injuries or other unforeseen circumstances, but some of the factors their critics have used against the Orioles in past seasons aren’t looking so bad in 2016.

Remember how detractors harped on the 2012 Orioles’ run differential throughout their improbable run to the franchise’s first postseason appearance in 15 years?

Their plus-37 mark so far this season suggests being 10 games above .500 is hardly a fluke. Of course, all it takes is a couple lopsided defeats to throw that mark out of whack when we’re still so early in the schedule, but we are almost a quarter of the way through the marathon.

What about 2014 when Baltimore finished third in the AL with a 3.44 ERA but stat-heads pointed to a 3.96 fielding independent pitching (FIP) mark ranking 11th? So far this season, the Orioles sport the AL’s best FIP (3.63) while ranking fourth in ERA (3.53)

Their rotation FIP (3.88) is even better than the rotation ERA, primarily a reflection of Orioles starters allowing fewer home runs than any other AL club. Some regression is likely, but the rotation allowed the second-most homers in the league a year ago, reflecting how much improvement there’s been in that department so far.

Sporting a career-low ERA (2.58) and registering a career-high 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings, Chris Tillman has led the starter improvement and is so far providing the bounce-back season the club needed. We know the starting pitching will continue to be the hot topic as it relates to staying in games and preventing an exceptional bullpen from wearing out in the second half.

“The pitching’s been solid,” Showalter said. “That’s the thing that’s going to allow us to maintain the level we’re going to have to have to compete in our division. You’re going to have to take care of your own business every night and not expect any help from anybody. But the pitching has been as good as I could hope for it to be so far.”

Being solid is good enough for the starting pitching, but how great can the offense be?

Beyond hitting home runs, the Orioles entered Monday ranked third in the AL in runs, second in batting average, second in on-base percentage, and second in slugging percentage. Their 8.4 percent walk rate is markedly better than their 7.0 percent mark a year ago, reflecting more patience at the plate.

Manny Machado has looked every bit the part of the 2016 AL MVP after finishing fourth in the voting last year. It was fun wondering this winter if the 23-year-old could be even better than he was in 2015, but he’s been exactly that so far as one of the very best players in baseball.

Newcomer Mark Trumbo was initially viewed as an insurance policy for the potential free-agent departure of Chris Davis in the offseason, but he’s been the club’s second-best hitter while the likes of Davis and Adam Jones struggled through parts of the first six weeks. Expecting him to hit .300 would be unrealistic, but there’s no denying him having a Nelson Cruz-like impact on his new club so far.

Machado and Trumbo have led the way, but the Orioles have three other hitters — Davis, Jones, and Jonathan Schoop — sporting an OPS of at least .770 after recent surges. And that’s not even considering Matt Wieters and Pedro Alvarez, who are hitting well below their career numbers but are capable of being above-average offensive contributors at their respective positions.

Of course, none of this means the Orioles are a lock to win their second division title in three years and secure their third postseason berth in five seasons as we know there’s a very long way to go. Boston has sported the best offense in the league and lost no ground to the Orioles during the latter’s seven-game winning streak that ended on Sunday. Toronto has lagged behind the other two in third place, but the Blue Jays surprisingly sport the best starter ERA in the AL while they wait for their imposing lineup to heat up.

The Orioles aren’t going to run away with this division, but there’s plenty to like about them through the first six weeks, some expected and some of it not. And it’s been more than just smoke and mirrors.

Yes, Baltimore is sitting pretty.

Prettier than expected, which is really be nothing new for these Orioles by now.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 7-5 win over Tigers

Posted on 13 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 7-5 come-from-behind win over the Detroit Tigers on Thursday 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 33rd game of the 2016 season.

1st — Jonathan Schoop had never tripled in his major league career before lining a ball down the right-field line to plate two runs and give the Orioles their first lead of the night to cap off a five-run seventh inning. The second baseman also drove in Baltimore’s second run of the night with an infield single an inning earlier as the Tigers bullpen began losing its grip on a 5-0 lead. Schoop has hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games with two doubles, a triple, two home runs, and seven RBIs over that stretch.

2ndChris Davis doubled to left-center to plate the first Orioles run off Tigers starter Mike Pelfrey in the sixth, but his next at-bat was even more impressive as he lined an 0-2 fastball from lefty Justin Wilson into right for a run-scoring single to make it a 5-4 game in the bottom of the seventh. Davis would then score the go-ahead run on Schoop’s triple to complete his two-RBI, two-run night.

3rdPedro Alvarez entered the game with just one hit off left-handed pitching this season and had already lined out to center off southpaw Kyle Ryan with two runners on in the sixth, but he became the second lefty to collect a key hit off Wilson in the seventh when he singled past first baseman Miguel Cabrera to drive in the tying run with two outs. He also drew a walk and lifted his season average to .212.

HomeDarren O’Day walked the leadoff hitter in the eighth, but he then retired the heart of the Tigers order to preserve the 7-5 lead. … The Orioles improved to 5-6 in games in which they haven’t homered this season after going 11-39 in that department in 2015. … Mark Trumbo went 0-for-3, but he drew a walk in the sixth to extend his on-base streak to a major-league best 25 consecutive games, according to MLB Network. … Zach Britton earned his ninth save of the season and his 82nd career save with the Orioles, one shy of tying Jorge Julio for fifth place on the club’s all-time saves list. … Adam Jones collected his 662nd RBI with the Orioles, tying Melvin Mora for eighth place on the club’s all-time list. … The Orioles’ five-game winning streak is their second longest of the season, topped only by their 7-0 start to 2016. … On Friday, Chris Tillman goes to the hill trying to improve to 5-1 on the season while the Tigers will start 2011 AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 9-2 win over Twins

Posted on 11 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 9-2 win over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday 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 32nd game of the 2016 season.

1st Mark Trumbo continues to be one of the best offensive performers in the American League and clubbed two more home runs and drove in three of Baltimore’s first five runs. His second-inning homer traveled 427 feet, and he has hit five long balls traveling at least 425 feet this season, according to ESPN. The right-handed slugger became the first in the majors with three multi-homer games in 2016. You keep waiting for Trumbo to cool off, but he instead keeps hitting baseballs a long way.

2ndChris Davis followed his three-hit night in the opener with a four-hit, four-RBI performance that included a two-run homer and two doubles to elevate his average to .242 and his on-base plus slugging percentage to .858. With Manny Machado and Trumbo continuing to pace the offense, Davis heating up could spell trouble for the Orioles’ opponents — Detroit and Seattle — on the upcoming homestand.

3rd — Adam Jones followed his clutch Tuesday night with four hits, which included a two-run shot on a hanging slider from Twins reliever Brandon Kintzler in the top of the ninth. The center fielder raised his average to .238 after it had dipped below .200 just a couple days ago. It’s looking more and more like the All-Star center fielder has finally found his swing after a rough start to 2016.

Home —  Tyler Wilson worked seven solid innings and pitched effectively after being staked to a comfortable lead. Plenty of balls were hit in the air against the right-hander in a big ballpark, but none of the six grounders he induced were bigger than the 6-4-3 double play from Eduardo Nunez, who had represented the potential tying run with one out in the fifth. … The Orioles improved to a season-best eight games above .500, which also eclipses their high-water mark from 2015. … With Davis and Trumbo each hitting bombs in the fourth, Baltimore has now hit back-to-back homers in three consecutive games for the first time in franchise history. … The traditional heart of the order (Jones, Davis, and Trumbo) combined to go 10-for-15 with four home runs and nine RBIs. … The Orioles will send Ubaldo Jimenez to the hill against Detroit’s Mike Pelfrey to begin a seven-game homestand on Thursday night.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 5-2 win over Oakland

Posted on 08 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 5-2 win over the Oakland Athletics to salvage a doubleheader split on Saturday 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 29th game of the 2016 season.

1st Ubaldo Jimenez turned in the Orioles’ second eight-inning start in three games after they hadn’t received one in their first 26 contests of the 2016 season. The right-hander not only held the Athletics to two runs, but he was able to save the bullpen, which is always a concern in the days following a twin bill. Jimenez credited the effectiveness of his two-seam fastball and splitter, but the biggest key may have issuing only one free pass after he had walked at least three in his last four starts. Jimenez only had one perfect inning, but he finished his outing on a high note by striking out the side in the eighth.

2ndChris Davis snapped an 0-for-16 slump by slugging a long two-run shot into the right-center bleachers to open up a 4-0 lead for the Orioles that they wouldn’t relinquish. The blast ended a seven-game homerless streak, his longest drought of the season. Davis is hitting only .206, but sometimes all it takes is one bomb to get the streaky first baseman going at the plate. He is now one home run shy of becoming the third player to hit 100 career homers at Camden Yards, joining Rafael Palmeiro and Adam Jones.

3rdAdam Jones is only hitting .200, but his RBI single in the third gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead and he scored on Davis’ homer. There’s no sugarcoating how much the All-Star center fielder has struggled over the first month of the season as he raised his season average with a 1-for-4 performance.

HomeZach Britton pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to collect his seventh save of the season. He struck out Josh Phegley to end the game. … Jonathan Schoop extended his hitting streak to 10 games, the third in his career of 10 or more contests. … Manny Machado has hit safely in eight of his last nine games and now has 22 extra-base hits in 29 games. … Hyun Soo Kim singled and drove in a run with a grounder and has now hit safely in seven of his nine games played this season. … Oakland outfielder Josh Reddick went an impressive 7-for-9 over both games of the doubleheader. … Chris Tillman goes to the hill in search of a series win on Sunday afternoon while the Athletics counter with right-hander Kendall Graveman.

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Like weather, Orioles waiting for rest of lineup to heat up

Posted on 05 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Perhaps the Orioles offense is waiting for the weather to feel more like Baltimore in early May and less like Seattle as it has during the current homestand and for much of the season.

The overall numbers look mostly great as they rank sixth in the AL in runs, fifth in hits, third in home runs, third in batting average, second in on-base percentage, and first in slugging percentage, but that reflects how much an MVP-like performance from Manny Machado and a white-hot start from Mark Trumbo have carried the Orioles through the first month of the season. Chris Davis and Jonathan Schoop have had their moments — as did J.J. Hardy before his unfortunate injury — but virtually all hitters not named Machado or Trumbo are failing to pull their weight.

Manager Buck Showalter can’t rely on those two to do it all year while the rest of the order struggles to get going.

“That’s kind of been the way things have been going for us lately,” said Davis, whose on-base plus slugging percentage dipped to .795 on Wednesday. “We’ve had a few games where we’ve been able to score some runs early and capitalize on those opportunities, but for the most part, we’re not getting the job done when we have runners in scoring position.

“The biggest thing to remember is to stay the course. We’re playing really good ball defensively. I think we’re throwing the ball well and keeping ourselves in the game. We all know the bats are going to heat up when the weather [stops] raining and [being] cold and it warms up a little bit.”

Joey Rickard was the feel-good story of the spring, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to justify his .304 on-base percentage remaining in the lineup every day, let alone in the leadoff spot. Despite much praise for his defense this spring, the 24-year-old has also struggled in the outfield at minus-seven defensive runs saved, creating more reason to see less of him and more of Nolan Reimold or even Hyun Soo Kim.

Burying Rickard on the bench would be premature, but lowering him in the lineup might be appropriate, even if Machado is the only viable alternative to lead off and you’d rather keep him in the No. 2 spot.

The catching tandem of Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph have combined to hit .217 with one home run and a .577 OPS. A $15.8 million salary for Wieters wasn’t going to suddenly transform him into the type of hitter many hoped he would be at the start of his career, but his .588 OPS is sub-replacement level and dramatically below his career .740 mark and Joseph (.485) has been even worse.

Pedro Alvarez has warmed up recently, but the former Pittsburgh Pirate still hasn’t shown enough to justify the Orioles spending $5.75 million on him this spring.

However, the biggest early-season concern is veteran center fielder Adam Jones, who is batting .205 with just one homer. He’s grounded into more double plays (seven) than he has extra-base hits (five) through his first 87 plate appearances.

Of course, Jones is a famously streaky hitter and has gone through extended dry spells before, but these struggles coming off the rib injury that cost him a week early in the season make you wonder if he’s truly healthy — or at least healthy enough to be himself. The 30-year-old would never use an injury as an excuse, but the Orioles need Jones to be his usual strong presence in the middle of the order.

His 75.4 percent contact rate is perfectly in line with his career average, but he’s hitting more ground balls (57.4 percent of balls put in play compared to 47.9 percent in his career) and fewer line drives (9.8 percent to 18.4 percent for his career), suggesting that he could be struggling to elevate the ball with authority. However, FanGraphs has tracked 33.9 percent of his balls in play being hard contact, which is in line with his 31.8 percent career average. His average exit velocity of 92.4 miles per hour is also better than last year’s 88.9 mph, creating more hope that Jones is just in an early-season funk.

“He’s not the only one, but we know there are some good things ahead,” said Showalter after Wednesday’s 7-0 loss in which Jones went 0-for-3 and the Orioles went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. “Like good hitters with good track records and things that he’s done for us, some [opponent] will pay. He’s a little frustrated by it, but I know Adam. We’ve seen it a lot where he’s gone through some periods like a lot of good hitters do and he’ll get it going.

“He’ll get it going.”

Showalter hopes that several members of his lineup heat up sooner than later — along with the weather.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 4-1 win over Yankees

Posted on 04 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 4-1 win over the New York Yankees 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 25th game of the 2016 season.

1stMark Trumbo continues to give the Orioles everything they could have asked for in the offseason trade with Seattle as he hit two home runs and drove in three runs on the night. His first homer in the second inning was an absolute bomb to left with an exit velocity of 113 miles per hour and an estimated distance of 405 feet to tie the game at 1-1. He hit his second shot off Luis Severino in the fifth to give the Orioles a 4-1 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. Trumbo isn’t going to hit .337 for the entire season, but it’s tough not to be reminded of the impact Nelson Cruz brought in 2014 when you see the right fielder continuously driving the ball with authority and leading the Orioles in home runs so far this season. It was the ninth multi-homer game of his career and second this season.

2ndChris Tillman was excellent for a second straight outing as he held the struggling New York lineup to one run and five hits over seven innings, his deepest start of the young season. The right-hander struggled with his fastball command at times and walked four hitters on the night, but he used his secondary pitches effectively to keep hitters off balance and struck out nine to match his career high. Four of those strikeouts came via his slider, three by his changeup, and two by his fastball, but his curveball was also an effective pitch for much of the night. Tillman lowered his season ERA to an impressive 2.81 in 32 innings, and he is now averaging 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings, which is markedly better than his 6.7 career average entering the 2016 season.

3rdBrad Brach faced four left-handed hitters in the eighth inning, but the reliever only allowed a soft one-out single to pinch hitter Dustin Ackley in a scoreless frame against the heart of the Yankees order. The lefty-heavy lineup might have been best suited for lefty specialist Brian Matusz in past years, but Brach has held lefties to a .148 average and Matusz has struggled since being activated from the disabled list late last month. Brach lowered his season ERA to 1.18 and has arguably been the Orioles’ most valuable reliever so far.

HomeChris Davis went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, but he continues to play excellent defense as he scooped a couple balls in the dirt and made a good throw to second to get the lead runner on a close play in the fourth. Buck Showalter said after the game that his first baseman is playing Gold Glove-caliber defense so far in 2016, and it would tough to argue. … With Zach Britton still resting his left ankle, Darren O’Day picked up his 16th career save and second of the season in a scoreless ninth. The Orioles are 11-1 in games in which he pitches. … Baltimore collected its sixth straight win over the Yankees, a stretch dating back to Sept. 8 of last season. … The Yankees lost their season-high sixth consecutive game and have now scored three or fewer runs in eight of their last nine games. They’re eight games below .500 for the first time since May 29, 2007. … The Orioles retook first place in the AL East after Boston fell to the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night. … Tyler Wilson goes to the hill on Wednesday against New York southpaw CC Sabathia.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 3-1 win over Tampa Bay

Posted on 27 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday 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 20th game of the 2016 season.

1stChris Tillman was terrific as he turned in his deepest outing of the year with 6 2/3 shutout innings and struck out nine to match his career high. The right-hander only allowed four baserunners as Rays hitters consistently struggled to make contact with eight of his nine strikeouts coming on swings. The biggest moment of his night came in the fourth inning when he struck out Chris Dickerson on a 95 mph fastball with runners on second and third and one out and then got Desmond Jennings to fly out to retire the side. Tillman hasn’t been much of a strikeout pitcher in his career, but his velocity is up so far this season and it was good to see him reach back for a little extra against Dickerson in such a big spot. He also effectively used his slider and curveball to miss bats as the night progressed. If not for the fact that he had a rested bullpen, manager Buck Showalter could have gone a little deeper with Tillman, who struck out four of the last six batters he faced and threw 101 pitches.

2ndJoey Rickard brought a sigh of relief to the Orioles dugout when he smacked a three-run shot into the left-field seats off Matt Moore with two outs in the top of the fifth inning. The Orioles had scored only one run in their previous 30 innings before the Rule 5 pick hit his second home run of the season. It would prove to be all the Orioles would need and the rest of the lineup took that literally as Tampa Ray retired 13 in a row after Rickard’s blast. The clutch hit snapped a 2-for-22 slump for the young outfielder.

3rdBrad Brach pitched a scoreless eighth inning despite a two-out walk and has now allowed only one run in his 13 1/3 innings to begin the 2016 season. The right-hander entered Wednesday holding left-handed hitters to a .158 average before retiring all three lefties he faced in the inning. That’s as good as any lefty specialist many clubs would typically use in such a situation.

Home — In addition to making a sliding catch in the third inning, Nolan Reimold worked a four-pitch walk with two outs and nobody on in the fifth to begin the rally that culminated with Rickard’s home run. … Pitching for the first time since April 21, Darren O’Day retired Steven Souza Jr. for the final out of the seventh and has yet to be scored upon through his first nine appearances of 2016. … Adam Jones went 0-for-4 and is now hitting .196 on the season. … Chris Davis was also hitless, but he was robbed of an extra-base hit in the fourth when Souza made a tremendous diving catch on the warning track in right-center. … Beginning a stretch of 17 of their next 20 games at home on Thursday night, the Orioles will send Tyler Wilson to the hill to open a four-game set against lefty John Danks and the Chicago White Sox.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay

Posted on 25 April 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 2-0 defeat to the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday 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 18th game of the 2016 season.

1st — It was only a matter of time before Rays ace Chris Archer bounced back from a horrendous start to his season, but the Orioles were shut out for the first time all season and extended their scoreless streak to 17 innings. And it’s a shame because they received a more-than-acceptable performance with only two runs allowed by Orioles pitching. Entering the night with a 7.32 ERA, Archer did a superb job commanding his changeup and slider to complement his mid-90s fastball, but the Orioles managed just five hits and didn’t have a single batter reach against the Rays bullpen. The lone offensive highlights of the night were provided by Pedro Alvarez, who collected two doubles as he tries to bounce back from a horrendous start. No other Baltimore hitter reached second base, however.

2nd — Kevin Gausman deserved a better fate, but his struggles after failing to get the call on a 3-2 slider to Steven Souza proved to be the difference in the fifth. The Orioles had to be pleased with what they saw from the 25-year-old in his season debut following a stint on the disabled list, but the terrific breaking ball he displayed over the first four innings vanished after the walk to Souza and he worked into too many deep counts and struggled to put hitters away the rest of the inning. The pitch he’d ultimately like to have back was the 3-2 fastball catching too much of the plate that Rays catcher Curt Casali lined down the left-field line to plate Souza for the first run of the game. The 32-pitch fifth brought a premature end to his outing and he probably ran out of a gas trying to keep up with a terrific pitcher on the opposing side, but Gausman removed much doubt about the health of his right shoulder by using a fastball in the mid-to-high 90s and a sharp breaking ball to strike out seven in five innings. He just didn’t get any help from his offense.

3rd — In his second appearance since coming off the DL, Brian Matusz walked the two left-handed hitters he faced and loaded the bases in the sixth. If the lefty specialist isn’t going to get lefty bats out, his place in the bullpen becomes tenuous at best as he doesn’t offer as much length as other pitchers. Yes, it was Vance Worley who clipped Casali’s jersey with a pitch to force in the second Tampa Bay run, but Matusz was the one who created the mess that led to a 2-0 deficit.

Home — The Orioles didn’t have many opportunities, but Jonathan Schoop, Joey Rickard, and Manny Machado combined to go 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. … Chris Davis was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. … Despite hitting Casali to force in a run, Worley pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings for Baltimore to save the rest of the bullpen. … Adam Jones grimaced after swinging at the second strike in his final at-bat and was captured by MASN cameras talking to trainer Richie Bancells in the dugout after he grounded out in the ninth inning. … Ubaldo Jimenez goes to the hill on Tuesday night and will be opposed by Tampa Bay right-hander Jake Odorizzi.

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