Tag Archive | "Indians"

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 2-1 loss to Cleveland

Posted on 23 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles’ misery continuing in a 2-1 loss to Cleveland, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Baltimore is scoring 3.17 runs per game — worst in the majors — and has plated one or zero runs in five of 10 games at Camden Yards and three or fewer in nine of those. Seven of the 11 Orioles players to bat Monday are hitting .200 or worse. Uncle.

2. Upon intentionally walking Manny Machado in the third, Carlos Carrasco needed 22 pitches to retire the next eight batters before walking Machado in the sixth. That’s one more pitch than the 21 Brandon Belt saw in one at-bat Sunday to set a major league record. Is there even a plan?

3. Speaking of that Machado intentional walk, the Orioles should expect much more of that if the lineup is going to continue being a one-man band.

4. It’s a shame a strong start from Kevin Gausman was wasted as he made one mistake on a two-run homer by Yonder Alonso in the second. The Indians had some other hard contact, but Gausman recorded his third straight quality start and gave his team a good chance to win.

5. Gausman retired 21 of the 23 final batters he faced, finishing his night by striking out Jason Kipnis on a 96.4 mph fastball to end the top of the eighth. Did I mention he deserved better?

6. An “immaculate” inning occurs when a pitcher strikes out the side on the minimum nine pitches. Gausman accomplished that impressive feat in the seventh. According to statistician Ryan Spaeder, he was the first Oriole to do that since B.J. Ryan in 1999.

7. Gausman’s average fastball velocity of 93.9 mph was easily his best of the season as he repeatedly hit 95 and 96 and even touched 97. That should quell concerns about him lacking his typical fastball early this season.

8. In contrast to Gausman’s “immaculate” inning, Danny Valencia struck out three times on a total of nine pitches, swinging and missing three straight times on the first one and looking at three straight in his next at-bat. He did mix in a double in the seventh inning.

9. Adam Jones’ frustration was apparent after he grounded out to end a threat in the eighth inning, throwing his bat, helmet, batting gloves, and shin guard. The center fielder is hitting just .240 with a .396 slugging percentage.

10. Chance Sisco struck out three times, but he delivered the only Orioles run of the night with an RBI single in the second. Monitoring his development is one of the few interesting aspects of this last-place club right now.

11. Trey Mancini coming off the bench to face Andrew Miller certainly wasn’t the easiest matchup, but it bodes well for his potential return to the starting lineup on Tuesday. He took batting practice and was feeling optimistic about his knee prior to Monday’s game.

12. Tim Beckham could be replacing Mancini on the sideline after he left the game with a groin issue and has also been dealing with a sore Achilles. Beckham is batting just .179, but the Orioles were already lacking the infield depth to handle the absence of Jonathan Schoop. What’s next?

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 7-3 loss to Cleveland

Posted on 22 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles continuing their struggles in a 7-3 loss to Cleveland, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. After a 3-for-4 performance that included two home runs, Manny Machado is slugging .713, which is higher than the on-base plus slugging percentage of every other member of Sunday’s lineup except for Pedro Alvarez. He’s doing his best to try to carry an inept offense so far.

2. It’s difficult to recall the Orioles starting a less impressive bottom third of the batting order than Anthony Santander, Caleb Joseph, and Luis Sardinas. Of course, the fifth and sixth spots — Chris Davis and Tim Beckham — haven’t been much better.

3. Opponents entered Sunday 0-for-18 with runners in scoring position against Andrew Cashner, but we witnessed a market correction as he allowed four runs on eight hits and two walks over six innings. I’ll still gladly take his 3.60 ERA through his first five starts.

4. Cashner was strong through his first three innings before laboring mightily the second and third times through the order. However, his strikeout numbers continue to be surprising as he recorded seven over his six frames.

5. He received an assist from the strategy to have Rajai Davis bunt with runners on first and second and no outs in the third after Sardinas had just made an error. I understand Cleveland has struggled offensively, but that helped short-circuit a major threat so early in the game.

6. The Orioles struck out only once through the first six innings against two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, but that allowed him to keep his pitch count at a reasonable 74. They weren’t hitting the ball particularly hard despite him lacking his typical swing-and-miss stuff.

7. Normally you’d admire Santander forcing Kluber to throw 12 pitches in a seventh-inning strikeout that drove up his pitch count, but that merely paved the way for Andrew Miller to enter in the eighth. Pick your poison.

8. Speaking of Miller, Sardinas striking out on four pitches in the eighth was as predictable as it gets. I suppose that’s the joy of having a two-man bench over the weekend with Trey Mancini temporarily sidelined.

9. Brad Brach needed to keep the deficit at one and give Manny Machado a chance to tie it in the ninth, but he was tagged for three runs. His 5.19 ERA and Mychal Givens’ 5.91 mark haven’t given the bullpen a chance to stay afloat without Zach Britton.

10. The Orioles entered Sunday last in the majors at minus-14 defensive runs saved. The defense may not have factored too heavily into this loss, but it continues to be difficult to watch.

11. Mark Trumbo will resume his minor-league rehab assignment Monday, but he’ll need to stack some at-bats after missing so much action dating back to early March. Meanwhile, Pedro Alvarez has seen his average fall to .214 after going 0-for-11 over the first three games of the Indians series.

12. This is the fifth-fastest Orioles club to fall 10 games below .500 and is tied for the third-worst start in franchise history after 22 games with only the 1988 Orioles (1-21) and the 2010 team (4-18) being worse. At least they have 140 games to turn it around, right? Right?

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 4-0 loss to Cleveland

Posted on 21 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles being shut out at home for the second time this season in a 4-0 loss to Cleveland, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The absence of Trey Mancini didn’t bode well for an offense that was already struggling and without Jonathan Schoop, so the end result wasn’t exactly shocking. Baltimore has now been held to three or fewer runs in 14 of 21 games this season.

2. Indians starter Mike Clevinger had a good 2017 campaign, but he had logged seven or more innings in just three of his 34 career starts before his first career shutout. Give the 27-year-old credit, but this has been an all-too-familiar pattern for the 2018 Orioles.

3. The bar is extremely low, but Chris Tillman showed some improvement in giving the Orioles a chance to win by completing six innings for the first time since July 17 of last season. He managed only four swinging strikes, but he threw some decent breaking pitches and struck out five.

4. Despite a low pitch count, Tillman’s stamina came into question beginning in the fourth inning as his velocity dipped. He gave up solo home runs on poorly-located fastballs clocked at 86, 86, and 87 miles per hour. That’s just not going to get the job done.

5. With the middle of the Cleveland order coming up a third time, Buck Showalter could have gone to the bullpen after five and allowed Tillman to leave on a high note. That said, he had just recorded his first 1-2-3 frame and was at only 63 pitches. I understand it.

6. I’m sure Saturday’s performance bought Tillman another start, but I’ve said before the problem is this feels close to his ceiling at this point. Allowing four earned runs over six innings — a 6.00 ERA — lowered his season mark by more than two full runs.

7. Many have questioned Chance Sisco’s throwing ability at the major league level, but he became the first Orioles catcher since Matt Wieters in 2012 to gun down three runners attempting to steal in a game. He’s now thrown out seven of 11 trying to swipe a bag this season.

8. Tanner Scott allowed one hit and struck out one in two scoreless frames. Despite little experience above the Double-A level and well-documented control issues, the hard-throwing lefty has presented himself well in two major league appearances this season.

9. Saturday was the fifth time in eight games at Camden Yards in which the Orioles have failed to record a hit through the first three innings. They’re begging to put themselves in an early hole with that formula.

10. I’m guessing Showalter wasn’t daydreaming about an April 21 lineup featuring Craig Gentry, Pedro Alvarez, Luis Sardinas, and Anthony Santander over the winter. Then again, established bats aren’t producing either.

11. Santander has shown some promise, but he’s batting .170 and his on-base plus slugging percentage has dipped to .497. His Rule 5 requirement will be satisfied next month, which will allow him to return to the minors. The right field problem will remain, however.

12. The Indians offense has been nearly as bad as the Orioles so far, but Cleveland is allowing nearly half as many runs per game. Elite pitching always gives you a chance.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 6-3 loss to Cleveland

Posted on 23 June 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles concluding a disappointing 3-4 homestand with a 6-3 loss to Cleveland, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Streak continued with Baltimore giving up at least five runs for the 19th consecutive game, which is now one shy of the 1924 Philadelphia Phillies’ major league record. If it helps, try to envision the banner being unrolled on the Warehouse to some John Tesh music.

2. The pitching earned the headline, but the offense left a small village of men on base early. When you only manage two runs from a total of 10 baserunners in the first three innings, it’s going to haunt you. The Orioles were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

3. Remember when Wade Miley was pitching to a sub-3.00 ERA because of so many escape acts over the first seven weeks of the season? His ERA has climbed nearly two whole runs over his last six starts.

4. Seth Smith hit his fourth leadoff home run of the season with an impressive opposite-field bomb into the visitors bullpen. Meanwhile, Seattle just moved Yovani Gallardo and his 6.30 ERA to the bullpen. I’d say that trade worked out well.

5. Unfortunately, Miley gave up the lead to the Indians in a matter of three batters to begin the second inning. That’s been an all-too-familiar theme for Orioles starters all season.

6. The third inning was even worse as Miley allowed four straight batters to reach — two via walks — after retiring the first two hitters to begin the frame. His poor command culminated with Austin Jackson’s two-run single that gave Cleveland the lead for good.

7. Miley went to three-ball counts to 10 of the 24 hitters he faced. As bad as that sounds, I honestly would have guessed a higher total than that. He needed 72 pitches just to record his first nine outs.

8. The most maddening at-bat of the night came from Ruben Tejada, who didn’t receive the memo that Indians starter Mike Clevinger was struggling with his command. After Hyun Soo Kim walked to put two men on with one out, Tejada grounded into an inning-ending double play on the first pitch.

9. Manny Machado had a superb night with two walks and two opposite-field hits, one being an RBI double in the ninth. Over the last six games of the homestand, he went 9-for-22 with three homers, three doubles, three walks, and eight runs batted in. He’s now hitting .302 in June.

10. Longtime “Wheel of Fortune” host and Orioles fan Pat Sajak tweeted what many of us were thinking watching a game moving at a glacial pace over the first several innings. There was little to enjoy about that viewing experience.

11. Adam Jones received the night off with the Orioles now going on the road to play their next six games on turf against Tampa Bay and Toronto. The veteran center field being more receptive to occasional days off says plenty about how he’s feeling right now.

12. Buck Showalter missed Thursday’s game to welcome his first grandchild into the world. Of course, that prompted some fans to ask how soon young Winston would be ready to pitch for his granddaddy. In all seriousness, I’m glad the Orioles manager was able to be there for the special day.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 12-0 loss to Cleveland

Posted on 20 June 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles being shut out for the fourth time this season in a 12-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles made history in the wrong way Monday by allowing five or more runs for the 16th consecutive game, setting a new AL record formerly held by the 1937 St. Louis Browns. They’re four shy of the 1924 Philadelphia Phillies for the major league record (dating back to 1913).

2. Jason Kipnis led off three straight innings for the Indians, who sent nine hitters to the plate in both the fourth and fifth and eight in the sixth. The Orioles gave up 11 runs over those three frames, but Cleveland also left 13 runners on base for the night. Astonishing.

3. Dylan Bundy faced one batter over the minimum through the first three innings before surrendering four doubles, a walk, and a hit batter in the fourth. Seeing him struggle to command his pitches and go off the rails like so many other Orioles pitchers was just deflating.

4. Despite pitching three scoreless innings to begin the night, Bundy went to three-ball counts to five of the first nine hitters he faced and gave up some loud outs. Both he and Buck Showalter acknowledged after the game that all wasn’t well even before the fourth inning.

5. This outing could have simply been some regression to the mean for a young pitcher who entered Monday with a 4.46 fielding independent pitching mark or Bundy could be tiring from the heaviest workload of his career. His average fastball velocity of 91 mph was his slowest in a month.

6. Vidal Nuno has now given up eight earned runs and three home runs in 2 2/3 innings since being recalled last week. He’s shown no signs of belonging in the major leagues with a 10.43 ERA in 14 2/3 innings with the Orioles.

7. I hate to say it, but Indians hitters wouldn’t have been able to generate nearly as much exit velocity if a batting tee had instead been set up at home plate. These are the kind of thoughts that creep into my mind during these blowouts.

8. If we’re being honest, even a good performance from Bundy would have been wasted with the way Corey Kluber was dealing for the Indians. The 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner retired 15 in a row at one point and struck out 11 in a three-hit shutout.

9. Old Toronto nemesis Edwin Encarnacion collected his 1,500th career hit with a double in the fourth inning. Contrary to popular belief, half of those have not come against the Orioles, but he does have more hits (129) against them than any other team.

10. Francisco Lindor, arguably Cleveland’s best player, went 0-for-6 and was the only Cleveland starter without a hit. So, there’s that.

11. I liked Adam Jones’ approach trying to go the other way against Kluber to try to account for his nasty curveball. It resulted in a first-inning single and decent contact again in the fourth. He’s gone the other way more this year than he has at any point since 2006.

12. The Orioles have won just five of their last 16 games with four coming against National League teams. They’ve lost nine of their last 10 against AL clubs. Any possibility of trading leagues with Washington?

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 5-1 win over Cleveland

Posted on 23 July 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 5-1 win over the Cleveland Indians on Friday 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 95th game of the 2016 season.

1st Mark Trumbo embraced the return to Camden Yards by crushing a hanging curveball from Indians starter Trevor Bauer for a long three-run home run in the first inning. The blast to left-center gave the Orioles an early 3-0 lead and provided some cushion for a young pitcher making his second major league start. It was Trumbo’s first home run since July 9 and his 29th of the season as he retook sole possession of the major league lead. The right fielder added a single in the seventh inning to complete a 2-for-4 performance.

2ndDylan Bundy earned the win and showed improvement from his first start as he struck out the side in the first and did a good job using his secondary pitches early on. The right-hander allowed only one unearned run and five hits while striking out five and walking none in his five innings of work on 87 pitches. His changeup was particularly effective as six of his 13 swinging strikes came on that pitch. Bundy also showed impressive composure after the Orioles botched a rundown in the fifth as he calmly induced a double play and a grounder to escape the inning after only allowing the one unearned run.

3rdOdrisamer Despaigne did a superb job spelling Bundy and maintaining a 5-1 lead by tossing 3 2/3 scoreless innings of relief. The right-hander allowed three hits and struck out four while walking only one. That free pass of Abraham Almonte came on his final hitter of the game as he was only one strike away from a rare four-inning save, but manager Buck Showalter chose to bring in closer Zach Britton to get the final out. Considering the issues the Orioles have had with their long relief in recent weeks, Despaigne providing that kind of outing kept the bullpen in great shape for the rest of the series.

HomeManny Machado hit his 20th home run of the season and reached base four times on Friday night. It was the All-Star third baseman’s first long ball since July 5. … Britton converted his 31st save in as many tries in 2016 and is now one shy of Tippy Martinez (105 saves) for third place on the Orioles’ all-time list. The All-Star lefty hasn’t given up an earned run over his last 32 appearances since May 5. … Adam Jones hit a sacrifice fly in the second inning to move into a tie with Rafael Palmeiro for seventh place on the club’s all-time RBI list with 701. … J.J. Hardy registered two hits for a third consecutive game. … The Orioles improved to a remarkable 34-14 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which is the best home record in the majors. … Kevin Gausman will take the hill on Saturday night while the Indians will start right-hander Josh Tomlin.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 6-4 win over Indians

Posted on 29 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 6-4 win over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday 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 48th game of the 2016 season.

1stDarren O’Day couldn’t have inherited a much worse spot in the eighth with runners on second and third and no outs and the Orioles clinging to a one-run lead. Instead of wilting under the pressure, the 2015 All-Star reliever proceeded to retire Mike Napoli on a grounder to third and strike out both Lonnie Chisenhall and Yan Gomes swinging to end the inning with the lead intact. Manager Buck Showalter revealed after the game that he was trying to stay away from his reliever because he was under the weather, but O’Day couldn’t have come up bigger for the Orioles on Sunday.

2ndHyun Soo Kim picked the perfect time for his first major league homer, hammering a Jeff Manship fastball into the right-field seats to give Baltimore a 5-4 lead in the seventh. In what was his fifth consecutive start, the South Korean outfielder continued to take advantage of his increased opportunities by also drawing a walk out of the second spot in the order. We still don’t know whether Kim can be an everyday player in the majors, but his .383 average and .463 on-base percentage have provided quite the argument for Showalter to continue penciling his name into the lineup.

3rdMark Trumbo provided the immediate lift that the Orioles needed after Saturday’s deflating loss by crushing a three-run double off rookie Mike Clevinger in the top of the first inning. After scuffling for much of the road trip, Trumbo hit a big two-run blast on Friday and drove in half of the Orioles’ runs on Sunday to close out the weekend series at Progressive Field.

HomeNolan Reimold hit his fourth homer of the season in the top of the ninth off former Oriole Tommy Hunter to make it a 6-4 game. Considering Zach Britton allowed back-to-back singles to begin the bottom of the ninth, Reimold’s homer provided some much-needed breathing room. … Britton quickly settled down to collect his 14th save in as many tries this season. … Despite allowing a season-high three homers on the afternoon, Tillman collected his seventh win of the year. … In his 66th plate appearance of the season, Ryan Flaherty hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth for his first RBI of 2016. … It was downright ugly at times, but the Orioles could feel better about a 4-5 road trip with Sunday’s win to give them series wins in two of the three cities in which they played. … Baltimore returns to Camden Yards on Monday afternoon to take on the first-place Boston Red Sox with Tyler Wilson scheduled to take on knuckleballer Steven Wright.

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They'll never have a parade but at least they still have a nice baseball stadium in Cleveland...

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MLB #GiveASpit Ballpark Ranking: No. 19 Cleveland Indians

Posted on 21 August 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Cleveland – If most stadiums in the 1990s were knockoffs of Camden Yards, this Cleveland model is most closely re-constructed in Philadelphia and Washington. They’ve ripped out a bunch of seats in the upper reaches of right field and they’ve added a garden feel to centerfield. The left field bleachers are still kinda intimidating and cool. And the third base club level still looks like a clubhouse at a horse racing track. In the end, there’s very little that’s memorable about this place but it’s still a nice place to watch a baseball game and a big upgrade over The Mistake on The Lake. Now, if Lebron James could only hit a baseball…

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On Sept. 8-9-10, I will be releasing an extensive essay documenting my 30-30 MLB #GiveASpit journey of 2015. You can read it and all of my work here: http://wnst.net/author/nestoraparicio/

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Orioles once again looking part of first-place club

Posted on 29 June 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles pitched two shutouts, their top six relievers threw a combined 18 pitches, and Adam Jones finally made his return to the lineup on Sunday.

The Buck Showalter garden gnome giveaway was a huge hit.

And, oh yeah, the Orioles found themselves back in first place in the American League East for the first time since April 19.

Cleveland manager Terry Francona might have been asking himself why he waited until the ninth inning of Game 2 to get ejected after his team’s abysmal day, but the Orioles couldn’t have asked for a better doubleheader. In tossing shutouts in both games of the twin bill — a 4-0 win in the opener and an 8-0 final for the nightcap — the Orioles did something they hadn’t accomplished since Sept. 6, 1974 when they twice blanked the Indians in a doubleheader at old Cleveland Stadium.

“It was big. It was a good day,” said Game 2 winner Chris Tillman, who pitched a much-needed seven shutout innings to help his own psyche after Ubaldo Jimenez tossed eight scoreless frames in the opener. “Ubaldo went out and did an outstanding job. There was a lot of offense today in both games. It was really fun to watch.”

On the same day they won the 5,000th game in club history, the Orioles came out of the weekend only reinforcing what many have begun thinking more and more over the last four weeks. They’re looking like a first-place club and woke up Monday morning in that very position, percentage points ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays in a division where four clubs are currently separated by one game.

It’s a different season and a different club, but you couldn’t help but notice that the Orioles seized first place for good on July 3 last season. The similarities are there with an excellent defense, a stellar bullpen, and a revitalized offense hitting home runs, but even the starting pitching got into the act after struggling in recent weeks by allowing just two earned runs in 21 innings of work against the Indians.

Right now, the AL East is far from the poor division it looked to be six weeks ago as three clubs — Baltimore, Tampa Bay, and New York — would have qualified for the playoffs if the season had ended on Sunday. Whether the Orioles will follow the same script of 2014 remains to be seen, but 18 wins in 23 games to move to the top of the division would have any club feeling good about itself.

“It’s a return for that, but it can be very fleeting,” Showalter said. “The only thing I look at is the loss column now and then. I don’t pay much attention to the other part of it.

“See if you can stay engaged and have a chance to roll the dice in September. That’s what it’s about. Position yourself to be in it in September and play meaningful games when the leaves start turning. It’s not that complicated.”

Continuing to win at a .783 clip as they have for more than three weeks isn’t sustainable, but the Orioles learned last year that it doesn’t take prolonged winning streaks to pull away from the pack if you consistently win series. If you combine the four games — two home and two away — against Philadelphia, Baltimore has now secured seven consecutive series wins.

Unlike the Orioles clubs from a few years ago, this group of players has the experience of bouncing back — like when they were six games below .500 earlier this month — that brings confidence the rest of the way. They know it won’t be this easy over the final three months of the season, and Showalter makes sure his players are prepared for that reality, never wanting them to be too high or too low after any result.

“We have the ups and downs,” said third baseman Manny Machado, who hit his career-high 15th homer on Sunday and continues sprinting toward superstar status a week shy of his 23rd birthday. “We started off a little slow. We had players injured, and we’re just getting back into it. Everybody’s starting to get healthy. This is just the midway point.

“There’s a lot more baseball ahead, a lot more slumps, a lot more games lost coming ahead, but we’ve got to stay focused and stay with the mindset that we have.”

The Orioles know they aren’t perfect.

Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette are still sifting through a crowded corner outfield situation that will likely require parting ways with one or two options. As a whole, the group has been more productive in June, but the Orioles have to hope they’ll make the right decisions and the remaining pieces will continue getting the job done.

Tillman’s strong performance on Sunday was a step in the right direction as he and Bud Norris still have a long way to go to quell concerns over their immense struggles in the first half of 2015.

But these issues don’t feel insurmountable and certainly aren’t any worse than the weaknesses the other AL East contenders are facing. Even in winning 96 games and the club’s first division title in 17 years last year, the Orioles had their flaws.

It’s tough to ignore the similarities with 2014, even down to the contributions from unexpected sources such as Jimmy Paredes, Chaz Roe, and Chris Parmelee a year after Steve Pearce, Brad Brach, and Caleb Joseph emerged from the shadows.

“This team tries as much as we can not to think about last year,” said Chris Davis, who hit his club-leading 16th homer on Sunday night. “It was obviously a great year, but it’s over with. You have to turn the page and focus on what’s at hand. I think we’re proud of the way we’re playing right now and battling these last few days and playing with somewhat of a short roster.

“Guys have stepped up and have done a great job.”

And the Orioles have stepped to the top of the AL East as a result.

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Britton closing in on deserved All-Star appearance

Posted on 27 June 2015 by Luke Jones

If anyone benefited from Saturday’s postponement due to heavy rain, it was Orioles closer Zach Britton.

Second in the American League behind only Minnesota’s Glen Perkins with 22 saves, Britton pitched for the fifth time in seven days Friday to preserve a 4-3 win over the Cleveland Indians. As the Orioles have played their best baseball of the season with 16 wins in their last 21 games, Britton has earned the save in nine of those victories.

“Sometimes, his performance gets taken for granted,” manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s really hard to do what Zach’s doing.”

While no Oriole currently leads his position in AL All-Star voting, Britton’s performance all but demands an invitation to Cincinnati on July 14 at this point. If selected by Kansas City manager Ned Yost, Britton would become the 10th Orioles closer since 1979 to be named to the All-Star Game.

The lefty has pitched more innings (32 2/3) than any AL reliever with more than five saves and is 22-for-23 in save chances with his only blemish coming on April 25 when suspect defense contributed to a blown save in a game the Orioles won in extra innings. His ERA of 1.93 and 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings — he struck out just 7.3 per nine in 2014 — have squashed any lingering doubts that Britton could repeat what he did last season.

After transitioning from starter to long reliever to first-time closer last year, Britton has been asked to carry a heavier workload in his second year as the Orioles’ ninth-inning man. In an era when most closers are only asked to pitch one inning, Britton converted the two four-out saves of his career earlier this season and has twice secured five-out saves this month.

It’s no wonder Showalter made a point to recognize Britton’s heavy workload on Friday night after his fifth save in a week.

“It’s difficult. You physically have to make sure that you’re OK to go — you’re doing stuff in the gym or maintenance,” Britton said. “These are things that I’m learning. Last year, I don’t know if I had that many appearances in that [few] days. It’s just little things I’m learning, but it’s kind of the job title. I’m just adjusting to it.”

Because he doesn’t shy away from pitching to contact, the Orioles closer will go through spells in which he puts runners on base like he has in recent outings. Of his nine saves in the month of June, Britton has allowed at least one batter to reach eight times, but he continues to get that all-important 27th out to preserve victories.

As we saw in the clinching Game 3 of last year’s AL Division Series, Britton escaping trouble is typically only a ground ball away. On Friday, he worked around a leadoff single to convert his 18th consecutive save opportunity, matching his best stretch of 2014.

“It’s not always easy I guess,” Britton said. “The last couple, I’ve had some guys on and had to work out of it a little bit. The hitters up here are so good, and guys are starting to get aggressive on that sinker, so it is just about execution on that first hitter. The last couple times, it just hasn’t been there. It’s not easy; I learned that last year you go through times where you have guys on every time out there. It’s the times where things aren’t going your way all the time that you just got to battle.

“I’m just making pitches when those guys get on and getting out of those jams. I think the big thing is I know I’m one pitch away from getting that double-play ball.”

It may not be easy, but Britton has made it look that way, leaving him more than deserving of a trip to the All-Star Game.

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