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Season of “Moneyball” begins for Angelos, Duquette, Buck & Orioles of 2012

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Season of “Moneyball” begins for Angelos, Duquette, Buck & Orioles of 2012

Posted on 13 July 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

The second half of the Baltimore Orioles’ re-awakening 2012 season is about to begin and the local baseball fans are a bit befuddled by it all.

As a Baltimore sports fan, I’m never allergic to exciting wins and a 12-game over .500 start to any baseball season. We’ve seen a manager who not only channels Earl Weaver in his size, stature and mannerisms but also with shrewd use of role players and borderline big leaguers. It’s been three months of watching guys who are trying hard no matter who is called up from Norfolk or who hits the disabled list. We’ve witnessed the blossoming of a true superstar in Adam Jones, who signed a record contract in mid-May against all previous precedent given by the Angelos family.

And, for the first time since 1997, this version of the Baltimore Orioles has stirred fans’ awareness – if not necessarily their emotions or beliefs – that this could be a dog-days-of-summer presentation that will bare watching as the fellows in the purple sweaters practice in Owings Mills in two weeks.

But here’s the problem: the 2012 Baltimore Orioles roster — as currently assembled on July 13th — is either in parts of tatters, simply unproven or just flat-out stinks.

I’ve been watching baseball for 40 years and I can’t think of any situation that compares to this.

The 2012 Baltimore Orioles are 45-40, now just five games over .500. However, if the season ended today they’d be in the playoffs. It’s officially the second half of the season – I watched the All-Star Game on Tuesday night even if none of the rest of you did – and the Orioles have a legitimate chance to play at least one postseason baseball game in October.

In the new Bud Selig fantasy world of more October baseball and profit, the Orioles are truly contenders in a way we couldn’t have imagined in March and haven’t seen since the Clinton administration. And no one else in the American League East looks to be galvanized to go on a tear, either.

Meanwhile the young guns of Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter are all in Norfolk after repeated self-inflicted shots into the bleachers after a series of “Ball Ones” and long, hot innings of ineffectiveness and blown leads.

The now-rested bullpen will attempt to continue to atone for the sins of the many failed starts over the past eight weeks.

The offense is in tatters. Despite the trade for a post-40 Jim Thome – yet another acquisition a player who is in the December of his career ala Sammy Sosa and Vladimir Guerrero — the Orioles are at least making some attempt to get to October after such an encouraging start.

Will Brian Roberts be a factor in the second half? Is Nick Markakis fully healed from his hamate bone injury? Can J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters provide more offense in the second half? Is Xavier Avery a star or just another so-so-outfielder from the Orioles’ depth chart?

There are far more questions than answers heading into the second season of baseball.

The Orioles have been irrelevant for 15 years. This year it appears we’ll have the first-ever Ravens’ training camp opening where the orange team will be the ones making summer headlines.

Will they trade? Who will they trade? What will they get?

One thing we know: trades for legitimate pitchers and hitters who can help the Orioles will not only cost some prospects but will involve large sums of money to pay these proven

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Arrieta sent to Norfolk after bad start in Anaheim

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Arrieta sent to Norfolk after bad start in Anaheim

Posted on 06 July 2012 by WNST Staff

Finally, the Orioles have seen enough — Jake Arrieta was optioned to Norfolk late into the night after another dreadful start in Anaheim.

Arrieta couldn’t make it out of the fourth inning for the second straight time, and the Orioles dropped a 9-7 decision to the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday night. He ended up with his third consecutive no-decision after getting staked to a 7-3 lead.

Arrieta was charged with six runs, five hits and three walks in 3 2-3 innings. He is 1-7 with a 7.71 ERA in 12 starts since May 2, when he threw a career-high eight innings in a 5-0 victory against the Yankees at New York to end Ivan Nova’s 15-game winning streak.

“Obviously I’ve struggled, and tonight was a good example of that. But there’s nothing I can really do about it now,” Arrieta said. “The first half of the season didn’t go as planned. I’ve worked as hard as I could to be highly successful here and it didn’t go that way. But you can’t get too discouraged by it. You just have to keep plugging away and find a way to avoid starts like this.”

The Orioles scored in the first, second and fourth innings against rookie Garrett Richards, but Arrieta’s failure to come up with a shutdown inning on any of those occasions ultimately led to his early exit.

“That’s the most frustrating part of it – when our guys give me a lead like that and I’m not able to get them back in the dugout quickly,” Arrieta said. “We had a 7-3 lead in the fourth, and I know what my job is. I’ve either got to put up a goose egg or limit them to one run. A four or five-run lead is enough for me to win a game.”

The Orioles built their early lead with first-pitch homers by Mark Reynolds and Ryan Flaherty in the second inning and a three-run shot by Matt Wieters in the fourth – all against Richards – but Kendrys Morales drove in the tying and go-ahead runs for the Angels in a five-run fourth.

Despite the victory, Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia kept the clubhouse closed for a half-hour after the club optioned Richards back to Triple-A Salt Lake. By the time reporters were allowed in, a downcast Richards was still at his locker getting some parting words of encouragement from pitching coach Mike Butcher and teammates C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols.

“I’m not discouraged at all. I’m motivated,” Richards said. “I know I belong up here. I know what kind of pitcher I am and they know what kind of pitcher I am. So I’m just going to keep doing my thing, keep pitching like I’m pitching, and let them make the decision.”

Richards gave up seven runs and 10 hits in 4 1-3 innings. The Orioles grabbed a 4-1 lead in the second when Reynolds drove his seventh homer over the double-decker bullpen in left field, Flaherty followed with a shot to left-center and Robert Andino scored on a groundout by Wieters.

The Angels got two of the runs back on Erick Aybar’s RBI single and the first of Mike Trout’s two sacrifice flies. But the Orioles extended their lead to 7-3 in the fourth when Wieters drove a 1-1 pitch into the lower seats in the right field corner for his 15th homer after a two-out walk to J.J. Hardy.

“I made a mistake to Reynolds. The pitch to Flaherty was a fastball away, and he just did a good job of squaring it up and putting backspin on the ball. They’re an aggressive team,” Richards said. “The pitch to Wieters I felt like it was a decent pitch. But he’s a strong guy and he was able to lift it a little bit. But I don’t think he hit it as well as it looked.”

The Angels’ 24-year-old right-hander has surrendered 20 runs and 28 hits along with eight walks over 15 1-3 innings in three starts since June 17, when he pitching eight innings of four-hit ball in a 2-0 win against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“I still feel like I’m the same pitcher I was that day,” Richards said. “Pitchers are going to go through streaks, just like hitters do. I’ve got to start throwing strikes more consistently. I’m missing my spots right now, the ball’s over the plate and I’m getting hit around a little bit. So I’ve got to go back to the drawing board.”

Trout came up in the fourth representing the potential tying run after Howie Kendrick’s RBI single cut the margin to 7-5. He had to settle for his second sac fly, but Torii Hunter greeted Luis Ayala (2-2) with an RBI single that got the Angels within a run. Pujols sent Hunter to third with a single before stealing second, and both runners scored on Morales’ clutch hit.

Trout, heading to his first All-Star game next week, stole three bases to increase his total to 26 – all of them coming after his recall from Triple-A on April 28. He manufactured a run in the sixth by stealing second and third, and continued home on catcher Wieters’ errant throw past third baseman Wilson Betemit.

LaTroy Hawkins (2-1), the second of six Angels pitchers, retired both batters he faced after relieving Richards in the fifth inning and got credit for the victory.

Ernesto Frieri got three outs for his 11th save in 11 chances, keeping his spotless ERA intact in 25 appearances with the Angels and helping them climb within four games of the AL West-leading Texas Rangers. The Orioles slipped 5 1/2 behind the idle New York Yankees in the AL East.

NOTES: Angels RHP Dan Haren was placed on the 15-day disabled list for the first time in his 10-year career because of stiffness in his lower back. RHP Kevin Jepsen was recalled from Salt Lake. … Baltimore’s Chris Davis was scratched with a right trapezius strain in his upper back, and Flaherty started in RF. … Baltimore’s Jason Hammel, who starts Saturday night against Jered Weaver, finished third behind Yu Darvish and Jake Peavy among the five pitchers eligible for the final AL All-Star berth in voting by fans in the Internet. Frieri was fifth behind Jonathan Broxton.

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Angels 9, Orioles 7 (Final Box)

Posted on 06 July 2012 by WNST Staff

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Arrieta trips, Orioles fall 9-7 in Anaheim

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Arrieta trips, Orioles fall 9-7 in Anaheim

Posted on 06 July 2012 by WNST Staff

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