Tag Archive | "kevin gausman"

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Home runs continue to stunt Gausman’s success

Posted on 19 August 2016 by Luke Jones

Orioles starting pitcher Kevin Gausman is having a strange season in 2016.

He’s pitched better than his 4-10 record indicates as he entered Thursday’s start having the fourth-worst run support among qualified American League starters. His 4.11 ERA has still made him Baltimore’s No. 2 starter behind Chris Tillman, but he hasn’t taken the major step forward that many hoped to see.

It hasn’t been all bad for Gausman, who is striking out a career-best 9.1 batters per nine innings as a starter to rank 14th among qualified major league pitchers. Despite walking a career-high six in San Francisco last weekend, the 25-year-old has issued a very reasonable 2.6 free passes per nine innings in 2016.

So, what’s been the problem beyond the shoddy run support?

The right-hander just hasn’t been able to keep it in the ballpark.

After giving up a pair of late home runs against Houston to soil what was shaping up to be a strong outing in Thursday’s 13-5 win, Gausman has allowed 1.63 homers per nine innings this season, the eighth-worst mark among qualified starters in the majors. Since giving up just three long balls in his first 36 2/3 innings of the season, Gausman has surrendered 20 over his last 90 1/3 innings. You can’t blame it on pitching at Camden Yards, either, as 15 of the 23 he’s allowed in 2016 have come on the road.

After giving up only 0.6 homers per nine innings in 20 starts in 2014, Gausman’s home run rate sits at 1.5 per nine over the last two years, the biggest statistical factor that has kept his ERA above 4.00. Of the 61 runs (earned and unearned) allowed by Gausman this year, 32 have scored via the home run. In contrast, just 24 of the 58 runs allowed by Tillman — another pitcher prone to giving up home runs — have scored on round-trippers.

Fans often question Gausman’s aggressiveness — particularly on the road — but that doesn’t paint the entire picture.

Fifteen of the 23 home runs in 2016 have come against Gausman’s fastball, but the issue isn’t really with that pitch itself. He’s allowed one long ball per 18.6 plate appearances against right-handed hitters but just one per 35 plate appearances against lefties.

His split-changeup has made him very effective against left-handed bats, but his breaking ball — whether you label it a slider, a curve, or a “slurve” — designed to help against right-handers continues to be a below-average pitch. Opponents are hitting .351 with four home runs and six doubles against the 293 sliders he’s thrown in 2016, according to FanGraphs. In contrast, opponents are hitting .216 with four homers and five doubles on the 462 splitters he’s thrown.

Gausman has thrown his breaking ball a career-high 13.1 percent of the time in 2016 as he continues to try to develop it as more than just a “show-me” pitch, but he remains too much of a fastball-dependent pitcher against right-handers. This unsurprisingly makes him more vulnerable to the long ball if his fastball command within the strike zone isn’t superb. Even with the great velocity, right-handed hitters generally know he’s going to lean on the fastball in big moments and aren’t afraid of his breaking ball.

The expectations have been high for Gausman since he was selected with the fourth overall pick of the 2012 draft. The Orioles and their fans understandably want to see more, but his 3.98 ERA over the last three seasons has still made him a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter.

Without Gausman developing a pitch to better defend himself against the right-handed hitters who are hitting .290 with an .859 on-base plus slugging percentage against him in 2016, it’s difficult envisioning him being dramatically better than what he’s been to this point in his career. To be clear, that would hardly make him a bust as most highly-touted pitching prospects never become an ace.

It’s just very difficult for a two-pitch pitcher to become a top-of-the-rotation guy.

After 64 career starts in the majors, this might just be who Gausman is.

** J.J. Hardy continues to quietly have a solid season at the plate despite missing nearly seven weeks with a broken foot.

A two-homer night on Thursday doesn’t change the reality that he lacks the same power that he once possessed, but his hard contact rate of 37.5 percent is easily the highest of his career, according to FanGraphs. He isn’t going the other way more often than in the past, but a different approach focused on hitting line drives has prompted him to hit .409 to the opposite field compared to his .248 career mark.

After an abysmal 2015 in which he played with a torn labrum in his left shoulder all season, Hardy needed to bounce back and has done so with a .278 average, seven home runs, 19 doubles, and a .743 OPS.

** Mark Trumbo hit his 35th homer of the season on Thursday to set a new career high.

He is hitting just .156 with a .583 OPS since the All-Star break, but he does have seven home runs over those 32 games. In fact, Trumbo’s last four hits dating back to the final game of the Oakland series on August 11 have all been home runs.

Talk about all or nothing.

** Hyun Soo Kim registered the first four-hit game and first triple of his major league career on Thursday night. He is now hitting .329 with a .406 on-base percentage and a very respectable .449 slugging percentage in 244 plate appearances.

Remember when the Orioles were convinced he couldn’t play in the majors after a poor start in spring training?

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 3-2 win over Texas

Posted on 04 August 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 3-2 win over the Texas Rangers 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 106th game of the 2016 season.

1st Matt Wieters not only provided the deciding two-run single off Rangers ace Cole Hamels in the bottom of the first, but the catcher also made the biggest defensive play of the evening in the ninth. On a pitch that got away from closer Zach Britton, Rougned Odor took off from first base in an effort to get the potential tying run in scoring position, but Wieters pounced on the ball and fired a strike to Jonathan Schoop, who didn’t even have to move his glove to tag the sliding Odor for the second out of the inning. Entering the night with a .179 average against left-handed pitching, Wieters delivered a big hit as a right-handed batter for the second straight night — he homered from the right side late in Tuesday’s win — and was the offensive standout on a night when runs were at a premium.

2ndKevin Gausman turned in seven good innings to earn his third win of the year, but the final numbers don’t really tell the whole story of his outing. Coming off arguably his worst start of 2016 at Toronto, the right-hander had already allowed a first-inning homer and an RBI single in the second before walking Nomar Mazara to put two runners on with no outs in the second. The outing was teetering toward disaster before he retired the next three hitters to escape trouble. From that point, Gausman commanded his fastball well and needed only 58 pitches to complete the next five innings after he had thrown 50 over the first two frames. Four of his seven strikeouts came on fastballs while he effectively used his split-changeup for the other three. He received some good luck as some squared-up contact was gobbled up by his infield defense, but his strong recovery after a rough start was impressive.

3rdDarren O’Day once again took the ball after pitching a perfect 1 1/3 innings on 17 pitches on Tuesday, and he did not disappoint. Facing the top of the Rangers order in a 3-2 game, the right-hander needed just seven pitches to retire Jurickson Profar, Ian Desmond, and Carlos Beltran. Since returning from the disabled list late last month, O’Day has pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed one hit and one walk while striking out seven.

Home — Jonathan Schoop, J.J. Hardy, and Chris Davis made a collection of fine defensive plays to support a good pitching effort from Gausman. … Britton struggled with his control in the ninth before converting his 33rd save in as many tries to begin the season, which is the major league record for consecutive save conversions to begin a season by a left-handed pitcher. His 106th career save moved him past Tippy Martinez and into sole possession of third on the club’s all-time saves list. … Manny Machado collected his 31st double of the year in the first inning to surpass his total of 30 in 162 games last season. … Steve Pearce went 0-for-2 with a walk and two strikeouts looking in his first game back with the Orioles. … Baltimore improved to 39-16 in games played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. … Left-hander Wade Miley will make his Orioles debut on Thursday night while the Rangers send right-hander A.J. Griffin to the hill.

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With trade options limited, recent rotation surge encouraging for Orioles

Posted on 25 July 2016 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 10:30 p.m.)

BALTIMORE — The Orioles clearly want starting pitching help.

We can certainly debate to what degree they need more starting pitching as Baltimore entered Monday holding the best record in the American League despite a 4.91 rotation ERA ranking 24th in the majors.

But we should be realistic about this final week leading up to Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline. There isn’t much out there, plenty of contenders are looking for starters, and the Orioles have few commodities to give up unless they’re planning to surrender impact talent from their current roster, which doesn’t sound all that appealing when you’re trying to improve.

These realities don’t excuse the Orioles, who knew they had rotation problems entering the offseason before letting their 2015 ace, Wei-Yin Chen, depart via free agency and replacing him with Yovani Gallardo, who’s dealt with shoulder issues that were first flagged during his February physical and eventually landed him on the disabled list in April after only four starts. The options may not have been plentiful this winter, but no one can say the Orioles’ Achilles heel is remotely surprising a few months later.

There just isn’t a whole lot to be done about it right now.

“We’re going to try to add to our rotation,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said over the weekend. “We need some more consistency from the guys we have here, and we’re going to try to add to it via the trade route. This is a really thin market. There’s a lot of teams chasing a few pitchers. It’s about as thin as I’ve ever seen the market, but we’re going to see what we can do.”

It remains to be seen whether Duquette can deliver a starter who represents a marked upgrade over what the Orioles already have — forgive me if I’m not doing cartwheels over the likes of San Diego’s Andrew Cashner — but the executive was right about the need to find some improvement from within. That’s what has made the start of the second half uplifting for Baltimore.

In their first 10 games since the All-Star break, the Orioles have posted a 3.03 starter ERA after a robust 5.15 mark in the season’s first 87 contests. It’s a very small sample that includes seven games against two light-hitting clubs — Tampa Bay and the New York Yankees — but six starts of six or more innings have allowed manager Buck Showalter to rest a little easier of late.

The rotation isn’t fixed, but you’ll take any positives you can find after the first half.

Arguably the club’s most valuable player behind Manny Machado, ace Chris Tillman has rebounded from a rocky June with four straight starts in which he’s lasted seven innings and allowed only one run to lower his season ERA to a tidy 3.18. Kevin Gausman has also elevated his performance as the No. 2 starter, surrendering two runs and striking out 13 over his two starts covering 13 1/3 innings since the break.

After signing him to a two-year, $22 million contract, the Orioles desperately want to see Gallardo as their true No. 3 starter in a perfect world, but the questions about his ability to pitch deep into games haven’t disappeared despite back-to-back outings last at least 6 2/3 innings. His track record makes provides optimism that he can build on what he’s done over the last week.

But what we witnessed on Friday and Sunday provides some hope beyond the clearly-defined top two and Gallardo in the rotation. These names aren’t definitive rotation answers, but we’ll call them “maybes” for right now.

Facing a Cleveland offense currently ranking third in the AL — and ahead of the Orioles — in runs scored, Dylan Bundy allowed only one unearned run in five strong innings in the series-opening win. You can’t cross your fingers any harder that the 23-year-old will stay healthy and that the Orioles will take care of him as they stretched him out from 70 pitches in his first start to 87 on Friday night, but the ability is undeniable and his season results have been better than anyone could have expected entering 2016. What we don’t know is how the organization will handle his workload to keep him in play as a contributor in September and October, but he’s been fun to watch.

Veteran Vance Worley provided the other shot in the arm on Sunday by allowing just two runs over seven innings as the Orioles completed the series sweep over the AL Central-leading Indians. In a perfect world, Worley would have remained in his role as an effective long man, but he owns a respectable 3.89 mark as a starter in his career. After seeing the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez and Mike Wright struggle with extensive opportunities in the first half, the Orioles had few choices but to go with Worley, who received little more than a cameo as a starter in April before moving to the bullpen.

At least for the time being, Bundy and Worley have done enough to continue giving them the ball for the time being. The Orioles rotation isn’t magically going to transform into a top five group, but rising to even the middle of the pack in the AL in the second half would go a long way in complementing a powerful offense and a bullpen back to full strength with the return of Darren O’Day.

Finding that kind of improvement would be much easier if Duquette can somehow find another viable arm to slot into the rotation, but the start of the second half has brought some encouragement.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 2-1 defeat to New York

Posted on 19 July 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 2-1 defeat to the New York Yankees 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 91st game of the 2016 season.

1st — Yankees starter Ivan Nova deserves credit for his six strong innings, but he entered the night with a 5.18 season ERA and the Orioles are still waiting for their bats to wake up in July. They made the right-hander work over the first four innings by driving up his pitch count to 75 through four innings, but Baltimore stranded six runners over those four frames with Jonathan Schoop providing a solo home run in the third for the lone run of the night. Of course, the Orioles’ chances then plummeted against the intimidating trio of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman. They went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position with Pedro Alvarez leaving the bases loaded and a runner at second in his first two at-bats. The one run was the club’s lowest output since being shut out by Seattle on May 17. Expecting the Orioles to sustain what they did offensively in their historic June would be unfair, but they’re now hitting just .253 and averaging an underwhelming 3.7 runs per game in 13 July contests.

2nd — It may have only been the fourth inning, but Nolan Reimold’s baserunning gaffe short-circuited a promising scoring opportunity for the top of the order. He slipped after rounding second base on Ryan Flaherty’s single inside the third-base bag with one out, but Reimold was way too far off the base anyway on a ball that Yankees third baseman Chase Headley recovered quickly. Instead of having runners at first and second with one out for Adam Jones and then the red-hot Schoop, the miscue left only Flaherty on second with two outs. The bailout was the precursor to Nova retiring the final seven hitters he faced before turning a 2-1 lead over to the back end of the New York bullpen.

3rd — Kevin Gausman turned in a very good outing that lacked proper run support, but the long ball continues to be a problem for the young right-hander as he allowed a solo shot to the struggling Alex Rodriguez in the second inning. It’s hard to fault Gausman too much as he retired 12 of the final 13 hitters he faced and allowed just two runs and six hits in his 6 2/3 innings, but the 25-year-old has now allowed a team-high 16 homers in his 93 1/3 innings this season. Thirteen of those have come in his last 56 2/3 innings — an ugly 2.06 per nine innings over that stretch — after he surrendered only three in his first 36 2/3 innings of 2016. The long ball is the biggest factor holding Gausman back as he’s improved both his strikeout and walk rates from a year ago, but he clearly deserved much better from his offense on Monday night.

Home — It was probably a long shot to throw out the speedy Brett Gardner at the plate, but center fielder Adam Jones’ throw on Brian McCann’s sacrifice fly in the third inning was uncharacteristically poor as it bounced multiple times to the plate and skipped past the cutoff man. … The Orioles have lost each of the last 10 series openers at Yankee Stadium, a stretch dating back to the start of 2013. Their club record of scoring at least two runs in 53 consecutive games was snapped. … Schoop’s homer was his 16th of the season, matching his career high set in 2014. … Manager Buck Showalter told reporters after the game that Matt Wieters would have an X-ray after being hit on his right foot by a Nova pitch in the first inning. The catcher played the entire game. … Chris Davis was unavailable after being hospitalized with a stomach virus on Sunday night while Hyun Soo Kim remained sidelined with a hamstring injury. … Vance Worley will make his first start since April 15 when he takes the ball against Yankees right-hander Nathan Eovaldi on Tuesday night.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 5-0 win over Tampa Bay

Posted on 25 June 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 5-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in the opener of Saturday’s doubleheader?

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 73rd game of the 2016 season.

1stKevin Gausman downplayed whether it was wearing on him that he had yet to secure a win in 2016 and that pitcher statistic has certainly been marginalized in recent years, but the 25-year-old needed a strong outing to not only boost his confidence in a rough month of June but to also keep the Orioles bullpen intact for the nightcap of Saturday’s doubleheader. Gausman tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed only two hits until eclipsing the 100-pitch mark and allowing two singles in the eighth. His fastball command was much better than it’s been in recent starts as he effectively used his sinker to induce grounders and his four-seamer to miss bats and finish off hitters. Gausman was the beneficiary of some fine defensive plays, but retiring 19 of 20 at one point and striking out seven without walking a batter will typically put you in line for a win and that’s exactly what the young pitcher received on Saturday.

2ndJonathan Schoop started two scoring rallies with a leadoff double in the bottom of the second and a one-out single in the sixth to elevate his average to .287. The 24-year-old has hit .337 with a .953 on-base plus slugging percentage in the month of June. In addition to scoring two runs in the victory, the second baseman played terrific defense highlighted by a backhand play and terrific throw from shallow center to throw out Tim Beckham to end the top of the seventh.

3rdPedro Alvarez entered the day just 2-for-19 against left-handed pitching in 2016, but the designated hitter delivered a two-run single off Tampa Bay lefty Enny Romero in the bottom of the seventh to give the Orioles a five-run cushion that they wouldn’t relinquish. Alvarez walked and scored in Baltimore’s two-run second inning and is now hitting .236 after a rough start to the year.

HomeJ.J. Hardy delivered the first run of the afternoon with an RBI single up the middle in the second. The veteran shortstop added another single in the sixth and is 8-for-27 with two doubles and three RBIs since returning from the disabled list last week. … Adam Jones singled twice and drove in a run to raise his season average to .250, the first time he’s concluded a game at that mark since May 18. … Matching their 2016 high-water mark of 13 games above .500 in the Saturday afternoon win, the Orioles improved to 6-1 at Camden Yards this season in games in which they’ve failed to homer. … Saturday marked Gausman’s first win since Sept. 30, 2015 when he beat Toronto in the second game of a twin bill. … The Rays suffered their ninth consecutive loss on Saturday afternoon.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 4-3 loss to Rangers

Posted on 21 June 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 4-3 defeat to the Texas Rangers 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 69th game of the 2016 season.

1st — On a night when the Orioles banged out 15 hits, the game turned when they squandered a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the third inning. Leading 3-0 and threatening to break the game open against Texas starter Derek Holland, Baltimore came away with nothing despite a Mark Trumbo walk and consecutive singles by Matt Wieters and Jonathan Schoop to start the inning. J.J. Hardy struck out on a pitch in the dirt and Nolan Reimold grounded into an inning-ending double play. It was all Rangers after that despite the opportunities being abundant for the Orioles, who left 12 runners on base and went 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position over the course of the night.

2nd — Kevin Gausman was carrying good stuff on Monday, but questionable choices in pitch selection and location doomed him in the deciding three-run fourth. It’s one thing to miss with location as the right-hander did on Ian Desmond’s long solo home run an inning earlier, but you have to question why Gausman continued to throw outside fastballs — and why Wieters continued calling for them — to No. 9 hitter Bobby Wilson without once challenging him inside. Despite getting ahead 0-2, Gausman couldn’t put the light-hitting catcher away and Wilson hit a sacrifice fly on the 10th pitch of the at-bat. Gausman followed that by throwing a hanging breaking ball to Shin-Soo Choo for the deciding two-run single after the lefty hitter hadn’t gotten around on his fastball all night. As was the case against Boston last week, Gausman’s stuff was too good to get such underwhelming results.

3rd — Despite Texas entering the night ranked 14th in the American League in bullpen ERA, the Orioles couldn’t get to Rangers relievers after knocking Holland out of the game in the fifth. Neither Shawn Tolleson nor Tony Barnette had pitched well of late, but the Orioles didn’t push a single runner into scoring position despite four hits against the pair in 3 2/3 innings. Ironically, Baltimore threatened against tough closer Sam Dyson by putting runners on the corners in the ninth, but Wieters struck out and Schoop grounded out to end the game with the tying run on third base.

Home — In addition to grounding into a double play with the bases loaded in the third, Reimold struck out twice with a runner on base and was thrown out at second on a failed hit-and-run. His lone hit of the night was a single to lead off the sixth. … Every Orioles starter collected at least one hit on the night. The 15 hits tied for their third-highest number of the season, but the three runs were their lowest total in a game in which they had collected at least 12 hits this season. … Dylan Bundy tossed three perfect innings with three strikeouts in relief of Gausman to save the rest of the bullpen. … Baltimore returns home to play its first interleague series of the year Tuesday with Tyler Wilson squaring off against San Diego’s Luis Perdomo.

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

Posted on 05 June 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 3-1 win over the New York Yankees on Sunday?

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 55th game of the 2016 season.

1stMatt Wieters once again came up big in a late-game situation, grounding a 101 mph fastball from Aroldis Chapman into center field to plate the tying and go-ahead runs in the bottom of the eighth. Not only was Wieters pinch-hitting for just the third time this season, but he had quickly fallen behind 0-2 after failing to catch up to two straight 99 mph fastballs from the Yankees lefty. It was an impressive feat for the starting catcher as he shortened his stroke and delivered the first Baltimore runs of the afternoon. Wieters is now hitting .369 with a .967 on-base plus slugging percentage and 16 RBIs in his last 18 games.

2ndKevin Gausman didn’t record a single 1-2-3 inning and had many deep counts, but the Yankees were just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position against him as the 25-year-old turned in the Orioles’ first quality start since Memorial Day. The right-hander scattered seven hits and two walks, but his most important work came in the fourth inning when he got Aaron Hicks to ground into a fielder’s choice and Jacoby Ellsbury to strike out with the bases loaded to maintain a 1-0 deficit. He would strike out five in six innings while throwing 104 pitches for his fifth quality start of the season.

3rdFrancisco Pena was at Triple-A Norfolk with a total of seven major league plate appearances under his belt a week ago, but the reserve catcher picked up a huge single off Chapman to load the bases and give Wieters a chance as a pinch hitter with two outs in the eighth. He also got a great read on Wieters’ single to advance to third, which allowed him to score on Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury’s errant throw. Son of Yankees first base coach and former major league catcher Tony Pena, the 26-year-old also walked in the third and singled in the fifth in a 2-for-3 performance.

HomeT.J. McFarland pitched two scoreless innings to not only keep the Orioles in the game, but the lefty also helped preserve an overworked bullpen that’s without the services of the injured Darren O’Day. For his efforts, McFarland picked up his first win of the season. … Zach Britton pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 17th save in 17 tries and extended his scoreless streak to 13 games covering 14 1/3 innings. … The Orioles improved to 2-20 when trailing at the end of seven innings and handed the Yankees their first defeat of the year when ahead at the end of seven. … Right-hander Mike Wright will start the opener of a three-game set with the Kansas City Royals, who will send lefty Danny Duffy to the hill on Monday night.

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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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Thoughts about Orioles’ weekend series in Anaheim

Posted on 22 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Sunday’s 10-2 loss shouldn’t spoil a series victory for the Orioles as they took two out of three from the Los Angeles Angels to begin their longest road trip of the season to this point.

The weekend was highlighted by Matt Wieters’ dramatic three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning to erase a 1-0 deficit and give Baltimore a 3-1 win on Saturday night. The blow came on Wieters’ 30th birthday and continued a strong month for the veteran catcher in which he’s hit .372 with three homers, eight RBIs, and a 1.038 OPS.

It was another game that had a 2014 feel to it in the sense that the Orioles came away with one they had little business winning after Matt Shoemaker had dominated them. And it’s the kind of win you remember fondly if they’re still in the thick of the race in September.

Even with the lopsided loss in the series finale, the Orioles went into the off-day holding the best record in the American League and leading the East by percentage points over the Boston Red Sox.

** Ubaldo Jimenez continued a nightmare month on Sunday by allowing six earned runs in 5 2/3 innings, lifting his season ERA to 6.04 and his May ERA to 7.81 in 27 2/3 innings.

It’s been an extended period of struggles for the right-hander dating back to the second half of last season. Since holding an impressive 2.81 ERA at the 2015 All-Star break, Jimenez has pitched to a 5.79 mark in his last 135 1/3 innings of regular-season work.

The frustration over Jimenez’s performance is obvious, but the problem is that the Orioles aren’t exactly bursting at the seams with alternatives — at least until Yovani Gallardo is ready to return next month. Despite the cries of some fans, the organization just isn’t releasing a pitcher in the third year of a four-year, $50 million contract, especially when Jimenez is capable of getting on a roll in which he pitches at a high level.

Manager Buck Showalter reiterated after Sunday’s game that the Orioles aren’t at a point where Jimenez’s rotation spot is in jeopardy, but something may have to give sooner rather than later if his May struggles continue into June.

** Mike Scioscia was rightfully upset with home plate umpire Dale Scott over a pair of awful strike calls in the ninth inning on Saturday, but I’m still scratching my head about the Angels manager removing Shoemaker after just 95 pitches.

There was no reason to think the starter couldn’t have at least finished the eighth after striking out 12 over 7 1/3 innings. Perhaps the baseball gods agreed considering how the ninth inning played out.

** If you’re looking for the latest reason why the win stat means little for starting pitchers, look no further than Kevin Gausman, who has zero in six starts despite a tidy 2.70 ERA.

On Saturday, the 25-year-old showed his best fastball velocity since his season debut and got stronger as the game went on despite no run support from the Orioles lineup. The wins will come, but the important news is that Gausman is healthy and pitching effectively.

** Joey Rickard stole second base in the first inning of Sunday’s game, giving the Orioles just their sixth stolen base of the season.

Entering Sunday, 32 players in the majors had more steals than the entire Orioles club. Of course, Baltimore leading the majors in homers has a lot to do with the reluctance to run.

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Starting pitching passing the test for Orioles so far

Posted on 12 May 2016 by Luke Jones

The home runs hog the spotlight, but another encouraging development has sparked the Orioles to a season-best eight games above .500 as they began a seven-game homestand on Thursday night.

We figured that Buck Showalter’s club would hit the long ball and runs would be aplenty in 2016, but what about the starting pitching?

While the offense hit an impressive 13 home runs over a four-game winning streak, the rotation quietly turned in four consecutive quality starts for the first time in 2016. In fact, the Orioles have recorded 11 quality starts in their last 14 games since the return of Kevin Gausman on April 25 after registering just three in their first 18 games.

The 9-5 stretch has elevated Baltimore to seventh in the AL in starter ERA at 4.28.

Certainly not great, but good enough with a terrific bullpen backing up the rotation. The Kansas City Royals showed last year that you don’t need excellent starting pitching to contend as they finished 12th in starter ERA and pitched the fewest starter innings in the AL before ultimately winning the World Series.

Perhaps even more encouraging than the Orioles’ starter ERA is the fact that they rank third in the AL in starter fielding independent pitching (FIP) at 3.74, suggesting the peripherals have been better than the results. Starters have allowed a league-low 16 home runs, rank 10th in strikeouts, and have issued the fifth-fewest walks among AL clubs. This is marked improvement from a year ago when the rotation surrendered the second-most homers, finished 10th in strikeouts, and issued the sixth-highest total of walks in the AL.

Yes, the Orioles have pitched in cool and damp conditions to aid in their efforts to prevent the long ball, but the weather hasn’t stopped their lineup from leading the league in home runs.

Leading the way for the rotation have been Chris Tillman and Gausman, who have accounted for seven of the Orioles’ 14 quality starts to begin the season.

Through the first 5 1/2 weeks of the season, Tillman has not only bounced back from a forgettable 2015 season, but the right-hander has been better than ever. Even more impressive than a tidy 3.05 ERA through seven starts has been his ability to miss bats as he’s struck out 9.4 batters per nine innings, a significant improvement from his 6.8 career average.

The increased use of his slider has been the difference for the 28-year-old as he’s thrown it 16.2 percent of the time, up from just 7.2 percent a year ago. He’s gotten more strikeouts and a higher swinging strike percentage with his slider than any other pitch in 2016.

Despite beginning the year on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis, Gausman has looked the part of a top-half-of-the-rotation starter through his first four outings, posting a 2.16 ERA and striking out 8.3 and walking just 1.8 per nine innings. The Orioles talked all offseason about the need for the 25-year-old to take a big step forward to help them contend, and his start to the season has been encouraging.

Perhaps more important than the results is the fact that his velocity is in line with where it was two years ago, indicating that the health of his shoulder hasn’t been a major concern. The improvement of his breaking ball has also added another dimension to his repertoire.

The rest of the rotation has been more uncertain, but it’s still allowed the Orioles to compete.

As we’ve come to expect, Ubaldo Jimenez has been hot and cold with a couple exceptional starts and some ugly ones in which he’s struggled to throw strikes, netting him a 4.54 ERA entering Thursday.

Mike Wright’s 5.83 ERA is ugly, but he sports a 4.10 FIP and opponents have a .356 batting average on balls in play, signs of hope that his results could improve with better fortune moving forward.

Tyler Wilson has been the most pleasant surprise as he sports a rock-solid 3.57 ERA as a starter. His stuff doesn’t wow you and he’s struck out just 4.4 batters per nine innings, but he doesn’t issue many walks and has limited home runs, allowing his defense to be a bigger factor in his success. Whether he can sustain that level of success remains to be seen.

Veteran Yovani Gallardo is set to begin a throwing program and has reported improvement with the strength of his right shoulder. The Orioles certainly aren’t ready to give up on the free-agent acquisition despite a concerning start to the season in which he was struggling just to reach the high 80s with his fastball before being placed on the DL on April 23.

The 30-year-old’s return isn’t imminent, but he would potentially give Showalter another viable option should Wright be unable to straighten himself out or if opposing lineups begin catching up to Wilson.

No, the parts aren’t all pretty, but the sum has contributed to an impressive 20-12 start.

The Orioles don’t really need exceptional starting pitching as they entered Thursday ranked third in the AL in runs scored per game (4.625) and first in bullpen ERA (2.33). They just need their rotation to rank in the middle of the pack to contend in the AL East.

Not great, but just good enough.

And that’s exactly what the Orioles have gotten so far.

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