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Machado, Trumbo among leaders in early AL All-Star voting

Posted on 31 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Major League Baseball released its first 2016 All-Star balloting update on Tuesday with two Orioles among the leaders at their respective positions.

Manny Machado was leading all American League third basemen with just over 630,000 votes as Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas trailed in second place by more than 60,000 votes. Entering Tuesday, the 23-year-old was batting .313 with 13 home runs, 29 RBIs, and a robust .998 on-base plus slugging percentage.

Filling in for the injured J.J. Hardy at shortstop since early May, Machado has made more 2016 starts at his natural position than at the hot corner where he’s won Gold Gloves in two of the last three years. Of course, Machado is listed on the official ballot as a third baseman.

Mark Trumbo ranks third among AL outfielders as he holds an advantage over Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr. by more than 86,000 votes for the final starting spot. Acquired from the Seattle Mariners in the offseason, Trumbo has hit .289 with 15 homers, 37 RBIs, and a .912 OPS entering Tuesday’s action.

Other Orioles players appearing in the AL voting update included Chris Davis ranking third among first basemen, Jonathan Schoop fifth among second basemen, Hardy fifth among shortstops, Matt Wieters third among catchers, and Adam Jones ninth and Joey Rickard 14th among AL outfielders.

The 2016 All-Star Game will be played at Petco Park in San Diego on July 12.

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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’ 5-3 win over Minnesota

Posted on 11 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 5-3 win over the Minnesota Twins 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 31st game of the 2016 season.

1stAdam Jones has had a difficult start to 2016, but he turned in his best game of the season and did it in a way that will quell concerns about whether he’s over the rib injury suffered in the opening week. First, he ended a 3-for-27 slump by clobbering a 443-foot home run on a hanging curve from Twins starter Jose Berrios in the fifth to extended the Orioles’ advantage to 3-1. Then, he was able to get on top of a high 95 mph fastball from Kevin Jepsen in the top of the ninth to line the game-winning two-run single to left. It’s only one game and Jones will need to build on it with his average still sitting at just .210, but those two feats leave reason to believe he is getting healthy. And if he’s right physically, Jones is bound to heat up sooner rather than later.

2ndManny Machado went 3-for-3 and hit his club-leading 10th homer of the season to give the Orioles the lead in the top of the fifth. The ultimate sign of respect came in the ninth when Jepsen pitched around the red-hot Machado to face Jones, who was able to make the Twins reliever pay. Machado reached base all five times he went to the plate and now sports a .365 average to go along with a .424 on-base percentage. He continues to be the biggest reason why the Orioles are off to a 19-12 start.

3rdKevin Gausman threw a hanging breaking ball that Trevor Plouffe knocked out of the park for the game-tying two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth, but the 25-year-old was otherwise good on Tuesday. He struck out a season-high nine batters over his six innings and showed the ability to reach back for fastballs touching 97 and 98 mph when he needed to. His 111 pitches were two shy of his career high, but he he was still carrying excellent velocity late in the outing, a good sign with his right shoulder.

HomeJoey Rickard made the Orioles’ two-out rally in the ninth possible as he was behind 1-2 to Jepsen and worked the count full before lining a double off the base of the left-field wall. He eventually scored the go-ahead run on Jones’ single. … Brad Brach, Darren O’Day, and Zach Britton combined for three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out three. O’Day earned the win while Britton picked up his eighth save of the season. … Chris Davis collected three hits to raise his season average to .217 while Matt Wieters had an RBI single and another hit to elevate his average to .227. … Jonathan Schoop’s 11-game hitting streak came to an end. … Tyler Wilson goes to the hill on Wednesday afternoon while veteran Phil Hughes will start for Minnesota.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 11-3 win over Oakland

Posted on 08 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 11-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics to earn a series win 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 30th game of the 2016 season.

1stManny Machado continues to make us search for new adjectives to describe his play as he homered twice — including his second grand slam of the season — and drove in a career-high six runs to pace a Baltimore offensive attack that hit a season-high six home runs. His first long ball immediately got the Orioles back in the game after falling behind 3-0 in the top of the first while his eighth-inning grand slam removed any lingering doubt about the final outcome. He concluded Sunday with a .350 batting average and a 1.094 on-base plus slugging percentage and continues to play like the AL Most Valuable Player through the first 30 games of 2016. 

2ndChris Tillman was neither lucky nor sharp in giving up three runs in the opening inning, but he was able to grind through command issues and gained a feel for his secondary pitches to complete 6 1/3 innings. Not known as a strikeout pitcher throughout his career, Tillman has now struck out 25 batters over his last three starts spanning 20 innings. Perhaps even more amazing than his strikeout rate is the fact that the right-hander has only allowed one homer over his 38 1/3 innings this season. Tillman struck out four of the last five batters he faced, once again getting stronger as he pitched deeper into a game.

3rdMark Trumbo hit a two-run shot in the third to open up a three-run lead for the Orioles and received an assist from the sun in the fifth to pick up the Orioles’ first triple of the season. The right fielder finished a double short of the cycle, but he continues to be Baltimore’s second-best offensive player behind Machado with a .325 average and a .976 OPS.

HomeJoey Rickard hit his third home run of the season, reached base three times, and made a few strong defensive plays, including a spectacular diving catch in left-center to take away an extra-base hit from Mark Canha leading off the third. … Jonathan Schoop went 3-for-4 with a home run to extend his season-high hitting streak to 11 games and has elevated his batting average to .257. … Pedro Alvarez hit his second homer of the season and became the first hitter in 2016 to land a ball on Eutaw Street. It was the 83rd long ball to land on Eutaw Street in the 25-year history of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. … Tyler Wilson takes the hill in Minnesota on Monday night while the Twins will start right-hander Jose Berrios.

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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’ 7-0 loss to Yankees

Posted on 05 May 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 7-0 defeat to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 26th game of the 2016 season.

1st — The late Prince’s “1999” was played at one point between innings of Wednesday’s game at Camden Yards, but Yankees starter CC Sabathia pitched like it was 2009 with seven shutout innings. Watching Sabathia at this point is not unlike what we saw from Peyton Manning at the end of his career as the burly lefty struggles to reach the high 80s with his fastball after once being a power pitcher. However, he got vintage results to halt his club’s six-game losing streak by inducing nine grounders and striking out six over the course of the evening. Sabathia moved the ball around and out of the zone effectively — Orioles hitters obliged in expanding the zone — and ended his evening with 14 swinging strikes.

2nd — Though he tossed five scoreless innings to begin the night, the third time through the order proved to be the death knell for Tyler Wilson’s outing. The right-hander allowed only one hit and two walks through the first five frames, but Jacoby Ellsbury reached base for a third time with one out in the sixth and Wilson never really recovered from there as five of the next six Yankees hitters reached base, including Starlin Castro on a throwing error by Wilson that brought Mark Teixeira home with the third run of the inning. Two earned runs in six innings was a perfectly acceptable outing if he’d received even modest run support, but Wilson must find more success the third time through the order if he wants to stick in the rotation in the long run.

3rd — Sabathia deserves plenty of credit, but the Orioles left eight men on base and went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position over the course of the night. The New York starter didn’t record a single 1-2-3 inning, showing that Baltimore had its chances to give Wilson a lead long before he ran into trouble in the sixth. Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold, and Mark Trumbo each grounded into double plays while Manny Machado and Chris Davis each went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position. In comparison to Yankee hitters going 3-for-5 with a walk and a sacrifice fly in their third plate appearances against Wilson, the Orioles went 0-for-7 with a walk in their third looks at the veteran Sabathia.

Home — After pitching a scoreless seventh, T.J. McFarland didn’t retire a batter in the eighth and allowed three runs, putting the game out of reach. … Jones went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout to drop his season average to .205. … The Orioles were shut out for the second time this season. … Machado doubled twice to elevate his average to .355. … Kevin Gausman takes the hill seeking a series win on Thursday while New York will turn to Masahiro Tanaka.

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Orioles keeping options open at shortstop in Hardy’s absence

Posted on 03 May 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The original Orioles lineup written out by Buck Showalter did not have Manny Machado at shortstop in the series opener against the New York Yankees on Tuesday night.

An afternoon conversation with the two-time Gold Glove third baseman, however, prompted the Baltimore manager to change his mind, shifting Machado to his natural shortstop position and moving recalled utility infielder Ryan Flaherty from short to third base. Showalter said earlier this season when Hardy was dealing with a calf issue that he slightly preferred the defensive alignment of Flaherty at third base with Machado at shortstop, but the Orioles will keep all options open with their three-time Gold Glove shortstop now expected to miss at least a month with a hairline fracture in his left foot.

Slick-fielding veteran shortstop Paul Janish remains a strong possibility to be promoted from Triple-A Norfolk in the near future, and Showalter reminded reporters that Pedro Alvarez has also started more than 500 games at the hot corner in his major league career. Of course, Alvarez at third base wouldn’t represent the optimal defensive alignment for a club that puts much emphasis in defense.

“There’s some other things that we could do,” said Showalter about his decision to move Machado to shortstop on Tuesday. “I’d keep in mind, too, that Pedro’s played a lot of third base. He’s actually played more third base than Manny has in the big leagues. There are some options there. I’d like to keep them all open; I’d also like to keep from moving guys around a lot.

“This is the way we’re going to go tonight.”

Drafted as a shortstop out of high school and having played all but two career minor-league games there before he was promoted to the majors in 2012, Machado was only making his ninth career major league start at short on Tuesday night. The Orioles know the 23-year-old can play elite defense at third base, but it remains to be seen just how good his defense would be at shortstop over the long haul.

The best defensive left side of the infield in Hardy’s absence would likely be Janish at shortstop with Machado staying at third, but the former has hit just .216 and posted a .574 on-base plus slugging percentage in parts of seven major league seasons, making him less than ideal for an everyday role. The Orioles would rather not weaken their defense at two positions, but Flaherty is a better third baseman than shortstop, which has facilitated the opportunity for Machado to play his natural position on occasion.

Perhaps the time is now to see how Machado’s incredible skill at third base translates to shortstop over an extended time as Showalter even noted that he’s seen better preparation than ever from the young superstar who was named American League Player of the Month for April.

“It’s just been so much more focused every day,” Showalter said. “You can tell by the look in his eye that he has a real passion for what he’s trying to accomplish for our team.”

Britton encouraged by ankle improvement

Closer Zach Briton was happy that a magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed no structural damage to the left ankle he jammed on Saturday, and he hopes to return at some point during the Yankees series.

The lefty reliever played catch on Tuesday afternoon to better gauge how close he was to being 100 percent from a pitching standpoint. Britton told reporters that all pain is virtually gone when he walks after he was on crutches just a couple days earlier.

“I feel a lot better. The flexibility and range of motion is back,” Britton said. “It’s just swollen. It’s got some bruising, but as long as I can manage the pain. That’s going to be the biggest issue right now. Does it hurt me doing baseball things — covering first, having to field the bunt, or what not? Those are things that I’m going to have to test out.”

Gallardo update

It remains unclear when starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo (right shoulder tendinitis) will resume throwing, but Showalter is hoping they’ll see a better pitcher than the one who posted a 7.00 ERA in 18 innings last month.

“I’m very optimistic about the return we’re going to get on some of the things that he’s doing,” Showalter said. “Hopefully, he’s moving towards throwing here before too long.”

The 30-year-old was sent to the 15-day disabled list with an arm-related ailment for the first time in his career on April 23.

Harvey sidelined again

Showalter confirmed that top pitching prospect Hunter Harvey underwent sports hernia surgery on Tuesday, the latest challenge in a career that’s been derailed by various injuries since July 2014.

However, the Orioles aren’t as concerned with the current ailment since it has nothing to do with the elbow issues he experienced in each of the previous two seasons.

“If he pitches from June, July on and finishes up strong like we think he can, I think he’s OK,” Showalter said. “But we’d really like to see him get the ball every fifth day at some point there and kind of get some of that experience he needs to finish off some things [with his development].”

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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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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 6-1 loss to Kansas City

Posted on 24 April 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 6-1 defeat to the Kansas City Royals on Sunday afternoon?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 17th game of the 2016 season.

1st — The Orioles managed just one hit in Yordano Ventura’s final six innings of work after grabbing an early 1-0 lead. The Kansas City right-hander threw 28 pitches in an opening inning that included a Mark Trumbo RBI single, but the Orioles made Ventura throw a total of 25 in the next three frames and pushed only one runner into scoring position after the first. The lineup simply couldn’t handle Ventura’s effective off-speed stuff to go along with his fastball and were retired in order a total of six times on Sunday afternoon. You knew it wouldn’t be an easy day against the talented 24-year-old, but the inability to even make him work set up the Orioles for a long day at Kauffman Stadium.

2nd — After pitching well through six innings, Mike Wright couldn’t handle a long leash in the seventh and suffered his second loss. It’s a shame that many will look at the final numbers and just assume that the Orioles right-hander was lousy, but Wright effectively mixed in his off-speed and breaking stuff to compete against a lineup that included five lefty bats. That said, he left a 92 mph sinker up and over the outer half of the plate on Alex Gordon’s fourth-inning homer and hung a curve on Eric Hosmer’s long ball in the sixth, showing lefties are still problematic for him. To be clear, Wright doesn’t receive a pass as he entered the seventh at only 87 pitches, but Buck Showalter could have had a reliever loosening in a 2-1 game as the inning began. Even if it had been a clean inning, you wouldn’t have loved the Orioles’ chances with Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis looming in a 2-1 game, which could explain why Showalter tried to push it a little more than normal with Wright instead of going to the bullpen at the first sign of trouble. Right or wrong, that’s a choice that sometimes needs to be made when thinking of the long-term status of a bullpen that’s working behind a poor starting rotation in 2016.

3rd — You never know if the seventh would have been different for Wright if not for Chris Davis’ misplay of a Gordon chopper down the first-base line to open the inning. The Orioles made a handful of shaky plays defensively like the Royals did in Saturday night’s contest, but Davis would be the first to tell you that he should have turned that into the first out — even if catcher Caleb Joseph thought the ball was foul. Instead, it opened the floodgates to transform a close game into a blowout. Yes, Wright needs to be able to shake it off and not give up doubles to two of the next three hitters, but Baltimore’s stellar defense can’t bend like that when you’re asking a young starter to work into the seventh inning of a one-run game.

Home — Dylan Bundy wasn’t able to keep the Orioles in it after the deficit had grown to 4-1 in the seventh. He allowed three of the first four hitters he faced to reach as the Royals busted it wide open with a five-run advantage and allowed two more hitters to reach in the eighth. … Manny Machado saw his 16-game hitting streak come to an end as he went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts. Only Davey Johnson had a longer hitting streak (17 games) to begin a season in Orioles history. … Pedro Alvarez went 0-for-3 and is now hitting .108 to begin the season. … Trumbo collected his club-leading 16th RBI, but all have amazingly come on the road. … Kevin Gausman will be activated from the 15-day disabled list to make his 2016 debut against Tampa Bay ace Chris Archer on Monday night.

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