Tag Archive | "MLB"

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 7-2 loss to Red Sox

Posted on 30 May 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 7-2 defeat to the Boston Red Sox on Monday 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 49th game of the 2016 season.

1st — Red Sox starter Steven Wright was superb in pitching his third complete game of the month, but the top five hitters in the Orioles lineup went 0-for-17 with six strikeouts against the knuckleballer. Baltimore is hardly the only team to look bad against Wright in his surprising start to the season, but his knuckleball was especially filthy as he recorded six 1-2-3 innings. Considering the issues the Orioles had with slower breaking pitches during the last road trip, Wright just wasn’t a good matchup with his ability to change speeds. The top half of the lineup was a non-factor throughout the day.

2nd — The Orioles already trailed 3-2 in the eighth, but their lack of an established lefty specialist cost them greatly. With Buck Showalter preferring to stay away from Brad Brach in the bullpen, much was put on the shoulders of rookie Ashur Tolliver and he couldn’t handle it, giving up a home run to David Ortiz and walking Travis Shaw before eventually giving way to Mychal Givens after a Blake Swihart single. Givens’ struggles against lefty bats continued as he gave up a three-run homer to Marco Hernandez to put the game out of reach.

3rd — Tyler Wilson pitched solidly against the best offense in baseball, but the solo homer allowed to Jackie Bradley Jr. in the sixth was deflating. The bottom of the Orioles order had figured out Wright enough to tie the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth, but the starter left a fastball over the plate that Bradley launched into the Baltimore bullpen to lead off the sixth. If the game had remained tied, Showalter might have handled his bullpen differently later in the game instead of turning to a rookie.

Home — After Baltimore plated two runs in the fifth, Chris Davis deviated from an effective opposite-field approach against Wright by grounding out to first with runners at the corners and two outs to end the scoring threat. … Replays showed that Xander Bogaerts’ first-inning dribbler that scored Boston’s first run bounced off his foot in the box, but the play wasn’t reviewable and Wilson failed to cover home plate as Caleb Joseph made the throw to first, allowing Mookie Betts to score from second base. … Nolan Reimold led off the two-run fifth with a triple and has now hit safety in 17 of 22 games this season in which he has had at least one at-bat. … Bogaerts extended his career-high hitting streak to 23 games and is batting .402 over that stretch. … Kevin Gausman will take the mound on Tuesday night against former Orioles prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, who will be making his season debut after dealing with a knee injury since spring training.

 

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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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Jimenez’s dramatic struggles have Orioles in unenviable position

Posted on 29 May 2016 by Luke Jones

The Orioles weren’t expecting Ubaldo Jimenez to be their ace in 2016.

Manager Buck Showalter probably would have taken a repeat of last season in which he posted an unspectacular but acceptable 4.11 ERA, even if it did include a 5.63 mark in the second half after a sparkling 2.81 ERA before the All-Star break. With so many questions about their starting rotation entering the season, the Orioles needed Jimenez to be more 2015 than the 2014 version of himself.

So far, they haven’t even gotten the latter model as another poor performance Saturday elevated his ERA to 6.36, third worst among qualified pitchers in the majors entering Sunday. He’s averaged 5.2 walks per nine innings and opponents have a .375 batting average on balls in play against him, numbers suggesting he’s been both bad and unlucky this season.

And it’s only getting worse as the 32-year-old has posted a 10.26 ERA over his last four starts with the Orioles losing the last three in blowout fashion. Jimenez has walked 14 in 16 2/3 innings over that time, perhaps the clearest barometer of his inability to give his club much of a chance to win these days.

Making matters worse, Jimenez allowed four stolen bases in Saturday’s game and opponents have stolen 11 bases against him already this season, another of Showalter’s pet peeves.

Something has to give — and soon.

Showalter said before Sunday’s finale in Cleveland that Jimenez is listed as the “projected” starter for the series finale against Boston this week. The thought of the struggling right-hander facing the best lineup in baseball on Thursday almost appears cruel at this point, but the Orioles’ alternatives are limited.

Unlike two years ago when Jimenez lost his spot in the starting rotation, there isn’t a Kevin Gausman waiting to take his place. It’s no coincidence that Yovani Gallardo will make his first minor-league rehab start on the same day Jimenez is set to make his next start, but the former may need another start or two after that in his recovery from right shoulder tendinitis.

Even if you decide that Gallardo — or Vance Worley or T.J. McFarland or anyone else — takes his rotation spot, what do you do with the struggling veteran?

Despite many fans continuing to call for it, the Orioles aren’t releasing a pitcher owed the remainder of his $13 million salary this year and another $13.5 million in 2017. Unless you have two or three legitimate pitching prospects waiting at Triple A to take the next step, you don’t dump a pitcher who showed he was able to pitch at a high level for a significant portion of last season when he’s owed so much money — even if it might amount to little more than a way-too-expensive lottery ticket at this point.

Do you just send Jimenez to the bullpen? The problem with that is you can only count on him for mop-up duty and one of the last things you want in a long reliever is to walk hitters when you’re just trying to eat low-leverage innings. At the very least, it would give him opportunities for side sessions to try to fix his mechanics, something not easy to do when you have just four days between starts.

Will the Orioles find a physical issue — authentic or not — that would allow them to put him on the disabled list? Two years ago, an ankle injury met with plenty of outside skepticism allowed Jimenez to rehab and pitch in two minor-league games before he was activated roughly a month later.

Even if Jimenez can reverse his latest struggles, how much can you trust him to pitch for a contender?

Of course, these alternatives aren’t preferable to Jimenez doing the job the Orioles are paying him handsomely to do. Nearly 2 1/2 years into their marriage, the right-hander has turned in one excellent half of pitching with occasional good starts sprinkled in the rest of the time.

His woes aren’t from a lack of effort, but the well-liked Jimenez just isn’t getting the job done.

The Orioles find themselves back in the same position they experienced two year ago, in contention and needing to replace him.

It appears time for a change.

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No time for panic, but Orioles have opponents’ attention

Posted on 27 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Jim Palmer said at one point Thursday night what we all were thinking watching the Orioles swing and miss their way to a three-game sweep in Houston in which they struck out a major-league record 52 times.

“It’s almost like they’ve never seen a breaking ball.”

The Orioles struck out more in a three-game series than the late Tony Gwynn ever did in an entire season during his Hall of Fame career.

Chris Davis struck out eight times. Adam Jones and Mark Trumbo both went down on strikes seven times. Pedro Alvarez collected six strikeouts and didn’t even start in the series finale. Jonathan Schoop and Matt Wieters struck out five times each.

What a nightmare.

To be clear, the Astros didn’t do anything that wasn’t already known about the Baltimore lineup. Throwing fewer fastballs and more breaking balls has always been the blueprint against these power hitters, but Houston pitchers executed well and the Orioles appeared more eager than usual to cooperate.

But let’s take a deep breath about a club entering the weekend still seven games above .500 and just two games behind Boston in the AL East despite a four-game losing streak and losing seven of 10. Don’t forget that the Orioles entered the Houston series below the league average in strikeouts and still ranked just sixth in the AL in that category entering Friday.

Whether you like it or not, strikeouts are a bigger part of baseball than ever.

It isn’t just the Orioles.

A few horrendous games — and, boy, were they horrendous — cannot trump a quarter of a season in which the Orioles struck out at an acceptable level relative to other teams. As I wrote earlier in the week, you have to take the bad with the good for a team that depends so heavily on the home run. That certainly isn’t an excuse to whiff at a historic rate in a three-game series, but every team is going to go through some rough patches over 162 games.

The key now will be to make the adjustments as Cleveland and other upcoming opponents will take notice of what the Astros were able to do with a steadier-than-normal diet of curves and sliders. It’s up to the Orioles to get back to where they were over the first six weeks of the season when strikeouts were rarely part of the conversation in their wins or losses.

They’ll remain under the strikeout microscope until then and rightly so after setting such a dubious record.

Buck Showalter likes to say you’re never as bad as it looks at your worst or as good as it appears at your best. That’s an appropriate message for both his players and Orioles fans prematurely pressing the panic button. Even after completing the three-game sweep, the 20-28 Astros would still trade places in a heartbeat.

After a miserable series in which he went 1-for-14, Adam Jones probably said it best after Thursday’s finale.

“Let’s get the hell out of Houston.”

But hopefully the Orioles leave the absurd strikeout totals behind.

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Old concern surfaces for Orioles in extra-inning loss

Posted on 25 May 2016 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missing Hardy

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

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

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

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

Revisiting left field

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

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

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

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

Bundy struggling

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

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

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

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

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Orioles promote lefty Ashur Tolliver to replace Matusz

Posted on 24 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Not long after the Orioles announced they had traded Brian Matusz to Atlanta, congratulatory Twitter messages from teammates began surfacing for the minor-league pitcher who will take the open spot on the 25-man roster.

Despite never having pitched above Double-A Bowie, left-hander Ashur Tolliver will join the Orioles in Houston and could finally make his major league debut seven years after being drafted in the fifth round out of Oklahoma City University. The 28-year-old began garnering more attention in the Baltimore system last season after dealing with injuries earlier in his career.

Baltimore made the move official on Tuesday afternoon.

Using an unorthodox three-quarters delivery and a fastball that reaches the mid-90s, Tolliver pitched to a 2.91 ERA for the Baysox in 2015 and has followed that successful campaign with a 2.42 mark and 25 strikeouts in 26 innings so far this season. It remains unclear how long he will be with the Orioles — lefty T.J. McFarland has been hampered by a minor knee injury but isn’t expected to miss much time — but Tolliver’s promotion is a feel-good story for someone who’s spent seven years in the minors.

And he’ll have the first opportunity to stake a claim to the vacant lefty specialist job in the Orioles bullpen.

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Orioles trade Matusz to Atlanta for two minor-league pitchers

Posted on 23 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Unable to overcome his early-season struggles and having never fulfilled his potential as a former first-round pick, Orioles left-handed pitcher Brian Matusz was traded to Atlanta on Monday.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette sent the 29-year-old and the 76th overall pick in this year’s draft to the Braves in exchange for minor-league pitchers Brandon Barker and Trevor Belicek. According to multiple outlets, the Braves will designate Matusz for assignment, reflecting their willingness to take on the remainder of the lefty’s $3.9 million salary to acquire the draft pick.

The move saves the Orioles money while opening a spot in the bullpen for another reliever. Baltimore also announced it signed left-handed relief pitcher Brian Duensing to a minor-league contract on Monday. Most recently with the Kansas City Royals organization, the 33-year-old Duensing has pitched to a 4.13 ERA over 649 1/3 major league innings in his seven-year career.

The fourth overall pick of the 2008 draft, Matusz had struggled mightily since being activated from the 15-day disabled list last month. In seven appearances covering six innings, the lefty had pitched to a 12.00 ERA with seven walks and one strikeout while surrendering three home runs and 11 hits.

His velocity was down after returning from a left intercostal strain suffered in spring training. Matusz was set to become a free agent at the end of the 2016 season and was not expected to be in the club’s plans for the future.

After serving as a reliable lefty specialist for the better part of four seasons, Matusz had retired just five of the 16 lefty bats he’d faced in 2016 and had appeared in just four games this month. Lefties have hit just .211 with a .627 on-base plus slugging percentage over his eight-year major league career, which allowed him to find a role as a lefty specialist after failing to establish himself as a major league starter.

The 23-year-old Barker went 3-2 with a 2.00 ERA and struck out 40 batters in 45 innings that included eight starts for Double-A Mississippi this season. The Braves’ 16th-round pick of the 2014 draft is expected to be assigned to Double-A Bowie.

The lefty Belicek has gone 3-0 with a 2.22 ERA in 28 1/3 innings while walking one and striking out 32 in 12 games between Class-A Rome and Double-A Mississippi this season. The 23-year-old was Atlanta’s 16th-round pick last year and will go to Single-A Frederick.

Though Matusz found modest success as a reliever in his final few seasons with Baltimore, he will be remembered as a disappointment for not panning out as the top-half-of-the-rotation starter many expected him to become. The University of San Diego product was taken just one pick ahead of future National League MVP Buster Posey.

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Jimenez could be impacted by Gallardo’s return

Posted on 23 May 2016 by Luke Jones

(Editor’s note: The Orioles traded left-handed reliever Brian Matusz to Atlanta for two minor-league pitchers on Monday night.)

The Orioles were pleased with the first bullpen session for Yovani Gallardo on Sunday, marking another significant step in his recovery from right shoulder tendinitis.

On the 15-day disabled list since April 23, the 30-year-old is expected to complete another bullpen in Houston before pitching a simulated game and potentially beginning a minor-league rehab assignment as early as next week. That timetable would put Gallardo in line for a return in early June, which could potentially impact a pair of struggling pitchers on the current roster.

Manager Buck Showalter said Sunday that right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez is not in danger of losing his spot in the starting rotation, but his ERA has climbed to 6.04 after he allowed six earned runs in 5 2/3 innings in a 10-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. Unfortunately, it’s an all-too-familiar position for Jimenez and the Orioles, who replaced him in the starting rotation with Kevin Gausman two years ago in the midst of his abysmal first season with Baltimore.

As Showalter pointed out when asked about Jimenez’s status in Anaheim, however, the Orioles don’t have a clear-cut replacement this time around despite the 32-year-old pitching to a 5.79 ERA in his last 135 1/3 innings going back to last year’s All-Star break. Whether fans like it or not, the organization isn’t about to designate a pitcher for assignment who is making a total of $26.5 million over this year and 2017, but Gallardo’s return could prompt the Orioles to have a difficult conversation with Jimenez if he doesn’t fare better over his next few starts.

If young pitchers Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright continue to outperform Jimenez, the Orioles might have no choice but to put the struggling veteran in the bullpen, which could then impact another struggling hurler on the 25-man roster.

There’s little roster flexibility in the current bullpen with Mychal Givens being the only member with minor-league options, and it’d be a tough sell to say you’re doing what’s best for the club if you send your fourth-best reliever to the minors. The next names to enter the conversation would be Vance Worley — who has done an acceptable job as a long reliever — and Brian Matusz, who is currently serving as the forgotten lefty specialist who hasn’t been able to get lefties out since returning from the DL last month.

Of course, any role for Jimenez in the bullpen would more closely resemble what Worley currently does, but how much longer can the Orioles continue to carry Matusz — despite his $3.9 million salary for 2016 — if he’s not going to begin showing signs of turning his season around? He’s made just four appearances this month and lefty bats have gone 5-for-11 with a home run, a double, and five walks against him this season.

The Orioles would clearly like to have an effective lefty specialist in their bullpen, but right-handers Brad Brach and Darren O’Day have performed well enough against lefty bats to help minimize that deficiency on the roster. Carrying Jimenez in the bullpen in place of Matusz would be far from ideal and likely only a temporary measure, but the first-place Orioles haven’t suffered too much without a viable lefty specialist through the first quarter of the season and could likely endure without one for a little longer.

What’s best for Baltimore would be for Jimenez to straighten himself out to pitch more like the guy who posted an impressive 2.81 ERA in the first half of 2015 and for Matusz to regain his form against tough lefty bats in the later innings, but time could be running out for both. Something will have to give sooner than later once Gallardo is ready to return to the rotation.

The pressure is on both Jimenez and Matusz to turn their fortunes around.

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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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Orioles trying to show they have right stuff on road

Posted on 20 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Having managed more than 2,600 games in the majors, Buck Showalter has a good idea of what it will take for the Orioles to return to the postseason for the third time in five years.

There is no magic formula, even if it’s easier said than done as Baltimore begins a nine-game road trip, its longest of the season to this point. Entering Friday, the Orioles owned the best record in the American League but had played just 14 road games, the fewest in the majors.

“There are two common denominators of teams that play in October. They have an advantage at home and they are competitive on the road,” said Showalter, who reminded us that the season wouldn’t be over if the Orioles have a bad road trip. “We know we’ve got to follow that trend. It’s long, tried, and tested. There’s certain math that you do try to follow, but it’s not always that convenient and they don’t always cooperate.”

Baltimore has had that distinct advantage at home so far, winning 17 of 25. Success in their home ballpark is nothing new for the Orioles under Showalter as they’ve gone no worse than 46-35 at Camden Yards in each of the last four seasons.

Whether the Orioles will be competitive enough on the road remains to be seen after they went an abysmal 34-50 in away contests in 2015 — which included the three-game series moved to Tropicana Field last May. It was easily their worst record away from Camden Yards since 2011 and derailed the club’s chances to repeat as AL East champions. Two years ago, the Orioles were an impressive 46-35 on the road, helping them win the division by a comfortable 12 games.

So far in 2016, they’ve gone a respectable 7-7 in away games — including an early series win at Fenway Park — but they’ll be facing a Los Angeles Angels club that’s won six of seven, a young Houston team playing better after a miserable start, and second-place Cleveland in an unorthodox trip in terms of travel.

“Everyone here is experienced with that, so it’s not that big a deal,” said outfielder Mark Trumbo of starting a long road trip. “We want to win as many of those series as we can. I think we’ve got a good opportunity to do some damage, get the bats going a little bit, and it should be some fun.”

More importantly than getting the bats going after scoring just seven runs in a three-game series defeat to Seattle will be the pitching, which entered Friday ranked fifth in the AL in ERA. The Orioles boast a tidy 3.45 ERA in 25 home games, but their 4.31 ERA in 14 road games probably won’t get it done over the long haul.

The Orioles won’t return home again until Memorial Day, the unofficial point at which many attempt to differentiate the contenders from the pretenders. The nine-game road trip is hardly a season-defining one with more than four months of baseball to play, but it could push the Orioles further in a 2014-like direction or stir memories of last year’s frustration away from Camden Yards.

“We’re going to some places where people are playing well,” Showalter said. “Everybody’s trying to seek their level right now. We’re in the middle of May. Everybody’s trying to figure out who they are and [whether] they’re going to be a dancer or someone that spins the records. It’s part of the process.”

The Orioles hope that process doesn’t include spinning their wheels on the road after an encouraging start to 2016.

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