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“Rounding the Bases” in 6-3 loss to Texas

Posted on 15 April 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 6-3 defeat to the Texas Rangers on Thursday 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 ninth game of the 2016 season.

1st — Going the third time through the batting order is challenging for any starting pitcher with hitters being more familiar with their stuff and fatigue sometimes setting in, but it was painful for Chris Tillman, who had allowed only one run and three hits in his first two trips through the Texas lineup. Counting Delino DeShields’ infield single in the fifth, Rangers hitters went 6-for-7 with three doubles in their third at-bats seeing Tillman and transformed a 3-1 Baltimore lead into a 6-3 Texas advantage as the right-handed starter was chased and the sixth inning eventually came to an end. It didn’t take much as a couple pitches up in the zone to Nomar Mazara and Adrian Beltre quickly transformed what had been a solid start into a nightmare exit.

2nd — For the second straight night, the Orioles squandered scoring opportunities that could have eased the pressure on Tillman in that fateful bottom of the sixth. After Jonathan Schoop singled and Nolan Reimold doubled off Texas starter Cole Hamels to lead off the top of the fifth, the top of the order failed to plate a single run as Joey Rickard struck out looking, Manny Machado grounded out, and Adam Jones struck out swinging. J.J. Hardy singled in a run in the top of the sixth, but Jonathan Schoop grounded into an inning-ending double play with runners at the corners and one out, failing to extend a 3-1 lead. The Orioles left four runners in scoring position and lost by three runs.

3rd — Tillman’s final line of six earned runs and nine hits surrendered in just 5 1/3 innings was ugly, but some of that damage was due to some bad luck in the sixth, which you figure will be balanced out by good fortune over a 162-game season. Mitch Moreland’s RBI double down the left-field line was nothing more than a softly-hit pop fly that Rickard couldn’t catch up to after he was playing the pull-happy lefty hitter way over in left-center. Ian Desmond followed that with a game-tying infield hit that couldn’t have been much softer between the mound and first. As Buck Showalter said to MASN after the game, “The baseball gods weren’t too kind to us.” They made a bad inning worse for Tillman and the Orioles.

Home — Replays showed Schoop did not get a good read on the Reimold double over Desmond’s head in left-center and probably should have scored from first base on the play. … Machado has a hit in all nine games to begin the 2016 season, but he went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position. … Tillman turned in the second-longest outing of the season for the Orioles, becoming the first starter to complete more than five innings since Ubaldo Jimenez’s seven-inning performance on April 7. … Mark Trumbo is now 5-for-15 with two homers off Hamels in his career after hitting one out to the opposite field in the fourth. … Vance Worley will make his second start of the season on Friday with Texas sending lefty Martin Perez to the bump.

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Jones returns to Orioles starting lineup in Texas

Posted on 14 April 2016 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 11:15 p.m.)

Orioles center fielder Adam Jones went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his return to the lineup for Thursday’s series-opening 6-3 loss to the Texas Rangers.

Jones was slotted in the No. 3 spot in the order and hadn’t started in Baltimore’s previous six games while dealing with soreness in the rib area. The 30-year-old experienced discomfort swinging in his final at-bat of the Orioles’ April 6 win over Minnesota.

Serving as a late-inning defensive replacement in the first two games of the Boston series, Jones had been moving closer to a return and took batting practice before Wednesday’s finale. However, manager Buck Showalter decided to escape the cold conditions at Fenway Park in favor of a first-pitch temperature around 70 degrees in Arlington, Texas to finally put Jones back in the lineup on Thursday.

After missing a total of just five games from 2012-2014, the five-time All-Star center fielder missed 25 contests last season due to shoulder, ankle, and back ailments at various times. That total included 12 of the final 13 games of 2015 as Jones was sidelined with back stiffness.

Dating back to the end of last season, Jones had been out of the starting lineup in 18 of the Orioles’ last 21 games prior to Thursday night.

With Jones returning, rookie Joey Rickard was back in left field after starting the previous six games in center.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 4-2 loss to Boston

Posted on 14 April 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 4-2 defeat to the Boston Red Sox 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 eighth game of the 2016 season.

1st — The Orioles had their chances against Red Sox starter Joe Kelly in the early going and left nine men on base in the first five innings. They managed seven hits and five walks against the right-hander through five, but a two-run shot by Chris Davis was Baltimore’s only scoring for the night. Regardless of who’s pitching for your side, scoring two runs isn’t going to be a good recipe to win.

2nd — You can get the good Ubaldo Jimenez or the really bad one, but Wednesday brought the dentist-chair version as the right-hander threw 47 pitches through two innings, 70 pitches through three, and 90 pitches through four innings at chilly Fenway Park. Jimenez couldn’t command his slider or splitter and walked four batters while giving up six hits and four earned runs. The results probably would have been worse if not for a couple nifty double plays turned by his infield defense.

3rd — You’re never supposed to make the first or third out at third base, but the Orioles did both over the course of Wednesday’s game. First, it was J.J. Hardy being thrown out trying to stretch a leadoff double to right-center into a triple in the second inning. You could forgive the aggressiveness more if not for the fact that Kelly was already struggling with his control and you know the shortstop doesn’t run well. However, that miscue was trumped by Manny Machado getting thrown out trying to steal third base with two outs in the sixth and Davis at the plate as the possible tying run. The 23-year-old is a phenomenal player and had three hits on the night, but that was bad baseball.

HomeJoey Rickard saw his seven-game hitting streak snapped to begin his major league career and grounded out with the bases loaded in the second, hacking away at both pitches he saw after Kelly had walked two hitters in the inning. … After their first seven homers of the season were all solo shots, the last seven long balls the Orioles have hit have come with men on base. … Baltimore continued its streak of having at least eight hits in each of the first eight games to begin a season, a club record. … Tyler Wilson pitched for the first time since Opening Day, notching three shutout innings to save the rest of the bullpen. … Chris Tillman goes to the hill on Thursday night to begin a four-game set against the Texas Rangers in Arlington and will be opposed by lefty ace Cole Hamels.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 9-5 win over Boston

Posted on 12 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 9-5 win over the Boston Red Sox 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 seventh game of the 2016 season.

1stJ.J. Hardy sliced a pair of opposite-field home runs inside the cozy “Pesky Pole” at Fenway Park and also hit a sacrifice fly to right that put the Orioles ahead for good in the top of the sixth inning. His first homer tied it at 2-2 in the third while his seventh-inning long ball busted the game wide open by giving Baltimore a 9-4 lead. It was the 12th multi-homer game of Hardy’s career and his first since doing it against St. Louis on Aug. 8, 2014. The three-time Gold Glove shortstop also provided a terrific defensive play with a diving catch of a liner off the bat of Blake Swihart that led to an inning-ending double play in the second and helped settle down starter Mike Wright for the time being.

2ndMark Trumbo continued to swing the bat exceptionally well and clobbered a 3-2 pitch for a long two-run shot over the Green Monster to tie the game in the sixth. The blast came at the end of a nine-pitch battle with Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz that included the Boston infield’s failure to catch a foul pop that would have sent Trumbo back to the Orioles dugout a few pitches before the big home run. The right fielder also singled, doubled, and scored three runs on a night that ended with him holding a .464 average with a 1.214 on-base plus slugging percentage.

3rdMatt Wieters was not off to a good start in the series after striking out four times on Monday and going down swinging in his first at-bat Tuesday, but the catcher contributed a critical two-run single to right-center in the seventh to open up a 7-4 lead. Those runs helped give an overworked Baltimore bullpen some breathing room in the late innings, which allowed manager Buck Showalter to rest the likes of Brad Brach, Mychal Givens, and Zach Britton.

HomeDylan Bundy took over for Wright holding a one-run lead to begin the bottom of the sixth inning and gave the Orioles 2 1/3 innings of quality work, allowing only one run in the process. The talented 23-year-old effectively mixed his changeup and slow curve with his fastball sitting between 92 and 94 miles per hour. … Joey Rickard struck out twice and grounded out twice before singling to left in the eighth, extending his hitting streak to seven games to begin his major league career. … The Orioles matched their high-water mark of 2015 by improving to seven games above .500 and have won seven in a row in a season for the first time since 2005. Dating back to the end of last year, Baltimore has won 12 straight regular-seaosn games. … The Orioles will send Ubaldo Jimenez to the hill in search of a three-game sweep on Wednesday night, and he’ll face Red Sox right-hander Joe Kelly.

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Duquette, Nats deny having discussions about team president job

Posted on 12 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Even after a 6-0 start, the Orioles apparently can’t avoid some off-field drama.

A report from the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Tuesday indicated that executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette is being pursued as the next team president of the Washington Nationals. This comes just over a year after Duquette was interested in becoming the president of the Toronto Blue Jays, but owner Peter Angelos ultimately would not let the executive out of his contract that runs through the 2018 season.

Both Duquette and the Nationals have denied having any contact with the other side.

“I don’t know anything about this,” Duquette wrote in a text message to multiple outlets, “nor has anyone contacted me.”

A spokesperson for the Nationals told the Washington Post that the organization was not in discussions with Duquette and is not in the market for a team president.

Whether there is more to this story or not, it would be difficult to believe that Angelos would be willing to let Duquette join Washington amidst the ongoing litigation over the MASN television rights fees that has created much acrimony between the two franchises.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 9-7 win over Boston

Posted on 11 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 9-7 win over the Boston Red Sox on Monday 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 sixth game of the 2016 season.

1st — Chris Davis was the hero after clobbering a 97 mph fastball from Boston closer Craig Kimbrel over the center-field wall for a long three-run shot in the top of the ninth. According to ESPN, it was Davis’ eighth go-ahead homer in the ninth inning or later since 2013, the most in the majors over that time. That blast wasn’t his only contribution, however, as he muscled a 1-2 changeup from Red Sox starter David Price over the infield for a two-run single in the third to get the Orioles on the scoreboard in response to an early 3-0 deficit. Davis also made several fine defensive plays at first base, something that was mentioned by manager Buck Showalter after the game.

2ndMark Trumbo didn’t have an easy day defensively moving over to play left field in front of the Green Monster, but his long three-run homer to right-center off Price gave the Orioles the lead in the third and was his first hit of the year that wasn’t a single. Despite the Orioles being the 30-year-old’s fourth club in the last four years, there’s no disputing his power potential and he showed it on Monday.

3rdMychal Givens was strong in his 1 1/3 innings, striking out four batters and escaping trouble created by T.J. McFarland in the sixth. Making his performance more impressive was that he did it against the top of the Boston order, striking out the likes of Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, and Xander Bogaerts. Givens has struck out six batters in 2 1/3 innings over the last two games.

HomeManny Machado collected his third multi-hit game of the year and scored two runs in the victory. … Jonathan Schoop hit his club-leading fourth double of the season to temporarily give the Orioles a 6-5 lead in the sixth, but he was later doubled off second base to end the inning. … Joey Rickard singled and drew the first walk of his career and has now earned a hit in all six games on the season. … Despite striking out 15 times, the Baltimore lineup drew a combined four walks against Price and Kimbrel and scored eight runs against the All-Star pitchers. … Yovani Gallardo failed to go more than five innings for the second straight time. … The Orioles are off to the best start in club history with a 6-0 record. … Mike Wright will make his season debut on Tuesday night against Red Sox veteran Clay Buchholz.

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Orioles get perfect results despite imperfect opening week

Posted on 11 April 2016 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 9:00 a.m.)

BALTIMORE — The Orioles finished the first week of the season as the only undefeated club in baseball.

But their first 5-0 start in 46 years came under less-than-perfect circumstances as Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy missed time due to injuries, the starting rotation went more than five innings just once, and the weather in Baltimore felt more like mid-February than early April. Those realities created even more reason for optimism since rarely will everything go perfectly over the course of a season filled with twists and turns.

So, how’d they do it over the first week?

Sensational work from the bullpen, strong defense, and the home run all played important roles as we’ve come to expect over the last few years, but that wasn’t the entire story. Starters pitched quite effectively — if not very deep — and the Orioles did the little things well, ranging from working longer counts to taking the extra base when afforded the opportunity.

Manny Machado played like the MVP-caliber player he’s become and Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard was the early toast of the town. Even Hyun Soo Kim collected a couple hits in his major league debut on Sunday.

Yes, it’s only five games — the 2015 Atlanta Braves started 5-0 and won just 62 more games the rest of the way — but five victories in the first week of the season count just as much as any others if the Orioles are in the playoff hunt in late September.

“You don’t win a championship in April, but you definitely learn how to play as a team,” Machado said. “That’s what we’ve been doing around here, and we’re going to continue to do that hopefully.”

The most notable short-term concern as the Orioles begin their first road trip of 2016 was the health of Jones, who missed the final three games of the homestand and continues to deal with “rib area” soreness. Manager Buck Showalter said Sunday that the five-time All-Star center fielder is “close” to returning, but Jones isn’t the type to miss so much time with a minor ailment.

Even when he does return, you hope the injury doesn’t linger and impact his performance in the coming weeks. An outfield that’s received an early boost from Rickard but is still vulnerable can’t afford to lose Jones for a significant period of time.

As it has for the better part of the last four years, the bullpen has excelled early on and has allowed just three earned runs over 21 1/3 innings with Mychal Givens surrendering all three over his first two appearances. He was much better on Sunday in a scoreless inning of work against the top of the Tampa Bay lineup and could help Brad Brach serve as the bridge to All-Star relievers Darren O’Day and Zach Britton in the eighth and ninth.

Sunday offered an example of the bullpen’s brilliance but also a warning of how critical it will be for the starters to pitch longer into games as Brach, Givens, O’Day, and Britton were forced to pitch the final 4 1/3 innings of a 5-3 win over Tampa Bay. Showalter had the luxury of all four being available after Saturday’s postponement, but he won’t be in such a position every night over the course of a 162-game season.

“That’s a long chain out of the bullpen today,” Showalter said. “To get through that many outs and not give up a run is pretty remarkable, but we can’t continue to do that. Hopefully as the season goes on, we’ll be able to get deeper in some games as guys get some pitch counts and innings under their belts.”

The starting rotation may have only one start lasting longer than five innings, but the circumstances have been unique for a group that’s posted an impressive 2.28 ERA so far. Chris Tillman’s Opening Day start was halted after two innings due to a rain delay, and he was lifted after just 83 pitches in his impressive five-inning outing on Friday since it was moved up a day.

Yovani Gallardo was effective in his first start, but he will need to pitch longer than five innings more often than not. Ubaldo Jimenez turned in an exceptional seven-inning start on Thursday, but which version of the enigmatic pitcher will the Orioles get on any given night?

The rest of the rotation remains fluid as Vance Worley — who pitched on Sunday for the first time since April 1 — and Mike Wright are receiving the first shots with Tyler Wilson on standby and Kevin Gausman moving closer to his return from the disabled list.

The first week may not have been perfect, but the end results were.

“They gave us a chance to win all five games,” said Showalter of the starting pitching. “And if we do that, we’ll have some fun this summer.”

You can only hope the fun of the first five games will carry over in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 5-3 win over Tampa Bay

Posted on 10 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays 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 fifth game of the 2016 season.

1stManny Machado said after the game that he isn’t yet locked in at the plate, but he sure looked like it on Sunday as he went 4-for-4, hitting a two-run home run in the second off Rays starter Jake Odorizzi and scoring two runs. The 23-year-old also showed impressive baserunning instincts in the bottom of the eighth when he scored on a wild pitch by Erasmo Ramirez — even if Matt Wieters astutely alerted him to touch the plate after he had initially missed it on his slide. Machado is hitting .429 and has homered three times over the first five games, reminding us why he’s the Orioles’ best player.

2nd — Brad Brach entered with two outs in the top of the fifth and the Rays threatening to tie the game with runners on the corners, but the right-hander got Brad Miller to fly out to deep right, just the latest example of how effective he is against left-handed hitters. He followed that with a flawless top of the sixth that included strikeouts of Steven Souza Jr. and Curt Casali, setting the tone for the rest of the bullpen to protect a small lead over the final three innings.

3rdJonathan Schoop continued his strong start to the season, collecting an RBI double to start the Orioles’ scoring in the bottom of the second inning. The 24-year-old second baseman is now hitting .313 on the young season and has four extra-base hits over the first five games. He also extended his hitting streak to 11 games dating back to last season.

HomeVance Worley was on a pitch count and hadn’t pitched since the spring finale on April 1, but the right-hander was very effective the first time through the order against a club he’d never faced and managed to get into the fifth with a 4-1 lead. Manager Buck Showalter acknowledged that he probably stuck with Worley too long trying to get him through the inning to be eligible for a win, but he’ll need to go deeper if he’s going to stick in the starting rotation. … Mychal Givens rebounded from allowing three runs in his first two appearances by pitching a scoreless seventh inning that included strikeouts of Logan Morrison and Evan Longoria. … Hyun Soo Kim collected two hits that didn’t leave the infield, but it was a good start for the South Korean outfielder in his major league debut. … Mark Trumbo collected two more singles and is now 9-for-19 on the season, all of those hits being singles. … Pedro Alvarez picked up his first hit of the season and scored the first Baltimore run by evading the tag of Casali. … The Orioles have started a season 5-0 for the first time since 1970. … Yovani Gallardo will make his second start of the season Monday afternoon in Boston and will be opposed by Red Sox ace David Price.

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Kim makes major league debut as Jones remains sidelined

Posted on 10 April 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — South Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim was set to make his major league debut on Sunday as the Orioles concluded a three-game set with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Kim was slotted in the No. 9 spot and playing in left field after not appearing in the first four games of the 2016 season. With Adam Jones sidelined with rib soreness for a third straight game, regular left fielder Joey Rickard was once again in center as Kim received his first start.

The 28-year-old hasn’t started in a game since March 25 and received just two more spring at-bats after that as the Orioles tried to persuade him to accept a minor-league assignment.

“We talked about it, but you don’t want to say too much,” said manager Buck Showalter about Kim making his regular-season debut. “There’s a fine line there — go play. He’s probably got enough things going on without me jumping in there too deep.”

As he predicted on Saturday, shortstop J.J. Hardy was back in the lineup after missing Friday’s game due to tightness in his left calf. However, Showalter continues to be cautious with Jones, who is improving but is still feeling some discomfort in the rib area at the end of his swing. The manager reiterated that the training staff does not believe that Jones is dealing with an oblique problem.

For now, the Orioles are willing to wait before considering putting the five-time All-Star selection on the 15-day disabled list. Jones hasn’t played since Wednesday night when he felt discomfort swinging in his final at-bat.

“It’s a concern because he’s one of our best players and he’s not playing,” Showalter said. “But it’s close we think; [we’ll wait] as long as it takes. You know that 10 days is as far as you can backdate something [for the DL], so 10 days? Then, if on the 11th day, he comes in and says he feels good, I’m fine with that, too.

“He’s worth waiting on.”

Kevin Gausman (right shoulder strain) was set to make a rehab start for Double-A Bowie on Sunday that was expected to last three or four innings. The right-hander would then make his next rehab start at Single-A Frederick on Friday and could be activated from the DL as soon as April 20 if all goes to plan.

Lefty reliever Brian Matusz (left intercostal strain) will pitch two to three innings for Bowie on Monday and is expected to be activated from the DL on Thursday when the Orioles begin a four-game series in Texas.

Showalter said pitching prospect Hunter Harvey experienced a mild setback with a groin issue he’s been dealing with since late March.

Right-hander Mike Wright will now make his 2016 debut in a Tuesday start against Boston after Saturday’s start was postponed. Chris Tillman will now make his next start against the Rangers on Thursday.

Below are Sunday’s lineups:

TAMPA BAY
2B Logan Forsythe
DH Logan Morrison
3B Evan Longoria
LF Corey Dickerson
1B Steve Pearce
SS Brad Miller
RF Steven Souza Jr.
CF Kevin Kiermaier
C Curt Casali

SP Jake Odorizzi (0-0, 1.59)

BALTIMORE
CF Joey Rickard
3B Manny Machado
1B Chris Davis
RF Mark Trumbo
C Matt Wieters
DH Pedro Alvarez
SS J.J. Hardy
2B Jonathan Schoop
LF Hyun Soo Kim

SP Vance Worley (2015 stats: 4-6, 4.02 ERA)

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Saturday’s Orioles-Rays game postponed due to wintry conditions

Posted on 09 April 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Despite a miserably cold forecast that didn’t look promising, the Orioles waited until almost an hour after a scheduled 7:05 p.m. first pitch to postpone Saturday’s game with the Tampa Bay Rays.

While the Washington Nationals and the Double-A Bowie Baysox postponed home games hours earlier, Baltimore hoped to play the second contest of a three-game set despite a wintry mix, temperatures dipping below 40 degrees, and a wind chill in the upper 20s. The scheduled first pitch was initially delayed until 7:40 p.m. before the tarp was then put back on the field again and postponed shortly thereafter.

No makeup date was immediately announced, but the Rays return to Baltimore for a three-game set beginning on June 24 and also come to town for a four-game series in mid-September.

Sunday’s original starters will remain in place as right-hander Vance Worley will make his Orioles debut against Tampa Bay right-hander Jake Odorizzi. On Saturday night, Mike Wright had been scheduled to pitch against Rays lefty Drew Smyly.

Below is the release sent out by the Orioles announcing the postponement of Saturday’s game:

Fans are encouraged to exchange their tickets for tomorrow’s game on Sunday, April 10, beginning at 1:35 p.m. ET when the Orioles host the Tampa Bay Rays for the second annual Kids’ Opening Day. The celebration will welcome children and their families to a new season of Orioles Baseball with many fun activities and unique gameday opportunities for several lucky kids throughout the day.

If fans wish to attend tomorrow’s contest, they will need to exchange their tickets from tonight’s game at the Oriole Park Box Office. Box Office windows will be open at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. Fans unable to attend tomorrow’s game are encouraged to keep their tickets until a makeup date is announced. If fans cannot attend the makeup date, tonight’s tickets can be exchanged for any remaining Orioles home game this season on a dollar-for-dollar basis. All exchanges are subject to availability and must be completed by June 25. Complimentary tickets are non-exchangeable. StubHub tickets are also non-exchangeable and must either be used for the makeup date or resold on StubHub once a makeup date is determined.

Kids’ Opening Day will feature a kids-only “Eat. Sleep. Orioles.” T-shirt, available to the first 7,500 fans age 14 and under. Additionally, all fans 14 and under will be able to participate in a postgame Kids Run the Bases, the first of 13 Sunday home games when kids can round the bases like their favorite Orioles. Select children will also be randomly chosen to take the field with the Orioles starters for the national anthem, help deliver the lineup card during the pregame exchange at home plate, and throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the game.

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