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Your Monday Reality Check-What a gutless bunch in Beantown Sunday night

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Your Monday Reality Check-What a gutless bunch in Beantown Sunday night

Posted on 19 August 2013 by Glenn Clark

My love for Leonardo DiCaprio and a set of trailers that were incredibly artistic lead me to choose to see Baz Luhrmann’s take on “The Great Gatsby” earlier this summer.

As I should have realized considering what he did to “Romeo & Juliet” that he was destined to make the special effects in the movie more interesting than the story itself. It wasn’t worth the 10 bucks. It’s probably not even worth a dollar in the Redbox machine. If for some reason you’re not familiar with the story, go get F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book from the library (there are still libraries, right?) instead.

The only saving grace of going to see the flick was the reminder of one of my favorite lines in all of literature. The line is better if you read it through a monocle while sipping a spot of tea.

“‘They’re a rotten lot,’ I shouted, across the lawn. ‘You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.’”

The line was shouted by Nick Carraway to the title character, Jay Gatsby. It came after an ugly scene involving the other characters in the story, all of whom were terribly flawed in many ways.

I was reminded of the famous line upon learning what had happened between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees Sunday night (and to a much lesser degree knowing what has gone on between the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals recently). The entire group in Beantown was an absolutely rotten lot.

Actually, that’s not fair enough. The entire group in Beantown was a cowardly lot. A gutless lot.

You’re almost certainly familiar with what happened at Fenway Park Sunday night, as Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was plunked by Ryan Dempster in his first at-bat. Dempster made it evident that he intended to hit A-Rod, throwing behind him on the first pitch and hitting him on a 3-0 count after throwing two more pitches inside.

Inexplicably, home plate umpire Brian O’Nora allowed Dempster to stay in the game (and ultimately ejected Yankees manager Joe Girardi for arguing that decision). Boston fans suddenly forgot that intentionally hitting another human being with a baseball is a disgusting act that should be considered criminal and gave Dempster a standing ovation. Rodriguez would later hit a home run off Dempster, forcing those of us with brains in this country to feel the need to take a shower after actually feeling good for the man facing a 211 game suspension for (allegedly) being a lying, fraudulent performance enhancing drug user.

They’re a gutless, cowardly, rotten lot.

For what it’s worth, Rodriguez isn’t absolved of being described with similar adjectives. If guilty of the crimes accused by Major League Baseball, the man whose numbers would otherwise be Hall of Fame worthy deserves to be described the exact same way Nick Carraway described Tom & Daisy Buchanan and company.

But it provides absolutely no excuse for the actions of Dempster, O’Nora, the Red Sox fans and anyone else involved with the activities at Fenway Park Sunday night. Rodriguez’s punishment will be determined in arbitration, a right the MLBPA (which represents Dempster among others) fought for in Collective Bargaining. Dempster himself is the worst perpetrator, and the term “chicken sh*t” is perhaps even more fitting than gutless, cowardly or rotten.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Wizards, Knicks announced for Baltimore Arena preseason game

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Wizards, Knicks announced for Baltimore Arena preseason game

Posted on 07 August 2013 by WNST Staff

Professional Basketball Returns to the Baltimore Arena

August 7, 2013

Baltimore, MD – Baltimore Arena/SMG general manager Frank Remesch and the Honorable Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Mayor of the city of Baltimore, announced today that the Washington Wizards will face the New York Knicks in the inaugural Baltimore Basketball Classic on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, at 7:00 p.m. at the Baltimore Arena.

“Baltimore is excited to host the Washington Wizards and the New York Knicks for the 50-year anniversary of the Baltimore Bullets. Baltimore has the best sports fans and we are thrilled to have professional basketball return to Baltimore,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “Basketball legends that have graced our city like Wes Unseld and Earl “The Pearl” Monroe are a clear testament to the rich history we are so proud of. Now, we are honored to welcome these teams to our city as we continue to make sports history.”

The 2013-14 season will mark the 50th anniversary of the Bullets’ move to Baltimore as well as the 50th anniversary of the Baltimore Arena. The team called Charm City beginning in 1963, playing at the newly-constructed Baltimore Civic Center and featuring future Hall of Famers Walt Bellamy and Gus Johnson. Fellow Hall of Famers Earl Monroe (1967-71), Wes Unseld (1968-73) and Elvin Hayes (1972-73) also were part of the Baltimore franchise before the team relocated to Landover, Md., prior to the 1973-74 season.

“I am incredibly appreciative of Mr. Leonsis and Wizards Senior VP/Chief Marketing Officer Joe Dupriest for recognizing the significance of the Baltimore market and its historical ties to the Washington Wizards,” said Remesch. “As the team and the building both celebrate our golden anniversaries, it is only fitting that the celebration begins here in Baltimore.”

The inaugural Baltimore Basketball Classic will mark the first time the Wizards have returned to Charm City since hosting a preseason game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Oct. 23, 1999.

“The city of Baltimore has a storied basketball tradition that includes playing an integral role in the history of our franchise,” said Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld. “We’re looking forward to bringing the team back in October and getting the opportunity to play in front of our fans in the Baltimore area.”

The game will feature two of the city’s most distinguished former high school players in Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony and Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell. Anthony was named Baltimore’s County Player of the Year, All-Metropolitan Player of the Year and Baltimore Catholic League Player of the Year as a junior at Towson Catholic in 2001 while Cassell was named Baltimore Player of the Year as a senior at Dunbar in 1988.

Ticket information for the Baltimore Basketball Classic will be released at a later date. Wizards full season ticket holders will have the opportunity to purchase seats in advance of tickets going on sale to the general public.

The Baltimore Arena is Baltimore’s largest indoor venue and entertainment facility and has long been considered an anchor that contributed to the growth and prosperity of the city. The arena opened in 1962 and was the cornerstone of the Baltimore Inner Harbor redevelopment. It hosts an average of 130 events per year and more than 800,000 guests come through the turnstiles annually.

For more information on The Baltimore Basketball Classic, please visit or www.BaltimoreArena.com or www.WashingtonWizards.com.

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Machado’s key play allows Orioles to turn tables on Yankees

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Machado’s key play allows Orioles to turn tables on Yankees

Posted on 29 June 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — Manny Machado knew he was taking a major chance.

Tagging up from second base with two outs and the Orioles trailing the New York Yankees by a run in the bottom of the sixth inning Friday night seemed hardly worth the risk to only move up 90 feet with your cleanup hitter coming to the plate.

Conventional baseball wisdom screams that you never make the final out at third base, but sometimes you need to push the envelope against an ace like CC Sabathia, who hadn’t allowed a hit through the first five innings. Manager Buck Showalter said afterward that you can’t become “a prisoner to the book” in those rare moments as Machado followed his two-run double earlier in the inning with the aggressive decision to move up to third.

“It’s a do-or-die play. It’s something that Buck allows us to do — to play our game,” Machado said. “If you have a shot for it, go for it. I wanted to take the extra base.”

It was an eyebrow-raising decision that paid off as Yankees center fielder Brett Gardner made the catch flat-footed on J.J. Hardy’s fly ball to medium deep left-center and Machado slid into third ahead of the throw, moving 90 feet closer to home plate. Moments later, Adam Jones sent a dribbler down the first-base line for an infield single, allowing Machado to cross the plate with the tying run.

The 20-year-old wouldn’t have scored on the play had he not made the bold baserunning decision.

The good fortune was a case of preparation meeting opportunity as the Orioles tied the game and ultimately completed a 4-3 comeback win to open a three-game set and move a game ahead of the Yankees in the loss column for second place in the American League East.

Machado’s play was reminiscent of the countless times the Yankees would take advantage of a moment of weakness, with shortstop Derek Jeter headlining the list of players to do it against the Orioles time after time. Like clockwork, the underdog Orioles would work to build an early lead in many games prior to last year, only to see the Yankees chip away and ultimately surge ahead in the late innings for a demoralizing loss.

Of course, the Orioles have no reason to be intimidated by the Yankees these days as the division rivals are tied 15-15 since the start of the 2012 season, including the five games played in the American League Division Series last October. Friday night was the latest example of Baltimore turning the tables against an injury-plagued Yankees club.

“I tell guys all the time, if you feel something, you’ve got a good feel, go for it,” said Showalter about Machado’s tag-up. “I have the other part of it after it’s over, but I’m going to be upset if you feel something and don’t go for it. That’s the type of intelligent recklessness you have to have.”

Nate McLouth delivered the big blow an inning later as he homered over the right-field scoreboard to give the Orioles the lead for the first time all night. The game-winning homer brought back memories of last year’s ALDS Game 5 when he hit a potential game-tying drive off Sabathia in the sixth inning that was ruled foul despite the Orioles’ claims that it nicked the right-field foul pole at Yankee Stadium.

The left fielder wasn’t interested in revisiting that call but was asked whether he thought back to that moment last October as he was rounding first base.

“I wasn’t out of batter’s box before I thought that,” McLouth said. “Off the bat, I knew it had the distance. It stayed true, it stayed straight, and I was happy about that.”

The Orioles were also happy with the relief work of rookie Kevin Gausman, who followed T.J. McFarland’s rough start with 4 1/3 shutout innings to keep the early deficit at 3-0 and make the eventual comeback possible. The 22-year-old earned his first major league victory in the process.

Tommy Hunter followed Gausman’s effort with two dominating innings to earn his second career save as closer Jim Johnson received a second night off after working three consecutive games earlier in the week.

It wasn’t a dominating performance by any means, but the Orioles were just a little bit better — possibly as little as 90 extra feet in the case of Machado’s sixth-inning decision.

An early deficit, a critical play or two to orchestrate a comeback, and rock-solid bullpen work to seal the victory. The Yankees painfully showed them that sequence for so many years, reminding that it’s often the little things that lead to big wins.

But the Orioles quickly reminded everyone that even a victory over Sabathia is only as significant as the next day.

“It’s big to win against their No. 1 in the first game of the series,” Machado said, “but it’s a new game tomorrow.”

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Your Monday Reality Check: I told you I’d be excited and now I’m excited

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Your Monday Reality Check: I told you I’d be excited and now I’m excited

Posted on 17 June 2013 by Glenn Clark

After the Orioles took two of three from the Detroit Tigers two weeks ago at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, I could sense a particularly significant level of satisfaction in Baltimore.

Fans took to social media to make statements along the lines of “biggest series win of the year” and “proof the O’s are the best team in the American League” and many more.

It was a fun series and a nice series win against a potential playoff opponent. But on that Monday’s edition of “The Reality Check”, I ruffled a few feathers by suggesting I wasn’t as enthused as many others were. My reasoning was simple. It was a nice series victory, but whatever the Orioles do against the Tigers wasn’t nearly as important as what they do against AL East opponents.

As always, there was a minority who said “this is typical. Someone at WNST is trying to marginalize the Orioles.” The rest of us know how idiotic that group is, but are forced to accept their existence.

I made sure to fortify my statement a few days later when the Orioles were crushed by the Astros on a Wednesday night in Houston. Before we knew the Birds would go on to win the series Thursday afternoon, I made sure to clarify that I wasn’t concerned if the Orioles won the series or not. What the Orioles did against an AL West opponent simply couldn’t carry the significance of a series against AL East opponents.

I didn’t waiver on those opinions the following weekend, as a series loss to the Tampa Bay Rays (even if they avoided a sweep) lead to me offering critical comments this past Monday afternoon on “The Reality Check.”

I said then that the Birds couldn’t just beat teams elsewhere in baseball and assume they would be able to make a run in the postseason. Callers told me things like “the whole division is just going to beat each other up” but none had much of a response when I said back “in order for that to happen, the O’s have to beat up SOMEONE.”

So I made it clear on Monday’s show-”if the Orioles spank the Boston Red Sox this week there will be no negativity. There will be no downplaying. I might well throw a parade!”

It’s with that in mind that I ask you to collect some ticker tape and meet me on Pratt Street at 3:30 or so. But if I’m running a bit late, feel free to start without me.

Kidding aside, I’m absolutely THRILLED with the results of the Orioles’ series against the Sox this weekend at OPACY. The second base debacle aside, it was a very important weekend for the Birds-easily the most significant series they’ve claimed in 2013.

There are currently four teams in the American League who have records over .500 (the Orioles, Rays, first place Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees). There are only three others in the entire American League (the Tigers, Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers) who similarly find themselves with more wins than losses at the moment.

We’re far enough into the season to now that none of the four teams in the AL East is simply going to go away, no matter how many times we’ve tried to justify the potential in our own minds. The Yanks have done it despite injuries, the Rays have done it without David Price actually being David Price and the Red Sox have somehow managed to forget 2012 ever happened. For what it’s worth, the Toronto Blue Jays linger just four games under .500. But we won’t include them in the conversation until (and more likely “if”) they need to be.

All of these teams are going to be in this thing. The Orioles will not be guaranteed a postseason berth even by playing above .500 ball in the AL East. As some had wondered aloud before the season, there is a CHANCE all of these teams are finishing the season above .500. It’s far from a likelihood, but it is most certainly a possibility.

It’s with that in mind that I continue to tell everyone just how important it will be to win the games against the teams you’re competing against for the AL East crown and/or two Wild Card spots.

The Orioles play nearly half of their games (73) against division opponents. Coming into the four game set against the Sox, they had played 21 games against the three other teams above .500 in the division; holding a 10-11 record in those contests. A simple math lesson from Perry Hall High School’s Mr. Radcliffe will tell me that that record could have been anywhere from 14-11 to 10-15 after the weekend.

Follow up with Mr. Radcliffe about this, but I’m reasonably certainly 13-12 is a good bit better than 10-15…or even 12-13.

The Orioles didn’t wrap up their first division title since 1997 over the weekend. They most certainly didn’t guarantee they’d make a second consecutive trip to the postseason either.

What they did is take another significant step in that process with three gutty victories over the team sitting at the top of the standings.

That simply cannot be understated and I will not even remotely attempt to do that.

In fact, I’ve already got my “Chris Davis’ monkey” float parked outside the ballpark. It’s exactly what you think it is.

-G

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Bovada gives O’s, Yanks, Rays same odds to win World Series

Posted on 04 June 2013 by WNST Staff

Courtesy of Bovada, (www.Bovada.lv, Twitter: @BovadaLV).

 

Odds to win the 2013 World Series         

Detroit Tigers                            13/2

Atlanta Braves                           8/1

St. Louis Cardinals                    8/1

Texas Rangers                          17/2

Cincinnati Reds                         12/1

San Francisco Giants                12/1

Washington Nationals               12/1

Boston Red Sox                       15/1

Baltimore Orioles                       18/1

New York Yankees                   18/1

Tampa Bay Rays                       18/1

Arizona Diamondbacks              20/1

Oakland Athletics                      22/1

Cleveland Indians                      25/1

Pittsburgh Pirates                      25/1

Los Angeles Angels                  28/1

Colorado Rockies                     33/1

Los Angeles Dodgers                33/1

Toronto Blue Jays                     33/1

Philadelphia Phillies                   40/1

Chicago White Sox                    75/1

Kansas City Royals                   75/1

Minnesota Twins                        100/1

San Diego Padres                     100/1

New York Mets                          150/1

Seattle Mariners                        200/1

Milwaukee Brewers                    250/1

Chicago Cubs                           300/1

Houston Astros                         1000/1

Miami Marlins                            5000/1

 

Odds to win the 2013 AL Pennant          

Detroit Tigers                            3/1

Texas Rangers                          4/1

Boston Red Sox                       7/1

New York Yankees                    8/1

Tampa Bay Rays                       9/1

Baltimore Orioles                       10/1

Oakland Athletics                      10/1

Cleveland Indians                      12/1

Los Angeles Angels                  14/1

Toronto Blue Jays                     16/1

Chicago White Sox                    40/1

Kansas City Royals                   40/1

Minnesota Twins                        60/1

Seattle Mariners                        100/1

Houston Astros                         500/1

 

Odds to win the 2013 NL Pennant          

Atlanta Braves                           4/1

St. Louis Cardinals                    4/1

Cincinnati Reds                         5/1

San Francisco Giants                6/1

Washington Nationals                6/1

Arizona Diamondbacks              9/1

Pittsburgh Pirates                      11/1

Colorado Rockies                     15/1

Los Angeles Dodgers                15/1

Philadelphia Phillies                   20/1

San Diego Padres                     50/1

New York Mets                          75/1

Milwaukee Brewers                    125/1

Chicago Cubs                           150/1

Miami Marlins                           1500/1

 

Odds to Win the 2013 AL East   

Boston Red Sox                      2/1

Tampa Bay Rays                       11/4

Baltimore Orioles                       13/4

New York Yankees                    13/4

Toronto Blue Jays                     15/1

 

Odds to Win the 2013 AL Central           

Detroit Tigers                            1/3

Cleveland Indians                      4/1

Chicago White Sox                    12/1

Kansas City Royals                   15/1

Minnesota Twins                        15/1

 

Odds to Win the 2013 AL West  

Texas Rangers                          1/2

Oakland Athletics                      2/1

Los Angeles Angels                  7/1

Seattle Mariners                        50/1

Houston Astros                         300/1

 

Odds to Win the 2013 NL East   

Atlanta Braves                           1/3

Washington Nationals                2/1

Philadelphia Phillies                   18/1

New York Mets                          50/1

Miami Marlins                            1000/1

 

Odds to Win the 2013 NL Central           

Cincinnati Reds                         11/10

St. Louis Cardinals                    11/10

Pittsburgh Pirates                      9/2

Chicago Cubs                           66/1

Milwaukee Brewers                    100/1

 

Odds to Win the 2013 NL West  

San Francisco Giants                6/5

Arizona Diamondbacks              3/2

Colorado Rockies                     13/2

Los Angeles Dodgers                8/1

San Diego Padres                     15/1

 

Who will be the first manager to be fired?

Don Mattingly                7/4

Mike Scioscia               9/4

Ron Roenicke                5/1

John Gibbons               7/1

Eric Wedge                   7/1

Charlie Manuel               10/1

Terry Collins                  12/1

Ned Yost                      12/1

Bud Black                     15/1

Ron Gardenhire             15/1

Joe Girardi                    15/1

 

Odds to win the 2013 AL MVP   

Miguel Cabrera (DET)                            1/1

Chris Davis (BAL)                                  3/1

Mike Trout (LAA)                                   7/1

Clay Buchholz (BOS)                             10/1

Robinson Cano (NYY)                           10/1

Adam Jones (BAL)                                15/1

Prince Fielder (DET)                              25/1

Evan Longoria (TB)                                25/1

Joe Mauer (MIN)                                    25/1

Mike Napoli (BOS)                                 25/1

Adrian Beltre (TEX)                                33/1

Yu Darvish (TEX)                                   33/1

Albert Pujols (LAA)                                33/1

 

Odds to win the 2013 NL MVP   

Paul Goldschmidt (ARI)                         5/1

Carlos Gonzalez (COL)                           6/1

Troy Tulowitzki (COL)                             6/1

Joey Votto (CIN)                                   7/1

Bryce Harper (WSH)                              10/1

Jean Segura (MIL)                                 10/1

Justin Upton (ATL)                                 10/1

Adrian Gonzalez (LAD)                           12/1

Andrew McCutchen (PIT)                        12/1

Buster Posey (SF)                                 14/1

Ryan Braun (MIL)                                   15/1

Domonic Brown (PHI)                            18/1

Carlos Gomez (MIL)                               18/1

Yadier Molina (STL)                               18/1

Carlos Beltran (STL)                               25/1

Dexter Fowler (COL)                              25/1

Carl Crawford (LAD)                              33/1

Starling Marte (PIT)                                33/1

Pablo Sandoval (SF)                             33/1

Shin-Soo Choo (CIN)                             33/1

David Wright (NYM)                               33/1

 

Odds to win the 2013 AL Cy Young        

Clay Buchholz (BOS)                             7/4

Yu Darvish (TEX)                                   4/1

Justin Masterson (CLE)                          7/1

Matt Moore (TB)                                    10/1

Justin Verlander (DET)                           10/1

Felix Hernandez (SEA)                           12/1

Hiwashi Iwakuma (SEA)                         12/1

Max Scherzer (DET)                               12/1

Jon Lester (BOS)                                   20/1

C.C. Sabathia (NYY)                              20/1

Anibal Sanchez (DET)                            20/1

Chris Sale (CWS)                                   20/1

Alex Cobb (TB)                                     25/1

Derek Holland (TEX)                              25/1

Mariano Rivera (NYY)                            25/1

Doug Fister (DET)                                 33/1

Hiroki Kuroda (NYY)                              33/1

Joe Nathan (TEX)                                  33/1

Ervin Santana (KC)                                50/1

Bud Norris (HOU)                                  100/1

R.A. Dickey (TOR)                                 250/1

 

Odds to win the 2013 NL Cy Young        

Clayton Kershaw (LAD)                          4/1

Patrick Corbin (ARI)                               5/1

Adam Wainwright (STL)                          5/1

Jordan Zimmerman (WAS)                     7/1

Shelby Miller (STL)                                15/2

Lance Lynn (STL)                                   9/1

Cliff Lee (PHI)                                       10/1

Matt Harvey (NYM)                                12/1

Mike Minor (ATL)                                   12/1

Madison Bumgarner (SF)                       15/1

Mat Latos (CIN)                                     18/1

Craig Kimbrel (ATL)                               20/1

Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD)                               20/1

Stephen Strasburg (WAS)                      20/1

A.J. Burnett (PIT)                                   33/1

Jaime Garcia (STL)                                33/1

Jason Grilli (PIT)                                    33/1

Tim Hudson (ATL)                                  50/1

Sergio Romo (SF)                                 100/1

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Orioles-Yankees June 30 game moved to ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball

Posted on 03 June 2013 by WNST Staff

Major League Baseball and the Orioles announced Monday that the start time for the Sunday, June 30 game against the New York Yankees at Oriole Park has been moved from 1:35 p.m. to 8:05 p.m. The change in time is due to the selection of the game for broadcast by ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.

Original ticket purchasers holding tickets for June 30 who are unable to attend due to the time change may exchange their tickets for any remaining regular season home game this season, except vs. the Yankees on June 29, at the Oriole Park Box Office. Ticket exchanges are subject to availability. Tickets purchased from StubHub are not eligible for exchange but may be resold on StubHub. All ticket exchanges must be completed by Tuesday, July 30.

Exchanges may also be made through the mail by sending tickets to:

Baltimore Orioles

ATTN: June 30 Exchanges

333 W. Camden St.

Baltimore, MD 21201

Eutaw Street gates will open at 6:00 p.m., with the rest of the ballpark opening at 6:30 p.m., on June 30.

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Laboring Orioles trying to shorten chain to late innings

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Laboring Orioles trying to shorten chain to late innings

Posted on 20 May 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — Trying to stop a five-game losing streak on Monday with the surging New York Yankees coming to town for a three-game series isn’t the easiest of chores, but the Orioles know it begins with their starting pitching to right themselves in the American League East.

Every starter not named Chris Tillman is either injured or struggling, but the Orioles must find a way to shorten the chain to the end of the game, evident by the heavy workloads of their top relief pitchers and back-to-back blown saves by closer Jim Johnson. Baltimore entered Monday’s game with the 25th-ranked starting earned run average (4.90) in the majors and had averaged just 5.64 innings per start. In comparison, the St. Louis Cardinals have the best starting ERA (2.63) in baseball and average 6.43 innings per outing.

The starting pitching needs to improve for a club with postseason aspirations and intentions of preserving its biggest asset — the bullpen — for the entire season.

“That falls underneath the ‘Capt. Obvious’ thing,’” manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s one thing to identify it; it’s how you do it. Pitch better.”

As of now, the Orioles have few answers with Tillman the only reliable commodity currently in the rotation. Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez returns Tuesday from a stint on the 15-day disabled list due to a blister on his right thumb, but lefty Wei-Yin Chen will just be leaving for Sarasota on Tuesday to begin his rehabilitation. Showalter didn’t paint a rosy picture on Monday that Chen would be returning in a timely fashion.

Stricken with a Grade 2 right oblique strain, Chen is at least a week away from picking up a baseball as his type of injury is a tricky one from which to recover. Setbacks are frequent with oblique injuries as you never really know how well a pitcher is recovering before he starts trying to throw again.

“I couldn’t tell you that he’s making any great progress,” Showalter said. “He’s still sore, but he’s doing some things as far as sleeping through the night and rolling over where it’s not bothering him like it was. But I don’t think there’s some definitive date. There’s an unknown to it.”

When Chen and Gonzalez dealing with injuries this month, the Orioles have been forced to turn to veteran Freddy Garcia and former Atlanta pitcher Jair Jurrjens to stabilize the back end of the rotation. Speculation persists that Garcia could be reaching the end of his run with the Orioles after turning in poor outings against Kansas City and San Diego to follow up his surprising debut in Anaheim at the beginning of the month.

Jurrjens figures to receive at least a couple more starts after allowing four earned runs in five innings in his 2013 debut against Tampa Bay over the weekend, but the Orioles appear close to moving on in their quest for rotation stability.

Recalled over the weekend to serve as an extra arm in the bullpen, Jake Arrieta is not in line to receive a start and could be optioned to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for Gonzalez on Tuesday. However, another pitcher in the Baltimore bullpen could be next in line for a shot in the rotation.

Left-hander T.J. McFarland turned in a scoreless performance over 2 1/3 innings to keep the Orioles within two runs of the Rays on Sunday, and Showalter acknowledged prior to the start of the Yankees series that the 23-year-old Rule 5 selection has been considered as a starting option.

“He was impressive again yesterday,” Showalter said. “I’m real proud of our scouting department. So far, so good with him. He’s a guy we’ve thought about starting, too, but right now it’s Freddy and Jair.”

McFarland has a 2.61 ERA in 20 2/3 innings over 10 appearances. The lefty has allowed 23 hits, struck out 22, and walked seven coming out of the bullpen.

Gonzalez chomping at bit

The Orioles will welcome the Tuesday return of Gonzalez, who hasn’t pitched since leaving his start in Anaheim early with a blister on his thumb on May 3.

Sporting a 2-2 record with a 4.58 ERA in six starts this season, a healthy Gonzalez would help soothe the rotation concerns if he can look more like the pitcher who went 9-4 with a 3.25 ERA in 18 games (15 starts) last season. The 28-year-old threw briefly on Sunday just to work on the spin of his curveball and feels confident after throwing roughly 80 pitches in completing a simulated game on Friday.

“I’ve been telling the guys it was frustrating not being able to be out there because of a blister,” Gonzalez said. “You know, it’s not an injury, but you just have to wait and heal.”

The right-hander said he shouldn’t be limited to any limited pitch count and would be able to throw 100 or more pitches if necessary on Tuesday night.

Hardy moving up

Shortstop J.J. Hardy saw his 13-game hitting streak come to an end on Sunday, but his .360 average that includes five home runs and 10 RBIs since May 3 hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Hardy was elevated to the No. 3 spot in the order against left-hander CC Sabathia on Monday night, but that was also the result of his numbers against the burly Yankees starter. The 30-year-old entered the game with a .321 career average against Sabathia with one homer and five RBIs.

Showalter was looking for any edge he could get against Sabathia, who held a 10-3 career mark with a 3.38 ERA in 15 career games at Camden Yards prior to Monday’s game.

“It’s hard to find anybody that’s had some success against certain guys,” Showalter said. “This just fits a little bit better for us [Monday night].”

Minor-league additions

According to Baseball America, the Orioles signed catcher Ronny Paulino and right-handed pitcher Austin Urban to minor-league contracts.

Paulino was released by the Seattle Mariners on March 30 while the Chicago Cubs released Urban on March 12.

Of course, the 32-year-old Paulino served as the Orioles’ backup catcher for a good portion of the first half of last season, hitting .254 in 63 at-bats and appearing in 20 games.

 

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Orioles’ success mirrors their anchor in ninth inning

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Orioles’ success mirrors their anchor in ninth inning

Posted on 11 May 2013 by Luke Jones

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There was a time not long ago when many doubted that Jim Johnson held the right mindset or ability for the Orioles’ closer role.

The 29-year-old right-hander certainly doesn’t fit the description of most ninth-inning men. Not only does Johnson strike out fewer batters than the typical closer but he fanned fewer hitters per nine innings (5.4) than any regular member of the Baltimore bullpen last season.

But that didn’t stop Johnson from collecting a club-record and major league-leading 51 saves and being named to his first All-Star team in 2012 as the Orioles advanced to the postseason for the first time in 15 years. His heavy sinker that induces ground ball after ground ball has allowed him to convert 35 consecutive save opportunities, breaking Randy Myers’ franchise record in Friday night’s remarkable 9-6 comeback victory in 10 innings.

In many ways, Johnson’s success mirrors the Orioles’ prosperity as it was late in the 2011 season when he took over the closer role for good after mixed results in brief stints prior to that. The club finished that season going 14-8 in what’s now viewed as a precursor to the remarkable 2012 season. Since Sept. 7, 2011, Johnson’s 72 saves are the most in baseball and the Orioles have gone 129-91. Many have struggled to explain the success both have found, but that’s just fine with Johnson.

“I think it is more about knowing what kind of pitcher you are,” Johnson said. “I do it differently than other people. When I first started, I tried to be something I wasn’t. I tried to be a typical closer and strike guys out all the time and that is not who I am. Then, I reverted back to pitching how I normally do and good results followed.”

Johnson’s journey to become arguably the best closer in baseball hasn’t been a smooth one as it was only in 2010 when his career appeared to be at a crossroads. Struggling out of the gate with a 6.52 ERA in 10 appearances, Johnson was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk before it was discovered that he was dealing with right elbow inflammation.

It was during a rehabilitation stint in August of that season when Johnson first met new Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who had traveled to Bowie to see how the reliever was progressing. In one of his favorite stories to tell about his closer, Showalter explained how he saw Johnson give up a home run on a changeup that was clocked at 88 miles per hour.

Upon seeing his new manager when getting back to the dugout, Johnson asked Showalter what he thought. The manager quipped that he needed to work on that pitch, fully understanding the right-hander was working on his array of pitches during the outing against Double-A hitters who were otherwise overmatched. Even then as Johnson was just working his way back to form, Showalter knew he had something special to work with out of the bullpen.

“It was the first time I saw him,” Showalter said. “But that’s what [the good ones] look like.”

For years, the debate continued whether Johnson would be better suited to start or relieve as even Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer believed his four-pitch repertoire — the sinker, a nasty curveball, an underrated changeup, and a four-seam fastball — would make him a successful starter. Coming up through the Orioles system as a starter, Johnson was named the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year as well as the Carolina League pitcher of the year for the 2005 season.

Showalter can’t help but draw comparisons between Johnson and future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera, whom he managed at the end of his tenure as Yankees manager. Rivera followed a similar progression in beginning his career as a starter before moving to middle relief and eventually closing out victories for a winning club. Before briefly reconsidering Johnson’s role two years ago, Showalter decided the ninth inning would be the perfect place for him.

“Jimmy’s been through all those same processes,” said Showalter in comparing him to Rivera. “I thought it was the best for him to stay healthy with a lot of the things that go on with pitchers. The biggest thing is his ability as a pitcher. He has multiple ways to get you out.”

The Orioles saw their faith in Johnson rewarded in 2012 as he saved 51 of 54 opportunities to become the first Baltimore closer since George Sherrill to make the All-Star team. He began his current streak of 35 straight save conversions on July 30 of last season, but it was his postseason failure that stung the most for Orioles fans after Johnson had been so outstanding all year.

In Game 1 of the American League Division Series, Johnson entered in the ninth inning with the game tied 2-2 before allowing the go-ahead home run to Yankees catcher Russell Martin and five runs total in the inning as the Orioles fell 7-2. Game 3 brought an even more painful result as Johnson came on in the ninth inning with the Orioles holding a 2-1 lead at Yankee Stadium and gave up the game-tying home run to Raul Ibanez. Baltimore lost the game in extra innings as it was the only time since Aug. 8, 2011 that the Orioles have lost a game in which they held a lead at the end of seven innings.

Johnson took full responsibility for the postseason struggles by waiting at his locker for reporters after both losses. Instead of dwelling on those failures and allowing the disappointment to linger into the 2013 season, the closer has converted all 14 save opportunities and entered Saturday tied for the major-league lead in saves.

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Ribeiro OT Tally Gives Caps a 3-2 Series Lead

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Ribeiro OT Tally Gives Caps a 3-2 Series Lead

Posted on 11 May 2013 by Ed Frankovic

The New York Rangers had the Washington Capitals on the ropes early on in game five on Friday night.

Brian Boyle scored after a vicious forecheck just 53 seconds into the contest and then for the next 10 or so minutes New York was all over Washington. The Blueshirts received two power plays and were dominating play. But Braden Holtby (24 saves) made some big stops and the Caps rode the energy from the crowd at the Verizon Center until they could find their legs.

Then Coach Adam Oates, aided by his assistant coaches, made an adjustment that helped change the course of the game. Oates switched his defensive pairs moving a more mobile Jack Hillen with John Carlson on the second defensive duo while John Erskine slid down and skated with Steve Oleksy to start period two. The move, which Oates credited to assistant coach Calle Johansson, gave the Capitals some better matchups on the ice and they slowly started to take over the game. After trailing in shots late in the first period, 10-5, they would out shoot the Rangers 30-15 over the remainder of contest but it took Mike Ribeiro to tally in overtime to win, 2-1.

After game four I blogged about the importance of home ice, adjustments, and the influence of last change in the matchups. All three were a factor on Friday night. In addition to the defensive pair adjustment personnel wise, the Caps made a minor move on their power play that allowed Joel Ward to score just 14 seconds into their first man advantage and tie the game. Alex Ovechkin (9 shots on goal) was moved closer to the net and that seemed to confuse the Rangers, who were all set to once again deny both Mike Green and the Gr8 shots from higher up in the offensive zone. The shift created a 4 on 3 down low and opened up the passing lanes in the high slot, which is where Ward shot from to score.

Home ice was also critical, not just because the fantastic Verizon Center faithful were extremely loud and provided energy, but the Washington forwards could put their stick down second on faceoffs and Oates could work the matchups in his favor. In game four the Capitals were beaten soundly, 34-19, on draws but in game five Washington held a 42-30 advantage from the dot. Ribeiro was a super 19-8 and that was a big difference in the hockey game. That second line with #9, Troy Brouwer, and Eric Fehr was very strong for the Caps and they received right around 21 minutes of ice time each. Given that the Caps top line had its issues with getting out of their own zone for parts of the game, it was critical that Oates get production from his other lines. The Ribeiro line as well as the third unit of Mathieu Perreault, Ward, and Jason Chimera played well. Chimera used his speed, was a physical presence, and his hit on Ryan Clowe in the first period knocked the big winger out of the contest.

Speaking of physical, Tom Wilson made his NHL debut and looked very good in 6:24 of ice time. The rookie right wing, who was Washington’s 1st round pick (16th overall) last June, had four hits and helped wear down a Rangers defense that looked gassed in the third period and overtime. Oates and Ovechkin both praised #43 afterwards for his play and the Gr8 noted that with Wilson the Caps have four really big and powerful right wings in the lineup.

So home ice is 5 for 5 now in this very close series. Washington was able to withstand the early punches from New York and then wear the Rangers out and get a victory. The Caps fans were a big part of this game as they kept their energy up despite an early Rangers lead.  But you can bet that at Madison Square Garden the Rags will get big time support from their fans, as well. Oates feels that the Capitals will need to survive the first 10 minutes on Sunday in game 6 (faceoff at 4:30 pm).

If Washington wins, it is on to the second round with home ice. If not, game 7 is on Monday night at the Verizon Center.

Home ice has been a big key in this series and the Caps held serve on Friday night.

Now the pressure is on a Rangers team that many picked to go to the Stanley Cup Finals before the season started.

Notes: The Rangers had four power plays to just two for the Caps and the overall series tally is now at 21-14…shot attempts were 71-67  in favor of Washington…Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh both played over 29 minutes for the Rangers while Green played 29:16 to lead the Caps in ice time. Green’s partner, Karl Alzner, played 28:27.

 

 

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 06 May 2013 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: Pro Lacrosse: Ohio Machine @ Chesapeake Bayhawks (Saturday 7pm from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium live on ESPN3.com); MLS: Houston Dynamo @ DC United (Wednesday 7pm from RFK Stadium live on Comcast SportsNet PLUS), DC United @ FC Dallas (Saturday 8:30pm from Dallas live on Comcast SportsNet)

10. Rush (Tuesday 7:30pm 1st Mariner Arena); Phil Vassar (Saturday 6:30pm Pier Six Pavilion); Sweetlife Festival feat. Phoenix, Passion Pit, Kendrick Lamar, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Gary Clark Jr. (Saturday 12pm Merriweather Post Pavilion); Taylor Swift (Saturday 7pm Verizon Center); Jah Works (Friday 8pm 8×10 Club); Spin Doctors (Wednesday 8pm Rams Head On Stage), Pat McGee (Friday & Saturday 8pm Rams Head On Stage); Rick Springfield (Thursday 7pm & 9:30pm Rams Head Center Stage); The Airborne Toxic Event (Wednesday & Thursday 7pm 9:30 Club); Bela Fleck (Friday 8pm Strathmore); MPT’s “Best of Doo-Wop” feat. Percy Sledge, Gene Chandler (Saturday 3pm & 7:30pm Meyerhoff Symphony Hall); Fitz & The Tantrums “More Than Just A Dream” available in stores/on iTunes (Tuesday)

Passion Pit is really freaking fantastic.

My cousin Gary Clark Jr. is really freaking fantastic.

This Spin Doctors song was really freaking fantastic.

Fitz & The Tantrums are really freaking fantastic. I don’t have a lot in me tonight. Sorry in advance.

9. Paul Reiser (Friday & Saturday Magooby’s Joke House); Bobby Lee (Friday-Sunday DC Improv); Maryland Film Festival (Wednesday-Sunday Charles Theater, more) The Great Gatsby” out in theaters (Friday); Jack Reacher” and “30 Rock Season 7” available on Blu-Ray/DVD (Tuesday)

I miss 30 Rock so much.

Lazily written sentence followed by another 30 Rock GIF.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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