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Orioles thoughts on Gallardo, Bundy, Kim, more

Posted on 25 April 2016 by Luke Jones

When veteran pitcher Yovani Gallardo left Friday’s game after two innings with right shoulder and bicep tendinitis, you wonder if some small part of the Orioles organization breathed a soft sigh of relief.

No one is taking satisfaction in the 30-year-old being injured, of course, but anyone who’s watched Gallardo pitch so far has observed a significant drop in velocity from even last season, leaving one to wonder if he was healthy. If he had been 100 percent over these first four starts, you’re left with a pitcher who simply can’t get the job done with a fastball sitting in the mid-80s and the lowest ground-ball rate of his 10-year career.

It’s certainly disappointing that Gallardo is already on the shelf after the Orioles forfeited the 14th overall pick in this year’s draft and $22 million over the next two years to sign him, but the pitcher we’ve seen so far isn’t a better option than the likes of Mike Wright, Vance Worley, or Tyler Wilson. In other words, his trip to the 15-day disabled list isn’t a dramatic on-field loss if what he’s done so far is all he’s capable of at this point in his career.

This doesn’t mean that a cortisone shot and a couple weeks of rest will magically transform Gallardo into the pitcher he was three or four years ago, either, but you hope he has a little more left in the tank than what he’s shown and this time away could help him recapture that. If not, it’s fair to ask why the Orioles were still willing to sign Gallardo when their rigorous physical brought red flags about the state of his right shoulder and prompted a restructured deal of two seasons instead of three.

That wouldn’t make them correct about Gallardo as much as they would look desperate to have signed damaged goods because they waited all offseason to address a rotation that finished 14th in the AL in ERA in 2015 and lost its most consistent starter over the last four years in Wei-Yin Chen.

Bundy a starter?

It’s encouraging to see Dylan Bundy healthy and contributing out of the Orioles bullpen with a 2.57 ERA through the first three weeks of 2016, but the discussion of him being a starter later this season is premature.

In addition to his lack of starting experience above Double-A Bowie, Bundy hasn’t shown the ability to miss bats so far with opposing hitters sporting an 89.8 percent contact rate, the highest of any Orioles pitcher in 2016. The 23-year-old has one strikeout in seven innings of work with a fastball averaging just over 93 miles per hour in short stints out of the bullpen when pitchers typically cut it loose.

If he’s only hitting 93 or 94 mph when asked to only throw 20 or 30 pitches, how would that translate as a starter being expected to go six or seven innings?

Of course, this is a small sample size and it’s reasonable to think Bundy’s velocity will increase the further away he gets from his 2013 Tommy John surgery and his shoulder issues from a year ago, but little of what we’ve seen so far from him in 2016 screams starter candidate.

For now, the Orioles and their fans should just be thankful that he’s healthy and contributing in relief, and they’ll see how he progresses from there.

Kim deserving of more chances

It isn’t difficult to see where South Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim stands within the organization after starting just three times in the Orioles’ first 17 games, but he’s gone 5-for-10 with two walks in those limited opportunities.

Meanwhile, primary designated hitter Pedro Alvarez is off to a miserable 4-for-37 start. To be fair, Alvarez has a track record of bringing 30-homer potential to a major league lineup, but the Orioles invested $7 million in Kim over two years compared to a one-year, $5.75 million deal for the former Pittsburgh Pirate. This isn’t to suggest that Kim should be given an everyday DH role over Alvarez, but he’s done enough with his rare chances to warrant more frequent shots here and there.

If you don’t think he can play, release him or give him a few more chances to prove that he just can’t cut it in the majors. When he has received time, however, Kim has far from embarrassed himself.

Davis showing more patience

Chris Davis entered Monday with a .230 batting average, but he’s hit six home runs and his walk rate has gone through the roof in the early going.

The 30-year-old slugger has walked in just under 20 percent of his plate appearances, up from 12.5 percent last season. He’s also swinging at just 21.6 percent of pitches outside the strike zone compared to 31.0 percent last year, another reflection of improved patience at the plate.

To this point, he’s striking out a little less frequently, walking a great deal more, and homering at a similar rate (7.9 percent of plate appearances) to what we saw in 2013 (7.9 percent) and 2015 (7.0 percent). It’s still very early, but the Orioles will gladly take that spike in on-base percentage and not care nearly as much about his batting average.

Brach the pitching MVP so far

Zach Britton and Darren O’Day understandably receive most of the attention in the bullpen, but Brad Brach has been the Orioles’ most valuable pitching piece so far this season.

Tied with T.J. McFarland for the club lead with 11 1/3 relief innings, Brach has pitched to a 0.79 ERA and is averaging 10.3 strikeouts and 3.2 walks per nine innings. Right-handed hitters are just 1-for-19 with 10 strikeouts against him while lefty bats are 3-for-17, making him a good matchup for Buck Showalter against any hitter.

His mid-90s fastball and slider make him very difficult against right-handed bats and the downward movement on his changeup makes him that rare right-handed middle reliever who can be extremely effective against lefty hitters. Considering the issues the Orioles have had with starters getting into the sixth inning, Brach’s effectiveness and durability are key to bridging the gap to O’Day and Britton late in games.

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

Posted on 24 April 2016 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Orioles place Gallardo on DL with shoulder tendinitis

Posted on 23 April 2016 by Luke Jones

The Orioles wasted little time placing starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo on the 15-day disabled list after he left Friday’s start with right shoulder discomfort.

Allowing four runs in two innings of work in Kansas City, the 30-year-old right-hander exited with what the Orioles are now describing as right shoulder bicep tendinitis. Manager Buck Showalter said Friday night that Gallardo would return to Baltimore where he’d be examined by team doctors.

As expected, relief pitcher Brian Matusz was activated from the DL to take Gallardo’s place on the 25-man roster. The lefty specialist suffered a left intercostal strain early in spring training that made him unavailable for the start of the season.

According to FanGraphs, Gallardo’s average fastball velocity entering Friday’s game was just 87.4 miles per hour over his first three starts of 2016, down from an average of 90.4 in 2015. It was no secret that his velocity and strikeout rate had declined over the last few seasons, but a dramatic drop in pitch speed this spring had prompted many to wonder about the health of his arm.

Of course, the Orioles restructured their original three-year, $35 million agreement with the 30-year-old in February after concerns arose about his shoulder during his physical and the sides eventually settled on a two-year, $22 million deal. Baltimore gave up the 14th pick of this year’s draft to sign Gallardo, making the injury even more concerning beyond the short-term ramifications of needing to fill his rotation spot.

This is Gallardo’s first trip to the DL for an arm-related injury in his major league career.

In four starts this season, he is 1-1 with a 7.00 ERA over 18 innings and has struck out just nine while walking seven.

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Gallardo leaves Friday’s start with shoulder discomfort

Posted on 23 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Orioles starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo left Friday’s start against the Kansas City Royals with right shoulder discomfort.

Manager Buck Showalter said on MASN after Baltimore’s 4-2 loss that the right-hander would travel back to Baltimore where he’ll be examined by team doctors. Gallardo allowed four runs, five hits, a home run, and a walk in just two innings before being replaced by T.J. McFarland to begin the bottom of the third inning.

With left-handed reliever Brian Matusz set to be activated from the 15-day disabled list on Saturday, it remains unclear whether Gallardo would be a candidate to be placed on the DL. Right-hander Kevin Gausman is set to be activated to start Monday’s game against Tampa Bay.

According to FanGraphs, Gallardo’s average fastball velocity entering Friday’s game was just 87.4 miles per hour over his first three starts of 2016, down from an average of 90.4 last season. It was no secret that his velocity and strikeout rate had declined over the last few years, but his dramatic drop in pitch speed this spring had prompted many to wonder about the health of his arm in his 10th major league season.

Of course, the Orioles restructured the original three-year, $35 million agreement with Gallardo in February after concerns arose about his shoulder during his physical and the sides eventually settled on a two-year, $22 million contract. Baltimore gave up the 14th overall pick of the 2016 amateur draft to sign Gallardo, making Friday’s news even more concerning beyond the short-term ramifications of potentially needing to fill his rotation spot.

In four starts this season, Gallardo is 1-1 with a 7.00 ERA over 18 innings and has struck out just nine while walking seven.

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

Posted on 22 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 3-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday 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 14th game of the 2016 season.

1stManny Machado went 2-for-5 and actually saw his batting average fall a smidgen from .4074 to .4067, illustrating how incredible his start has been. The All-Star third baseman put the Orioles on the board with an RBI single in the first and blooped a double down the right-field line to plate the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth inning. His 14-game hitting streak has matched a career high set in 2013 and has made him only the third player in Orioles history to hit safely in the first 14 games of a season, joining Brian Roberts (2005) and Eddie Murray (1982). Machado entered Thursday with the most hits in the AL and was tied for the major league lead with Colorado outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. It has to be terrifying for the rest of the AL to wonder if the 23-year-old might be even better than he was last year.

2ndChris Tillman looked a lot like the pitcher who posted a 11.72 ERA against the Blue Jays in 2015 in the first inning, throwing 38 pitches while allowing two runs, two hits, two walks, and a hit by pitch. However, the right-hander mixed his curveball and slider effectively as the night progressed and he managed to register his first quality start of the season by not allowing a run over his next five innings of work. Toronto squared up a few balls hit directly at fielders over the course of the night, but Thursday turned out to be a vintage performance from Tillman in which he started slowly before regrouping to turn in a solid six-inning outing. That’s something that shouldn’t be taken for granted against a very dangerous lineup.

3rdJoey Rickard only saw his legend grow on Thursday when he literally lined a ball through Toronto third baseman Josh Donald’s glove, a feat on par with Roy Hobbs tearing the cover off the ball in “The Natural.” In all seriousness, it was another impressive game for the rookie left fielder as he also stole the first base of his major league career before scoring on Machado’s single in the first. Rickard started the game-winning rally in the eighth inning with a single to center before advancing to second on a passed ball and aggressively scoring on Machado’s bloop double. It was a 3-for-5 night for Rickard, who is now hitting .350 and has hit safely in 13 of 14 games this season.

HomeDarren O’Day may have walked nemesis Jose Bautista on four pitches, but he turned in a masterful eighth inning against the heart of the Blue Jays order by striking out Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, and Troy Tulowitzki. … Chris Davis registered four walks, a new career high, and currently has a .397 on-base percentage despite a .208 batting average. … Zach Britton recorded his 77th career save, moving past Randy Myers for sole possession of sixth place on the Orioles’ all-time saves list. … Dylan Bundy recorded the first strikeout of his major league career as he pitched on consecutive nights for the first time this season. … The Orioles are now 3-0 in games in which they’ve failed to hit a home run after going 11-39 in that department last year. … Matt Wieters was ejected for only the second time in his career after he was called out on a check-swing attempt by home plate umpire Dan Bellino, who drew the ire of both teams for an inconsistent strike zone throughout the game. … The Orioles begin a six-game road trip on Friday by sending Yovani Gallardo to the hill in Kansas City where he’ll be opposed by Royals right-hander Chris Young.

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Gausman in line to make next start for Orioles

Posted on 21 April 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Orioles manager Buck Showalter hasn’t publicly committed to Kevin Gausman being activated from the disabled list to make his 2016 debut next week, but all signs point in that direction.

And with it comes hope that the 25-year-old right-hander will take the step forward many view him as capable of making as the Orioles entered Thursday’s game ranked 14th out of 15 AL clubs in starter ERA (4.97) and last in innings pitched by starters. The 2012 first-round pick allowed three earned runs and struck out nine in 5 2/3 innings for Triple-A Norfolk on Wednesday.

“We’ll see how he feels today,” said Showalter, who was pleased with what he heard about Gausman’s outing. “He’s got a chance to pitch for us in his next outing. We’ll see how it all fluctuates.”

Baltimore hasn’t hesitated to show extra caution with Gausman, who was shut down with right shoulder tendinitis in the spring and received a cortisone shot on March 20. Showalter said earlier this week that Gausman told him his shoulder feels better than it has in quite some time — he also had a DL stint for shoulder tendinitis last May — but the Orioles wanted him to get the competitive juices flowing in Wednesday’s outing in Charlotte.

Gausman would be on track to make his next start on Monday as the Orioles begin a three-game road series against Tampa Bay.

“Obviously, there’s parts where you’re going through rehab and you’re working on things,” Showalter said. “The next one is getting back into the competitive part of it. Talking to [Norfolk manager Ron Johnson] and [director of player development] Brian Graham, that was definitely the case last night.”

The Orioles hope Gausman can emerge as a front-line starter after pitching to a 4.25 ERA in 112 1/3 major league innings split between the bullpen and the rotation last season. In his most extensive work as a starting pitcher two years ago, Gausman went 7-7 with a 3.57 ERA in 20 starts spanning 113 1/3 innings.

In other injury-related news, Brian Matusz (left intercostal strain) remains on track to be activated from the DL on Saturday, but Showalter indicated that the lefty reliever could be reinstated a day earlier if needed.

Jimmy Paredes (wrist) took nine at-bats in extended spring training on Thursday and will join the Orioles in St. Petersburg next week before starting his rehab assignment.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 4-3 win over Toronto

Posted on 21 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 4-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 13th game of the 2016 season.

1stManny Machado wasted no time extending his hitting streak to 13 games with his RBI double in the first inning, but his most impressive at-bats came late in the game when it was clear that Toronto pitching wanted no part of the All-Star third baseman. Coming to the plate with a runner in scoring position in both the eighth and the 10th, Machado saw a total of one strike while patiently taking walks to continue the innings. A couple years ago, he might have expanded the zone to try to be the hero in those situations, but he instead drew his free passes on Wednesday night. It was the kind of maturity at the plate that sometimes makes you forget that Machado is just 23 years old. His 2-for-3 night raised his average to .407 on the season.

2ndJoey Rickard collected three hits, scored the first run of the game, and threw out Ryan Goins at the plate to end the top of the sixth inning and protect a one-run lead at the time. Two of the three hits were of the infield variety, but the Rule 5 pick continues to show good speed to put pressure on infielders when he hits the ball on the ground. Though he’s only drawn two walks to this point in the season, Rickard saw a total of 30 pitches in his five plate appearances on Wednesday, which is exactly what you want to see from a leadoff hitter. He leads all major league rookies with 18 hits this season.

3rdAdam Jones offered the Orioles’ defensive play of the year so far as he laid out in a head-first dive in shallow right-center to catch a sinking liner off the bat of Jose Baustista in the top of the seventh. The play temporarily saved a run as Michael Saunders inexplicably failed to tag up and score, but the Blue Jays left fielder came around to touch home plate on Edwin Encarnacion’s two-out double. That said, Jones taking away a hit from Bautista might have been the difference between a tie game and Toronto going ahead on Encarnacion’s extra-base hit if Bautista had been on base.

Home — The bullpen wasn’t flawless but allowed only one run in five innings of work, and Zach Britton pitched a 1-2-3 ninth against the top of the order to headline the group’s effort. … Jonathan Schoop made fine defensive plays to end the ninth and 10th innings, the latter being a 4-6-3 double play to strand a runner in scoring position. … Baltimore has pitched to a 2.11 ERA in seven games at Camden Yards so far this season. … According to STATS, Wednesday marked the first walk-off win in Orioles history coming on a passed ball. … The Orioles send Chris Tillman to the mound in search of a series win on Thursday while the Blue Jays will go with Marco Estrada.

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

Posted on 20 April 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 4-3 defeat to the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday night?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 12th game of the 2016 season.

1st — The Orioles hit two home runs off Toronto ace Marcus Stroman, but they didn’t cash in on the few other opportunities they had over the course of the night. J.J. Hardy left the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth while Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo couldn’t do any damage with two runners on and Baltimore trailing by one run in the bottom of the eighth inning. When you score three runs and only leave five men on base, you didn’t have many scoring chances to begin with against a tough pitcher and the Orioles couldn’t provide enough support to combat a Blue Jays lineup that was the far-and-away best in baseball a year ago.

2nd — The Blue Jays scored three of their four runs in two-out situations, which will typically be the difference in a one-run game. Mike Wright’s overall performance was acceptable against a potent offense as he turned in the second quality start of the season for the Orioles, but Troy Tulowitzki’s two-run double past a diving Joey Rickard gave the Blue Jays breathing room with a 3-0 lead in the top of the third. The insurance run in the seventh off Tyler Wilson — the first run he’d allowed this season — was difficult to stomach considering the right-hander had retired the first two batters of the inning before giving up a single, a walk, and an RBI double off the bat of Jose Bautista.

3rd — Orioles hitters saw a total of 16 pitches in the fifth and sixth innings, which ultimately helped Stroman get through the seventh. Baltimore left the bases loaded in the fourth, but the right-hander threw 29 pitches in the frame, which put him in danger of not being able to go deep into the game and forcing Blue Jays manager John Gibbons to turn to the middle of his bullpen. What made those two innings even more frustrating was that they involved the top four hitters in the order not even mounting a threat when they were seeing Stroman for the third time. Of course, it’s fair to point out that Matt Wieters hit his two-run shot off the starting pitcher in the seventh, but the Orioles probably would have liked their chances getting to the Blue Jays bullpen much sooner.

Home — After Manny Machado doubled on a 3-2 count and Nolan Reimold drew a four-pitch walk off lefty Brett Cecil with one out in the eighth, Davis swung at the first pitch and fouled out to the catcher. … Pedro Alvarez went 0-for-4, dropping his average to just .143 and his on-base plus slugging percentage to .493. … Mychal Givens pitched a scoreless ninth inning, but it was the first outing of the season in which he didn’t record a strikeout. … Machado hit his fifth home run of the season in the fourth to extend his hitting streak to 12 games to begin the 2016 season. … Adam Jones left the game at the end of the sixth inning with a stomach virus that began affecting him during batting practice, according to manager Buck Showalter. … The Blue Jays snapped the Orioles’ 10-game home winning streak, which was tied for the seventh longest in club history. … Ubaldo Jimenez goes to the hill on Wednesday night while Toronto will counter with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

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Justin McGuire: O’s must find reliable starters to make 2016 great

Posted on 19 April 2016 by WNST Staff

Justin McGuire joined Nestor to discuss the Orioles’ promising start to the 2016 season and touched on a variety of topics, including their surprise 7-0 start.

“It’s the best start in Baltimore Orioles history,” McGuire said. “It’s a bit surprising that they started out as well as they did. I think the reason they did is kind of what we expected, hitting a lot of home runs and scoring a lot of runs. That’s kind of what we expected from this team…if they can keep that up, it’s going to be a real interesting year.”

While there are mostly positive things to say about the Orioles’ offense, their pitching may prove to write a different script as the season unfolds. Justin touched on the newest starter in town, Yovani Gallardo.

“I think if you’re flying on Gallardo to be a top of the rotation guy, that tells you all you need to know about that rotation,” McGuire said. “If you look at the numbers the last several years, his velocity and consistency has been down, and he’s been pretty uniformly awful after the sixth inning the past couple years. We saw that a couple days ago too, he is a guy that runs out of gas and doesn’t get deep into games for you.”

Justin continued to discuss the starting pitching, and made it clear that he feels that area of the team is the key to a successful 2016 season in Birdland.

To hear Nestor’s complete chat with Justin McGuire, click here:

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Trumbo named AL co-player of the week

Posted on 18 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Orioles outfielder Mark Trumbo was named American league co-player of the week on Monday for the period that ended on April 17.

Sharing the award with Houston second baseman Jose Altuve, Trumbo hit .320 (8-for-25) with five home runs, 11 RBIs, eight runs score, and one double to earn the first weekly award of his career. He paced the majors in home runs, slugging percentage (.960), and total bases (24) while leading the AL in RBIs over the week.

His shining achievement of the period came Friday when he became the first player in Orioles history to homer twice in the same inning. The achievement earned Trumbo the fifth five-RBI game of his major league career and first since Sept. 15, 2014 when he was a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Acquired from Seattle in an offseason trade, Trumbo is the first player in Orioles history to hit five homers in his first 10 games with the club, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Trumbo and the Orioles return to Camden Yards on Tuesday to begin a three-game set with the 2015 AL East champion Toronto Blue Jays.

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