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Orioles shift Davis to right field for opener of Boston series

Posted on 16 August 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Less than two hours before the series opener against Boston on Tuesday, the Orioles made some interesting defensive changes to their originally-posted lineup.

Presumably wanting to improve his overall defensive alignment, manager Buck Showalter shifted first baseman Chris Davis to right field, designated hitter Steve Pearce to first base, and right fielder Mark Trumbo to the DH spot. With Trumbo’s limitations in the outfield not exactly a secret and the Red Sox using five left-handed batters against Orioles starter Yovani Gallardo, Davis brings more athleticism to right. Pearce is also considered an above-average defensive first baseman, meaning there should be little to no drop-off in moving Davis out of the position.

Before the flexor mass tendon in his right arm flared up last week, Pearce appeared on track to start in right field with Trumbo serving as the DH against left-handed starters. It remains unclear when Pearce’s elbow will be healthy enough to play the outfield again, but he is apparently able to play first base where the need to make high-stress throws is usually limited.

Of course, playing right field isn’t completely foreign to Davis, who has made 57 career starts there and 29 last season. His last start at the position came on Sept. 8, 2015.

Davis made 28 starts in right field in 2012 in place of an injured Nick Markakis and even started there in the postseason.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 12-7 win over Red Sox

Posted on 03 June 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 12-7 win over the Boston Red Sox 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 52nd game of the 2016 season.

1stMark Trumbo produced his fourth multi-homer game of the season with the first blast being a two-run shot to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning. His second long ball came in the bottom of the sixth after Ubaldo Jimenez’s disastrous top half of the inning had resulted in Boston taking a 5-4 lead. The timing of the game-tying blast couldn’t have been better for Baltimore’s karma after rapidly losing a 4-0 advantage. Trumbo continues to be a gem for the Orioles as he now has a club-leading 17 homers and 42 RBIs in 52 games and has collected plenty of big hits through the first two months of the season.

2ndManny Machado provided the decisive three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh after it looked like the Orioles were about to squander a golden opportunity to take the lead in a 5-5 game. With runners at first and second and no outs, Adam Jones and Hyun Soo Kim had both popped out and Red Sox right-hander Junichi Tazawa entered to face the Orioles shortstop. Machado was able to hit the “Earl Weaver special” to give Baltimore an 8-5 lead that would only grow in the next inning.

3rdMychal Givens had nothing to do with the Orioles’ seven-homer output, but the right-handed reliever turned in an outstanding performance for a bullpen that needed to rest a couple arms on Thursday. Called upon by Buck Showalter to replace Jimenez with a runner on first and no outs in the sixth after five runs had already scored in the inning, Givens quickly righted the ship for the Orioles with two scoreless frames that included three strikeouts. His work allowed the offense to do its thing.

HomeAdam Jones continues to find success in the leadoff spot as he hit a two-run shot in the fourth and a solo homer in the eighth, his 200th as a member of the Orioles. It was Jones’ first multi-homer game of the season and his three RBIs gave him 367 in his career at Camden Yards, one shy of tying Cal Ripken for first place on the all-time RBI list at the ballpark. … Francisco Pena hit his first major league homer and also singled in his Orioles debut. …  The Orioles hit seven home runs in a game for just the fifth time in club history and for the first time since setting a club record with eight against Philadelphia on June 16, 2015. … Jimenez allowed only two batters to reach over five shutout innings before failing to record an out in the sixth and giving up five earned runs. … Brad Brach lowered his season ERA to a tiny 0.91 with a scoreless eighth inning. … Left-hander Brian Duensing made his Orioles debut, giving up two runs on four hits in the ninth inning. … On Friday, Chris Tillman will take the mound for the series opener against the New York Yankees, who will start right-hander Nathan Eovaldi.

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Orioles send down struggling Wright, add Duensing to bullpen

Posted on 02 June 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Sorting through their current mess of a pitching staff, the Orioles optioned right-hander Mike Wright to Triple-A Norfolk and selected the contract of lefty reliever Brian Duensing on Thursday.

After making the club out of spring training as the No. 4 starter, Wright had failed to complete six innings in four of his last five outings and allowed a career-high four home runs in just 2 2/3 innings against Boston on Wednesday. His season ERA had risen to a robust 5.88 in 49 innings that included nine starts.

Manager Buck Showalter said the 26-year-old will start for the Tides on Monday and emphasized that he would remain a starter when asked if Wright could be moved to a bullpen role as many have suggested.

“I know he spent the day looking at the tape of all of his starts in the big leagues,” Showalter said. “He’s in the process of becoming a good pitcher for us up here. Mike’s going to be a good starter for the Baltimore Orioles. That’s what I feel. Today is part of the process. A lot of guys come up and they get a little better each time. We’re hoping the next time Mike comes up that we won’t need this move to be made.

“He’ll contribute to our club this year as a starter. I really believe that.”

Despite possessing a good fastball, Wright hasn’t been able to consistently command his off-speed pitches and has struggled against lefties, who are batting .369 with four homers and a 1.028 on-base plus slugging percentage against him this year. He has held right-handed bats to a .234 average.

It remains unclear who would immediately take Wright’s spot in the rotation with T.J. McFarland and Vance Worley being the two logical candidates currently on the active roster.

The roster move came on the same day that Yovani Gallardo was making his first minor-league rehab start and the struggling Ubaldo Jimenez was taking the hill against the powerful Red Sox lineup. At Single-A Frederick, Gallardo pitched three innings, allowing three runs and seven hits while walking two and striking out four.

Showalter reiterated on Thursday that the plan was for Gallardo to make at least two rehab starts, meaning he wouldn’t be ready to be activated to take Wright’s next turn in the rotation on Monday.

The 33-year-old Duensing adds an experienced left-handed reliever to a club that parted ways with Brian Matusz last month. Beginning the year in Kansas City’s organization, Duensing had opted out of his minor-league deal to join the Orioles and had thrown three scoreless innings for the Tides.

He had spent his entire career with the Minnesota Twins prior to this year, serving exclusively as a reliever since 2013. In 48 2/3 innings for the Twins last season, Duensing pitched to a 4.25 ERA with 4.4 strikeouts and 3.9 walks per nine innings.

He holds a 4.13 career ERA in seven major league seasons.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 13-9 win over Red Sox

Posted on 02 June 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 13-9 win over the Boston Red Sox 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 51st game of the 2016 season.

1st Matt Wieters led the offensive attack with three RBIs, which came on a sacrifice fly in the first inning and an important two-run single in the seventh that provided the Orioles some much-needed separation in a back-and-forth game. The Baltimore catcher was also fortunate in the sixth when he hit a sure double-play ball that was booted by Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia, allowing the go-ahead run to score in an 8-8 game. Buck Showalter said that was the ultimate sign that things were going the Orioles’ way on a “Twilight Zone night” at Camden Yards. 

2ndMark Trumbo provided the early lift the Orioles needed after Mike Wright had surrendered a leadoff home run to Mookie Betts by drilling a two-run single into right field with the bases loaded in the first. Considering the ugliness of the first two games of the series, the Orioles could hardly afford to fall behind big early and Trumbo capitalized on their first big scoring chance of the night and also walked twice on the evening. Momentum is often an overrated concept in baseball, but Baltimore hanging four runs on the board in the first inning set the tone for the offensive explosion.

3rdHyun Soo Kim has become an important part of the lineup over the last week and collected his second three-hit game in his last seven starts. In addition to his double to deep center and two singles, Kim also walked and scored twice to raise his on-base percentage to an impressive .469. Not only is the Korean outfielder playing more frequently, but he has served as a productive top-of-the-order option for the Orioles, something they’ve needed in recent weeks.

HomeBrad Brach provided one of the only pitching highlights from either team by tossing 1 2/3 scoreless innings, entering the game when it was tied 8-8 in the sixth and lasting long enough to pick up his fifth win and lower his ERA to a microscopic 0.94. … The Orioles scored a season-high 13 runs and drew a 2016-best nine walks in Wednesday’s win. It was also the first time Baltimore had won a game in which the pitching staff allowed five homers since April 7, 2000 against Detroit. … Ryan Flaherty drove in two runs and has now recorded at least one RBI in three straight games to match a career high. … Chris Davis was the only Orioles starter not to collect a hit, but the first baseman walked four times to match a career high and scored three runs. … Pedro Alvarez registered three hits for the second time this season. … Wright surrendered a career-high four home runs in lasting just 2 2/3 innings, his shortest start of the season. … Betts became the first player in major league history to homer in both the first and second innings of consecutive games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. … Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts extended his career-high hitting streak to 25 games. … On Thursday night, the struggling Ubaldo Jimenez goes to the hill with the Orioles seeking a series split while Boston will hand the ball to right-hander Rick Porcello.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 6-2 loss to Red Sox

Posted on 01 June 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 6-2 defeat to the Boston Red Sox 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 50th game of the 2016 season.

1st — Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts’ three-homer night started off with two poorly-located Kevin Gausman fastballs in the first two innings. Betts wasted little time giving Boston a 1-0 lead as he hit a low 93 mph fastball that leaked back over the heart of the plate. His second long ball was even more costly as catcher Matt Wieters set up low and away and Gausman’s 95 mph heater ran up and in before Betts muscled it off the bottom of the left-field foul pole for a three-run shot and a 5-0 lead in the second inning. Those drives along with Dustin Pedroia’s first-inning homer provided all the damage Boston would need as Gausman would then settle down to pitch better over his final four innings despite allowing three homers — the second straight start in which he’s allowed that many — and throwing first-pitch strikes to just nine of the 26 batters he faced.

2nd — Former Baltimore prospect Eduardo Rodriguez was solid in his 2016 debut, but the Orioles bats were unproductive and impatient once again. Baltimore went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and failed to draw a walk in a game for just the fourth time all season. The frustrating approach was never more apparent than in the sixth when Manny Machado led off with a first-pitch double before Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, and Matt Wieters were retired on seven pitches — and the trio swung at all of them. If you want to have a good chance against the dangerous Boston lineup, your own offense needs more than four runs over the first two games of a series.

3rdThe best offense in the majors out-“Orioled” the Orioles for the second straight game with a total of four home runs. Betts hit his third homer of the night in the seventh inning off Dylan Bundy to extend the lead to 6-2 while the Orioles hit a few balls well with little to show for them. Filling in for Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field, Chris Young took away a potential two-run shot off the bat of Machado in the third when he made a leaping catch at the left-center wall. In the series’ first two games, the Red Sox homered seven times while Baltimore was without a home run.

Home — A long Chris Davis blast down the right-field line stood as foul after a replay angle that could have apparently overturned the call came too late. Manager Buck Showalter said the shot made it clear that the ball was fair and would have made it a 6-4 game in the bottom of the eighth, but other camera angles available to the New York headquarters during the review were inconclusive. … Gausman gave up a season-high five earned runs and matched a career high in throwing 113 pitches. … Davis, Trumbo, Wieters, and Jonathan Schoop combined to go 0-for-16 with seven strikeouts. … Adam Jones’s single in the first inning moved him past Melvin Mora for sole possession of 11th place on the Orioles’ all-time hits list. … In the sixth, Gausman committed the eighth error by Orioles pitchers this season after the staff committed a total of 10 in 2015. … The Orioles have now lost seven of their last nine games and 10 of their last 15. … Mike Wright will go to the hill on Wednesday night while Boston will start right-hander Joe Kelly.

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Wieters, Orioles in better position to endure Joseph’s absence

Posted on 31 May 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — There’s never good timing for the kind of injury Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph suffered as we collectively cringed watching him take a foul ball to the groin area during Monday’s game.

But with the defensive-minded backup undergoing surgery for a testicular injury and being placed on the 15-day disabled list, the Orioles are in better position to endure his absence than they’ve been in a long time. With three-time All-Star catcher Matt Wieters playing more frequently in May being nearly two full years removed from Tommy John surgery, the Orioles can feel more comfortable with the recalled Francisco Pena serving as his backup for at least the next couple weeks.

Wieters rarely caught on consecutive days upon returning to action last season, creating more of a timeshare behind the plate.

“It doesn’t change anything about Matt,” manager Buck Showalter said. “We’re not going to start pushing up his load and jeopardize something down the road. He may feel differently, but we’ll take it day to day. It shouldn’t change anything about that, but we’ll see.”

Wieters may never again start 135 or more games at catcher in a season like he did earlier in his career, but he caught on three straight days last week for the first time since having elbow surgery and has caught on back-to-back days five other times since the end of April, taking on more of a conventional workload for a starting catcher in recent weeks. Including Tuesday’s game against the Boston Red Sox, Wieters has served as the starting catcher in 14 of the Orioles’ last 21 games.

That is good news for the Orioles, who will now depend on a backup catcher with all of nine career games in the majors. Acquired from the Kansas City Royals in December, Pena at least had the opportunity to work with many of the club’s pitchers during spring training and had thrown out 11 of 23 runners attempting to steal while catching for Triple-A Norfolk this year.

However, the 26-year-old was hitting .200 with a .491 on-base plus slugging percentage in 87 plate appearances for the Tides. Joseph was off to a poor start at the plate this season with a .182 average, but the 29-year-old hit .234 with 11 home runs and 49 RBIs last season.

From an offensive standpoint, the Orioles hope Wieters can continue what he’s been able to do while receiving more regular at-bats in May. After hitting .214 in the first month of the season, Wieters entered Tuesday hitting .354 with three homers and a .933 OPS in May.

Just having him behind the plate more regularly is more of a relief for the Orioles while Joseph recovers.

“I feel good, but I also feel like Frankie’s a guy who can go back there and catch, too,” Wieters said. “I think that’s one thing we’ve always preached. We’ve got to be able to have guys at Double A and Triple A who can step in and play in a big-league game. We’re not going to call anybody up we don’t feel can go out there and catch in a game.

“Whatever needs to happen for the team to win games, I’m all for. But I have complete confidence in Frankie getting back there and catching a big-league game and getting wins.”

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

Posted on 30 May 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 7-2 defeat to the Boston Red Sox on Monday afternoon?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 49th game of the 2016 season.

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

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

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

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

 

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 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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“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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