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Costly week all but squashes AL East title hopes for Orioles

Posted on 21 September 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — David Ortiz sent one deep into the night and with it went virtually all hope of a division title for the Orioles.

Much of the damage had already been done in the five days leading up to Tuesday’s seventh inning when Kevin Gausman gave up a three-run homer to the Boston designated hitter, turning a one-run deficit into a four-run chasm with the way the Orioles have swung the bats on the current homestand and for much of the second half.

A 21-game winner in Rick Porcello shutting them down on Monday was one thing, but former Baltimore farmhand Eduardo Rodriguez stifled them on Tuesday as Orioles batters expanded the zone and didn’t record a hit until rookie Trey Mancini hit a solo home run with two outs in the fifth inning of his major league debut.

You can question Buck Showalter for not turning to lefty specialist Donnie Hart in that fateful encounter with Ortiz and instead sticking with Gausman, who wasn’t nearly as sharp against the Red Sox on Tuesday as he was in a brilliant eight-inning performance in a 1-0 win at Fenway Park last week. Whether you agreed with the manager’s confidence in his starter or not, the 25-year-old has pitched like an ace over the last six weeks and Hart entered the night with all of 17 major league appearances under his belt, so he wasn’t leaving the second coming of Andrew Miller in the bullpen, either.

Gausman throwing a fourth consecutive fastball instead of trying to bury a split-changeup in a 1-2 count appeared unwise after Ortiz had nearly homered on a fastball in his previous at bat, but catcher Matt Wieters and the starting pitcher both noted that the 40-year-old slugger had laid off several splits earlier in the game. Of course, it didn’t help that Gausman’s fastball intended for the low-and-away corner rose up and over the outer half of the plate.

Still, these were just details in what’s been the harsh truth for the Orioles since coming off their best road trip of the season. With the chance for an American League East title still sitting right there in their return to Oriole Park at Camden Yards last Thursday, Showalter’s club hasn’t risen to the occasion.

Facing the last-place Tampa Bay Rays, the Orioles settled for an underwhelming four-game split. Meanwhile, the Red Sox took four straight from the New York Yankees to increase their lead over Baltimore in the division from one game to three by the conclusion of the weekend.

And knowing they needed to take three out of four from Boston to keep themselves in good position to still win the AL East with nine more games remaining after that, the Orioles have scored a total of four runs over the first two games of the series — both 5-2 losses. An offense once among the best in baseball has scored two runs in each of its last four games, losing three of them.

Now a season-worst five games out of first place with 11 to play, the Orioles’ remote chance of winning the division would be to take the final two games of the Boston series and play lights out the rest of the way while hoping the Red Sox stub their toe substantially. At this point, securing a wild card isn’t a sure thing, either, with Toronto now a game ahead for the first spot and Detroit closing the gap to just 1 1/2 games for the second berth currently held by the Orioles.

Even with their division hopes all but gone, the Orioles can still rebound and have managed to do so  several times after rough stretches in the second half despite a disappointing 31-33 mark since the All-Star break. But the last week illustrates how the Orioles haven’t been able to extend the good times like they did in the first half when they strung together three different seven-game winning streaks.

You thought a 6-3 road trip including critical series wins over Detroit and Boston might have been the springboard for the Orioles to retake the division lead, but they have instead drifted in the wrong direction while the Red Sox have reeled off six straight victories since Gausman’s masterpiece last Wednesday night.

A 2-4 start to the final homestand of the season clearly isn’t what the Orioles had in mind, especially after thriving at Camden Yards for most of the season. There’s still time to recover to maintain their grip on a postseason spot, but their hopes for anything better than a wild card have been all but crushed in the matter of six days.

In a costly week, the Orioles just haven’t been good enough while the Red Sox have emerged as the class of the AL East.

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Time running out for Orioles bats to heat up again

Posted on 20 September 2016 by Luke Jones

The Orioles knew it would be difficult against Cy Young Award candidate Rick Porcello on Monday, but there’s nothing easy about playing in a pennant race, especially against a Boston lineup that’s the best in baseball.

That especially holds true when you’re waiting for a once-explosive offense of your own to finally heat up again. Baltimore has hung a crooked number on the board every now and then since the All-Star break, but the offensive consistency that propelled them to first place for the better part of four months in spite of shoddy starting pitching has disappeared.

Taking nothing away from Porcello’s impressive 89-pitch complete game, the Orioles scored fewer than four runs for the 33rd time in 63 games since the break on Monday. In contrast, they scored three or fewer runs only 31 times in 87 games in the first half.

That’s simply not good enough for a club that’s designed to score plenty of runs.

After averaging just under 5.1 runs per game in the first half, the offense is roughly a run worse since the break at just over 4.1 per contest. The starting pitching will likely be remembered as the Achilles heel of the 2016 Orioles, but the rotation ERA has improved from a hideous 5.15 before the break to a more acceptable 4.51 in the second half.

Yes, the home runs have still been there, but everything else from the first half — the doubles, the high on-base percentage, a few more walks — has dried up to anemic levels. Since the All-Star break, the Orioles rank first in home runs, but they’re 10th in runs, last in doubles, last in batting average, and last in on-base percentage in the American League.

Allowing five runs to the Red Sox on Monday wasn’t ideal, but you better be ready to score when playing a lineup that’s plated a whopping 5.6 per game this season. The Orioles’ AL East title hopes are circling the drain barring three straight wins to conclude the current series, but the offense needs to get on a roll to not only secure a wild card but to try to make some noise in October.

To be fair, the Boston offense hasn’t had an equal all year — the Red Sox have outscored every other AL club by at least 100 runs in 2016 — but the Orioles were at least worthy of being mentioned in the same breath in the first half.

Unfortunately, that feels like a long time ago for Buck Showalter’s club as Boston has begun pulling away.

Bundy dilemma

Monday marked the fourth time in Dylan Bundy’s last seven starts that the right-hander has allowed five earned runs as he took the loss in the 5-2 final.

His 6.62 ERA over his last 34 innings has led many to wonder if he’s tired after eclipsing the 100-inning mark for the first time since his first full professional season in 2012. You can certainly argue that the Orioles are overdoing it with Bundy, but what passes as conventional wisdom in the baseball industry is hardly exact science when it comes to taking care of pitchers’ arms.

The stress of pitching in a pennant race in the major leagues definitely changes the dynamics, but the Orioles originally intended to have Bundy throw around 100 innings in the minor leagues last year before a shoulder injury derailed his season. Does that setback automatically lead to a plan for him to throw even fewer frames a year later, or do you just need to let him go and see what you have at some point?

Bundy again said after Monday’s game that he feels good physically, and it’s worth noting that his average fastball velocity has been up over his last three starts compared to the lull he went through over five starts starting in mid-August. However, his command has suffered in recent outings as he’s walked 19 batters over his last 29 2/3 innings.

On Monday, he struggled with the feel for his curveball, causing him to shy away from using it and making him too predictable with only the fastball-changeup combination. That was evident when David Ortiz appeared to sit on a changeup and hit a decently-located one for a home run in the fifth.

Yes, Bundy might be tired as the Orioles continue to push him further than anyone would have predicted, but he could just be experiencing the typical struggles of a 23-year-old pitcher with limited experience in the majors.

Other side of attendance question

No matter who’s at fault, the Orioles drawing an announced crowd of just 18,456 for the opener of the biggest series of the year is a shame and not a good look.

It’s easy to blame the fan base — plenty of people are already doing that — but many reasons for the decline in attendance have already been discussed, ranging from the tardiness in sending out season-ticket invoices and a substantial price increase to the elimination of cheaper deals such as Tuesday bargain nights for upper-reserve seats. Anyone who expected a different story for this week’s games hasn’t paid attention to the weeknight attendance woes for even the most intriguing opponents throughout the season.

But what has the organization — not the club on the field, but the business and marketing side — done to try to pack Camden Yards for weeknight games when it was apparent over the summer that this problem wasn’t going away? Where are the weeknight promotions such as discounted tickets, concession specials, or a few more giveaways that have become all but exclusive to weekend games?

If a restaurant with good food is struggling to attract patrons during the week, does management simply stomp their feet and continue to ask why no one is coming there to eat or do they try to do something about it in the form of specials and attractive deals?

Yes, winning should be enough — no one is arguing that this is the best fan base in baseball — but you have to be prepared to try to find other ways to compel people to come to the ballpark on weeknights, especially when they can watch the games on high-definition TV at home every night. If not, maybe you just don’t care all that much to have more people in the ballpark for such important games.

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Gausman shines like an ace in high-stakes win for Orioles

Posted on 15 September 2016 by Luke Jones

A talented young pitcher rarely becomes an ace overnight.

It’s often an organic process including some bumps along the road and requiring patience.

The Orioles and their fans have waited a couple years for Kevin Gausman to take that step from solid starting pitcher to something special. For the better part of the last six weeks, he had pitched a lot like a No. 1 starter, but the eighth inning of Wednesday night’s 1-0 win over Boston sure felt like the “aha” moment of his young career.

Having already thrown 104 pitches over seven superb innings, the right-hander returned to the Fenway Park mound and was a batter away from facing the top of the order for a fourth time. Manager Buck Showalter’s decision to send the 25-year-old back out there against the best lineup in baseball in a one-run game appeared to be debatable — at least on paper.

It really wasn’t as Gausman pitched a 1-2-3 eighth.

His 120th and final pitch of the night was his second fastest at 98.5 miles per hour as Xander Bogaerts fouled out to retire the side. It came after he’d touched 98.8 just three pitches earlier.

Talk about saving your best for last in a game where the stakes couldn’t have been much higher in mid-September. It was the stuff of top-of-the-rotation starters, frankly.

We’ve been so conditioned that even when the Orioles receive a good outing from their maligned rotation, you’re waiting for that moment to hand it over to a bullpen that’s been the backbone of their success out of necessity over the last five years. But after watching Gausman shut down an imposing Red Sox lineup all night, there was no one else you wanted pitching in that tight game other than All-Star closer Zach Britton and even that might have been an interesting debate had the starter’s pitch count been lower after eight innings.

He was that good.

His fastball command was impeccable as he threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 29 hitters he faced, something that’s been a challenge for him this year. He effectively threw his split-changeup and once again mixed in an improved breaking ball, the pitch that’s held him back for most of his career. Boston squared up a couple balls early in the game, but the 2012 first-round pick got stronger and induced mostly weak contact as the game continued.

Since a disastrous July 29 outing in Toronto in which he allowed three home runs to the first five hitters of the game and gave up six runs over three innings, Gausman has pitched to a 2.06 ERA over nine starts covering 56 2/3 innings. He’s struck out 62 batters and allowed just four home runs over that stretch.

He lowered his season ERA to 3.43 in winning his fifth straight decision.

The surge has come at a time when the Orioles needed it most with veteran starter Chris Tillman missing most of the last month with a shoulder injury.

Wednesday wasn’t a playoff game, but it sure felt like October baseball with Gausman pitching on the road like an ace against a right-handed-heavy lineup that hit him hard twice earlier this year. It was the best and most important start of his career and the exclamation point on a strong 6-3 road trip that moved the Orioles to just one game out of first place in the American League East as they return to Camden Yards to begin an 11-game homestand on Thursday.

We’ll see how the final 17 games of the regular season play out in a tremendous division race.

But Wednesday was one hell of a statement from the Orioles.

And perhaps the clearest signal yet of an ace having finally arrived.

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Hey Orioles: Those empty seats mean that Baltimore is just not that into you…

Posted on 13 September 2016 by Nestor Aparicio

As the first – and only – local sports journalist to poke the bear and pull down the pants of the emperor, it’s now my turn to chime in on the biggest local sports story this month that’s returning to Camden Yards for the next 11 days.

Ok, the most important question in the land of pleasant living at this time of the year is always about the Baltimore Ravens. Facts are facts. They’re 1-0 and headed to Cleveland to (presumably) be 2-0 by Sunday night.

But the very obvious other “water cooler buzz” around our kingdom is about why Camden Yards is so empty in September with the Orioles facing arch-rivals in the middle of a very winnable pennant race in Baltimore?

TOMORROW I’LL GIVE MY “TOP 10 REASONS BALTIMORE SPORTS FANS DON’T GO TO ORIOLES GAMES ANYMORE”

Two weeks ago, during the “homestand of empty” vs. the Blue Jays and Yankees, I was in Europe reading some laugh-out-loud reports from local “journalists” either on the payroll of Peter G. Angelos, the Baltimore Orioles or any of the MASN-based or CBS-owned arms of business partnerships that permeate the local media. Those organizations are strongly discouraged from critical thinking and free $peech so it’s up to places like WNST to get to the truth. Unlike their employees who are intimidated or “compensated” in the Angelos food chain, we get to say what we think here.

The employees of any of the above entities are not allowed to tell the truth. Angelos confirmed this to me years ago.

So, when you write pieces like the one longtime Washington journalist Thom Loverro inked two weeks ago in The Washington Times – in local sports writer vernacular, “a take down” – you get your press credentials revoked. And amongst those who do follow the Orioles and bow at the shrine of the orange cartoon bird, you get called a hack, a traitor or a guy with an axe to grind.

But, of course, no one at MASN or 105.7 The Fan or The Baltimore Sun or PressBox is ever called a shill – even though the dignity of the whole Orioles operation under Angelos is veiled by the fact that no one ever answers a question about anything. Other than playing baseball games when they’ve locked the doors and told the fans to NOT come, we don’t hear from the Angelos clan.

Loverro and his track record as a reporter speaks for itself. So does mine.

On December 13th, I’ll celebrate 25 years of doing sports radio in Baltimore. In 20 of those years, the Orioles haven’t just been an “also ran” – they’ve been a “never ran at all.” The reasons have all been well- …

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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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