Tag Archive | "red sox"

Opening post-break weekend reminder of Orioles’ tough road ahead

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Opening post-break weekend reminder of Orioles’ tough road ahead

Posted on 22 July 2013 by Luke Jones

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

The Orioles couldn’t have asked for a better weekend in Arlington.

A three-game sweep in which they outplayed the Texas Rangers in every facet of the game lifted the Orioles to a season-best 13 games above .500 and seven victories in their last eight games.

Watching Ron Washington’s club repeatedly kick the ball around the field and run itself out of innings provided a new appreciation of how fundamentally sound the Orioles have been throughout the 2013 season. Three quality outings from Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, and Chris Tillman reminded how the top three-fifths of the Baltimore rotation can compete with just about anyone in the American League.

But as the dust cleared and the Orioles landed in Kansas City to begin a four-game series on Monday night, a look at the AL East standings showed just how difficult the final two months of the season will be.

Possibly their most impressive series of the season moved the Orioles only one game closer in their chase of the division-leading Red Sox after Boston took two of three from the Yankees at Fenway Park. And Baltimore moved no closer to the white-hot Tampa Bay Rays, who swept the Blue Jays in Toronto to give them 13 wins in their last 14 contests as the hottest team in baseball.

Those realities aren’t meant to bring fans down from their weekend high, but they offer a snapshot of how incredibly small the margin for error will be over the final 63 games of the regular season in the Orioles’ bid to advance to the postseason for the second straight year. Of those remaining games, 35 will come against teams with winning marks and only 28 against clubs sporting records below the .500 mark entering Monday’s action.

The old adage of needing to beat the clubs you’re supposed to beat while holding your own against top competition might not be enough to prevail in a division that sports four teams with winning records in the final week of July. Even the underachieving Blue Jays have been a thorn in the Orioles’ side this year, winning seven of the 13 games the clubs have played this season.

The Orioles are a remarkable 33-22 against teams currently owning a winning record while going just 23-21 against clubs who sit below .500 on July 22. Of course, that deviates from the aforementioned mantra for success and speaks well for the Orioles’ ability to rise to the challenge of playing the top teams this season, evident by their combined 9-4 record against Texas and Detroit, the two teams who’ve won the last three AL pennants.

But the Orioles do need to take better advantage of their opportunities against sub-.500 clubs down the stretch and that will start with the Royals in Kansas City this week. To say they need to at least take three out of four would be an overstatement — Tampa Bay and Boston face off in a four-game set of their own beginning Monday — but anything less just makes the climb that much taller in September. With the season-long performance of the Red Sox and the play of the Rays over the last month, there is no time for a breather or to go into cruise control against the lesser competitors in the league.

The eyeball test suggests the Orioles are a better team than the 93-69 outfit from a year ago as they certainly hit better and play better defense than the 2012 club. Their starting pitching appears to be coming together in a similar manner to the way it did in the second half last year, which will help a bullpen that hasn’t been as dominating starting with closer Jim Johnson and his six blown saves.

But the division is better than it was a year ago from top to bottom and Buck Showalter’s club hasn’t been as fortunate, going just 13-14 in one-run games after last year’s historic 29-9 mark. That was to be expected and shouldn’t be misconstrued as a knock on what the Orioles have accomplished this year, but there is no consolation or handicap for the smaller amount of good fortune, either.

An impressive three-game sweep over the Rangers was the perfect way to start the proverbial second half for the Orioles, but the weekend showed how steep the climb will be to win their first division title since 1997. The Orioles will have their opportunities against Boston and Tampa Bay — they have 12 games remaining with the Red Sox and seven with the Rays — and those clubs will experience slow spells at some point, but the challenge will be to capitalize while minimizing their own pitfalls in the process.

As well as the Orioles have played entering their 100th game of the season Monday night, they haven’t been quite good enough in the AL East. The standings say as much, though they would be the second wild card if the season ended today, putting them in the unenviable position of being the road team in a one-game playoff like they were last year.

But the Orioles are fully within striking distance, meaning it’s time to steamroll the clubs who don’t own such a luxury.

Because they’re not going to be able to count on very much help in their quest.

Comments (0)

Morning Reaction Tuesday Top Seven- Mid-season MLB Rankings

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Morning Reaction Tuesday Top Seven- Mid-season MLB Rankings

Posted on 02 July 2013 by WNST Staff

Here’s Drew’s top seven in Major League Baseball

7) Atlanta Braves

6) Pittsburgh Pirates

5) Boston Red Sox

4) Baltimore Orioles

3) Texas Rangers

2) Detroit Tigers

1) St. Louis Cardinals

Here’s Ryan’s Top Seven

7) Detroit Tigers

 

6) Baltimore Orioles

5) Pittsburgh Pirates

4) Texas Rangers

3) Boston Red Sox

2) Cincinnati Reds

1) St. Louis Cardinals

 

 

Comments (0)

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Posted on 17 June 2013 by Glenn Clark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-G

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Posted on 04 June 2013 by WNST Staff

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

 

Odds to win the 2013 World Series         

Detroit Tigers                            13/2

Atlanta Braves                           8/1

St. Louis Cardinals                    8/1

Texas Rangers                          17/2

Cincinnati Reds                         12/1

San Francisco Giants                12/1

Washington Nationals               12/1

Boston Red Sox                       15/1

Baltimore Orioles                       18/1

New York Yankees                   18/1

Tampa Bay Rays                       18/1

Arizona Diamondbacks              20/1

Oakland Athletics                      22/1

Cleveland Indians                      25/1

Pittsburgh Pirates                      25/1

Los Angeles Angels                  28/1

Colorado Rockies                     33/1

Los Angeles Dodgers                33/1

Toronto Blue Jays                     33/1

Philadelphia Phillies                   40/1

Chicago White Sox                    75/1

Kansas City Royals                   75/1

Minnesota Twins                        100/1

San Diego Padres                     100/1

New York Mets                          150/1

Seattle Mariners                        200/1

Milwaukee Brewers                    250/1

Chicago Cubs                           300/1

Houston Astros                         1000/1

Miami Marlins                            5000/1

 

Odds to win the 2013 AL Pennant          

Detroit Tigers                            3/1

Texas Rangers                          4/1

Boston Red Sox                       7/1

New York Yankees                    8/1

Tampa Bay Rays                       9/1

Baltimore Orioles                       10/1

Oakland Athletics                      10/1

Cleveland Indians                      12/1

Los Angeles Angels                  14/1

Toronto Blue Jays                     16/1

Chicago White Sox                    40/1

Kansas City Royals                   40/1

Minnesota Twins                        60/1

Seattle Mariners                        100/1

Houston Astros                         500/1

 

Odds to win the 2013 NL Pennant          

Atlanta Braves                           4/1

St. Louis Cardinals                    4/1

Cincinnati Reds                         5/1

San Francisco Giants                6/1

Washington Nationals                6/1

Arizona Diamondbacks              9/1

Pittsburgh Pirates                      11/1

Colorado Rockies                     15/1

Los Angeles Dodgers                15/1

Philadelphia Phillies                   20/1

San Diego Padres                     50/1

New York Mets                          75/1

Milwaukee Brewers                    125/1

Chicago Cubs                           150/1

Miami Marlins                           1500/1

 

Odds to Win the 2013 AL East   

Boston Red Sox                      2/1

Tampa Bay Rays                       11/4

Baltimore Orioles                       13/4

New York Yankees                    13/4

Toronto Blue Jays                     15/1

 

Odds to Win the 2013 AL Central           

Detroit Tigers                            1/3

Cleveland Indians                      4/1

Chicago White Sox                    12/1

Kansas City Royals                   15/1

Minnesota Twins                        15/1

 

Odds to Win the 2013 AL West  

Texas Rangers                          1/2

Oakland Athletics                      2/1

Los Angeles Angels                  7/1

Seattle Mariners                        50/1

Houston Astros                         300/1

 

Odds to Win the 2013 NL East   

Atlanta Braves                           1/3

Washington Nationals                2/1

Philadelphia Phillies                   18/1

New York Mets                          50/1

Miami Marlins                            1000/1

 

Odds to Win the 2013 NL Central           

Cincinnati Reds                         11/10

St. Louis Cardinals                    11/10

Pittsburgh Pirates                      9/2

Chicago Cubs                           66/1

Milwaukee Brewers                    100/1

 

Odds to Win the 2013 NL West  

San Francisco Giants                6/5

Arizona Diamondbacks              3/2

Colorado Rockies                     13/2

Los Angeles Dodgers                8/1

San Diego Padres                     15/1

 

Who will be the first manager to be fired?

Don Mattingly                7/4

Mike Scioscia               9/4

Ron Roenicke                5/1

John Gibbons               7/1

Eric Wedge                   7/1

Charlie Manuel               10/1

Terry Collins                  12/1

Ned Yost                      12/1

Bud Black                     15/1

Ron Gardenhire             15/1

Joe Girardi                    15/1

 

Odds to win the 2013 AL MVP   

Miguel Cabrera (DET)                            1/1

Chris Davis (BAL)                                  3/1

Mike Trout (LAA)                                   7/1

Clay Buchholz (BOS)                             10/1

Robinson Cano (NYY)                           10/1

Adam Jones (BAL)                                15/1

Prince Fielder (DET)                              25/1

Evan Longoria (TB)                                25/1

Joe Mauer (MIN)                                    25/1

Mike Napoli (BOS)                                 25/1

Adrian Beltre (TEX)                                33/1

Yu Darvish (TEX)                                   33/1

Albert Pujols (LAA)                                33/1

 

Odds to win the 2013 NL MVP   

Paul Goldschmidt (ARI)                         5/1

Carlos Gonzalez (COL)                           6/1

Troy Tulowitzki (COL)                             6/1

Joey Votto (CIN)                                   7/1

Bryce Harper (WSH)                              10/1

Jean Segura (MIL)                                 10/1

Justin Upton (ATL)                                 10/1

Adrian Gonzalez (LAD)                           12/1

Andrew McCutchen (PIT)                        12/1

Buster Posey (SF)                                 14/1

Ryan Braun (MIL)                                   15/1

Domonic Brown (PHI)                            18/1

Carlos Gomez (MIL)                               18/1

Yadier Molina (STL)                               18/1

Carlos Beltran (STL)                               25/1

Dexter Fowler (COL)                              25/1

Carl Crawford (LAD)                              33/1

Starling Marte (PIT)                                33/1

Pablo Sandoval (SF)                             33/1

Shin-Soo Choo (CIN)                             33/1

David Wright (NYM)                               33/1

 

Odds to win the 2013 AL Cy Young        

Clay Buchholz (BOS)                             7/4

Yu Darvish (TEX)                                   4/1

Justin Masterson (CLE)                          7/1

Matt Moore (TB)                                    10/1

Justin Verlander (DET)                           10/1

Felix Hernandez (SEA)                           12/1

Hiwashi Iwakuma (SEA)                         12/1

Max Scherzer (DET)                               12/1

Jon Lester (BOS)                                   20/1

C.C. Sabathia (NYY)                              20/1

Anibal Sanchez (DET)                            20/1

Chris Sale (CWS)                                   20/1

Alex Cobb (TB)                                     25/1

Derek Holland (TEX)                              25/1

Mariano Rivera (NYY)                            25/1

Doug Fister (DET)                                 33/1

Hiroki Kuroda (NYY)                              33/1

Joe Nathan (TEX)                                  33/1

Ervin Santana (KC)                                50/1

Bud Norris (HOU)                                  100/1

R.A. Dickey (TOR)                                 250/1

 

Odds to win the 2013 NL Cy Young        

Clayton Kershaw (LAD)                          4/1

Patrick Corbin (ARI)                               5/1

Adam Wainwright (STL)                          5/1

Jordan Zimmerman (WAS)                     7/1

Shelby Miller (STL)                                15/2

Lance Lynn (STL)                                   9/1

Cliff Lee (PHI)                                       10/1

Matt Harvey (NYM)                                12/1

Mike Minor (ATL)                                   12/1

Madison Bumgarner (SF)                       15/1

Mat Latos (CIN)                                     18/1

Craig Kimbrel (ATL)                               20/1

Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD)                               20/1

Stephen Strasburg (WAS)                      20/1

A.J. Burnett (PIT)                                   33/1

Jaime Garcia (STL)                                33/1

Jason Grilli (PIT)                                    33/1

Tim Hudson (ATL)                                  50/1

Sergio Romo (SF)                                 100/1

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Baltimore sends Flacco (not that one) packing

Posted on 15 March 2013 by Luke Jones

After the Ravens triumphed over the Patriots in January’s AFC Championship, perhaps it was only fair to send a Flacco to the New England area.

On Friday, the Orioles traded first baseman Mike Flacco — younger brother of the Super Bowl XLVII MVP — to the Boston Red Sox for cash considerations or a player to be named later. In a feel-good story, Baltimore’s baseball team drafted Flacco in the 31st round of the 2009 amateur draft out of CCBC-Catonsville.

Spending most of his season at Single-A Frederick last year, Flacco hit .214 with eight home runs and 35 runs batted in in 107 games played with the Keys and Double-A Bowie. The 26-year-old played at first base primarily but also spent time at third base and the corner outfield spots. He has a .253 career average in four minor league seasons.

Though it was a fun connection between Baltimore’s two major professional franchises, the younger Flacco clearly wasn’t progressing at a rate necessary to consider him more than organizational depth in the lower levels of the system. The dream of a Flacco on each team simply wasn’t going to come true and the Red Sox had an organizational need for more first base depth in the minors.

Of course, that won’t stop some from insisting this wouldn’t have happened if his brother had simply taken a little less money.

Comments (0)

One year later, Orioles have real reason to celebrate

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

One year later, Orioles have real reason to celebrate

Posted on 29 September 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — If you’re caught up in the hysteria of the Orioles’ impossible run to the postseason looking more and more like reality, you may not have noticed Friday marked the one-year anniversary of the 2011 season finale.

Of course, the final day of last season may go down as the most exciting in the history of major league baseball with division races coming down to the final inning of the year. Tampa Bay completed an improbable comeback win over the New York Yankees while the 93-loss Orioles knocked Boston out of the playoffs with a dramatic 4-3 walk-off win that ended with a Robert Andino hit to score Nolan Reimold in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The famed “Curse of the Andino” had been born as the Orioles celebrated like they had won the World Series. Yes, it was a fun moment in a make-believe sort of way and players were entitled to a night of celebration after the grind of a 162-game schedule, but the celebration was artificial — no matter how good it may have felt to eliminate the Red Sox from the postseason — knowing the Orioles had just completed their sixth straight season of 90 or more losses.

A year later, the roles are the opposite of what we’ve come to expect over the years as the Red Sox limped to town with a lame-duck manager and a gutted roster on the cusp of 90 losses. In contrast, the Orioles won their 90th game of the season in a 9-1 series-opening win over Boston and reduced their wild card magic number to three to clinch their first postseason berth since 1997.

Not one to gush over individual moments or buy into media concoctions, manager Buck Showalter was asked prior to Friday’s game whether the 2011 finale was the catalyst for the unexpected prosperity the Orioles found this season. His answer was surprising, even if it was delivered in Showalter’s unassuming way.

“I can’t say it didn’t help. It does,” Showalter said. “You create your own intensity and this is a self-starter group. I think once again, we fed off the emotions of our fans, too.”

No one should buy too much stock into the final game of the 2011 regular season being the main reason why the Orioles stand only a game behind the Yankees in the American League East entering Saturday. Just take a look at the roster and you’ll see too many different faces to believe what happened last Sept. 28 was a franchise-altering moment.

But it might have offered just enough of a taste of motivation to the holdovers from 2011 to push through the tough times while also remembering how difficult it was for the Red Sox to complete their postseason mission despite being in excellent position only weeks before the 2011 finale.

With a plethora of unlikely heroes contributing on any given night, the Orioles turned to second baseman Ryan Flaherty and starting pitcher Chris Tillman on Friday night to begin the most crucial series of the season — to this point, anyway — against Boston. Flaherty’s grand slam in the first put the game out of reach as the Rule 5 selection collected a career-high five runs batted in after languishing on the bench for most of the season.

A year ago when the Orioles were knocking the Red Sox out of the playoffs, Flaherty was stuck in the Cubs’ minor league system, uncertain where his future might take him. Now he finds himself in a platoon with Andino, receiving regular starts against right-handed pitching.

“It seems like every night it’s someone new, whether it’s a pitcher, hitter, a play in the field, something,” Flaherty said. “Just keep on riding it and, tomorrow, nine more innings.”

Not even invited to join the club last September despite being on the 40-man roster, Tillman began the 2012 season in Triple-A Norfolk as a virtual afterthought behind the other tabbed members of the cavalry in Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, and Zach Britton. Just over five months later, he’s the only one of the four in the starting rotation as Tillman looks to be a virtual lock for the potential postseason rotation.

He took Friday’s crucial start in stride as he didn’t allow a hit after Scott Podsednik led off the game with a bunt single and retired the final 14 batters he faced in eight stellar innings of work to improve his record to 9-2.

“There is not one game bigger than the other,” Tillman said. “I always try to go out there, go deep in the game and give my team the best chance to win. We are getting to the nitty-gritty here, but we have to focus on tomorrow’s game and not look ahead.”

Showalter’s best accomplishment among many this season has been his ability to balance out his players’ emotions on a daily basis. They’re never too high when they win or too low in defeat. And they’re never caught up in how big a certain game might be, an attitude that will serve them well over the season’s final week and into October.

These days, the Orioles clubhouse is anything but celebratory after wins as an outsider wouldn’t have a clue in figuring out whether the team had won or loss that night.

It’s a stark contrast from the on-field dog pile of a year ago over something that just wasn’t all that meaningful in the long run.

Or, so we thought.

No matter how you view the “Curse of the Andino” and what it meant to this club heading into the 2012 season, the Orioles have a real reason to celebrate this time around.

It’s no longer about playing the role of a spoiler or basking in the glow of a make-believe celebration because there’s nothing better to look forward to. The Orioles are for real and their slaughtering of the down-and-out Red Sox on Friday night was just the latest example in proving that.

Instead of deferring to the heavyweight and hoping to get lucky, they’ve become the team delivering the knockout blow.

Boy, how can things change in only a year.

Comments (2)

Tags: , ,

Red Sox hope to spoil Orioles house party in Baltimore this weekend

Posted on 28 September 2012 by WNST Staff

Comments (0)

Orioles take magic to Fenway for key weekend in Boston

Tags: , ,

Orioles take magic to Fenway for key weekend in Boston

Posted on 21 September 2012 by WNST Staff

Comments (0)

Markakis’ ill-advised bunt opens door for Red Sox comeback

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Markakis’ ill-advised bunt opens door for Red Sox comeback

Posted on 17 August 2012 by Luke Jones

I’ve never shied away from expressing my distaste for the sacrifice bunt, and the strategy cost the Orioles in their 6-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night.

Holding a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the second, the decision by right field Nick Markakis to lay one down with runners on first and second and no outs was questionable at best and turned disastrous when it resulted in a double play after Markakis didn’t run to first, thinking the ball was foul as it died at the plate. Shortstop J.J. Hardy then singled into right, but Omar Quintanilla was gunned down at the plate to end the inning.

Just like that, a once-promising inning was over without further damage.

The miscue gave Boston starter Clay Buchholz new life as he recovered to pitch eight strong innings to collect the victory.

Making Markakis’ decision to bunt even more perplexing was the fact that it came after Buchholz had walked Quintanilla on four pitches. Instead of taking a pitch or looking for a fastball to drive early in the count, Markakis may have been thinking too much in an effort to give the Orioles two runners in scoring position.

Based on his post-game comments, it was clear Buck Showalter had not called for the bunt, but the manager eloquently revealed whose call it was without painting his leadoff hitter in a negative light.

“I like the thought process; he just didn’t quite execute it,” Showalter said. “Nicky is a guy that’s always trying to do what’s best for the team, and I applaud him for the thought process. Maybe if he gets it down in a better spot, it might turn out really well.”

The decision to insert Markakis into the top spot in the order has worked beautifully for the Orioles after the production in the leadoff spot had been horrendous over the last 2 1/2 seasons with the absence of a healthy Brian Roberts. Entering Thursday night, Markakis was hitting .321 with five home runs and 14 runs batted in while posting a .371 on-base percentage since willingly accepting his new role on July 13.

However, the second-inning bunt appeared to be a rare instance in which the outfielder was trying to act too much like a leadoff hitter and not the run producer he’s more than capable of being when given an opportunity with men on base. Considering how much Buchholz was struggling, the time was right to play for a big inning and a knockout blow instead of settling for small ball.

You’re only guaranteed 27 outs over the course of a game, and I’m a big believer in not wasting them unless playing for a single run in the late stages of the game or it’s the rare instance of a low-scoring duel between two dynamic pitchers. Buchholz has been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last month, but Baltimore starter Chris Tillman did not fall into that category after throwing 51 pitches through the first two innings.

And though Showalter was right about the bunt potentially turning out well if Markakis had laid it down in a better spot, it still doesn’t mean it was the right decision.

The failed bunt doesn’t change the fact that Tillman only got through 4 2/3 innings and reliever Luis Ayala gave up the three deciding runs in the sixth, but it certainly appeared to be the turning point in a game that appeared ripe for the picking in the early innings.

Instead of potentially busting the game wide open by trying to become the fourth straight batter to reach in the inning, Markakis was willing to give up an out — a second one was lost in the process — and the Orioles never really threatened Buchholz again after that second inning.

It was a rare misstep from a cerebral player, but the failed bunt factored heavily early on in the Orioles’ inability to complete a three-game sweep of Boston.

Comments (2)

Davis more than folk hero for Orioles in surprising 2012 season

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Davis more than folk hero for Orioles in surprising 2012 season

Posted on 18 June 2012 by Luke Jones

Chris Davis might be the best example of what the 2012 Orioles are all about.

Entering the season with untapped potential and more failure than success at the big-league level, both Davis and the Orioles have blossomed in the first 2 1/2 months of the season, surpising critics and even the most optimistic fans in what’s been Baltimore’s best start since 2005.

The 26-year-old Davis has morphed into a fan favorite in his first full season with the Orioles, not only becoming one of the team’s most productive hitters but providing one of the craziest memories in club history when he pitched two innings to earn the win in a 17-inning marathon at Fenway Park on May 6.

Add a broken-bat home run against Pittsburgh last week and his first games in right field at the big-league level this past weekend in Atlanta and you have all the makings of a folk hero in Baltimore.

Much like the 39-27 Orioles, at times, it’s difficult to believe what you’re seeing when watching the designated hitter/first baseman/right fielder/pitching extraordinaire.

But there’s no understating how important Davis’ emergence has been this season, especially with stints on the disabled list by Nolan Reimold, Mark Reynolds, and Nick Markakis. Center fielder Adam Jones has emerged as a superstar by leading the Orioles in batting average, home runs, runs batted in, slugging percentage, and runs scored, but Davis ranks second or third in all five of those categories in becoming a legitimate middle-of-the-order threat in the lineup.

His 12 home runs and 60 strikeouts in 211 at-bats entering Monday night aren’t overly surprising given Davis’ reputation when the Orioles acquired him in the Koji Uehara trade last July, but his .294 average defies what we saw over his last three years in Texas where Davis went from looking like a future star in 2008 to a player fitting the mold of a “Quad-A” hitter before being dealt.

The raw power has never come into question — evident by his broken-bat homer to right field off Pittsburgh reliever Tommy Watson last Wednesday — as Davis hit 17 home runs and batted .285 in 295 at-bats during his rookie season with the Rangers in 2008. However, the left-handed slugger quickly earned the reputation of a hitter who struck out too much, didn’t walk enough, and struggled to handle plus-fastballs in the major leagues. Those flaws led his batting average to plummet to .238 in 2009 and .192 in 2010, causing Davis to bounce back and forth between the Rangers and Triple A in his final three years in Texas.

It was difficult to project Davis as anything more than a less-patient, less-powerful version of Reynolds entering the season, which didn’t speak highly for his potential when considering how flawed Reynolds is as a player.

In 2012, Davis hasn’t made any dramatic changes to his overall approach — 60 strikeouts to just 13 walks — but his improvement against plus-fastballs has led to the substantial increase in average. A career .204 hitter in 255 career at-bats against power pitchers (those in the top third in the league in strikeouts plus walks) entering 2012, Davis has handled them at a .286 rate in 42 at-bats this season.

Davis has also handled left-handed pitching at a far more successful clip, batting .327 in 53 plate appearances against southpaws in 2012 after hitting only .236 against lefties in 275 career at-bats entering 2012.

While his high strikeout and low walk totals aren’t indicative of a hitter that will continue to hover around the .300 mark, Davis has been a model of consistency through his first 57 games this season. Aside from an abysmal seven-game stretch in May in which he went 3-for-28 and struck out 14 times, the left-hander has consistently sat somewhere between .290 and .310 as we reach the final two weeks of June. His .355 batting average for balls put in play indicates Davis has been fortunate, but it’s actually lower than the .366 combined clip he posted last year for the Rangers and Orioles.

When seeing the ball well, Davis shows exceptional power to straightaway center and the opposite field has eight of his 12 home runs have traveled in either of those directions.

After Markakis was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a broken hamate bone, manager Buck Showalter turned to Davis to hold down the No. 3 spot in the order as the Orioles were depleted even further offensively. He’s hit only .206 in 34 at-bats batting third, but the lineup shift could present an interesting decision for Showalter when Markakis returns — projected to be some time during the next homestand, according to the right fielder.

Should Davis remain around the .300 mark, would you consider keeping him in the third spot and moving Markakis to the No. 2 slot? The move would allow Showalter to drop J.J. Hardy in the order, which would make sense with the shortstop hitting only .253 despite 11 home runs.

Whatever the Baltimore skipper decides, it’s a good problem to have.

For a team suffering its fair share of injuries and not receiving the same power numbers it enjoyed from Reynolds a season ago, Davis’ emergence has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season.

His willingness to do whatever is asked of him reflects the spirit of the 2012 Orioles.

Need someone to pitch? Not a problem.

You want to put me in right field in a National League ballpark, even though I’ve never played there in the big leagues? Sure thing.

Whatever it takes to win.

Much like watching the Orioles, you keep waiting and wondering if it’s going to last, but Davis has given no indication of slowing down any time soon.

And he just might be realizing the potential so many saw in him when he first arrived in the big leagues.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments (0)