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Ten talking points for Orioles-Royals ALCS matchup

Posted on 08 October 2014 by Luke Jones

As the Orioles prepare to play the Kansas City Royals for the first time ever in the postseason and for the right to advance to their first World Series in 31 years, here are 10 talking points to break down their meeting in the American League Championship Series beginning Friday night:

1. It isn’t Eddie Murray vs. George Brett, but the tradition of yesteryear in each city makes this series a blast.

Yes, it’s been three decades since either the Orioles or Royals found themselves playing in the Fall Classic, but that’s what makes this series so much fun as younger baseball fan will be exposed to the history of each franchise. From 1973 through 1985, Baltimore and Kansas City combined to win two World Series titles, four AL pennants, and 10 division championships and were regarded as two of the model franchises in the major leagues. This history may not mean much to the current players or have any impact on the play on the field, but the fans’ thirst for a World Series will be palpable at both Kauffman Stadium and Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

2. You won’t find more contrasting offensive styles with the stakes so high.

It’s thunder against lightning as the Orioles led the major leagues with 211 home runs while the Royals stole more bases (153) than any of the 29 other clubs. Meanwhile, Baltimore stole the fewest number of bases (44) in the big leagues and Kansas City ranked 30th with only 95 home runs. Five Royals players hit double digits in swiped bags while the Orioles’ leader in the category was David Lough with eight. Seven Orioles hit 12 or more homers — Manny Machado and Chris Davis will not play in this series — compared to just three for Kansas City. Despite their contrasting styles, the Orioles finished the regular season ranked sixth in the AL in runs with 705 compared to Kansas City coming in ninth with 651. Baltimore has the better offense over the long haul, but the Royals will try to turn a short series into a 100-meter dash while the Orioles emphasize their advantage in the shot put.

3. The Royals stack up more favorably to the Baltimore defense that Detroit did.

The Orioles still have the edge in the field, but Kansas City has a number of Gold Glove-caliber players including catcher Salvador Perez and outfielders Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain. The Orioles rank third in the AL in BaseballReference.com’s defensive efficiency statistic while the Royals came in sixth in the regular season. Baltimore made the third-fewest number of errors (87) in the AL this season while Kansas City ranked 10th with 104. Both clubs made sparkling plays in the Division Series and rely on their defense to make a difference in close games.

4. Scoring early will be a high priority for both clubs.

Unlike the luxury the Orioles had against Detroit in the Division Series, they cannot expect to wait out starting pitchers for scoring opportunities in the late inning against the Royals, whose trio of Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and Kelvin Herrera might be even better than their own triumvirate of Zach Britton, Andrew Miller, and Darren O’Day. The Orioles’ 3.10 bullpen ERA ranked third in the AL while Kansas City’s 3.30 mark ranked fifth, which will cause both lineups to feel the urgency to break through prior to the sixth inning. Even with so many other great names in each bullpen, the wild cards could be right-hander Kevin Gausman and Kansas City lefty Brandon Finnegan, who made a major impact in the Wild Card Game after only being drafted in the first round out of Texas Christian a few months ago.

5. The spotlight will be much brighter on Adam Jones to produce in this series.

It’s cruel to judge any player on a sample size of only 37 at-bats, but the Orioles center fielder has amassed only four hits in his postseason career and will feel the heat if his bat doesn’t wake up in the ALCS. Being an aggressive hitter throughout his career, Jones must fight the urge to over-swing, especially when he has opportunities to drive in runs. The 29-year-old singled and walked in his final two plate appearances of the ALDS, which the Orioles hope are signs of better things to come this October for a player who’s meant so much to the club’s success over the last three years. Nelson Cruz carried the Orioles in the ALDS, but Jones waking up would make them even more difficult to beat in a best-of-seven series.

6. The Orioles are better equipped to handle Kansas City’s jackrabbits on the base paths.

The Royals are an incredible 12-for-13 attempting to steal in the postseason, which has certainly provided Buck Showalter with some restless nights this week. However, the Orioles will have more success in slowing Kansas City runners than either Oakland or the Angels because of their focus on slowing an opposing club’s running game. Baltimore ranked sixth in the AL by throwing out 28 percent of runners attempting to steal, but the fact that they faced the fourth-fewest number of stolen base attempts is a reflection of how well pitchers hold runners and how quick they are to the plate to help catchers Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley. Of the two, Joseph is more adept at gunning down runners (a 40 percent success rate to Hundley’s 19 percent), so it will be interesting to see how much more Showalter might lean on the younger catcher in this series after Hundley started two of the three ALDS games.

7. Former Oriole starter Jeremy Guthrie pitching against his former club in the ALCS will be somewhat surreal.

With apologies to Baltimore reserve Jimmy Paredes, Guthrie is the most intriguing name to face his former team in this series and had the misfortune of being dealt away from the Orioles just before their resurgence in 2012. The classy right-hander has found a home with the Royals where he’s continued to be a solid member of the rotation and has been rewarded with a taste of the postseason after pitching respectably on some otherwise awful Orioles clubs from 2007 through 2011. Though Guthrie probably wouldn’t be slated to start before Game 4 unless the Royals elect to go with Danny Duffy in the rotation and put him in the bullpen, it will be interesting to see the Orioles face the 35-year-old, who acts as a symbol of the club’s past as they seek their first AL pennant in 31 years.

8. Neither club received enough credit for its starting pitching during the regular season.

The Orioles and Royals are known for their stout bullpens, but their rotations have been very effective despite lacking big names. The projected Game 1 starters, Chris Tillman and James Shields, are two of the better pitchers in the AL — the latter for a longer period of time — but each has just one All-Star appearance to his name. Baltimore’s starter ERA of 3.61 ranked just a hair below the Royals’ fourth-ranked 3.60 mark in the AL. The strong bullpens for both sides decrease the chances of any starter pitching particularly deep into games, but there’s no reason to think either side will have problems in this department.

9. This series may feature the two best relievers in baseball right now — and neither are closers.

While Britton and Holland have been two of the best ninth-inning men in baseball in 2014, Miller and Davis are the scariest weapons in their respective bullpens as they combined to strike out 212 hitters in 134 1/3 innings during the regular season. Miller’s ERA was 1.35 in 23 regular-season appearances for the Orioles after being dealt by Boston while Davis posted a 1.00 ERA in 71 appearances for Kansas City this year. Showalter has already demonstrated he’s not afraid to use Miller for more than one inning in the postseason while Davis was a starter as recently as last season, making you think he can be stretched out as well. Regardless of who ends up winning this series, it would be shocking if Miller and Davis aren’t the busiest bullpen arms in the best-of-seven showdown.

10. Buck Showalter has a sizable advantage over Ned Yost on this stage.

The strong sentiment shared among many around baseball is that the Royals have won in spite of their manager, who prefers the small-ball tactics detested by sabermetricians. Meanwhile, Showalter often speaks of his preference to not waste his offense’s 27 outs per game and rarely calls for sacrifice bunts and other tactics such as the hit and run. You do wonder if the Orioles’ strong bullpen will press Yost to lean even more on manufacturing runs than he normally does, but Showalter is more likely to stay the course with his lineup — even against the Royals’ stingy relievers. As for bullpen management, the skipper who is more willing to break the standard thinking of when to use his relievers will give his team the edge. Showalter is the superior tactician and has already shown his willingness to stretch his best relievers during the Division Series.

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Start times announced for remaining games of ALCS

Posted on 08 October 2014 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 9:45 p.m. Wednesday)

Major League Baseball announced the remaining start times of all games of the American League Championship Series as the Orioles will welcome the Kansas City Royals to Oriole Park at Camden Yards beginning on Friday.

Game 1 will begin at 8:07 p.m. Friday as the ALCS will have the stage to itself with the National League Championship Series not getting underway until the next day. The Royals announced that right-hander James Shields will make the start in the series opener while manager Buck Showalter is expected to send Chris Tillman to the hill for the Orioles.

The second game of the best-of-seven series will begin at 4:07 p.m. Saturday before the teams move to Kansas City to continue the ALCS at Kauffman Stadium.

Games 3 and 4 will begin at 8:07 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday while Game 5 would begin at 4:07 p.m. Wednesday if necessary. If the series continues, Games 6 and 7 would also be played at 8:07 p.m. next Friday and Saturday night at Camden Yards.

The entire series will be televised on TBS.

In other news, Zach Britton and his wife, Courtney, became the parents of a baby boy as Zander Lee Britton was born Tuesday night in California. The Orioles closer is expected to be back with his club for Thursday’s workout at Camden Yards.




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Pondering changes to Orioles’ 25-man roster for ALCS

Posted on 07 October 2014 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles advancing to the American League Championship Series to take on the Kansas City Royals, manager Buck Showalter will have the opportunity to reset his 25-man roster before Game 1 on Friday.

For weeks, many have pondered what the Orioles will do when suspended slugger Chris Davis is eligible to return, but the three-game sweep in the AL Division Series made it all but guaranteed he’ll remain on the sideline until a potential trip to the World Series. There had been some thought at the start of the postseason that the Orioles could play a man down to begin the ALCS, but the quick elimination of the Tigers left Davis with five games remaining on his 25-game suspension and he wouldn’t be eligible to play until a potential Game 6.

Davis has continued to work out at third base in Sarasota to stay sharp, but it will be interesting to see if the Orioles automatically welcome him back to the 25-man roster if they advance to the Fall Classic. Working out and playing in instructional league games in Florida are fine, but a layoff of more than a month will inevitably leave some rust and the Orioles might not want to mess with their karma should they find themselves playing for a world championship.

With the Royals regularly using four left-handed hitters in their lineup, Showalter may elect to turn to left-handed relievers Brian Matusz and T.J. McFarland after they were left off the ALDS roster against Detroit, who feasted off southpaw pitching in the regular season. Kansas City hit .266 against left-handers and .261 against right-handed arms, but the presence of lefty hitters Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Alex Gordon — right fielder Nori Aoki hit .363 against left-handers this season — would make you think Showalter would prefer having the situational Matusz as an option to pitch to a left-handed hitter or two in certain spots.

Left-handers hit only .223 against Matusz in the regular season while righties hit .277 with an .876 on-base plus slugging percentage.

McFarland’s addition for the ALCS would appear to be less certain as lefties hit .266 against him compared to right-handers posting a .324 average. There wouldn’t appear to be room for both Ubaldo Jimenez and McFarland in the bullpen, so you wonder if Showalter will once again go with the veteran as his emergency long man to keep Kevin Gausman available to pitch in high-leverage situations.

The Orioles kept 11 pitchers for the best-of-five ALDS, but the next round having a best-of-seven format might entice Showalter to add an extra pitcher, leaving him with a shorter bench. Considering Ryan Flaherty played such strong defense at third base, the Orioles manager might not find it necessary to have both Jimmy Paredes and Kelly Johnson on the bench for this series.

The switch-hitting Paredes did not appear in any of the three ALDS games while the lefty-hitting Johnson appeared once as a pinch hitter and replaced Flaherty at third base for the ninth inning of Game 2.

As for the starting rotation, Showalter is expected to send Chris Tillman to the hill for Game 1, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll slot Miguel Gonzalez into Game 2 after he didn’t pitch in the ALDS or the right-hander will once again fit behind Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris in the pecking order.

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Orioles to face Kansas City in American League Championship Series

Posted on 05 October 2014 by Luke Jones

Two teams chasing their once-glorious histories will now face off for the 2014 American League pennant as the Orioles will meet the Kansas City Royals in the AL Championship Series beginning Friday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Hours after the Orioles completed a three-game sweep over the Detroit Tigers on Sunday, the Royals disposed of the No. 1 seed Los Angeles Angeles in a sweep of their own to set up a series between teams eyeing their first World Series appearance in three decades. Baltimore hasn’t advanced to the Fall Classic since 1983 while Kansas City hasn’t appeared in the World Series since 1985.

The ALCS will bring an interesting contrast in offensive styles as the Orioles led the majors in home runs while the Royals hit fewer long balls than any club in the game. However, speedy Kansas City led the big leagues in stolen bases while Baltimore swiped fewer bags than any team.

Beyond that, both teams profile similarly by playing excellent defense and leaning on their outstanding bullpens to back up solid starting pitching. The Orioles ranked third in the AL with an overall ERA of 3.43 and the Royals were fourth with a 3.51 ERA.

The Orioles went 3-4 against the Royals during the 2014 regular season as they lost two of three in Baltimore in late April and split a four-game set at Kansas City in the middle of May.

Games 1 and 2 will be played at Camden Yards with Games 3 and 4 shifting to Kauffman Stadium. If necessary, Game 5 will also be played in Kansas City with the final two games of the best-of-seven series scheduled to be played back in Baltimore.

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O’s acquire Paredes from Royals, option him to Norfolk

Posted on 24 July 2014 by WNST Staff

Orioles acquire INF/OF Jimmy Paredes from Kansas City

The Orioles today announced that they have acquired INF/OF JIMMY PAREDES from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for cash considerations. Paredes has been optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.

Paredes, 25, batted .305/.332/.457 (82-269) with five home runs and 36 RBI in 65 games for Triple-A Omaha this season. The switch-hitter was 17-for-18 in stolen bases for the Storm Chasers and has recorded 183 stolen bases in eight minor league seasons.

In 127 major league games with Houston (2011-13) and Kansas City (2014), Paredes has batted .233/.272/.308 (88-377) with three home runs, 31 RBI and 13 stolen bases.

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Gausman sent back to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for Meek

Posted on 15 May 2014 by Luke Jones

Kevin Gausman’s first run with the Orioles in the 2014 season ended just over 24 hours after it began.

The 23-year-old right-hander was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for right-handed reliever Evan Meek as Baltimore was preparing to begin a four-game series against the Kansas City Royals on Thursday.

Pitching on three days’ rest and less than two weeks removed from being diagnosed with a bout of pneumonia, Gausman struggled in his 2014 debut against the Detroit Tigers, surrendering five earned runs in four innings of work as the Orioles were swept in a 7-5 final on Wednesday afternoon. Though the 2012 first-round pick had posted a 2.08 earned run average in his six starts for the Tides, the decision to recall him after such a tumultuous two weeks was questionable at best as he hadn’t gotten back in the normal routine of a starting pitcher.

Manager Buck Showalter shared the desire to give left-hander Wei-Yin Chen an extra day of rest — and hinted that he didn’t want the lefty pitching against a Detroit lineup that’s mostly right-handed — and didn’t want to start Miguel Gonzalez on three days’ rest, prompting his temporary move to the bullpen for this turn through the rotation. It’s assumed that Gonzalez will now return to his spot in the rotation temporarily seized by Gausman.

Meek made the Orioles’ Opening Day club after being invited to spring training as a non-roster player and got off to a strong start before running into struggles in late April. The former 2010 All-Star selection had a 6.94 ERA in 11 2/3 inning for the Orioles and will likely find himself in more low-pressure situations than he did earlier in the season.

The 31-year-old allowed four earned runs over 6 1/3 innings spanning five appearances for the Tides.


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Series Synopsis: Royals come to Baltimore looking to end skid

Posted on 25 April 2014 by WNST Staff

The Royals are one of those teams.

On the cusp of being “good,” the Kansas City faithful has hung onto the idea that likes of Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer would lead a generally irrelevant franchise back to a level of respectability it enjoyed during the 1980s and the days of George Brett.

Tonight, a (10-11) Kansas City team rolls into Baltimore looking for some upward momentum after losing four of its last five.

What you need to know about The Royals:

2014 Record:  10-11, last place in AL Central, two games back of first.

2013 Record:  86-76, Third place in AL Central.

Managed by:  Ned Yost.

Streak:  After winning six straight, the Royals have dropped four of five.

Turning Point: Royals’ DH Billy Butler has struggled mightily through 21 games, batting below the Mendoza Line (sub-.200).  If he can find a way to get his bat going, along with the rest of the solid KC lineup,  it could spell trouble for an O’s rotation that has struggled to minimize pitch-counts and efficiency.

Pitching Matchup of the Series:  Ubaldo Jimenez takes the bump for the fifth time as an Orioles’ starter.  He’ll be paired with Royals’ flame-throwing sensation Yordano Ventura.  Jimenez (0-3) is still looking for his first win this season, while Ventura, after earning his first Big League win two starts ago, is looking to rebound from a rocky outing last weekend.  This matchup will set the tone for the series, and if Ventura has his command working, Jimenez could find himself in another spot where he needs to work into the late innings and be much better than he’s been thus far.

Prediction:  The O’s bats came alive in Toronto, and with a healthy lineup for this weekend series at Camden Yards, there’s no reason to think the Birds can’t take two-of-three.





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Your Monday Reality Check: Aw hell, why not?

Posted on 13 August 2012 by Glenn Clark

If I understand the way the math works, the Baltimore Orioles’ magic number to clinch an American League Wild Card spot currently sits at 48.

I really felt the need to tell you that because for some goofy reason I sat and worked on it Sunday while I was supposed to be watching the Baltimore Ravens practice at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Congratulations Birds, you’ve successfully gotten me to take attention away from the Ravens and place it on the orange and black. The moment has actually occurred. I’m blown away.

The magic number is 48.

That means that if the total combination of O’s wins combined with losses (individually) from any other team in the Wild Card race reaches 48 before the end of the season the now 15 year playoff draught will officially be over.

It means the Birds will be playing on Friday, October 5 as part of Major League Baseball’s first ever Wild Card play-in games.

I honest to God can’t believe I’ve just typed all of this.

It’s time to cue the music.

I feel like it’s safe to say that I’ve been as reluctant (if not more reluctant) than anyone in town to accept this as an actual, realistic possibility. And if truth me told I would still say “no” if an assailant questioned my belief that the Orioles make the playoffs with a gun pointed to my temple.

It might seem like a four game split with the Kansas City Royals at home would be an odd time for me to suddenly stand and pledge allegiance to the “Why Not?” bandwagon, but…you know…Machado and all.

My original idea for my weekly “Reality Check” column was to write about the realities of 3B Manny Machado’s hot start (6-16, 3HR, 7RBI in four games). I had planned to say “I hate to be the bad guy, but let’s remember that the most likely scenario is that Machado won’t be able to continue this success for the rest of the season or likely even for the rest of August.”

I had intended to say something along the lines of “American League pitchers will likely end up catching up with Machado, who also won’t have the benefit of facing Kansas City Royals pitching every time out.” I was going to add thoughts along the lines of “let’s not forget that even OF Xavier Avery collected 10 hits in his first eight games after getting called up to Baltimore earlier in the season.”

I probably would have mentioned that in the coming week Machado would have to go up against veteran pitchers like Red Sox starters Josh Beckett (albeit a Beckett that has struggled mightily in 2012) and Clay Buchholz as well as reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and MVP Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. It’s a bit more legitimate than a group of KC starters that included Will Smith, Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen.

I also think I would have mentioned that Machado had not hit .300 in a single month while playing in the Eastern League this season, making a market correction from a very hot start to August seem likely at some point.

That’s what I WAS going to do. But for some reason, it just didn’t stick.

As we’ve repeated ad nauseum during the 2012 Orioles campaign, there is no statistical explanation for why the Birds have won 62 of their first 115 games. Those of us who have been watching understand that the team has benefitted from an incredible bullpen, a number of home runs, great success in close games and expert guidance from AL Manager of the Year candidate Buck Showalter.

That’s why I couldn’t write the Machado column. I didn’t have it in me.

Maybe there IS a chance Machado can continue to make significant contributions as a 20 year old in a lineup that has been seeking an additional spark. The Birds don’t have a full season .300 hitter in their lineup, but they’ve managed to get continued contributions from unexpected places.

Career journeyman INF Omar Quintanilla is batting .328 in just 20 games sense being acquired in a deal with the New York Mets. Veteran (and by “veteran” I mean “washed up”) OF Nate McClouth has eight hits in his first 24 AB’s since being called up from the Norfolk Tides. Even the miserable bat of Mark Reynolds (.211 and just nine home runs in 289 AB’s) provided what proved to be the game winning RBI in Sunday’s win over KC.

I don’t think it can be sustained. I didn’t think it could be sustained two months ago. I was wrong then. Maybe I’m wrong now. I don’t think I’m ever going to understand exactly how all of this has happened this way this season.

So can Manny Machado keep contributing to an Orioles team pushing towards an appearance in the postseason?

What the hell?

Or…why not?


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Here's a look at Orioles Memorial Day uni...

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Here’s a look at Orioles Memorial Day uni…

Posted on 26 May 2012 by WNST Staff

Courtesy of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jake Arrieta’s Twitter account, here’s a look at the camouflage duds the Birds will sport Sunday against the Kansas City Royals in honor of Memorial Day…

What do you think?

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Orioles recall Paulino, Pomeranz for start of Royals series

Posted on 25 May 2012 by WNST Staff

The Orioles today announced that they have recalled pitcher Stu Pomeranz and catcher Ronny Paulino from Triple-A Norfolk, optioned catcher Luis Exposito to the Tides and designated infielder Bill Hall for assignment.

Pomeranz has not allowed an earned run in 10 appearances this season with Triple-A Norfolk (five games, 10.0IP) and Double-A Bowie (five games, 13.1IP). He pitched more than one inning in nine of 10 appearances, striking out 35 and walking three. Pomeranz made two scoreless appearances (4.0IP, 4H, BB, 3K) for the Orioles earlier this season after having his contract selected on May 7.

Paulino batted .300 (9-30) with three RBI in nine games for the Orioles earlier this season. He hit .283/.313/.391 in 12 games for Norfolk after being optioned on May 7.

Exposito hit .059 (1-17) in eight games with the Orioles after being recalled from the Tides on May 4.

Hall batted .286 (2-7) with a solo home run, becoming the 22nd Oriole in franchise history to hit a home run in his first game with Baltimore. He had his contract selected on May 12.

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