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Twelve thoughts on Dylan Bundy’s one-hit shutout

Posted on 30 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With Orioles starter Dylan Bundy pitching a one-hit shutout in a 4-0 win over Seattle, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. That was the kind of performance fans daydream about when their team selects a pitcher in the top five spots of the amateur draft. Whether we’re witnessing the start of something special or this was merely the pinnacle of a solid career, Tuesday’s outing was fun to watch.

2. All of his pitchers were working, but the slider was especially potent, fetching swings and misses on 10 of the 27 he threw. It’s been said before, but he’s tough to beat when he has that breaking pitch going.

3. It’s a bummer to think a chance at a no-hitter was lost on a bunt single by Kyle Seager, but he dropped that down facing a one-run deficit in the fourth inning and before anyone was thinking about any flirtation with history.

4. I was waiting for Buck Showalter to pop out of the dugout after Bundy hit Robinson Cano to lead off the ninth inning, but you had to be impressed with the way the young pitcher immediately went back to work.

5. His 95 game score is tied for the sixth best in club history, according to the Baseball Reference play index. That’s some impressive company over 64 seasons of Orioles baseball.

6. This was easily the best pitching performance by an Oriole since Erik Bedard’s two-hit shutout that included 15 strikeouts against Texas on July 7, 2007. I’ll give Bedard a slight edge since he didn’t walk a batter while Bundy walked two and hit one.

7. Bundy provided the club’s first complete-game shutout since Miguel Gonzalez pitched one in 2014 and its complete game since Ubaldo Jimenez’s last September. How much has the game changed over the years? Jim Palmer pitched 20 or more complete games in a season four times.

8. This was the third time in his last four starts he’s struck out 10 or more. According to ESPN, that’s more than the total for any Orioles pitcher over the last 10 years. Yes, that reflects the Orioles’ lack of high-quality pitching, but it’s still an impressive feat for Bundy.

9. After averaging an ordinary 6.9 strikeouts per nine innings over the first four months of the season, Bundy is striking out 11.3 per nine in August. Even with extra rest being an obvious factor, it’s encouraging for the future to see him missing more bats.

10. He became the second pitcher in Orioles history to record a one-hit shutout with 12 or more strikeouts. Mike Mussina was the first on Aug. 1, 2000 when Bundy was not quite 8 years old.

11. I understand concerns over a career-high 155 1/3 innings this season, but squabbling over the right-hander exceeding his career high in pitches by four to get the shutout just reeks of joylessness. That said, the Orioles need to continue massaging his workload the rest of the way.

12. Bundy was pitching with a heavy heart after his grandmother’s death last week. That outing sure was a special tribute to her.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following West Coast trip

Posted on 17 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles dropping their final two games in Seattle to finish a 4-6 trip on the West Coast, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. A losing road trip doesn’t cripple their playoffs chances, but the Orioles entered Thursday with six clubs ahead of them for the second wild card. They’ve played better since the All-Star break, but repeatedly falling to the back of the line among so many mediocre teams isn’t encouraging.

2. With a bullpen in good shape going into an off-day, Buck Showalter stayed with Ubaldo Jimenez entirely too long in the fifth inning Wednesday. The already-struggling veteran was facing the top of the order a third time, but Showalter instead saved his best relievers and lost the lead.

3. Showalter letting Chris Davis bat against lefty Marc Rzepczynski was a tougher call. He’s 8-for-24 over the last week after being lowered in the order, and Rzepczynski has been tough against righties, too. If you’re trying to get Davis going for the stretch, I understand not testing his confidence further.

4. Of their six losses on the road trip, the Orioles held a lead in five of those defeats. Whether it was shaky pitching or the offense going to sleep after scoring an early run or two, the trip should have been better. That’s just another sign of mediocrity.

5. Tim Beckham will cool off eventually, but it’s fun thinking about the possibility that there was more to the idea that he didn’t like hitting at Tropicana Field than anyone thought. In 16 games, he already ranks seventh on the 2017 Orioles in wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference.

6. I’ve said this before, but Trey Mancini’s development has a left fielder continues to amaze after he only began learning the outfield this past offseason. I would never bet on him winning a Gold Glove, but he looks very capable, which is a nice bonus to accompany his dangerous bat.

7. Davis has fairly received plenty of heat in the midst of his worst season since 2014, but Mark Trumbo has been just as disappointing. Expecting him to match what he did in 2016 was unrealistic, but his .711 on-base plus slugging percentage is the second-worst mark of his career.

8. Since the All-Star break, the Orioles are 1-5 in games in which they’ve had an opportunity to move back to the .500 mark. Talk about beating your head against a brick wall as the second wild card sits there begging for someone to take control.

9. Kevin Gausman has allowed two or fewer runs in five of his last six starts and sports a 3.13 ERA when Caleb Joseph catches. Welington Castillo was behind the dish for that one non-quality start, and Gausman owns a 7.30 mark with him behind the dish. Stick with what’s working.

10. I don’t have a major problem with temporarily sending Joey Rickard to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for Anthony Santander, but Rule 5 players since 2012 have netted the Orioles a combined 2.4 WAR, per Baseball Reference. That’s a minimal return for so often playing with a shorthanded roster.

11. Speaking of questionable value, Jimenez and Chris Tillman have combined for a minus-2.4 WAR despite making a total of $23.55 million in 2017. That’s a heck of a price tag for below-replacement-level production.

12. The 25th anniversary celebration of Camden Yards will be a nice nod to the 1992 Orioles, who showed a 22-game improvement from the previous year. I’m a little bummed Randy Milligan — one of my favorites as a kid — won’t be there though. His .391 career on-base percentage was underappreciated.

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Orioles acquire left-hander Nuño from Dodgers

Posted on 19 February 2017 by Luke Jones

The Orioles acquired left-handed pitcher Vidal Nuño from the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday to add another long-relief option to their bullpen for the 2017 season.

Baltimore sent 22-year-old pitcher Ryan Moseley to the Dodgers and designated left-hander T.J. McFarland for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.

Nuño spent last season with Seattle, pitching to a 3.53 ERA in 58 2/3 innings. In November, the Mariners sent the 29-year-old to the Dodgers in exchange for veteran catcher Carlos Ruiz. Though he’s made 42 career starts in his four major league seasons, Nuño is expected to serve as a long reliever in a bullpen that also features left-handed closer Zach Britton and southpaw specialist Donnie Hart.

After struggling to a 6.93 ERA in Baltimore last season, McFarland was out of minor-league options — Nuño has one remaining — and must now pass through waivers before potentially being outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk. Moseley was selected in the eighth round of the 2016 draft and pitched to a 3.20 ERA in 19 2/3 innings for short-season Single-A Aberdeen.

In 329 1/3 career innings in the majors, Nuño owns a 4.02 ERA and has averaged 7.4 strikeouts and 2.3 walks per nine innings. The southpaw has given up 1.4 home runs per nine innings of work in his career and allowed 11 in his 2016 season. He also spent time with the New York Yankees and Arizona earlier in his major league career and was part of the 2015 trade between the Diamondbacks and Mariners that also included current Orioles Mark Trumbo and Welington Castillo.

Nuño is scheduled to play for Mexico in next month’s World Baseball Classic.

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Long, painful week for Orioles ends with no relief

Posted on 22 August 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles had a chance to stop the bleeding on Sunday after a difficult 1-4 start to an eight-game homestand.

Waiting out a rain delay of more than four hours on the heels of two of their worst losses of the season, the Orioles watched first-place Toronto squander another late lead in a loss at Cleveland. Second-place Boston fell hard in Detroit. Even Seattle — who entered the day one game behind Baltimore for the second wild-card spot — blew a three-run lead in the ninth inning to lose to lowly Milwaukee.

A victory in the finale of the four-game set with Houston would have shrunk the Orioles’ American League East deficit to just 1 1/2 games and increased their lead over the Mariners. It wasn’t a must-win game, but it represented a valuable opportunity to salvage a four-game split, exhale, and regroup after allowing an unseemly 27 runs to the Astros the previous two nights.

Yovani Gallardo gave the Orioles exactly what they needed after poor performances by Wade Miley, Chris Tillman, and a host of long relievers had decimated the bullpen to the point that infielder Ryan Flaherty pitched the ninth inning of Saturday’s loss. Enduring two different rain delays, Gallardo allowed one run over the first four innings on Sunday.

Then, the fifth came.

Two-time Gold Glove third baseman Manny Machado bobbled a chopper off the bat of Teoscar Hernandez for an error to begin the inning. Four batters later, a Carlos Correa line drive to right-center went off the glove of right fielder Chris Davis for a two-run double that would give the Astros a 4-1 lead. Manager Buck Showalter said after the game that his normal first baseman had lost the ball in the lights, but the two defensive miscues led to three runs for Houston.

The bottom of the fifth wasn’t much better as Adam Jones singled home Nolan Reimold to make it a 4-2 deficit, but the center fielder overslid second base as he advanced on the throw home and was then tagged out, ending the inning and adding a baserunning mistake to the poor defense in the top half of frame.

Taking nothing away from a strong eight-inning performance by 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, the Orioles cost themselves dearly in that fateful inning. Of course, it didn’t help that the bats largely fell silent again after the Baltimore pitching hadn’t given them much of a chance on Friday or Saturday.

Gallardo deserved better over his seven solid innings of work, but the Orioles have done whatever it takes to lose on this current homestand. In a two-game sweep against Boston, little went right across the board. After a 13-5 blowout victory over the Astros in the series opener, the Orioles made major league history Friday night by homering four times before recording a single out and amazingly lost by seven as Miley and the bullpen surrendered a combined 15 runs.

Despite falling to just 11 games over .500 for the first time since June 22, the math tells you the Orioles are still in fine shape and only a modest winning streak away from potentially being back in first place. But it doesn’t feel that way with a maddeningly inconsistent offense, a shorthanded bullpen, and a starting rotation reverting to its first-half form after showing some improvement since the All-Star break.

Since a four-game winning streak in which they swept Cleveland and won the opener of a series with Colorado to improve to an AL-best 58-40 on July 25, the Orioles have gone 9-16 and have been passed by both the Blue Jays and the Red Sox in the division.

It isn’t panic time yet, but losing the final three games against Houston — a team that came to Baltimore having lost four in a row and 13 of its previous 19 — felt alarmingly reminiscent of last year’s four-game home sweep to Minnesota that led to a stretch of 12 losses in 13 games ending any real chance of making the postseason. Of course, the Orioles are in better position now than last year at that point, but their 2016 season appears to be at a crossroads.

The offense has slumped for the better part of six weeks now, once again too dependent on the home run. Dating back to the last West Coast trip, the last six hits apiece from Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo have all been homers, illustrating the largely all-or-nothing performance from the lineup.

The health of No. 1 starter Chris Tillman remains in question despite him saying his shoulder felt fine after his worst start of the season on Saturday. Acquired at the deadline to fortify the rotation, Miley is sporting a 9.53 ERA in his four starts with the Orioles.

The bullpen is once again without Darren O’Day, who doesn’t appear particularly close to returning from a strained rotator cuff. Closer Zach Britton has been nothing short of brilliant all year, but getting to him is becoming increasingly difficult with fellow All-Star reliever Brad Brach struggling since the break.

The Orioles had been nearly invincible at Camden Yards this season in winning 70 percent of their games there, but they no longer have the best home mark in the majors after dropping six of their last seven in Baltimore.

No, things aren’t always as bad as they seem when a team is struggling like the Orioles are right now. The good news is that they didn’t lose any ground Sunday with their competitors all falling.

But instead of stopping the bleeding and starting to reverse their recent fortunes, the wound grew deeper in another frustrating loss.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 5-2 win over Mariners

Posted on 19 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 5-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners 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 38th game of the 2016 season.

1st Matt Wieters entered Wednesday with just four extra-base hits on the season before hitting his third home run of 2016 in the second, collecting an RBI double in the fourth, and scoring an insurance run after another double in the eighth. It was the third time in his career in which he registered three extra-base hits in a game and the first one since May 26, 2013 in Toronto. He also made his 700th career start at catcher, becoming the fourth Orioles backstop to accomplish the feat behind Rick Dempsey, Chris Hoiles, and Gus Triandos.

2ndChris Tillman continued his early-season roll by winning his fifth straight start, completing 6 1/3 innings and allowing two runs and four hits while striking out six and walking three. Despite giving up his first homer since April 8 — a stretch of 44 2/3 innings between long balls — Tillman has now struck out at least six hitters in each of his last five starts. He ran his record to 6-1 and now has recorded six consecutive quality starts to match his career high. Tillman is now 7-0 with a 2.96 ERA in nine career starts against the Mariners, who traded him to Baltimore as part of the Erik Bedard trade in 2008.

3rdZach Britton recorded his first five-out save since Aug. 10, 2015 — also against Seattle — and did his best work in the eighth when he inherited a bases-loaded, one-out situation in a 4-2 game and proceeded to strikeout Dae-Ho Lee and induce a grounder from Chris Iannetta to escape the jam. The lefty is now 11-for-11 in save situations to begin the season and passed Jorge Julio for sole possession of fifth place on the Orioles’ all-time saves list with 84 in his career.

HomeMark Trumbo hit a long home run to left in the second inning to put the Orioles on the board early after Tuesday night’s shutout and added a single and a run scored in the fourth. He is now leading the club with 12 home runs on the young season. … Joey Rickard has reached base safely in 11 consecutive games, his second on-base streak of 11 or more games this season. … Making his major-league-best 200th consecutive start, Manny Machado has only one hit in his last 22 at-bats. … The Orioles will send Tyler Wilson to the hill in search of a series win on Wednesday afternoon while Seattle starts right-hander Nathan Karns.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 10-0 loss to Mariners

Posted on 17 May 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 10-0 defeat to the Seattle Mariners 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 37th game of the 2016 season.

1st — It didn’t take much for Tuesday’s game to get out of hand, but a pair of 0-2 counts handled poorly by Orioles pitching in the fifth inning turned a close game into a blowout. Ubaldo Jimenez had given up a one-out single to Nori Aoki and was ahead 0-2 on Seth Smith before eventually walking him to put two men on for the heart of the Seattle order. This spelled trouble as Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz registered back-to-back RBI singles to extend the lead from 2-0 to 4-0. Brian Matusz then entered and quickly got ahead 0-2 on Kyle Seager before throwing a 90 mph fastball right down the middle that was clubbed for a three-run home run to make it 7-0 in the fifth. It was elementary after that.

2nd — It may not have mattered that much with the pitching struggles, but the Orioles bats failing to register a pulse put little pressure on Wade Miley, who entered the night with a 4.91 ERA and had given up eight homers in his first seven starts. In the first, the Orioles walked twice and made the Seattle lefty throw 30 pitches, but they didn’t seriously challenge him again until it was 10-0 in the bottom of the sixth. Baltimore was shut out for the third time all season and registered a season-low two hits in the lopsided defeat.

3rd — He was able to limit the damage to two runs in the first, but a 34-pitch opening frame from Jimenez set a bad tone coming off Sunday’s late-inning stumble. Their seven-game winning streak was bound to end, but the Orioles had to wait around 48 hours to get back on the diamond and their starter put them in a hole before they even stepped to the plate for the first time. Jimenez settled in for the second, third, and fourth, but the damage was done at the beginning and end of his outing as his ERA has ballooned to 5.60 after giving up six runs in 4 1/3 innings, his shortest start of the season.

Home — Entering the game to face a lineup featuring seven of nine hitters swinging from the left side, Matusz retired only two of the seven left-handed bats he faced as Seager’s three-run shot and Cano’s RBI double to left-center an inning later were particularly crippling. In 2016, left-handed hitters have gone 5-for-11 with a home run and five walks against the Orioles’ lefty specialist, who is sporting a 12.00 ERA in seven appearances since being activated from the disabled list on April 23. … Cruz went 3-for-3 with a home run, a walk, and five RBIs against his former club and has now hit safely in his last 13 games at Camden Yards, a streak dating back to Sept. 12, 2014. … Vance Worley pitched three scoreless innings and has now registered seven straight scoreless relief outings covering 13 innings this season. … Chris Davis recorded the only extra-base hit of the night for the Orioles with a double in the sixth inning. … Former Oriole and St. Paul’s grad Steve Johnson pitched a scoreless ninth for Seattle. … Chris Tillman goes to the hill trying to snap the Orioles’ two-game skid on Wednesday night while the Mariners will start right-hander Taijuan Walker.

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Nothing surprising about Ravens in blowout defeat

Posted on 13 December 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The most depressing part of the Ravens’ 35-6 loss to Seattle on Sunday was it not being surprising.

Maybe quarterback Jimmy Clausen played a little better than most predicted. And after showing improvement against a list of underwhelming offenses in recent weeks, the Baltimore defense didn’t perform as well as expected — or at least hoped — by fans.

But was there anything else all that unexpected about the injury-ravaged Ravens being blown out by the two-time defending NFC champion and red-hot Seahawks?

Everything felt off at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, a venue that’s hosted so many meaningful December games over the last 16 years. Not only was the contest originally scheduled to be a nationally-televised Sunday night game, but it kicked off a three-game homestand, the kind of scheduling the Ravens would typically embrace when in the midst of the playoff race.

Instead, the seating bowl was virtually empty in the fourth quarter after Russell Wilson threw his fifth touchdown pass of the game and third to Doug Baldwin.

“It was bad. [The pass defense] has to be better than that,” said head coach John Harbaugh, who unsurprisingly labeled Sunday’s performance the “worst” of the season. “It’s no individual guy’s fault; it’s just not as good as it needs to be. I’ll take responsibility for that. We have to play way, way better pass defense.”

In addition to Clausen becoming the first quarterback not named Joe Flacco to start a home game for the Ravens since Dec. 30, 2007, just four of the 14 offensive skill position players — quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends — active for Sunday were even on the 53-man roster at the start of October. After Eugene Monroe was placed on injured reserve a day earlier, guard Kelechi Osemele made his first NFL start at left tackle.

Perhaps the best reflection of just how depleted the roster is, right guard Marshal Yanda was the last player out of the tunnel as the Ravens introduced the starting offense before the game. Taking nothing away from the four-time Pro Bowl selection and one of the best players in franchise history, but an offensive lineman being the last player announced doesn’t exactly energize a crowd already struggling through a miserable season.

Where have you gone Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs — or even Joe Flacco and Steve Smith?

At least the weather was beautiful for a mid-December day?

It was the worst home loss since 2013 when New England handed the Ravens a 41-7 defeat in Week 16. Their six points were their lowest output since a 20-3 loss at Indianapolis in the 2009 postseason, and it was the first time Baltimore failed to score a touchdown in a game since Justin Tucker kicked six field goals in a win at Detroit on Dec. 16, 2013. The Ravens’ 28 rushing yards were the second-lowest total under Harbaugh.

But what did you really expect with a quarterback claimed off waivers less than three weeks ago leading an injury-depleted unit against one of the best defenses in the NFL?

Clausen wasn’t the one who gave up five touchdown passes on Sunday.

The Ravens ended all discussion about the defense making recent progress as they failed to record a sack for the first time since Week 16 of last year. At least they aren’t alone in falling victim to Wilson recently as the fourth-year quarterback has thrown a whopping 16 touchdowns without an interception in his last four games.

But beyond the season-ending injury to Terrell Suggs in the opener, the Baltimore defense can’t use injuries as an excuse in the same way that the opposite side of the ball can. It’s clear the unit needs an infusion of talent to bolster the pass rush and secondary this offseason.

“We already know how tough it is. I’m not going to stand here and make excuses,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “We know what the situation is. We know what we came from. We know what we don’t have. Playing in games against teams that are fighting to make the playoffs is going to be even tougher on us. Obviously, you saw that today.”

Officially eliminated from playoff contention and having clinched the first losing season of the Harbaugh era, the Ravens will now compete in their first games since 2007 knowing they have nothing to play for beyond pride. It isn’t about accountability at this point — that will come after the season — as we know what’s been wrong with this football team for three months, with injuries only turning problems into full-blown crises in recent weeks.

No, Sunday didn’t bring frustration as much as resignation for the Ravens — and their fans — against a strong football team, something they pride themselves in being most seasons. But certainly not this one as Seattle showed the Ravens just how far away they are from being a playoff-caliber team at the moment.

There will be plenty of time for discussion about which players and coaches will or won’t return in 2016.

But the final three games are just about survival while taking a peek at young players for the future.

Though Sunday was the first time all year that the Ravens have lost by more than one score, the lopsided defeat wasn’t remotely surprising.

It made for a sobering day at a place not used to such misery.

And feelings don’t figure to get much better before this season mercifully comes to an end in three weeks.

“It’s a test of our pride, and it’s a test for us as men,” linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “We have to care for one another, and we have to always do for each other. These aren’t the results that we want, and it’s not our time for this season, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have [anything] to play for.”

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Ravens-Seahawks: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 13 December 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — It’s 65 degrees in mid-December and Jimmy Clausen is the quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens.

Thanks a lot, climate change.

Yes, Clausen will start against the two-time defending champion Seattle Seahawks, becoming the sixth quarterback in NFL history to start twice against the same opponent in the same season while playing for two different teams. Playing for an injured Jay Cutler in Week 3, Clausen and the Chicago Bears were shut out in a 26-0 defeat on Sept. 27.

After being listed as questionable on the final injury report and missing practices all week, Matt Schaub is inactive with what was listed as a chest injury. The 34-year-old veteran was banged up significantly in last week’s loss to Miami, slamming his head against the ground and finishing the game with knee and shoulder soreness.

Promoted to the practice squad on Saturday, Bryn Renner will serve as the backup quarterback to Clausen. Renner spent the entire offseason and summer with the Ravens before being released from the practice squad in mid-December.

Perhaps an even more intriguing development than the quarterback situation is the Baltimore offensive line where Kelechi Osemele lined up at left tackle during pre-game warm-ups. Eugene Monroe was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a shoulder ailment on Saturday, but it appears that the Ravens have seen enough from second-year lineman James Hurst at the position.

Osemele is set to become a free agent at the end of the season, so it appears that the Ravens want to at least explore the possibility of him playing left tackle, the position he played at Iowa State before he was selected in the second round of the 2012 draft. This would be his first NFL start at left tackle.

As expected, tight end Crockett Gillmore (back) is inactive, meaning rookie Maxx Williams moves to the top of the depth chart. Despite sitting out last Sunday’s game with a concussion, Williams is active and will start with Gillmore out and fellow rookie Nick Boyle suspended for the rest of the season. Former practice-squad member Konrad Reuland will serve as the No. 2 tight end.

Former Seahawks receiver Chris Matthews is active for the Ravens after being promoted from the practice squad on Saturday. Third-year receiver Marlon Brown will miss his third straight game with a back injury.

The Ravens and Seahawks will be meeting for the fifth time in the regular season with the teams splitting the first four contests. Seattle is visiting M&T Bank Stadium for the first time since 2003, but the Seahawks have won the last two games played between these teams.

Sunday’s forecast in Baltimore calls for partly cloudy skies with temperatures reaching the mid-60s and winds up to four miles per hour, according to Weather.com.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Walt Coleman.

The Ravens will be wearing purple jerseys with black pants while Seattle dons its white tops with blue pants.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
QB Matt Schaub
WR Marlon Brown
CB Tray Walker
TE Crockett Gillmore
TE Richard Gordon
DT Carl Davis
DE Kapron Lewis-Moore

SEATTLE
WR B.J. Daniels
CB Tye Smith
FS Steven Terrell
RB Marshawn Lynch
OL Kristjan Sokoli
DE Demarcus Dobbs
DT Jordan Hill

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Ravens-Seahawks: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 12 December 2015 by Luke Jones

We’ve officially reached the silly season for the disappointing 2015 Ravens.

Starting left tackle Eugene Monroe became the latest to be placed on injured reserve on Saturday.

Starting tight end Crockett Gillmore is doubtful to play with a back injury and rookie Nick Boyle was suspended for the rest of the season, prompting the signings of tight ends Konrad Reuland and Richard Gordon earlier this week.

And Jimmy Clausen — who hasn’t even been a Raven for three weeks — is likely to start at quarterback against two-time defending NFC champion Seattle on Sunday. The Seahawks have won three straight games by a combined 56 points and sport a defense ranking fourth or better in virtually any significant category you can find.

You’ll excuse me if I’m having a difficult time taking these predictions seriously anymore.

Alas, it’s time to go on the record as the Ravens meet the Seahawks for just the fifth time ever with the teams having split the first four contests. Seattle is playing at M&T Bank Stadium for the first time since 2003, but has won each of the last two meetings with Baltimore.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to avoid clinching their first losing season since 2007 …

1. Clausen will not be shut out again against Seattle, but his performance won’t be pretty. The promotion of Bryn Renner to the 53-man roster on Saturday said everything you need to know about the Ravens’ confidence level in Matt Schaub being able to start against the Seahawks. Considering the depleted offensive cast, it doesn’t really matter who plays quarterback. Clausen is set to become the sixth quarterback in NFL history to start two games against the same team while playing for two different teams in one season. Sunday’s performance will go better than his Week 3 start for Chicago, but Clausen won’t throw for more than 150 yards and will commit two turnovers in an almost-impossible spot.

2. Buck Allen will lead the Ravens in receiving for the second straight week. Kamar Aiken has played respectably since becoming the de facto No. 1 receiver in place of Steve Smith, but he won’t be able to find room against Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, which will force Clausen to check down repeatedly to Allen out of the backfield. The rookie running back has been a bright spot, particularly with his ability to catch passes, and he will follow his 12-catch, 107-yard performance against Miami with 70-plus receiving yards. He won’t find much room between the tackles against the NFL’s third-ranked run defense, but Allen will still be Baltimore’s best option to move the chains on Sunday.

3. Russell Wilson will throw for two touchdowns and run for another. The Ravens defense has shown improvement in recent weeks, but that came against an underwhelming list of offenses. In addition to having the league’s top-ranked rush offense, Wilson has thrown a whopping 11 touchdown passes over his last three games without tossing an interception. Much like the dilemma they face every year when playing Ben Roethlisberger, the Ravens must find ways to make Wilson uncomfortable while still keeping him in the pocket. The defense will play well for stretches, but second-half fatigue will ultimately lead to Wilson making big plays with his arm and his legs.

4. Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett will combine to collect 3 1/2 sacks against an overwhelmed offensive line. Second-year tackle James Hurst has started six games in place of Monroe this year, but offensive coordinator Marc Trestman acknowledged that the Ravens have shuffled the offensive line during practices this week, making it possible that we see a new look on Sunday. Unfortunately, it won’t matter as Seattle’s pair of defensive ends will be too tough in addition to Clausen being indecisive in the pocket. Even if the Ravens had a full and healthy offense on the field, the Seahawks’ front would be a lot to handle. At this point, it almost seems unfair.

5. The Ravens will break their streak of 12 consecutive games being decided by one possession in a 29-10 loss. It’s the NFL, so anything could happen. A few turnovers and a special-teams score or two can dramatically change the outlook of any game, but the Ravens are just too undermanned to objectively think they have much of a chance to win on Sunday. Considering the heart with which John Harbaugh’s team has competed throughout a trying season, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Ravens make it closer than most expect. But this one is far more likely to turn ugly than for the Ravens to pull off an upset, even playing at home.

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Ravens place Monroe on IR, promote Renner to 53-man roster

Posted on 12 December 2015 by Luke Jones

Veteran left tackle Eugene Monroe officially saw his 2015 season come to an end on Saturday.

The decision to place him on injured reserve could also represent the end of his time with the Ravens. Having already been ruled out for Sunday’s game against Seattle, Monroe hadn’t played since re-aggravating a previous shoulder ailment on Nov. 22 and started just six games this season, finishing three.

The shoulder was just the latest injury to plague the 28-year-old left tackle, who is in the second season of a five-year, $37.5 million contract that included $17.5 million guaranteed. After signing that deal in March 2014, Monroe will have started just 17 of 34 games (counting the postseason) through the 2015 season, often leaving the Ravens no choice but to turn to former undrafted free agent James Hurst at left tackle. Pro Football Focus has graded Hurst 75th out of 76 qualifying offensive tackles in the NFL while Monroe was 23rd, a disappointment considering his level of compensation.

Monroe’s early exit against St. Louis in Week 11 preceded Hurst falling into Joe Flacco’s left knee on the final drive of the game, causing two torn ligaments that required season-ending surgery for the franchise quarterback. After missing only four games in his first five seasons, the 2009 first-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars hasn’t been able to stay on the field at a crucial position after the Ravens made him one of the better-paid left tackles in the NFL.

Scheduled to make $6.5 million in base salary and to carry an $8.7 million cap figure for the 2016 season, Monroe is a candidate to be released with a pre-June 1 designation, which would clear $2.1 million in cap space. However, his release would leave $6.6 million in dead money on the 2016 salary cap and require general manager Ozzie Newsome to address the left tackle position via the draft, free agency, or the trade market.

With veteran Matt Schaub questionable for Sunday’s game with a chest injury and the recently-signed Jimmy Clausen likely to start against the Seahawks, the Ravens promoted quarterback Bryn Renner from the practice squad on Saturday, a clear sign pointing toward Schaub not playing. Renner spent the entire offseason with the Ravens before being cut in early September. He was signed to the practice squad earlier in the week.

Baltimore also promoted former Seahawks wide receiver Chris Matthews to the 53-man roster and waived guard Kaleb Johnson. Matthews was signed to the practice squad on Nov. 23 and was a standout performer in Super Bowl XLIX, catching four passes for 109 yards and a touchdown in the 28-24 loss to New England.

Having been on the practice squad since the start of the season, Johnson was promoted to the active roster on Nov. 30 and appeared in one game. The Rutgers product would figure to be a strong candidate to be re-signed to the practice squad should he clear waivers.

Rookie safety Nick Perry was also re-signed to the practice squad on Saturday.

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