Tag Archive | "Ty Wigginton"

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Aubrey or Turner should get the Call

Posted on 18 May 2010 by dansoderberg

We’ve seen enough of Garrett Atkins.  It’s mid-May and the Oriole 1st Baseman has yet to homer as has driven in a whopping 6 runs.  Atkins’ lack of production is so shockingly putrid that you almost have to assume there is something physically wrong with him.  Every time he bats he squints like he’s staring into the Sun.  Maybe he needs glasses, or a B-12 shot.

It’s time for MacPhail and the Birds to punt Atkins and find a solution at first base.  There are 2 options at AAA Norfolk; 1) Michael Aubrey or 2) Justin Turner.  In my opinion the Orioles should recall Turner and put him at 2nd base full time until Roberts returns.  Ty Wigginton should shift to 1st, immediately improving the team’s up the middle defense, adding speed to the lineup and providing the team with a more appropriate #2 hitter in Turner.  I’m not saying Justin Turner is leading the O’s to the Wild Card, but he can’t be any worse than Atkins; and anything that gets Wigginton off of 2nd base is an improvement.  The other option would be to recall Michael Aubrey (.802 OPS and 3 hrs for Norfolk) and make him the every day first sacker for the foreseeable future.  When, and if, Brian Roberts returns Wigginton should shift to 1st.  Then in the off season MacPhail should open up his prospect vault and MASN coffers to find a legit, long-term option at first.

I doubt we’ll see Nolan Reimold at 1B for the O’s any time soon.  The club’s handling of the young OFer this season has been curious at best.  Reimold was coming off an achilles injury in the Spring and probably should have been DLed to start the season.  His struggles at the plate may or may not be related to the injury, but he certainly carried those struggles to the field.  They finally sent him to Norfolk to get his swing, and confidence, back to 2009 levels.  The decision to then move him to 1B before he’s corrected his issues at the plate are baffling and hopefully don’t further derail Nolan’s 2010 season.

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Same old story as Orioles waste chances, lose 4-3 to Kansas City

Posted on 17 May 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Even after missing countless opportunities throughout the night, the Orioles managed to load the bases in the ninth for Ty Wigginton and Miguel Tejada, the two biggest run producers for an otherwise putrid lineup. There wasn’t much more you could ask for, being down a run with your No. 3 and 4 hitters coming to the plate.

They again failed to take advantage as Wigginton struck out and Tejada grounded to second, and the Orioles fell 4-3 to the Kansas City Royals on Monday night.

Manager Dave Trembley uttered the same words after the game that we’ve heard countless times this season, but the tone was different. His voice was filled with anger and frustration, far more emotion than we typically hear from the maligned skipper.

“There’s nothing for me to say other than the fact that we’re getting the opportunities and not cashing them in,” Trembley said in one of the shortest post-game press conferences you’ll ever hear.

What more is there to say? What else can you ask other than the same questions offered night after night?

Every time you begin to think this team might begin a run of better baseball—sorry, but 10-11 over their last 21 games doesn’t cut it—we see a meltdown like we did Saturday night and a tailspin immediately thereafter. The Orioles have now lost three in a row to two teams with a combined 30-44 record.

On the bright side, only a couple thousand people were at the ballpark (9,299 was the paid attendance) on a rainy night to witness the Orioles lose to one of the worst teams in baseball—a Kansas City team now three games ahead of them in a battle to avoid the title of worst record in the American League.

In what was supposed to be an opportunity to put together a string of victories against three of the worst teams in the league, the Orioles stand just 3-4 on the current homestand, needing a win tomorrow to avoid a losing record. This eight-game stretch was a chance to improve their embarrassing record. After facing the toughest teams the American League had to offer in the season’s first five weeks, the Orioles were licking their chops to face the Mariners, Indians, and Royals this past week.

Instead, they had their own chops busted once again.

The Orioles were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base. They’re hitting just .120 with runners in scoring position in their 27 losses this year.

The club has scored fewer than four runs in 25 of 39 games this season, an appalling statistic continuing to get worse. Unsurprisingly, the club is just 2-23 in those 25 games.

They’ve hit into 45 double plays (second to only the Minnesota Twins), a stat that sounds insignificant until you realize the Orioles are also 13th in on-base percentage in the American League. At least they’re maximizing their opportunities in that regard.

While the Orioles have faced their share of imposing American League pitchers in the opening quarter of the season, opposing starters have pitched six innings or more 29 times this season. Make excuses if you want, but CC Sabathia isn’t taking the hill every night against this anemic lineup.

Unacceptable.

Changes need to be made. Many of them.

The players aren’t performing nearly as well as they need to, but Trembley and hitting coach Terry Crowley are responsible for that lack of production. If not, why even have a coaching staff if it’s supposedly all about the players?

Roster deficiencies have played an overwhelming part, but that doesn’t mean Trembley and Crowley are worthy of keeping their jobs either. The two are not mutually exclusive. At some point, you need to try a different message from a different group of coaches.

Garrett Atkins was 0-for-3, lowering his average to .236 as he continues to take up space at first base. Whether it’s Michael Aubrey or Boog Powell, there has to be someone out there who can give the Orioles better production.

Adam Jones has hit better of late but still sits at .245, making his 2009 All-Star appearance seem more and more like a distant memory. Why not move Corey Patterson to center for a few games to instill a little more urgency in the young outfielder?

And why is Lou Montanez still on the roster? The outfielder—hitting .114—hasn’t played since Cinco de Mayo. If Trembley doesn’t have any faith in him, bring up someone else who can try to help the team.

Wholesale changes are needed. And sorry, Corey Patterson for Nolan Reimold won’t cut it, though Patterson has played well in his brief time back in Baltimore.

Einstein said the true definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Andy MacPhail and the Orioles continue to explore and evaluate their options while waiting for conditions to get better. But nothing happens and losses continue to mount as the offensive numbers grow uglier and uglier.

Yes, losing Brian Roberts hurt. Having Felix Pie would have allowed the team to push Jones more seriously. And true, the schedule was tough.

But the excuses only go so far for a team currently on pace to win 50 games.

MacPhail’s inability to supplement the roster with legitimate big-league talent in the off-season and his choice to retain Trembley has left the Orioles an embarrassing 12-27 mess with a young core of positional talent looking less impressive everyday.

It’s time for MacPhail to start making changes.

By no means is it an easy job, but the mess isn’t going to clean itself with more waiting.

Might as well start now.

Check out the final box score here and the pre-game notes below.

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***Join us right now in the Orange Crush chat to talk about tonight’s game!***

BALTIMORE — Happy Monday from a dreary Oriole Park at Camden Yards as the Orioles (12-26) and Royals (14-24) prepare for a brief two-game series getting underway tonight at 7:05 p.m. (weather permitting).

After a brief three-game winning streak against Seattle and Cleveland, the Orioles appeared to be on their way to a successful homestand entering the ninth on Saturday night.

Eight ninth-inning runs on Saturday and a listless 5-1 loss on Sunday now leaves the club at 3-3 after the first two legs and thinking about the missed opportunities over the weekend. Of course, it’s the same story throughout the first quarter of the season for this team, currently sitting in the cellar and 14 1/2 games behind the first-place Rays.

It’s hard to find any compelling reasons to be excited about two last-place teams playing on a rainy Monday night in the middle of May, but tonight’s game brings a special significance for Brad Bergesen. While in the midst of a very successful rookie season, Bergesen took the hill last July 30 against these same Royals.

Of course, he didn’t pitch again in his rookie season after taking a wicked line drive to the left shin from Kansas City first baseman Billy Butler. It was a very disappointing—not to mention scary—conclusion to an encouraging first season in Baltimore for the 24-year-old righty.

Tonight will mark Bergesen’s first start against the Royals since the injury, and Butler will be hitting cleanup for Kansas City. While Bergesen has pitched extremely well in his three starts since returning from a brief stint in Triple-A Norfolk, he clearly wants to prove the incident is fully behind him tonight.

Here are tonight’s lineups:

Kansas City
LF Scott Podsednik
2B Mike Aviles
RF David DeJesus
1B Billy Butler
DH Jose Guillen
3B Alberto Callaspo
CF Mitch Maier
SS Betancourt
C Jason Kendall

SP Kyle Davies (2-2, 5.22 ERA)

Baltimore
LF Corey Patterson
RF Nick Markakis
2B Ty Wigginton
3B Miguel Tejada
DH Luke Scott
C Matt Wieters
CF Adam Jones
1B Garrett Atkins
SS Cesar Izturis

SP Brad Bergesen (3-2, 5.76 ERA)

Don’t forget to join us in the Orange Crush chat tonight at 7:00 p.m., as WNST personalities will discuss tonight’s action from Camden Yards. As always, remember to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the quickest updates and quips about tonight’s game.

Check back right here for updates (time-stamped below) leading right up to first pitch at 7:05 p.m.
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6:25 p.m. — Just a few more notes to pass along before tonight’s game:

Brian Roberts will report to the minor league camp in Sarasota on Wednesday to continue baseball-related activities as he recovers from a herniated disc in his lower back. The second baseman has been on the disabled list since April 10 and was shifted to the 60-day DL last week. Roberts is eligible to return to the active roster on June 10 but would likely complete a lengthy minor league rehab stint to get back into baseball shape after missing most of spring training with the same injury.

Nolan Reimold may be readjusting to life in the minor leagues, but he will apparently need to get used to a new position as well. After taking some grounders at first base during spring training and sporadically since the start of the season, Reimold received a start at first for Norfolk on Sunday.

Manager Dave Trembley made it no secret the club is exploring any possible option at first base, and Reimold would appear to be a logical candidate given his mobility issues in the outfield after suffering the Achilles injury last season. Of course, the move would also be prefaced by Reimold straightening things out offensively after being demoted to Triple A last week with a .205 average.

If Reimold continues to play primarily at first, it could mean Brandon Snyder being sent down to Bowie. After entering the season as a viable prospect, Snyder is hitting just .200 with the Tides and has struggled to adjust to the Triple-A level. Not a good sign for a player the Orioles hoped could emerge as their first baseman of the future.

6:15 p.m. — It’s no secret the first base position has been an abomination for the Orioles this season with Garrett Atkins taking the brunt of the criticism through the first quarter of the season.

In 38 games, the club has received a .226 batting average, no homers, 11 runs batted in, and six runs from the position. It’s hard to be that unproductive at a traditional power spot on the field.

General manager Andy MacPhail said earlier today that the club is exploring other options, both internally and outside of the organization. The problem is finding one.

If you’re looking within the organization, the club has already optioned Rhyne Hughes to Triple A, so the only other legitimate possibility at this point is Michael Aubrey who received 90 at-bats in Baltimore at the end of last season.

Aubrey made the most of his time in Baltimore, hitting .289 with four bombs and 14 RBI. After struggling to begin the season in Norfolk, Aubrey has rebounded over the last couple weeks, hitting .256 with two homers and seven runs drive in.

Is he the answer? Of course not.

But when you’re talking about an upgrade over Atkins, it’s hard to go anywhere but up.

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Orioles climb small hill against Red Sox this weekend

Posted on 02 May 2010 by Luke Jones

As the Orioles travel to New York Sunday evening, Dave Trembley will take a deep breath, smile, and maybe even light up a cigar in a brief celebration.

After an exciting weekend at Camden Yards and taking a broom out of the closet to finish off the Red Sox, the Orioles (7-18) will enjoy their first three-game home sweep against Boston since 1974 (a stat that’s a bit misleading as they had a four-game sweep over Boston in 1998, but surprising nonetheless).

“It’s just great for the team, individuals who have gone through a lot of pain and mimicry for 30 days,” Trembley said. “I believe we’ve gotten through the worst. The good days are ahead.”

Maybe so, but reality will set in again Monday morning.

After outplaying a team they went 2-16 against in 2009, the club still finds itself 11 games below .500 and 11 games behind first-place Tampa Bay. As satisfying as the weekend was at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, it was merely a small climb after the Orioles threw themselves off a cliff in the first month of the season.

Make no mistake, it feels good—especially sending the thousands of Boston fans who once again invaded Baltimore home unhappy—but these three wins don’t count any more than the 18 losses accumulated in the first month of the season. As much as we’ll hear the silly claims of being 2-0 in May and it being a new season, the same issues plaguing the club during a 4-18 start—one of the 12 worst in MLB history since 1900—are still there.

Brian Roberts is weeks—or even months—away from returning to the top of the order while Adam Jones struggles to settle into the role. The bullpen remains in flux with the current closer only a year removed from Tommy John surgery and the previously reliable Jim Johnson trying to regain his form at Triple-A Norfolk. And the hitting, while improved, still ranks near the bottom of every significant category in the American League.

The questions surrounding general manager Andy MacPhail’s off-season acquisitions of closer Mike Gonzalez (on the disabled list) and first baseman Garrett Atkins (replaced by minor leaguer Rhyne Hughes) and the front office’s willingness to spend money in free agency are as loud as ever.

Trembley has likely bought himself more time after a very solid week of baseball against the team’s two biggest bullies, but his seat is still too hot to touch.

This is still very much a bad baseball team, weekend sweep or not.

Even with the hope created after sending Red Sox Nation into a mode of panic after being swept by the lowly Orioles, it doesn’t get any easier as the Orioles travel to the Bronx to finish up the current 12-game stretch against the Red Sox and Yankees after going 5-4 in the first nine. Following three at Yankee Stadium, the Orioles travel to brand-new Target Field to take on the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins for four more.

After playing so well against a struggling Red Sox team this weekend, it’s conceivable to think the Orioles might hold their own over the seven-game road trip against two of the best teams in the American League, but they could just as easily go 1-6 without too many batting an eyelash.

If we can take anything away from a fulfilling weekend at Camden Yards, we witnessed an Orioles team finally playing with a pulse and overcoming adversity after coming from behind in two of the three games and winning two extra-inning games.

Veterans Ty Wigginton and Miguel Tejada continue to swing red-hot bats to lead the offense, but Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, and Adam Jones are beginning to shake off the cobwebs of slow starts and play more like the talents so many in Baltimore are excited about. The team continues to get solid-to-good starts from the rotation, even if the starters have little to show for it in terms of wins.

Will it be enough to sustain the current stretch of improved baseball?

“We’re starting to learn how to win a little bit,” said starter Kevin Millwood, who again failed to register his first win of the season Sunday despite pitching eight strong innings. “I think we’re starting to realize that we’re a better team than people give us credit for. It really was a very good homestand.”

The Orioles will have the opportunity to fly under the radar for the foreseeable future—the national media is already talking about Boston’s embarrassment of being swept by lowly Baltimore—so it will be possible to catch some teams napping if they can play good baseball in the process.

A disastrous April cannot be erased, but the club can slowly begin to regain the cautious optimism that existed a month ago by playing inspired baseball like we saw over the weekend against the hated Red Sox.

It won’t be easy and even if they do, it won’t catapult the team to contention or even a .500 record, but it can create a feeling not enjoyed at any point throughout the month of April. A feeling relished by the Orioles fans who walked out of the ballpark late Sunday afternoon.

A tiny bit of pride.

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Notebook: Home runs lead Orioles past Red Sox, 12-9

Posted on 01 May 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — With two pitchers returning to the starting rotation for their respective teams, it was clear Saturday night’s game had the potential to become an offensive explosion, especially with the temperature soaring to the mid-80s in downtown Baltimore.

Twenty-one runs, 24 hits, and nine home runs later, the Orioles (6-18) bested the Boston Red Sox, 12-9, in a game filled with offense and short on pitching.

Baltimore’s 12 runs was a season high, besting their eight-run effort against the Oakland Athletics on April 18.

As he has for the entire 2010 season, Ty Wigginton led the offense with two home runs, including a solo blast in the fifth inning that ignited a six-run explosion that put the Orioles in front for good. Wigginton leads the club in nearly every run-producing category imaginable including home runs (8), runs batted in (14), average (.324), slugging percentage (.721), and on-base percentage (.413).

“I’m just executing my plan,” he said. “I try to come up with the best approach [at the plate] and stick with it. I’m executing it more times than I’m not.”

Manager Dave Trembley believes there’s a far simpler explanation, especially with Brian Roberts being on the disabled list for all but four games this season.

“You ask Ty and he’ll tell you if he gets his at-bats, he’ll put his numbers up. He’s getting his at-bats.”

It was Wigginton’s second multi-homer game of the season and the 11th of his career.

Markakis, Wieters connect

While both have been criticized for failing to connect for the long ball, Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters both connected for three-run blasts.

Markakis hit his against Tim Wakefield in the sixth inning to extend the Baltimore lead to 11-4. He matched his career high of five runs batted in, a feat he accomplished twice before and most recently against Boston on April 17, 2009. The right fielder has now reached base safely in 22 of 24 games this season and is 22 for his last 63 (.349).

“Nick Markakis is a pure hitter,” said Trembley. “He can hit, always has. Nick’s a guy that I don’t really concern myself with. Nick will be there at the end of the year with the numbers that he always puts up, and he’ll probably put up better numbers.”

While Markakis had the bigger night overall, Wieters’ opposite-field, three-run blast off Daisuke Matsuzaka broke a 4-4 tie in the fifth. It was the phenom catcher’s first home run since connecting off James Shields on Opening Night in Tampa Bay on April 6.

Bergesen returns to Baltimore

It wasn’t pretty, but Brad Bergesen notched his first victory of the season in his return to the starting rotation on Saturday night. After looking completely lost in his first three starts with a 12.19 ERA and seemingly falling apart mentally, Bergesen spent 11 days at Triple-A Norfolk, making one start last weekend for the Tides.

His sinker lacked the downward movement it showed last season, but Bergesen battled through five innings, giving up four runs, seven hits, two home runs, and striking out two.

“I’ve made some progress,” said Bergesen, who feels much better about his mental approach. “It’s still not quite where where it needs to be, but it’s going in the right direction right now.”

Bergesen improved to 1-2 and actually lowered his ERA to 10.57.

Simon Says: Save No. 2

Alfredo Simon received his second save opportunity Saturday night, and the new closer looked far more comfortable than he did in his prior two appearances this week.

After walking leadoff man Marco Scutaro, Simon struck out Dustin Pedroia and recorded the final two outs to pick up his second save and give the Orioles their first series win of the season.

“He didn’t overthrow like he did [Friday] night,” said Trembley. “[Friday] he was flying off that mound. Tonight he stayed back over the rubber, his split was a lot better. He didn’t try to throw it as hard.”

Beating Boston? Really?

After going just 2-16 against the Red Sox in 2009, the Orioles have already eclipsed that total in 2010 with their third straight win over Boston on Saturday night, the first coming at Fenway Park last Sunday. The Orioles lead the season series, 3-2.

Baltimore will go for its fourth straight victory over the Red Sox on Sunday, a feat it hasn’t accomplished since 2004.

“We got April behind us, which wasn’t the most pleasant of circumstances, but you have to put it behind you and keep fighting,” said Trembley.

In addition to securing their first series win of the season after dropping their first seven, the Orioles can complete a three-game sweep of Boston in Baltimore for the first time since Sept. 1974.

Check out the final box score here and the pre-game notes below, including details behind the demotion of reliever Jim Johnson to Triple-A Norfolk.
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BALTIMORE — Good afternoon from Oriole Park at Camden Yards as we await the second of a three-game set between the Orioles and Boston Red Sox at 7:05 p.m.

With last night’s dramatic 5-4 victory, thanks in large part to the bat of Miguel Tejada, the Orioles have already equaled last season’s win total against the Red Sox (2-16 in 2009) and have an opportunity to win their first series of the season if they can grab one of the next two games at Camden Yards.

The big news this afternoon is the demotion of reliever Jim Johnson to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for the return of Brad Bergesen to the starting rotation. The right-hander  struggled mightily in April with a 6.52 ERA and three blown saves in 10 appearances. I’ll have more on Johnson in a bit.

Here are tonight’s starting lineups:

Boston
SS Marco Scutaro
2B Dustin Pedroia
C Victor Martinez
1B Kevin Youkilis
RF J.D. Drew
DH David Ortiz
3B Adrian Beltre
LF Darnell McDonald
CF Jonathan Van Every

SP Daisuke Matsuzaka (first start of 2010)

Baltimore
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
C Matt Wieters
3B Miguel Tejada
DH Luke Scott
2B Ty Wigginton
1B Rhyne Hughes
LF Nolan Reimold
SS Cesar Izturis

SP Brad Bergesen (0-2, 12.19 ERA)

As we do for every Orioles game, please join us in the Orange Crush chat at 7:00 p.m. to discuss tonight’s happenings from Camden Yards. For the quickest updates and analysis of tonight’s game, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@WNST).

Continue to check right here for more updates (time-stamped below) leading up to first pitch at 7:05 p.m.

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5:45 p.m. — The other piece of news to pass along from Trembley’s pre-game comments was a slight adjustment in the appearance schedule for Koji Uehara at Triple-A Norfolk. The Japanese hurler will pitch in back-to-back games on Sunday and Monday, easing the burden of pitching on consecutive days by allowing him to pitch in a day game followed by a night game on Monday.

The skipper was adamant that it had nothing to do with any injury or health-related concern.

Personally, I’m not sure where he would have gotten the idea that we’d be wondering if it were. (Insert your favorite hamstring joke here.)

The club will assess where Uehara is at following Monday’s outing and decide whether it wants to activate him from the disabled list. Of course, that would mean a corresponding roster move after already optioning Johnson to Norfolk this afternoon.

There was no update on the timetable for Mike Gonzalez’s concern, but Trembley went on to say the pitcher is still pain-free in the midst of a strengthening program for his injured pitching shoulder.

5:35 p.m. — If you’ve been following my blog (and if you haven’t been, why not?), I’ve made my thoughts abundantly clear on the quick return of Brad Bergesen. In the club’s defense, it sounds as though it was planned all along for the young pitcher to make only one start in Norfolk before being recalled.

All parties involved seem to think his problems—both mechanical and mental—are solved, and we’ll now see the Bergesen who emerged as the team’s best starter in 2009 before missing the final two months of the season after taking a wicked line drive to the shin. If so, much credit belongs to the coaching staff at Triple-A Norfolk.

We can only hope, or the Orioles will find themselves right back where they were when Bergesen was sprinting off the mound, visibly shaken following a disastrous outing in Seattle less than two weeks ago.

4:55 p.m. — Speculation began flying Friday night about the possibility of Jim Johnson being demoted, especially after the right-hander pitched so poorly and Matt Albers followed it up with another good outing while picking up the victory in the 5-4 final. Johnson gave up three hits, walked two, and gave up a home run in his one inning of work Friday.

Most assumed earlier in the week that Albers would be the one to go with Bergesen returning to the big club, but three straight strong outings—not to mention the fact that he’s out of options—saved him from the chopping block and hoisted him back into Trembley’s good graces for now.

Johnson, who spent time as the team’s closer last season following the trade of George Sherrill, struggled to find any consistency in April. He failed in the closer role after Mike Gonzalez went on the disabled list and has struggled with his command, pitching to a 6.52 ERA and 1.97 WHIP in 2010.

“[It] was a tough decision, but it’s the best thing to do for Jim Johnson,” said Trembley. “We now have to have other guys step up.”

Trembley does not anticipate Johnson being in Norfolk for long but would not elaborate on any specific adjustments needed to be made after pitching coach Rick Kranitz and Trembley sat down with the reliever. The manager did say Johnson simply needs to find his “comfort zone” that has made him so dominant at times in his brief career.

Dating back to last season following the Sherrill trade, Johnson has pitched 31 1/3 innings with a 6.32 ERA. It’s clear something is off with the setup man, so perhaps a return to Triple A will allow him to clear his head and regain the form he displayed in 2008 and the first half of last season.

The Orioles certainly hope it works with Bergesen tonight.

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Tejada’s clutch bat leads Orioles past Red Sox, 5-4 in 10

Posted on 30 April 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — To say the Orioles have struggled in the month of April would be comparable to labeling Mount Everest as a “pretty big hill.”

Their record entering Friday night made them the 12th team to start a season 4-18 or worse since 1900. Not exactly the type of history you want to make. Only the hapless 1988 club has saved the current Orioles from suffering the worst start in franchise history.

The club looked to be well on its way to another disappointing loss after failing to capitalize with runners in scoring position and to protect the lead in the late innings. However, that outlook changed dramatically when Miguel Tejada stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth, connecting for a game-tying home run off Daniel Bard.

Tejada’s heroics weren’t finished as the game moved into extra innings, and he knocked in the winning run in the 10th to give the Orioles a 5-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards.

“I just put in my mind that I had to be able to relax,” said Tejada. “I know they had to throw me a strike, and I was lucky to get one pitch over the plate.”

Considering Tejada was one of the “big bats” acquired by general manager Andy MacPhail this offseason, it’s easy to be underwhelmed with his performance after watching Adrian Beltre sign with Boston and Chone Figgins with Seattle. In reality, Tejada has quietly put together a nice start in his first month back with the Orioles.

He leads the club with 13 runs batted in and has clubbed four home runs, second behind Ty Wigginton for the team lead. While his defense won’t make anyone forget about Brooks Robinson—or even Melvin Mora at this point—his transition to the hot corner hasn’t been nearly as painful as many expected.

“What it comes down to is getting the big hit when you need it from a guy who’s been there and that’s why Tejada is who he is,” said manager Dave Trembley. “He has the ability to rise to the occasion because he’s been there so many times.”

The Orioles have failed to rise to the occasion countless times over the first month of the season, so it was refreshing to finally see it happen, especially against the Red Sox.

Tejada hasn’t recaptured his 2004-level production and never will, but he’s been one of the select few to provide consistent offense in an otherwise miserable lineup. It’s astounding to think how much worse the lineup might be without him.

Then again, does it really matter when you’re 5-18?

Truthfully, the victory masked several of the recurring issues that have regularly cost this team ballgames in the month of April. Garrett Atkins’ comebacker to John Lackey with the bases loaded and no outs in the fourth squandered an opportunity to blow the game wide open and to knock the right-hander out of the game in the process. The first baseman—MacPhail’s other “big bat” acquired last winter—is now hitting .224 and appears to have lost his job to call-up Rhyne Hughes.

The pitching staff issued a season-high 10 walks, including five from the bullpen. Jim Johnson struggled mightily and blew his third save (in the seventh inning) of the season.

However, unlike far too many nights in the month of April, the Orioles found a way to pick up the victory instead of discovering a new method of losing as they’ve done so often in recent weeks.

And—for one night anyway—it’s a welcome change.

– The Orioles and Red Sox are now tied 2-2 in the season series. Friday night’s victory snapped a seven-game home losing streak against Boston.

– Now standing at 11-12, the Red Sox completed their first losing April since 1996.

– After dropping their first six series openers, Baltimore has now won two openers in a row. The club is still seeking its first series win of 2010.

– Nick Markakis has reached base safetly in 21 of 23 games this year and is now 19 for his last 59 (.322).

– Adam Jones picked up his sixth multi-hit game of the season. The outfielder is hitting .100 (7-70) in all other games this year.

– Of the 10 walks issued by Orioles pitchers, three were to No. 9 hitter and former Orioles first-round draft pick Darnell McDonald.

– J.D. Drew hit two home runs in Friday’s game, his 16th career multi-homer game.

– On Saturday night, Brad Bergesen will be recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to face Daisuke Matsuzaka who will be making his first start of the 2010 season.

Check out the final box score here and the pre-game notes below.

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**Join us right now in the Orange Crush chat as we’ll be talking baseball throughout the evening!**

Good evening and Happy Friday to you from the press box at Oriole Park at Camden Yards as we await the start of a three-game set between the Boston Red Sox (11-11) and the Baltimore Orioles (4-19).

Thankfully, the Yankees and their fans are long-gone, so the Orioles will again enjoy the benefits of a home—I’m sorry, I couldn’t even finish typing that. Walking into the ballpark this afternoon, the pink and green red and blue was prevalent as we can fully expect an overwhelming number of Boston fans to invade Camden Yards this weekend.

Shocking, I know.

Here are tonight’s starting lineups:

Boston
SS Marco Scutaro
2B Dustin Pedroia
C Victor Martinez
1B Kevin Youkilis
RF J.D. Drew
DH David Ortiz
3B Adrian Beltre
LF Jeremy Hermida
CF Darnell McDonald

SP John Lackey (2-1, 5.09 ERA)

Baltimore
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
C Matt Wieters
3B Miguel Tejada
LF Luke Scott
2B Ty Wigginton
DH Rhyne Hughes
1B Garrett Atkins
SS Cesar Izturis

SP David Hernandez (0-3, 4.84 ERA)

As we do for every Orioles game, please join us in the Orange Crush chat at 7:00 p.m. to discuss tonight’s happenings from Camden Yards. For the quickest updates and analysis of tonight’s game, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@WNST).

Continue to check right here for more updates (time-stamped below) leading up to Hernandez’s first pitch at 7:05 p.m.

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6:35 p.m. — In a bit of good news—relatively speaking of course—the Orioles announced reliever Wilfrido Perez has cleared waivers and will be outrighted to Double-A Bowie. The 25-year-old lefty was designated for assignment when the club purchased the contract of Alfredo Simon on Tuesday afternoon.

Perez has shown promise in his brief career despite a 10.80 ERA in five appearances for the Baysox in 2010.

The Orioles will need to make another move tomorrow when Bergesen returns from the minor leagues to make the start. Matt Albers could be the guy to go, though he is out of options and would have to clear waivers before being sent to the minors.

Of course, it wouldn’t exactly be devastating to lose the right-handed reliever who currently sports a 7.36 ERA.

5:45 p.m. — Both of tonight’s starting pitchers made their last starts against the same opponent last weekend at Fenway Park.

John Lackey earned the victory in a 7-6 final last Saturday night and is now 9-3 with a 3.21 ERA in 13 career starts against the Orioles.

Hernandez picked up a no decision last Sunday in a game the Orioles won. Imagine that. He is 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in five career starts against the Red Sox.

5:35 p.m. — Aside from another unacceptable takeover from the Bandwagon, the Orioles have lost seven straight games to Boston at Camden Yards. Everyone hates the annual takeovers, but at some point, you have to give fans a reason to want to come out to the ballpark and deal with Red Sox fans.

The Orioles’ performance certainly hasn’t done it.

5:25 p.m. — Tonight’s starting pitcher David Hernandez sports an ugly 0-3 record on the last day of April, but the young right-hander has not piched as poorly as his record indicates. As has been the case for the entire starting rotation—sans Brian Matusz until Thursday night—Hernandez has been the victim of shoddy run support.

The Orioles lineup has provided just 10 runs in his four starts with only two crossing the plate while Hernandez was still in the game. Even with a pedestrian 4.84 ERA, it’s clear he hasn’t received nearly enough support.

Keeping with starting pitcher news, Dave Trembley confirmed in his pre-game comments that Brad Bergesen would return from Triple-A Norfolk to make Saturday’s start against Daisuke Matsuzaka who himself will be making his first start of the 2010 season. Bergesen was originally scheduled to pitch for Norfolk tonight, but it wasn’t exactly a secret he would be getting the ball at Camden Yards on Saturday evening.

Trembley said Bergesen has made the necessary adjustments in his mechanics and pacing to return to the starting rotation despite only making one start for the Tides last weekend.

Regardless of how confident Trembley may be about Bergesen’s return, it’s hard to shake the image of Bergesen running off the mound in Seattle after a 2.2 inning performance in which he gave up seven runs (four earned). The lack of downward movement on his sinker was concerning enough, but his demeanor—one of the strengths of his rookie season—was alarming.

I still have a difficult time believing those issues are fixed in just an 11-day period, but we’ll see how he looks on Saturday night. If Bergesen struggles again, you really have to question the prudence of recalling the 24-year-old so soon when the club easily could have used Jason Berken for a spot start or two.

Of course, if Bergesen comes back and tosses a gem, all is well.

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Bullpen implodes as Orioles fall 8-6 to Tampa Bay

Posted on 13 April 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles looked to be cruising toward their second win of the season behind the left arm of Brian Matusz, leading 3-0 in the top of the eighth and the left-hander in control of the game.

However, after striking out Willy Aybar to start the eight, Matusz gave up four straight singles, losing the shutout and turning the game over to the Baltimore bullpen with the based loaded and one out.

From there it completely fell apart.

Despite 7.1 sparkling innings from Matusz—striking out eight, walking one, and surrendering six hits—the bullpen imploded, allowing all three inherited runners to score and giving up four runs of its own as the Orioles fell to the Rays in 10 innings, 8-6.

“Tonight was similar to what we’ve been seeing for the last week,” said manager Dave Trembley. “We’re not closing the games out out of the bullpen. We’re not getting outs when we need to get outs. It’s no one guy [alone].”

The Orioles (1-7) have now given up at least one run in the eight or ninth inning in every game this season, a dubious stat playing a large part in why they’re already six games below .500 a little over a week into the season. The club has now allowed an astonishing 21 runs in the eighth inning or later in just eight games.

While Mike Gonzalez’s two blown saves have earned him the most notable goat horns to begin the season, the lefty hasn’t thrown a pitch since Friday. And the Orioles have lost all four games in which he hasn’t appeared since.

Jim Johnson, the man some have called to replace Gonzalez as the closer despite struggling in the role late last season, pitched just a third of an inning before giving up a two-run single to Evan Longoria to complete the Tampa Bay comeback, tying the game at 3-3. Lefty Will Ohman followed Johnson and gave up two more hits, allowing the go-ahead runs to score as the Orioles fell behind 5-3 entering the bottom of the eighth.

A tremendous night from the talented young starter was completely wasted, because the bullpen could not pick him up.

The pen even received a chance at redemption as Luke Scott’s clutch, pinch-hit two-run homer tied it in the bottom of the eight as the game eventually moved to an extra inning.

In the 10th, despite having a fresh Jason Berken available to pitch, Trembley again went with a struggling Matt Albers, pitching in his third consecutive game after giving up a run on Monday. Albers did not retire a better, walking two before giving up a three-run shot to Carlos Pena, sealing the Orioles’ fate of a fifth straight loss and a 1-7 record.

Since his impressive Opening Day performance at Tropicana Field last week, things have fallen apart quickly for the long reliever, who was considered a question mark to make the team entering spring training before an injury to Koji Uehara opened a spot for him. Albers has walked five in 4.1 innings, pitching to a 10.38 ERA.

“The ball’s not down, and his curveball is just being taken,” said Trembley about Albers, who is out of options. “It’s not being thrown for a strike.”

The collective implosion of the bullpen is just another problem to add to the pile plaguing the Orioles as they complete the home stand Wednesday afternoon before traveling to Oakland Thursday to begin a seven-game West Coast trip (and finishing the road trip with three in Boston).

The little things continue to build up. An ineffective bullpen, failure to hit with men in scoring position, and critical errors have all contributed to heartbreaking losses for the Orioles over the last week.

You only begin to wonder how long the starting pitching is going to hold up. It’s arguably the one bright spot for this club right now.

“We’re playing hard one through nine,” said Matusz. “You could see it with Luke’s homer. We’re just coming up short and have to battle through this.”

– The Orioles went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position Tuesday night and are just 10-for-63 (.159) on the season. The club is even worse with two outs, hitting just 1-for-29 (.034) in the first eight games.

– Longoria’s two-run single that tied the game in the eighth inning gave him eight RBI on the season, all of which have come against the Orioles.

– Scott’s pinch-hit home run was the first for the Orioles since Ty Wigginton did it on Sept. 30, 2009 against James Shields of the Rays.

Five of the club’s eight homers have either tied the game or given it a lead.

– The Orioles will send Brad Bergesen to the hill looking to avoid the sweep tomorrow afternoon at 1:35 p.m. Lefty phenom David Price will take the ball for Tampa Bay.

Check out the final box score here and the pre-game notes below.

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Good evening from a cold, rainy Oriole Park at Camden Yards as the Orioles (1-6) prepare to face the Tampa Bay Rays (4-3) in the second of a three-game set, scheduled to get underway at 7:05.

The major news of the day is the new lineup filled out by Dave Trembley in hopes of pumping a pulse into an offense that has scored only three runs in its last three games and is 1-for-17 with RISP over the same stretch.

Miguel Tejada will hit second, Matt Wieters will slide into the cleanup role, and Adam Jones will now hit from the No. 5 spot in the order. The move comes as no surprise as the Orioles manager said in his post-game press conference last night that he had to “show a different look” to get things going.

Here are tonight’s lineups:

Tampa Bay
SS Jason Bartlett
2B Sean Rodriguez
RF Ben Zobrist
3B Evan Longoria
1B Carlos Pena
CF B.J. Upton
DH Willy Aybar
C Dioner Navarro
LF Gabe Kapler

SP Jeff Niemann (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Baltimore
LF Felix Pie
3B Miguel Tejada
RF Nick Markakis
C Matt Wieters
CF Adam Jones
DH Nolan Reimold
1B Garrett Atkins
2B Ty Wigginton
SS Cesar Izturis

SP Brian Matusz (1-0, 3.60 ERA)

The tarp is currently on the field, but the weather forecast does look promising in terms of seeing baseball this evening. How many people will be in the stands is an entirely different story.

Tonight is Matt Wieters T-shirt night, so I would imagine the promotion gave a boost to advanced sales for tonight’s game.

As always, please join WNST.net’s Orange Crush chat, beginning at 7:00 p.m. with Comcast Morning Show host Drew Forrester hosting and a variety of other WNST.net personalities chiming in throughout the evening. Also, remember to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the quickest news and updates from Camden Yards.

Check back right here for updates (time-stamped below) leading up to the scheduled first pitch at 7:05. At that point, I’ll be switching over to the Orange Crush to provide my thoughts.
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6:55 p.m. — I’m about to move over to the Orange Crush chat, but I thought I’d leave you with this surprising nugget of information.

The Orioles’ .158 average with runners in scoring position ranks 30th out of 30 teams in the big leagues.

I’m floored.

Things HAVE to turn around tonight, don’t they? See you in the live chat.

6:50 p.m. — While Brian Roberts has been the focal point on the injury front, we received word today that Koji Uehara was scheduled to throw another bullpen session in Sarasota this afternoon. As he did on Sunday, the Japanese righty was expected to throw 25 pitches in the session as he works his way back in shape after a left hamstring injury sidelined him during spring training.

6:30 p.m. — In an effort to change up their luck, the Orioles will wear their orange batting practice jerseys for tonight’s game. Let’s hope it works.

Of course, it’s not quite the same look as this:
Orioles

It’s sad to think three of the four 20-game winners are no longer with us.

5:56 p.m. — The grounds crew is currently removing the trap from the field, so it looks like we’ll have baseball tonight as expected.

Despite the less-than-ideal conditions, tonight’s game provides an attractive pitching duel as Brian Matusz gets the ball in his second start against right-hander Jeff Niemann. Matusz was uncharacteristically wild in his first start in Tampa, walking five batters while striking out seven in five innings. However, the young lefty finished strongly and secured the only victory of the season for the club.

On the opposite side, Niemann was knocked out in the second inning after taking a line drive to the pitching shoulder from Tejada. It was a scary scene at the time, but the Rays pitcher sustained only a bruise and is not expected to be limited tonight. Niemann had a successful 2009, going 13-6 with a 3.94 ERA. The 6-9 righty will definitely provide a challenge to the Baltimore lineup, as if it needed one currently.

Much has been said about the high hopes for Matusz as a potential No. 1 in the future, but the Orioles will need him to pitch like an ace tonight. At 1-6 and a seven-game West Coast trip looming after the series finale against Tampa Bay tomorrow afternoon, the club needs something to feel good about to hopefully build some momentum.

If not, things could spiral even further out of control.

No pressure on the 23-year-old though, right?

5:23 p.m. — Mike Gonzalez is back with the team after traveling back to Arizona to be with wife for the birth of his daughter, so the big question on everyone’s mind is whether he’ll received the ball in the ninth inning in a save situation.

Trembley has implied that Gonzalez will be eased back into the closer role while working on his mechanics with pitching coach Rick Kranitz, citing a preference for the team to have a big lead in the final inning.

Any lead in the ninth inning would be acceptable at this point, but that’s just me.

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Record-low crowd watches Orioles sink even lower

Posted on 12 April 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Orioles dropped another game 5-1 to the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but fewer people watched it than any other in the history of the beautiful 19-year-old ballpark.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

The picture, taken about 15 minutes before first pitch, says it all. Very few people entered the gates afterward as the the paid attendance of 9,129 was a record low, breaking the previous all-time low of 10,130 set on May 26, 2009 against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The number of actual people in the stands was far lower—probably around 4,000 by best estimation—but we’ve been through that discussion time and time again.

The excuses will start.

It’s April; the kids are in school.

The weather isn’t nice (It was only a frigid 66 degrees, after all).

Tampa Bay isn’t an attractive team to watch (It’s clear very few think the Orioles are either).

Did the small crowd bother the players?

“No, not at all,” said right fielder Nick Markakis. “We still have to go out and play. I could care less if there is nobody in the stands. You have to go out and play and can’t worry about that kind of stuff.”

Markakis’ words certainly don’t translate well to print, but I’ll give him a pass on this one. He lives in the community, is very charitable, and is clearly frustrated with the 1-6 start to the season. His underlying point was the need for the team to focus on improving and no other outside distractions.

A poor choice of words though.

Starter Jeremy Guthrie, who pitched well in a losing effort against Tampa Bay pitcher Matt Garza, took a more diplomatic approach in offering his thoughts about the crowd, citing the enthusiasm exhibited on Opening Day as proof that fans still care about the Orioles.

“I think if we do our part, [the attendance will] turn around.”

Quite frankly, the Orioles haven’t been a team worth forking over any amount of money for a ticket—plus the $2 day-of-game surcharge—in the first seven games of the season.

While Guthrie was strong for a second straight start to begin the season—pitching seven innings and giving up three earned runs—Garza silenced the Orioles bats over eight innings (allowing only a Felix Pie home run to lead off the bottom of the first) to pick up his second win of the season.

“He’s shown himself to be one of the better pitchers in the league,” said manager Dave Trembley.

Again, the Baltimore lineup was anemic, as the Orioles are now just 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position over their last three games and 9-for-57 (.158) for the season. The Orioles have scored three runs in their last three games. They’ve touched home plate in only two of their last 28 innings.

Must I go on?

Something needs to change quickly. From top to bottom—with a modest nod to Miguel Tejada and Matt Wieters—this lineup has been completely outmatched by numerous pitchers.

When asked about the possibility of shaking up the lineup, Trembley was receptive but offered nothing specific.

“Yeah, I probably should do something. Maybe just to show a different look.”

He’d better.

Whether he puts them in numerical order, alphabetical order, shortest-to-tallest, or takes a page from Billy Martin and draws names out of a hat, it HAS to be better than the look we’ve seen over these seven games.

Even using the already-low standards of the previous 12 seasons, it’s getting to be very difficult to watch.

All you have to do is look around at all the empty green seats.

Check out the final box score here.

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Good evening from Oriole Park at Camden Yards as the Orioles (1-5) prepare to take on the Tampa Bay Rays (3-3) in the first of a three-game set. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. with Jeremy Guthrie (0-1, 4.26) will take the hill against Tampa Bay starter Matt Garza (1-0, 1.13) in a rematch of the second game of the season in which Garza stifled the Orioles’ bats in a 4-3 Rays win.

The Orioles will try to rebound from a very disheartening three-game sweep at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays in the first home series over the weekend. The Rays most recently lost two out of three to the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field, including CC Sabathia’s flirtation with a no-hitter on Saturday afternoon in a 10-0 Yankees victory.

In a move surprising no one (especially if you subscribe to the WNST Text Service), the Orioles placed Brian Roberts on the 15-day disabled list with an abdominal strain. The organization has recalled infielder Justin Turner from Triple-A Norfolk to take his spot on the 25-man roster.

In Dave Trembley’s pre-game comments, he would not commit to a set starter at second baseman but said Turner will provide depth. All indications point to a combination of Julio Lugo and Ty Wigginton receiving a bulk of the starts in lieu of Turner, a career .307 hitter in the minor leagues.

I’m not sure how this move helps Turner, and if the Orioles are so desperate to receive an offensive lift from Wigginton or Lugo, the team has bigger problems than we thought.

In what might be a piece of good news for Orioles fans (Hey, just being honest…), Mike Gonzalez will not be with the club until tomorrow as he is with his wife in Arizona awaiting the birth of his daughter. Gonzalez is expected back tomorrow, so there is no chance of a Gonzalez meltdown this evening.

Here are tonight’s starting lineups:

Tampa Bay
SS Jason Bartlett
LF Carl Crawford
RF Ben Zobrist
3B Evan Longoria
1B Carlos Pena
CF B.J. Upton
DH Pat Burrell
2B Reid Brignac
C Dioner Navarro

SP Matt Garza (1-0, 1.13 ERA)

Orioles
LF Felix Pie
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
3B Miguel Tejada
C Matt Wieters
DH Luke Scott
1B Garrett Atkins
2B Julio Lugo
SS Cesar Izturis

SP Jeremy Guthrie (0-1, 4.26 ERA)

As always, please join us for our Orange Crust chat, hosted tonight by Bob Haynie and starting at 7:00 p.m. Remember to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the quickest updates from the ballpark.

Please check below for updates (time-stamped) leading up to the first pitch, after which I’ll be joining Bob and other WNST personalities in the chat room.

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6:25 p.m. — Here’s your strange stat of the evening. Tejada is 6-for-14 with a home run and six RBI batting with men on base and 0-for-11 with the bases empty.

At least he’s economical.

6:05 p.m. — Trembley said before the game that Roberts would not accompany the team on the upcoming West Coast trip and said the second baseman may received another epidural injection for the herniated disk in his lower pack (Updated: he has received a second epidural injection). Though Roberts is on the DL due to an abdominal strain, it’s clear the back is still very much a concern for the Orioles’ leadoff hitter.

Roberts is eligible to be activated on April 25, but it is unknown whether the second baseman will return on that date.

In his absence, Trembley mentioned Pie, Lugo, and Jones all as candidates for the top spot in the order as well as the light-hitting Izturis. Regardless of who it is, the Orioles will sorely miss Roberts’ plate discipline and tendency for two-baggers (56 last season).

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A forgettable opening week for the Orioles

Posted on 11 April 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — What’s left to really say about such an awful week of baseball?

To their credit, the Orioles found a new way to cost themselves a ballgame Sunday afternoon when Miguel Tejada’s fielding miscue led to a Jose Bautista two-run homer with two outs in the eighth inning to push Toronto ahead 3-2. The Blue Jays added two more runs to complete a 5-2 win and a three-game sweep at Camden Yards.

Starting pitcher Kevin Millwood cruised through the first 7.2 innings of his start, looking every bit like the strong veteran presence the Orioles envisioned for the No. 1 spot in the rotation. However, Millwood unraveled after the error—the Orioles’ first of the season—and gave up back-to-back home runs to Bautista and Alex Gonzalez (who also went deep in the fourth).

“Millwood pitched a great game,” said manager Dave Trembley. “If we make the play in the eighth inning, he finishes it and completes the game, and we’re on our way and it doesn’t happen.”

Unfortunately, it’s happened all week as the Orioles now look at an ugly 1-5 record, only a shaky save conversion from Mike Gonzalez on Thursday night stands in the way of this team being 0-6.

Maybe we should be thanking him? Well, maybe not.

Failing to close games, not capitalizing with runners in scoring position, and now a critical error have been the difference between quite possibly a 4-2 record and their current 1-5 mark.

Therein lies the problem. Baseball is a game of inches. The difference between winning and losing can be minute in any single game, an idea the Orioles either haven’t understood or been able to capitalize on in the first week of the season.

The Orioles have scored two runs—both in the first inning of Sunday’s game—in their last 19 innings. They’re an abominable 9-for-54 (.167) with runners in scoring position this season.

Completely unacceptable.

We know how badly the new closer has struggled, and it now appears imminent that Brian Roberts is heading to the disabled list.

But what about the rest of the team?

Sure, the games have been close, but that doesn’t really matter.

By inches or not, the Orioles simply aren’t getting the job done. All you have to do is look at their record.

– This is the Orioles’ first 1-5 start since 2002. That team went on to have a 67-95 record, which included a 4-32 finish to the season.

– The Orioles have now allowed runs in the eight or ninth inning in all six games this year. They’ve allowed a total of 11 runs in the final two innings.

– The Blue Jays hit four home runs in Sunday’s victory over the Orioles. Sunday’s game marks the 11th time in Orioles history they’ve allowed seven or fewer hits with four or more of those being home runs.

The last time was September 28, 2009 against Tampa Bay.

– Nick Markakis drew a walk in his first at-bat in the first inning today, giving him nine for the season, more than anyone in the majors.

– Tejada’s error in the eighth inning opened the door for three Toronto runs. It was the first fielding error of the season for the Orioles, who were the next-to-last team in the majors to commit an error.

The Minnesota Twins have yet to commit one this season.

– Gonzalez’s home run in the eighth inning gave him his seventh career multi-homer game and his first since May 7, 2007 against Houston when he was a member of the Cincinnati Reds.

– The Orioles will send Jeremy Guthrie (0-1, 4.26) to the hill to start a three-game set with the Tampa Bay Rays at Camden Yards at 7:05 p.m. on Monday night. Matt Garza, who dominated the Orioles last week at Tropicana Field, takes the mound for the Rays.

Check out the final box score here.

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Good afternoon and Happy Sunday as we’re set for the finale against the Toronto Blue Jays here at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. First pitch is scheduled for 1:35 p.m.

The Orioles will attempt to rebound from a 3-0 shutout, as Blue Jays lefty Dana Eveland stifled the Baltimore lineup for 7.1 innings for the Toronto bullpen polished off the shutout. Kevin Millwood will take the hill for the Orioles in his second start of the season. In his Opening Night start in Tampa Bay, Millwood pitched five innings, giving up two runs while scattering nine hits.

Here are today’s lineups:

Toronto
RF Jose Bautista
SS Alex Gonzalez
DH Adam Lind
CF Vernon Wells
1B Lyle Overbay
C John Buck
3B Edwin Encarnacion
LF Travis Snider
2B John McDonald

SP Shaun Marcum (0-0, 3.86 ERA)

Orioles
LF Felix Pie
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
3B Miguel Tejada
DH Luke Scott
C Matt Wieters
1B Ty Wigginton
2B Julio Lugo
SS Cesar Izturis

SP Kevin Millwood (0-0, 3.60 ERA)

Don’t forget to join us for a special Orioles/Masters final round edition of the Orange Crust chat, hosted today by Nestor Aparicio and Drew Forrester. For the quickest updates, please follow us on Twitter (@WNST). I’ll be providing pre-game updates right here (time-stamped below) leading up to first pitch.

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1:29 p.m. — A few final notes before I head over to the Orange Crush chat:

Markakis is 9-for-18 with five home runs and six RBI in his career against Toronto starter Shaun Marcum. Tejada is 6-for-13 with three home runs and seven RBI against the right-hander.

And if you’re desperately searching for a positive on the Orioles at this point, they and the Minnesota Twins are the only teams in baseball with a field error.

Does that make you feel better? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

12:35 p.m. — Reports are circulating from MASN that infielder Justin Turner is being summoned from Norfolk, a good indication that Roberts will be placed on the 15-day disabled list. Turner is already on the 40-man roster, so no corresponding move would be needed in that regard.

Trembley would most likely use Lugo as his primary option at second base, but Turner, 25, is a career .307 hitter in the minor leagues. It would definitely be nice to give the infielder a look, as he would have a much better chance of fitting into the team’s long-term plans than Lugo.

12:15 p.m. — To say the Orioles’ start is disappointing would be an understatement, but their performance against Toronto this weekend is especially troubling. Playing without arguably their best player Aaron Hill (36 home runs and 108 RBI last year), the Blue Jays are a win away from completing a sweet at Camden Yards. Toronto was 1-8 in Baltimore last year.

With such a tough schedule on the horizon—not to mention the sheer reality of playing in the AL East—the Blue Jays are a team the Orioles SHOULD beat. Based on this series and the two teams’ respective starts through five games, perhaps preseason prognosticators were selling Toronto short by picking them as the consensus last-place team in the division.

Of course, we’re only five games deep into the season.

12:00 p.m. — With Roberts still out of the lineup with an abdominal strain, Dave Trembley will use Pie in the leadoff spot this afternoon. The outfielder has been battling a sore throwing shoulder, but the Orioles skipper had previously said he would return to the lineup this weekend. While he’s certainly not your prototypical leadoff man, Pie is a far more attractive option at the top of the order than Lugo.

Roberts is still day-to-day, but the Orioles could decide to place him on the disabled list after reevaluating him. Of course, any move would be retroactive, but Trembley does not want to play with a short bench for an extended period of time.

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Orioles’ early-season slumber could lead to nightmarish awakening

Posted on 10 April 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Dave Trembley and the Orioles continue to repeat the same cliches.

It’s early.

There are 162 games in the season.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

And they’re still right on all accounts, but with each passing loss, the frustration is beginning to show. It was a very somber clubhouse following Toronto’s 3-0 win on Saturday night, and while everyone continues to say the right things, it’s clear this team desperately needs a lift.

David Hernandez continued the same pattern of his fellow starters—sans Brad Bergesen—the first time through the rotation: good, but not great. The 24-year-old right-hander pitched six solid innings, giving up two runs, striking out five and walking four. The problem is Hernandez could have been perfect over nine innings and still wouldn’t have been in line for a victory.

“Hernandez went out there and threw a good game,” said centerfielder Adam Jones. “We put up
a doughnut for him. We didn’t really go out there and swing the bats the way we normally do.”

Toronto starter Dana Eveland stifled the Baltimore lineup over 7.1 innings, surrendering just five hits. The same lefty that posted a 7.16 ERA last season in Oakland—a pitcher’s haven—shut out the Orioles at Camden Yards, picking up his second career win against the team in the process.

In 14.1 career innings against the Orioles, Eveland has not allowed a run while surrendering just eight hits.

While Mike Gonzalez’s struggles have grabbed the early headlines, the Orioles’ inability to capitalize with runners in scoring position is a bigger reason why this team stands at 1-4 and needs a victory on Sunday to avoid a sweep in their first home series.

The Orioles hitters are just 8 for 46 with runners in scoring position, a .174 batting average. Last year, the Orioles finished second in the American League with a .284 average in that category. The opportunities were few and far between against Eveland, but it doesn’t take a math major to see an 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position won’t get it done against anyone.

“We haven’t gotten big hits when we needed them,” Trembley said. “And some games that we obviously could’ve won, we haven’t won them.”

The loss of Brian Roberts—who is day-to-day with an abdominal strain and did not play in Saturday night’s loss—sets a trickle-down effect on a lineup already lacking a genuine cleanup hitter in the middle of the order. Julio Lugo or Felix Pie or Cesar Izturis cannot bring what Roberts brings to the lead-off spot. You simply don’t replace 56 doubles no matter who you put at the top.

It’s too early to panic or call for anyone’s head (even Gonzalez’s), but this is the supposed easy part of a brutal April and early May schedule in which the Orioles play 16 games before their first day off and 21 of their first 28 against the American League East. With the expected dominance at the top of the division from New York, Boston, and Tampa Bay, aren’t the Orioles supposed to beat the Blue Jays, a team picked to finish last in the division?

Following Sunday’s finale against the Jays and a three-game set against the Rays, the Orioles travel to the West Coast for seven games against Oakland and Seattle, never an easy task.

But wait, it gets worse.

After finally getting their first day off on April 22, the Orioles then begin a stretch of 12 consecutive games against the Red Sox and Yankees. Baltimore went 7-29 against the two baseball powers in 2009.

So when you see a 1-4 record that should be 3-2, you only need to look ahead to see why this team needs to be concerned. If the Baltimore bats don’t awaken from their early-season snooze, the results will resemble a nightmare later this month.

It’s probably not the time for a players-only meeting or for Trembley to ream out the team behind closed doors, but it is time to stop hitting the snooze bar and finally wake up for the 2010 season.

It’s cost them at least two or three games already, a margin of error they simply cannot afford in this division.

Rise and shine, guys, or you’ll have a nightmare to deal with very quickly.

– Matt Wieters threw out Jose Bautista trying to steal in the top of the third inning for the third out. The second-year catcher has now thrown out four of five attempted base stealers this season.

– The Blue Jays hit five doubles in Saturday’s game, a season high allowed by the Orioles.

– With Toronto scoring on a Adam Lind RBI double, the orioles have now allowed at least one run in the eighth inning or later in every game this season.

– The 3-0 loss was the first game this season in which the outcome was decided by more than one run.

– The paid attendance was 21,148 after setting an Opening Day attendance record yesterday.

Check out the final box score here.

_____________________________________________________

Good evening from Oriole Park at Camden Yards as the Orioles are set to take on the Toronto Blue Jays in the second of a three-game set at 7:05 p.m.

Dave Trembley just spoke to the media and told reporters Brian Roberts will not play tonight after suffering an abdominal strain in the first inning of yesterday’s 7-6 loss. Roberts injured himself stealing second base and came out of the game after scoring a few moments later.

Julio Lugo will start at second base in his place and will lead off for the Orioles.

The other piece of significant news is the status of closer Mike Gonzalez. Trembley and Rick Kranitz spent much of last night and this morning studying tape of Gonzalez with the Atlanta Braves last year and have discovered some mechanical issues. The lefty is throwing from a different arm angle and falling off the mound much sooner than he did last season, according to Trembley.

Gonzalez will not be the closer this evening, due in part to the amount of work he received in the first four games and his mechanics. The struggling pitcher will work on his mechanics with Kranitz in the bullpen, but Trembley also said this wouldn’t prohibit him from being used in save situations while he works with the pitching coach.

The manager would not reveal who he would use in a save situation tonight and then went on to say he would never reveal who is available or unavailable to pitch before a game. That’s funny, because Trembley said yesterday that situational lefty Will Ohman would be unavailable for Opening Day, but I digress.

So for those of you dreading another Gonzalez appearance, you at least have a one-night reprieve.

Here is tonight’s lineup for the Orioles:

2B Julio Lugo
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
3B Miguel Tejada
DH Garrett Atkins
C Matt Wieters
LF Nolan Reimold
1B Ty Wigginton
SS Cesar Izturis

SP David Hernandez (4-10, 5.42 ERA)

And for Toronto:

2B Mike McCoy
RF Jose Bautista
DH Adam Lind
CF Vernon Wells
1B Lyle Overbay
3B Edwin Encarnacion
SS Alex Gonzalez
LF Travis Snider
C Jose Molina

SP Dana Eveland (2009 stats with Oakland: 2-4, 7.16 ERA)

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the quickest updates throughout the evening and please join us in our Orange Crush chat, the newest way to watch a game in town!

Check back for updates (time-stamped) leading up to the first pitch when I’ll be shifting over to the Orange Crush chat.

________________________________________________

6:55 p.m. — Adam Jones just received his 2009 Gold Glove award and gave a big hug to coach John Shelby in the process. Congratulations to Mr. Jones.

I’m still not convinced Jones was very deserving of the award, but any positive recognition for the Orioles cannot be taken for granted.

5:50 p.m. — While most attention centers around the health of Roberts and the status of Gonzalez, we’ll get our first look at right-hander David Hernandez tonight. The 25-year-old won the fifth starter spot, beating out top prospect Chris Tillman in spring training.

Of course, Hernandez got his feet wet at the big-league level last season, going 4-10 with a 5.42 ERA in 19 starts. The soon-to-be 25-year-old has a power fastball and showed much better commander of his slider in the spring. After walking 46 batters in 101.1 innings in his rookie season, Hernandez walked just three batters in 15 spring innings, a major factor in nailing down the final spot in the rotation.

Many still feel Hernandez is best suited for a late-innings role in the bullpen due to command issues and questions of how deep he can go into a game, but now is the time to figure out whether or not he can be a middle to back-of-the-rotation starter before you slide him to a relief role.

As for Tillman, hopes are still high, but he’ll have to wait it out in Norfolk.

5:30 p.m. — Following up on the Gonzalez news, Trembley brought up the early-season struggles of George Sherrill last season when the closer was temporarily stripped of exclusive closer duties after blowing his second save in three chances against Toronto on May 2. At the time, Sherrill was 4-for-6 in save opportunities with a 5.06 ERA.

After May 2 and until being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Sherrill was 16-for-17 in save chances with a 1.47 ERA.

While certainly a far cry from Gonzalez’s struggles in his first three appearances, every closer struggles from time to time—even Mariano Rivera or Jonathan Papelbon—but those struggles will clearly stand out on a new team during the first week of the season.

Does that mean Gonzalez will eventually straighten himself out? No, but it’s far too soon to give up on the guy entirely.

At the very least, it’s encouraging that the coaching staff has discovered flaws in his mechanics, if they have indeed found them and it isn’t a front to buy some time for the left-hander.

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Thursday's PM Crab Cakes and Light Beer

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Thursday’s PM Crab Cakes and Light Beer

Posted on 01 April 2010 by Chris Bonetti

Suggested Reading

WNST.net: “Wigginton has 2 hit, 2 RBI in Orioles win.” Jake Arrieta, who’ll start this season at Triple-A Norfolk, tossed four innings and allowed two runs on five hits while striking out four in the Birds 4-3 win over Tampa today in Port Charlotte.  Tomorrow’s game in Tampa against the Yankees will be shown on ESPN starting at 1:05pm.

WNST.net: Glenn Clark was at the Donte Stallworth Introduction Press Conference today.  You can hear it all live in the Buy-a-Toyota.com Audio Vault.

SI.com:  It’s April Fools Day.  Here’s George Plimpton’s, “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch.” I can still remember my Dad telling me the story and reading it for the first time.  Awesome stuff.

SI.com: Senior Baseball Writer Tom Verducci, like myself a Seton Hall Preparatory School alumnus, give us his, “Top 10 for ’10: What I’m most looking forward to this season.” Rookies Jason Heyward of the Braves and the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg are Tom’s #1 and #2 storylines respectively.  My take on that… hmmm not sure.

FanHouse: Ed Price compiles an incredible list of, “Baseball’s Best Promotions of 2010,” while offering his own one liners that make the giveaways sound even more ridiculous than they already are.  Some favorites: “Orioles, April 11th – Plush Chick-Fil-A cows. Mooo rhymes with booo.”  “Reds, April 24th – Grow your own pot of Great American Ball Park turf.” Tim Lincecum doesn’t need it, thank you.”  “White Sox, Sept. 17th – Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day. Green White Sox caps given away. Ozzie O’Guillen throws out the first pitch.” “Nationals, Sept. 24th – Team photo and “early bird” 2011 schedule. Because it’s always better for Nats fans to look ahead.”  It’s a long list.

CBSSportsline.com: Breaking News here late… more “behavior” issues for the NFL.  “Browns’ Rogers bust at airport for loaded gun in luggage.” Good.  That’s good.

Deadspin.com:  “Last night’s Winner: Newark, NJ,” I’d just like to say… good for you, Newark, NJ.

Video of the Day

Kevin Garnett thinks Kevin Durant is, “Michael f*cking Jordan.”  Yikes not for the kids!  I don’t think his tone was complimentary there.  KG was clearly not happy with his team (and the refs!) giving up 37 points, including 15-15 FT shooting, to Durant on the parquet.

Tweets of the Day

The Nasty One himself, Nestor Aparicio – WNST

Nestor: Never ceases to amaze me that #Capitals have grown fan base like this. The sea of red here in D.C. is a marvel! #Ovechkin #Caps

Comcast Morning Show Producer, Glenn Clark – WNST

GMC: By the way, Greivis #Vasquez WAS officially announced as Bob #Cousy Award winner-nation’s top point guard. #Terps

Live from the Donte Stallworth Press Conference at 1 Winning Drive today, Glenn Clark – WNST

#Stallworth: “I’ve become a better decision maker”…”making one bad decision can snowball into a whole terrible incident.” #Ravens

The Sporting News Senior College Basketball Writer, Mike DeCourcey – tsnmike

Can’t imagine a better way to spend 90 minutes than watching “The Street Stops Here.” What an impressive film. If it’s rerun, don’t miss.

CBS College Basketball Analyst, Seth Davis – SethDavisHoops

Worst AD in America? Holy Cross’s Richard Regan Jr. fired coach Sean Kearney after ONE season. Since Regan hired him, he should resign too.

FoxSports.com Senior College Basketball Writer, Jeff Goodman – goodmanonfox

Wake Forest’s Al-Farouq Aminu has declared for the NBA Draft AND will hire an agent.

New York Newsday New York Knicks Beat Writer, Alan Hahn – alanhahn

Either the BlazerDancers are unquestionably loaded with nines or this has already been a looong road trip.

ESPN Personality, Skip Bayless – RealSkipBayless

Rams should take Suh, then hope Colt there top of 2nd. Bradford little better than Colt, but Suh much better than Sam. Colt tough leader.

ESPN NFL Insider, Adam Schefter – Adam_Schefter

Herm Edwards on NFL Live suggested 49ers trade for Donovan McNabb AND Brandon Marshall. And they still would have a leftover 1st-rd pick!

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