Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”
It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.
This will be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule.
Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 24-9 win over the Indianapolis Colts Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium in an AFC Wild Card playoff game…
(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)
Glenn Clark’s Plays…
5. Pernell McPhee recovers Andrew Luck fumble after Paul Kruger sack, strip (1st quarter)
4. Anquan Boldin 46 yard catch from Joe Flacco (3rd quarter)
3. Cary Williams intercepts Andrew Luck pass intended for Reggie Wayne, returns 41 yards (4th quarter)
2. Ray Rice 47 yard catch from Joe Flacco (2nd quarter)
1. Bernard Pierce 43 yard run on 3rd & 1 (4th quarter)
After every Baltimore Ravens victory, Ryan Chell and I take to the airwaves on “The Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net to offer “Pats on the Ass” to players who have done something to deserve the honor.
We give pats to two defensive players, two offensive players and one “Wild Card”-either another offensive or defensive player, a Special Teams player or a coach. We offer a “Pat on Both Cheeks” to someone who stands out, our version of a “Player of the Game.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches each.
Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 24-9 win over Indianapolis Colts in an AFC Wild Card playoff Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium…
Should the Orioles win the American League Wild Card play-in game against the Texas Rangers on Friday night, we now know when they will play the New York Yankees in the first two games of the AL Division Series.
With Major League Baseball switching to a five-game format in which the lower-seeded team hosts the first two games and the higher seed hosts the final three games of the Division Series, the Orioles would welcome New York to Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Sunday and Monday.
The league announced Game 1 would begin at 6:15 p.m. on Sunday evening. Game 2 would then take place on Monday night with an 8:07 p.m. first pitch. Both games would be televised on TBS.
The final three games of the series — with Games 4 and 5 only being played if necessary — would take place at Yankee Stadium Wednesday through Friday.
Times have yet to be announced for those contests, but all three would again be shown on TBS.
It has certainly been a “storybook” season for the Baltimore Orioles in 2012. No matter how their postseason run ends, there will be memories that will last for a lifetime.
I had an itch this week to compile a list of the top ten storylines for the season. It wasn’t an easy task, but here goes.
10. The ultimate reclamation
It isn’t SO crazy to think a team would have given OF Nate McLouth another chance in 2012. The former Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star was at least playing Major League Baseball, even if he hadn’t had a particularly good season since 2009.
Lew Ford was another story altogether. Ford went a full five years between Major League at-bats before being called up to Baltimore after ripping the cover off the ball at AAA Norfolk.
McLouth has been a significant contributor since being called up in August, taking over the every day LF spot and batting leadoff since Nick Markakis got hurt. Ford hasn’t contributed quite as much, but has come up with three big home runs when inserted into the lineup against lefties.
It has also lead to Tweets like this throughout the season…
9. “Why Not Again?”
Perhaps not the most significant story of the year, the story of Steve Johnson has likely been the most heart warming for Charm City in 2012.
I pulled this picture from Steve’s Facebook page…it’s probably three or four years old. I’d be willing to bet that at this point in his life, he’s probably embarrassed by things like this.
A Kingsville native, former St. Paul’s star and son of a former Orioles pitcher (and current broadcast analyst) made some of the more significant starts of the 2012 season. It’s Hollywood quality stuff. Even more amazingly, Johnson picked up his first big league win on August 8, 23 years removed from the exact date his father picked up HIS first victory during the Birds’ incredible 1989 campaign.
The Johnson & Johnson connection wasn’t the only inevitable comparison between the ’89 and ’12 O’s, as the cartoon birds, no name players and general disbelief of the respective campaigns was impossible to ignore. It even had me singing along…
8. What a dumb great trade.
SB Nation compiled reactions to GM Dan Duquette’s decision to deal SP Jeremy Guthrie to Colorado for SP Jason Hammel & RP Matt Lindstrom before the season. Here are a sampling…
This from Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal was perhaps worse…
For what it’s worth, most of us would probably be forced to admit that we didn’t think much of the deal at the time. Guthrie had been the organization’s only quality pitcher for years and was very popular thanks to also being a stand up individual. How were we to know that Hammel was going to put together an All-Star season (when healthy) and Lindstrom would be a reliable option in the back of the bullpen before helping to land veteran Joe Saunders in a trade? And how were we to know that on the other end of the deal, Guthrie would implode in Denver before being sent to Kansas City?
Certainly the deal has turned out to be quite the feather in Duquette’s cap, as has the signing of SP Wei-Yin Chen-who has pitched to a 4.02 ERA and 1.261 WHIP over 32 starts? The only real question mark for Duquette has been Tsuyoshi Wada, who needed Tommy John surgery before he could make a pitch. The way things are going for this organization, you almost assume he’ll be Stephen Strasburg in 2013. (Okay…not really.)
7. I’m not so sure about this.
“Nick Markakis batting leadoff when he returns? I don’t know…”
I probably don’t need to show you August. Ah hell, I’ll show you August.
Markakis’ effort (before being sidelined in September) was especially crucial following the loss of OF Nolan Reimold, who hit .313 in 16 games to start the season in the role. Without Reimold, the Birds attempted to use a group of players including OF Endy Chavez and even briefly a return of 2B Brian Roberts, but none could hold down the role until Markakis. The Orioles are now hoping Markakis can somehow get back before the season ends.
6. These guys…of course!
While Hammel and Chen were obviously “hits” for the Orioles’ rotation, the other 60% didn’t pan out so well. Opening Day starter Jake Arrieta, former #1 overall pick Brian Matusz and veteran Tommy Hunter struggled mightily over the season’s first few months before ultimately finding their way back to the minors for seasoning (all have since returned and offered solid efforts out of the bullpen).
In their place, the Birds turned not only to the aforementioned Johnson, but more importantly gave the ball to two pitchers have provided a level of stability that could have been expected by absolutely no one, perhaps even themselves.
Chris Tillman was at least viewed recently as a significant prospect in the Orioles’ organization. After being acquired from the Seattle Mariners as part of the Birds’ haul (along with Adam Jones and George Sherrill) for Erik Bedard, there was a thought Tillman would ultimately prove to be part of the “cavalry” of young Orioles pitchers former VP of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail regularly spoke of.
But after 2009 (5.40 ERA 1.554 WHIP in 12 starts), 2010 (5.87 ERA 1.528 WHIP in 11 starts) and 2011 (5.52 ERA 1.645 WHIP in 13 starts), it appeared as though Tillman was all but done in Baltimore.
And then this happened.
Of course it did.
Perhaps even more improbable was Miguel Gonzalez, who was all but abandoned by the Boston Red Sox following 2009 Tommy John surgery. Executive Director of International Recruiting Fred Ferreira signed off on Gonzalez to the Birds after seeing him throw just nine pitches (according to SI’s Albert Chen). Perhaps we should have expected the man who discovered Vladimir Guerrero knew what he was doing.
And just like that, Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez saved a rotation and very likely a season.
I feel like there’s someone else we should thank…
Of all of the decisions made by Dan Duquette upon arrival, perhaps the decision to make Rick Peterson (a fixture of the “Moneyball” Oakland Athletics) the team’s Director of Pitching Development has immediately paid the most dividends.
It all comes down to the final game of the season as the Orioles determine where they’ll begin their first postseason run in 15 years.
With races in the American League East and American League West yet to be decided, all eyes will be focused on what happens in St. Petersburg, the Bronx, and Oakland on Wednesday.
The scenarios are predictably simpler after Tuesday night’s action that included the Orioles’ 1-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees’ 4-3 extra-inning victory over Boston, and the Athletics’ 3-1 win over the Texas Rangers to force a tie in the AL West.
If the Orioles win Wednesday night:
Baltimore controls its own fate to at least host the wild card play-in game in the event of a win over the Rays in the regular-season finale on Wednesday night. However, the Orioles will pay close attention to what happens elsewhere.
A Yankees loss to Boston means the Orioles and New York would both finish 94-68 and tie for the top spot in the AL East. The two clubs would play a division tiebreaker game on Thursday in Baltimore due to the Orioles having a superior division record (the clubs were tied 9-9 in the season series this season). The winner in that game would be considered the division champion while the loser would host the wild card play-in game on Friday.
For those wondering where the Orioles would be seeded should they beat New York in a potential tiebreaker game, Baltimore would be the No. 2 seed behind the winner of Wednesday’s Oakland-Texas game since they both own the tiebreaker over the Orioles (the division tiebreaker game does not apply to seeding for the playoffs). This means the Orioles would play Game 1 of the Division Series at No. 3 seed Detroit on Saturday.
A loss to the Yankees in a potential tiebreaker game means the Orioles would still host the loser of Oakland-Texas in the wild card play-in game on Friday.
A New York win clinches the AL East for the Yankees and locks the Orioles into the top wild card spot. Baltimore would then welcome the loser of the Texas-Oakland game to Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the wild-card play-in game. A victory for New York would also mean the Yankees are the top seed and would face the winner of the wild card game in the American League Division Series, with Game 1 taking place Sunday at the winner of the play-in game.
The Athletics and Rangers each sit atop the AL West with a 93-68 record, meaning the winner of Wednesday afternoon’s game in Oakland is the division champion while the loser is assured of the second wild card spot.
If the Orioles lose Wednesday night:
A loss against the Rays locks the Orioles into the second wild card spot and means the Yankees win the AL East regardless of how they fare against Boston.The Orioles would go on the road Friday to play the loser of Wednesday’s Athletics-Rangers game, who would finish with the same record as Baltimore.
Both the Athletics and Rangers own head-to-head tiebreakers over the Orioles.
A Rangers win means the Athletics will host the Orioles while an Athletics victory means the Orioles would travel to Arlington for the wild card play-in game.
If the Yankees lose Wednesday night, an Orioles loss and an Oakland loss would still lock New York into the top seed in the American League since it owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Rangers but not the Athletics.
Incredibly, Oakland would be the No. 1 seed in the American League with a win and a Yankees loss.
The Orioles just keep winning. How? Come on all you true Oriole fans, how many times have you asked yourself that question this year? And your answers? Does this sound familiar – “let’s see, last night – it was the starting pitching, it was the relief pitching, just who was pitching………the offense must have stepped up, the defense finally came around, so-and-so was hot, etc. etc.” Then you say – who cares, put another one in the WIN column! As of September 2nd, they are not going away. Yes, O’s fans it is September and the Baltimore Orioles are in a pennant/wild card race.
Back on July 18th, I wrote – The Orioles are Back to Normal……… and at that time they were. This isn’t normal. This is FUN! Buck-Buck is tough, he goes with his gut, he sticks with his players, he is running the team – Showalter style. Dan Duquette is making some fortuitous acquisitions. The organization is feeding off the Andy McPhail farm teams. And the Angelos family appears to have bought into the current approach. Players are going down, players are picking it up, guys you have never heard of before are contributing. They went 18 – 9 in August. The most wins in a single month since September 2004.
This was the best August in 15 years, that didn’t involve the acquisition of a new manager, i.e. Buck-Buck 2 years ago. There was even a time during the middle of the month, where it looked like the umpires were attempting a little “fix” of their own. The O’s held it together and I believe it was at that point, they became a “team”. It was the Boston series and umpire Laz Diaz. Then the series immediately following in Detroit with umpire Tim Timmons. Both of those umpires should be suspended and/or fined – “Hold them accountable.” Buck-Buck usually remains pretty even keel. Actually, to even keel for my taste (I’m old school – Earl Weaver). But finally, enough was enough and Buck lost it in Detroit.
In Boston – Laz Diaz. A blown “out” call at first involving Adam Jones. It was potentially a turning point in the game and cost the O’s a run.. He clearly missed the call. The next night Jones gets intentionally hit in the back by Clay “Classless” Bucholz in retaliation for Jones plowing the catcher the night before. No warning from Diaz (he’s behind the plate now). Jim Palmer comments - “Come on Laz………..you blew calls last night……….now this.” In Detroit – Tim Timmons (home plate). Another blown “out” call on Markakis in the first inning when he was safe at home. Then Timmons again, over turned a call later in the game at first base, with Reynolds making another nice saving grab. The first base ump called Detroit player out, Detroit complained, numbnut Timmons comes out and reversed it, ultimately making the wrong call. Buck Showalter wins Orioles Emmy for “Best Earl Weaver Impression – 2012.” Tough week. Orioles prevailed.
The nucleus of the team has remained intact: Markakis (did lose him in June), Jones, Weiters, Hardy, Chen, Johnson and believe it or not Reynolds. Thank you Mark Reynolds for beating the Spankmees this wet Labor Day weekend. The pitching, left field, 3B, 2B has been a revolving door and you have to credit Buck-Buck, Duquette and the numerous replacements that have stepped up. How about that Machado call up? With that surprising addition, they may have secured the corners for the run. It’s hard to keep up with the turnover rate. It’s kind of like Buck is saying – “With or Without You” – (U2), we are on a mission. Buck quote – “This is as good a club I’ve ever had about staying in the moment.” Well O’s – how about, Seize the Moment?
The Orioles are winning. They are a team. I like the “Outfielder Bump” after a win. I like Palmers nickname for the bullpen – “The Orange Curtain”. I like the self-imposed starting rotation competition. I like, that they do not give up. How about that bullpen? The Strop/Johnson combo is holding up. How about the best defense in the majors since the All-star break? ”Playoffs? Don’t talk about playoffs. You kidding me? Playoffs?” Yeah, the Birds are perched ready for a run. Fifteen years………..it’s about time. It’s also going to be a long September. And I’m glad! Where did the summer go? Go O’s! O-R-I-O-L-E-S magic.
If I understand the way the math works, the Baltimore Orioles’ magic number to clinch an American League Wild Card spot currently sits at 48.
I really felt the need to tell you that because for some goofy reason I sat and worked on it Sunday while I was supposed to be watching the Baltimore Ravens practice at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Congratulations Birds, you’ve successfully gotten me to take attention away from the Ravens and place it on the orange and black. The moment has actually occurred. I’m blown away.
The magic number is 48.
That means that if the total combination of O’s wins combined with losses (individually) from any other team in the Wild Card race reaches 48 before the end of the season the now 15 year playoff draught will officially be over.
It means the Birds will be playing on Friday, October 5 as part of Major League Baseball’s first ever Wild Card play-in games.
I honest to God can’t believe I’ve just typed all of this.
It’s time to cue the music.
I feel like it’s safe to say that I’ve been as reluctant (if not more reluctant) than anyone in town to accept this as an actual, realistic possibility. And if truth me told I would still say “no” if an assailant questioned my belief that the Orioles make the playoffs with a gun pointed to my temple.
It might seem like a four game split with the Kansas City Royals at home would be an odd time for me to suddenly stand and pledge allegiance to the “Why Not?” bandwagon, but…you know…Machado and all.
My original idea for my weekly “Reality Check” column was to write about the realities of 3B Manny Machado’s hot start (6-16, 3HR, 7RBI in four games). I had planned to say “I hate to be the bad guy, but let’s remember that the most likely scenario is that Machado won’t be able to continue this success for the rest of the season or likely even for the rest of August.”
I had intended to say something along the lines of “American League pitchers will likely end up catching up with Machado, who also won’t have the benefit of facing Kansas City Royals pitching every time out.” I was going to add thoughts along the lines of “let’s not forget that even OF Xavier Avery collected 10 hits in his first eight games after getting called up to Baltimore earlier in the season.”
I probably would have mentioned that in the coming week Machado would have to go up against veteran pitchers like Red Sox starters Josh Beckett (albeit a Beckett that has struggled mightily in 2012) and Clay Buchholz as well as reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and MVP Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. It’s a bit more legitimate than a group of KC starters that included Will Smith, Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen.
I also think I would have mentioned that Machado had not hit .300 in a single month while playing in the Eastern League this season, making a market correction from a very hot start to August seem likely at some point.
That’s what I WAS going to do. But for some reason, it just didn’t stick.
As we’ve repeated ad nauseum during the 2012 Orioles campaign, there is no statistical explanation for why the Birds have won 62 of their first 115 games. Those of us who have been watching understand that the team has benefitted from an incredible bullpen, a number of home runs, great success in close games and expert guidance from AL Manager of the Year candidate Buck Showalter.
That’s why I couldn’t write the Machado column. I didn’t have it in me.
Maybe there IS a chance Machado can continue to make significant contributions as a 20 year old in a lineup that has been seeking an additional spark. The Birds don’t have a full season .300 hitter in their lineup, but they’ve managed to get continued contributions from unexpected places.
Career journeyman INF Omar Quintanilla is batting .328 in just 20 games sense being acquired in a deal with the New York Mets. Veteran (and by “veteran” I mean “washed up”) OF Nate McClouth has eight hits in his first 24 AB’s since being called up from the Norfolk Tides. Even the miserable bat of Mark Reynolds (.211 and just nine home runs in 289 AB’s) provided what proved to be the game winning RBI in Sunday’s win over KC.
I don’t think it can be sustained. I didn’t think it could be sustained two months ago. I was wrong then. Maybe I’m wrong now. I don’t think I’m ever going to understand exactly how all of this has happened this way this season.
So can Manny Machado keep contributing to an Orioles team pushing towards an appearance in the postseason?
Perhaps you’re not familiar with WNST.net MLB analyst Allen McCallum. Allen was once the Ballpark Reporter at WNST, covering the Baltimore Orioles on a daily basis. He’s remained with us in the years since then, appearing once a week in studio (currently with Thyrl Nelson on “The Mobtown Sports Beat”) to talk Major League Baseball and Baltimore Orioles.
Allen is a really good dude, but is decidedly un-American in my book. You see, Allen doesn’t like football. I don’t understand it either, trust me. I have every reason to believe he celebrates the 4th of July and enjoys a good slice of Apple Pie, but he loves baseball and just doesn’t care about our national pastime.
Despite this obvious flaw, I’ve maintained a level of friendship and (as much as is possible for someone who I have to imagine may be a communist) respect for Allen. I don’t dislike him, I just don’t understand how someone like him can exist in this country. You see, football is our beautiful game. It’s a game fathers play in the backyard with sons. Baseball is okay when there aren’t real sports to watch, but is clearly inferior to football in every way.
I’m kidding. Well I’m kidding a LITTLE bit anyway.
The reason my lede is about our resident purveyor of Orange Kool-Aid is because Allen likes to make a point during the course of baseball season that is relevant to both sports. As Birds fans have a tendency to freak out over the results of a couple of games (or one game…or a couple of innings…or a single at-bat), Allen likes to send out a reminder that “this isn’t football. There’s 162 games to be played.”
It hasn’t always been good news in Charm City that the O’s have to play 162 games, but the point he makes is relevant. During Ravens season we tend to overreact to one particular game, but we do that knowing that one game reflects roughly six percent of the season. While a NFL team can certainly recover from a stretch of two or three bad games, a bad streak can quickly spiral into killing a quarter of a football season. At the same time, a bad streak of three or four games during baseball season does not even represent the same six percent of the season that one football game represents.
Let me try to step away from math for a second. A single football game is more significant than a single baseball game. But you already knew that.
Seven days ago (which as I type this would have been June 4), there was reason for great concern amongst Baltimore baseball fans. After getting off to a 27-14 start, the Birds were mired in a streak that saw them drop 10 of 13 games. Sitting at 30-24, the Birds had appeared to already be well into their annual “June swoon” and seemed destined to find themselves on their way to the cellar of the AL East.
But something funny happened in the six games that followed. Instead of continuing their free fall, the Birds stabilized. They won two of three against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, then returned home to take two dramatic extra inning contests against the Philadelphia Phillies at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in front of thousands of stunned supporters who had made their way down I-95 from The City of Brotherly Love.
After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the “Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net.
To the surprise of some, there were no Pats to be given following the Ravens’ game Sunday. They fell 23-20 to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the AFC Championship Game to end their season.
So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Ryan and I again offered “Slaps to the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”
Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a Wild Card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.” Ryan and I select five different players after each game.
Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”