Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Orioles, Tampa and what might be

With the win this evening the Tampa Bay Rays clenched a playoff spot - something that was little more than a foregone conclusion. Congrats to the Rays and their fans, they are a great young team and they are truly one of the best this year. Moreover, the Rays really need this because I think everyone in baseball can see the writing on the wall and the Rays' window may be rapidly closing. Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Eric Aybar among others are most likely gone. Longoria, Price, Davis et al will still be around but with the Rays' ownership announcing that payroll will be cut next year I think everyone can feel that the 2011 Rays will seem like a much different creature.

I think Rays fans feel the same thing. A lot has been made of the atrocious attendance in St. Petersburg this series. With a chance to clench a playoff spot and the best young team in baseball the Rays drew only 12,466 fans out to Tropicana Field, tonight was did not differ that much only drawing a little more than 17,000. Evan Longoria and David Price did not mince words calling the showing "embarrassing". Adam Jones tweeted: "I wonder what Baltimore would look like [in that situation]?".

Why am I writing about this in an Orioles blog? Because as an Orioles fan seeing an empty stadium entertaining a team with as much talent as the Tampa Bay Rays angers me. Jones, I will tell you what Baltimore would look like - it would be packed to the gills. If in 2011 the Orioles are in a situation to clench a playoff berth I guarantee that not only will the stands be packed to capacity but every local establishment not only in the city-proper but the greater Baltimore metro-area will be packed waiting for the final out and a ticket to the post season.

But this post isn't meant to denegrate the people of the Tampa bay area, they have their reasons I'm sure, but rather to comment on the state of the Orioles, Rays and AL East going forward.

2010 will soon be in the books, and the Baltimore Orioles season can not be summed up in one post. So let this be part one: The Baltimore Orioles; what could have been.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Thoughts and Jose Bautista

Three games. Three straight losses.

This weekend, the Orioles got swept by the Jays. While the black and orange didn't embarrass themselves, they only really came close to beating the Toronto on Saturday, where they lost in extra innings. The pitching wasn't terrible (ok, it was shaky on Sunday - especially VandenHurk and Simon), but the homer happy Jays got the best of the Orioles this series.

Perhaps the Orioles will get back on track against the Rays this week and finish out the season next weekend against the Tigers.

Really, overall during these past three games, I've just been astonished by Jose Bautista and his success. As we all know, he was once a Rule 5 pick by the Orioles, but then bounced around, ended up in Pittsburgh and found himself in Toronto. Many observers thought he had the skills to be more than a platoon/part-time player, and sure enough, he broke out of it.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Boston Series; Millwood

Last night, the Orioles could not complete the three game sweep in Boston on Wednesday with a 6-1 loss after wins on Monday and Tuesday; however, they've continued their strong finish to the 2010 season. After getting their arses handed to them the past few seasons by the Red Sox, the Orioles finished with a .500 record - at a 9-9 clip.

I though the Orioles might made a smart move by signing Kevin Millwood in the off-season. One would figure that signing a veteran pitcher might help to stabilize a young rotation, but it's funny how Millwood has the worst record statistics-wise for any starting on the team.

He fell to his 16th loss on the season, giving up five runs in his outing and for the most part looked like the pitcher he's been all season. Millwood has shown some flashes of brilliance, but overall, his season has been one to frankly, say has been a great disappointment. Despite the lack of success this year on the mound, Millwood never really complained and he went out did his job - start after start.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

The Yankees Come and Go...

The Orioles avoided a three-game sweep by the New York Yankees with a incredible walk-off win, 4-3, in front of slight less than 40,000 on Sunday afternoon.

Despite losing a heartbreaker on Friday off a Alex Rodriguez go-ahead, three-run homer in the ninth and getting their arses handed to them on Saturday, the O’s fought back on in the final game of the set. Down 3-2 in the ninth, Luke Scott tied the game with a home run off Mariano Rivera and then earned the win in the 11th off Ty Wigginton’s double.

What was more amazing is that the Orioles won a game they surely would have lost not too long ago. The bullpen came through a held the game in check, with Koji Uehara striking out the side in the 10th and Mike Gonzalez nearly blowing the game in the 11th, but getting a crucial double play with the bases loaded.

New York had plenty of chances to finish off Baltimore, but they seemingly could not get the knockout punch.

Although we all probably hoped that the Orioles could have taken two-of-out-three or swept the Yankees, it was great to see them fight. Once again, the park was full with Yankee fans – I’d say they were at least 70% of the attendance that day – but it was good to see them frustrated at the outcome and Joe Girardi’s overmanaging.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Orioles finally beat the Jays...

...But the Ravens were on Monday Night Football to open the season and no one cares.

Seriously, the Orioles recorded the fourth lowest all-time attendance with their game against the Jays last night in Baltimore. Fewer than 10,000 people turned out to see what was actually a very good game between the suddenly respectable Birds and the homer-happy Jays. The Orioles finally beat the Jays having gone 0-12 against them so far this year. Not only that, but last night's win means the Orioles are no longer the worst team in AL. The birds have jumped over the Seattle Mariners and are closing in on the Indians and Royals.

The resurgent birds need only to win eight more games to eliminate the possibility of a 100-loss season, something that seemed like a foregone conclusion a couple of months ago.

The Orioles did not get away unscathed. Brian Matusz left the game after throwing only nine pitches and recording only one out. A line drive of Yuniesky Betancourt struck Matusz square in the throwing arm. He was removed for purely precautionary reasons. Brain Roberts was also hit by a pitch in the leg and left the in the eighth. The fastball from Jason Frasor nailed Roberts just above his knee and he crumpled to the ground. After getting up and gingerly jogging to first he would be removed from the game for Josh Bell.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Orioles Finally Win Against Jays

It's been a great month-and-half for the Baltimore Orioles. After taking two of three from the Tigers over the weekend and winning six out of their last nine games, the Orioles returned home to take on the Blue Jays at home.

Despite being well out of the AL East race, the Jays have managed to stay over .500 and play for something -- pride.

Having beat Baltimore in twelve straight games this season, one could consider that Toronto had their number. However, the Jays were facing the Orioles managed by Buck Showalter - not Trembley or Samuel.

They finally beat the Jays last night, 4-3, off a walk-off single by Luke Scott that plated in Nick Markakis. Brian Matusz, who has looked like a different pitcher over the past month, started the game, but left after being hit on the arm in the first inning. The Baltimore bullpen which had blown the game on Sunday in Detroit did a bang-up job, thanks to Rick VandenHurk's 5 1/3 innings in relief and everyone else doing their part to keep the game close.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

On a Roll...

The Orioles have been on quite a roll as of late, as we know. They won their fourth game in five chances this week, defeating the Tigers in Detroit last night, 6-3.

After their gut-wrenching loss in New York on Wednesday, thanks to a Nick Swisher ninth-inning homer run off Koji Uehara, the Orioles held firm on Friday. Although Kevin Millwood didn’t get a victory, the bullpen once again in as many times for the past few weeks kept Baltimore in the game.

They broke open a 3-3 tie in the eighth off a Matt Wieters’ sacrifice fly and Adam Jones’s RBI-single help put away the game for the Orioles.

Uehara bounced back from his Wednesday outing and got the save. David Hernandez got the win.

At this point, it is conceivable that the Orioles may not lose 100 games after all? They are as of this morning, 54-87 – not good, but much better than where they stood at the beginning of August.

The surge of the Orioles has been to due players coming back – healthy, much better clutch-hitting, a starting pitching corps greatly improved and the bullpen (a healthy Uehara and Gonzalez). Perhaps some players may have realized their jobs are on the line and are now playing with some initiative and hustle.

It’s good to see that the reasons above plus the influence of Showalter has brought some promise to Birdland.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Weekend That Was, A Good Start in New York

After a bumpy start to September, the Orioles are once again looking like the team we saw in August.

Now the question in September is – can they avoid the swoon that has engulfed them for more than a decade? So far, the answer may be yes.

The Orioles took two-of-three games from the AL Wild Card leading Rays over the weekend thanks to a dominant win on Saturday and a razor thin victory on Sunday. As well, they kicked off a three game set in the Bronx on Monday against the Yankees and won it, 4-3.

It’s nice to see the young arms picking it up and the work of Brian Matsuz as of late has been impressive. After a horrific start to the season, he won his fourth straight game yesterday going six innings and allowing three runs to come in.

If you look at it all, Baltimore’s surge in the last month has been due to the starting pitching – not the offense. The New York Times, this morning has a piece on Buck Showalter and his effect on the 2010 Baltimore Orioles since he took over:

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

September off to a rocky start

The Orioles have encountered their first three-game losing streak of the Showalter-era having lost their first three games of September. The Orioles saw two very winnable games against the Sox slip away and then last night were shut down by the Rays and the ever-chatty Matt Garza.

During the losses the Orioles have seen a regression in their overall game. The starting pitching has been solid enough but defensive miscues, shoddy pen work and an inability to get get that one clutch hit have reared their ugly heads yet again.Injuries to Adam Jones and Corey Patterson haven't helped out much. Nick Markakis continues to be mired in a month-long slump hitting only .232. Heck, Nicky is only hitting .243 for the second-half! If this is any indicator on how things are going to go from here-on-out it will be a long September.

One bright-spot has been the starting pitching. Despite losing the last three the Orioles starting pitching has only given up 10 ER over the last week, Millwood being responsible for four of those runs last night. The starters' ressurgence over the last trip through the rotation was just a wonderful thing to watch and even though they don't get to play the Angels every game in September if the starters can keep that type of momentum up the Orioles should finish fairly strong. Or at least a lot stronger than they normally finish.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Welcome to September

Welcome to September.

With roughly 30 or so games left in the 2010 season, the Orioles are trying their best to finish on a definite high note.That would be a welcome change from what we have seen the last 13 years or so.

Last night, the Orioles defeated the Boston Red Sox, 5-2, thanks to yet another strong start by Brian Matusz, hefty work by the bullpen and the offense breaking through. The game was settled in the eighth inning as Luke Scott and Felix Pie homered.

Matusz stymied the Red Sox into the seventh inning and kept them off balance all night – especially J.D. Drew and David Ortiz. He seemingly has bounced back from his nightmarish start to the season and is finally looking like the young lefty that everyone had hyped up last year.

Even more impressive was the effort the bullpen gave to help Baltimore to the victory. The triumvirate of Jim Johnson, Mike Gonzalez and Koji Uehara saved the game for the Orioles and it‘s amazing what could have been if all three were healthy.

The Orioles might not be .500 team, but they would not have a .370 winning percentage either. More importantly, the Orioles avoided their usual August swoon, going 17-11 during the month.

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