Thursday, June 30, 2011

Matusz Hammered Again, This Time By Cardinals; Optioned to the Minors...

It was a glorious night to watch a ball game; however, but if you rooted for the black and orange, it was nothing short of painful to watch.

The St. Louis Cardinals teed off on Brian Matusz and beat him like a piƱata on Thursday night. It has been pretty obvious to anyone who has been watching the Orioles that the southpaw has been struggling since his return.

It was horrific to watch him struggle on the mound on Thursday. The Orioles lost, 8-6, as Matusz only lasted 3 1/3 innings and gave up eight runs – all earned.

There was not much more to say observing Matusz, as his stuff was not thrown all that hard and was hittable.

St. Louis used the longball to run up the score off Matusz and there seemed to be little hope for him on the night. They saw his offerings, and they hit them often. John Jay’s three-run homer in the 4th inning was the nail in the coffin for Matusz.

The moment that Matusz was yanked from the game by manager Buck Showalter, the Oriole fans in attendance showed their displeasure with the pitcher by booing him into the dugout.

It may not be classy to boo your own player; however, Matusz was that dreadful on the mound.

After the game, Matusz was sent to Triple-A Norfolk. There was no other conclusion for him considering how inept he looked on Thursday.

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Frustration and Some Bright Lights...

There’s frustration growing in Birdland right now. It has been a miserable series for the Orioles as they have not done much offensively against the St. Louis Cardinals, and the pitching has been very shaky.

The Orioles are now 35-42, a season-worst seven games under .500 and have fans wondering can things get better – or are they getting worse?

Vladmir Guerrero is not really hitting as a clean-up hitter should be; Derrek Lee has been disappointing, Mark Reynolds is performing as I think should be, and everyone else has been merely adequate.

Of course, the Orioles have had trouble once again getting runners home and doing the little things to win; however, you have to give kudos to Nick Markakis getting out of his awful early season slump. He has got an 18-game hit streak going on and his batting average is up to now a robust .282.

You also have to be amazed by the work J.J. Hardy has put in so far with the Orioles. Although he missed some time to injury, you have got to wonder how good his level of production is right now at the plate. Most knew that Hardy is a quality shortstop, but as an Oriole, he has done everything expected of him – and more.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Welcome back Nick Markakis and a rant

On June 3rd of this year Nick Markakis was batting .239/.305/.616, Orioles fans were were really starting to get worried. I was actually beginning to wonder if we were going to have a kind of Rocco Baldelli situation I was genuinely concerned for Nick's health.

Then June happened.

Right now, June 28th, Nick Markakis is batting .279/.329/.690.

Over the last 14 days Nick has been absolutely on fire; .420/.453/.973. With his hit in tonight's first inning he has hit in 17 straight games tying a career high and tying for the longest hit-streak this year. He has not seen his extra-base hit power fully return as of yet, but you can tell it is coming around. He has shown more opposite field ability, his bat looks quicker and he just seems to be taking a much more confident approach at the plate. Bottom line, he looks like Nick again.

The power numbers are still woefully low, but he has twice as many homeruns now as he did this time last year so there is definitely signs of life there.

Many of us expected this to be the year that Nick finally makes the All Star team, that most certainly will not happen this year. But it is fantastic to see Nick Markakis look like himself again in the field and at the plate.

Speaking of the All Star Game, it continues to be complete bullcrap. I'm not complaining about Jeter begin in there he is a legend let him have it. I am upset over Russell Martin. Martin had an April that was simply the better than anything he had ever seen in his life. However, in the last month he has batted .147 with a simply un-holy .452 OPS. His year-long numbers now sit at .230/.734 with nine homeruns but only three of them hit since April 23. He is barely a top five catcher in the league. Mike Aviles, Matt Wieters, AJ Piersynski are all having better offensive years.

Defensively Martin is one of the WORST catchers in the AL, Wieters is of course the best defensive catcher in the league in virtually every category. Martin is only throwing out 29% of base stealers, for comparison Wieters is catching 42% of potential thieves.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Homerun Derby in Baltimore, Orioles Come Up Short

Last night was quite the spectacle, the Orioles and Reds combined for nine homers but the Orioles came up on the short end of the stick once again losing 10-5.

There are a couple things we need to talk about:

Brian Matusz: How freaked out should we all be?

Well, on a scale of 1-10 (One being Mr. Rogers after three cups of Sleepytime Tea and 10 being Andrew WK after 10 cups of espresso) I would say a solid five. You have to be concerned about Matusz at this point. Since coming back from injury his velocity has been way down and it hasn't gotten better. His command has been spotty and last night he simply got torched last night, but that has been par for the course. After two encouraging starts in June against Seattle and Oakland in his last three starts he has only pitched 11.1 innings and has given up 14 ER and six homers. Last night he was torched for three, two by regining NL MVP Joey Votto who had five RBI off two completely smashed homers.

I think Orioles fans need to be a little patient with Brian. To listen to some fans talk they are already beginning to wrote Matusz off as a bust; it's not that bad yet guys. Matusz is struggling there is no doubt about that but there is no reason to think that this is more than him struggling to get back from a nagging injury. Should he be DL'ed or sent down? According to MSNBC the Orioles have no plans to do that. He needs to work through things up here - but if things continue along these lines the Orioles will have to make a decision.

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Matusz Gets Hammered by The Big Red Machine

Its a wonderful day in Charm City and the Cincinnati Reds will be playing the Baltimore Orioles in the final contest of their three-game interleague series. It's partly cloudy day out and very comfortable out this afternoon. We are in the press box this afternoon.

Of course, the Orioles won Friday night thanks to Derrek Lee's walk-off homer in extra innings; however, they lost yesterday as an ineffective pitching corps lead by Brian Matusz got hammered by the swinging Reds, 10-5.

It's pretty obvious that there's is something very much wrong with Matusz. I didn't see the game since I was out of town; however, caught snippets of it on the radio and the kidsimply didn't have his stuff. Matusz isn't throwing very hard, and when he tries to locate his pitches, hitters have been getting good wood on his offerings. Overall, Cincinnati got all their runs off homers, and last night Camden Yards became a launching pad.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Orioles Finally Get into the Win Column; Things are Down and Dirty in Washington...

After a rather difficult week where the Orioles saw the surging Nationals and Pirates take two out of three games in their respective series, they had another tough customer in the Cincinnati Reds.

Few Oriole fans have been happy this week, considering the team is now six games under .500; however, they pulled out a win last night in 12 innings as they defeated the Reds, 5-4. I've out of town due to some personal stuff and following stuff sparingly, but I saw clips and pieces of the game on and saw the awesome ending courtesy of Derrek Lee's walk-off homer in the 12th.

Lee looks like he's finally putting it together at the plate, now batting .247 on the season.

Is Lee starting to get hot at the plate? Is he climbing back to his career norms? Or is taking advantage of facing the National League (where he played for a long time)? Could it also be that Father Time is taking a vacation away from Derrek Lee? Who knows? As long as he keeps swinging the bat like he has, we'll take it.

Good to see the Orioles win after a difficult loss in Pittsburgh. Also, it was nice to know that Blake Davis got his first career major league hit in last night's game. The bullpen was very impressive, especially Koji Uehara, who I got to see pitch for two innings.

Honestly, the Baltimore bullpen has been shaky, but the combo of Jim 'J.J.' Johnson and Koji Uehara can't be beat. It was also good to see beleagured reliever Mke Gonzalez hold things in check during the 12th inning and get the win.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Orioles take on Reds, slipping away

The Orioles will continue their trip down memory lane as they will take on another bygone World Series foe in the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds come into Baltimore in third place in the NL Central and assumed to be deeply entrenched in the playoff hunt. The Orioles, by contrast, are not. The Birds are coming off of three consecutive lost series, each of which had some very very winnable games.

Extra-inning loss in Toronto.

18 hit/ 4 run game in DC.

Late two-base mega-error game in Pittsburgh.

Because of this the Orioles are once again at a season-high six games under .500 and a 10 games out of first. With the Reds coming in tonight it starts a string of series for the Orioles that could bury this team completely if they aren't careful. Three against the Reds followed by three each against the Cardinals, Braves and Rangers. After that four games in Boston then back to Baltimore for four against Cleveland and another three against Boston.Needless to say the Orioles have hit a rough spot in their schedule, this is why you need to beat the teams you are "supposed" to beat and win the games you are "supposed" to win.

On the brighter side Nick Markakis is getting his swing back. In the last two weeks he is batting .404 with an OPS over .900, Mark Reynolds is now batting .231 with an OPS over .800 and J.J. Hardy has become an excellent leadoff hitter. In the leadoff spot J.J. is batting .356 with an OPS of 1.112.

That leads us to the next issue, Brian Roberts. There is no chance Brian Roberts will be back before the All Star Break but he will likely return at some point this season. If Hardy is putting up these kinds of numbers in the leadoff spot I don't see how it is possible you can move him from there. I know it is some kind of unwritten rule that a player should not lose his job due to injury, especially the freakish one that Roberts suffered, but the point remains Hardy is killing the ball in the leadoff spot. Along that same line of thought, the Orioles need to start work on extending Hardy's contract as soon as possible.

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Orioles take on Reds, slipping away

The Orioles will continue their trip down memory lane as they will take on another bygone World Series foe in the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds come into Baltimore in third place in the NL Central and assumed to be deeply entrenched in the playoff hunt. The Orioles, by contrast, are not. The Birds are coming off of three consecutive lost series, each of which had some very very winnable games.

Extra-inning loss in Toronto.

18 hit/ 4 run game in DC.

Late two-base mega-error game in Pittsburgh.

Because of this the Orioles are once again at a season-high six games under .500 and a 10 games out of first. With the Reds coming in tonight it starts a string of series for the Orioles that could bury this team completely if they aren't careful. Three against the Reds followed by three each against the Cardinals, Braves and Rangers. After that four games in Boston then back to Baltimore for four against Cleveland and another three against Boston.Needless to say the Orioles have hit a rough spot in their schedule, this is why you need to beat the teams you are "supposed" to beat and win the games you are "supposed" to win.

On the brighter side Nick Markakis is getting his swing back. In the last two weeks he is batting .404 with an OPS over .900, Mark Reynolds is now batting .231 with an OPS over .800 and J.J. Hardy has become an excellent leadoff hitter. In the leadoff spot J.J. is batting .356 with an OPS of 1.112.

That leads us to the next issue, Brian Roberts. There is no chance Brian Roberts will be back before the All Star Break but he will likely return at some point this season. If Hardy is putting up these kinds of numbers in the leadoff spot I don't see how it is possible you can move him from there. I know it is some kind of unwritten rule that a player should not lose his job due to injury, especially the freakish one that Roberts suffered, but the point remains Hardy is killing the ball in the leadoff spot. Along that same line of thought, the Orioles need to start work on extending Hardy's contract as soon as possible.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Reality of the Situation with Jeremy Guthrie

After two straight wins this week, the Orioles lost on Tuesday night to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 9-3 at PNC Park in the Steel City.

Well, Jeremy Guthrie was on the hill again for Baltimore and early on the game, you had to have some legitimate concern about him. After exiting early from his last start due to back issues, Guthrie gave up five runs in the first three innings, and the Orioles simply could not come back from it.

He kept the team in the game and it is a shame that once again his team could not plate in enough runs. Although Baltimore would have probably lost the game, the fact is that the team has not done the job offensively when it has needed to for him.

The Orioles showed some signs of life in the fifth inning as they plated three runs off Pittsburgh starter James McDonald, but that was all they could muster.

Right now, Guthrie is 2-9 and leads the American League in losses. However, if you look at his peripheral numbers and discount the nine losses, the man has an astounding 3.79 ERA!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been saying that the Orioles should perhaps extend Guthrie’s contract. As said last week, he is the de facto ace of the staff, an innings eater and a guy who seems to very accountable for whatever happens on the mound – his fault or not. It is almost at times Guthrie is stuck in neutral.

His situation in Baltimore may not be bad; alas, it has not improved much either in the past several seasons.

However, is it now to the point that the Orioles should trade him and move on? Fans have argued this. My friends and I have argued this over email and at our Sunday morning hang-out.

As I heard on 105.7 this morning on the Ed Norris/Steve Davis show while driving into, the conversation centered on keeping Guthrie versus trading him. They figured that the Orioles would be well served to trade him to a contender not only for help, but also for Guthrie’s sake.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Orioles Are Having a Tough Weekend in the Nation's Capital

While I'm partaking in some U.S. Open Golf in Bethesda, Maryland this weekend ... the Orioles, ugh, are not doing too well.

It was another day, another loss for the Birds on Saturday as they lost the Nationals again, 4-2.

If there's one thing I have noticed with the action in Washington while catching bits and pieces on MASN, plus replays on Sportscenter, it is that there have been remarkably large crowds to watch the games over the weekend. Both teams were terrible when it came to the win-loss record over the past few years; however, people are enthusiastic for baseball in the region, and one can imagine if both teams can start winning on a regular basis.

The Nationals - who many have seen as a bottom feeder in the NL East - have won eight straight games and have surged close to .500 mark. On the other hand, the Orioles are 31-37, and are six games under .500 -- plus have lost six out of their last seven games.

The news of the afternoon on Saturday in Washington centered around Brian Matusz' start after his horrendous outing last Sunday. He looked better than he did against the Rays; however, the Nationals torched him for four runs, mainly off a homers by Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse.

Matusz got through five innings of one-run ball before the decisive sixth inning, where he gave up three runs. To make things even worse, he left due to a hamstring injury. Matusz needed help walking off the field; however, he sounds much better this morning. Meanwhile, Washington's starting pitcher - Jordan Zimmermann - and his bullpen contained the Orioles.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

All Kinds of Ugly in D.C. Last Night...

There was some good, but a whole lot of bad in the nation's capital for the Orioles.

As James noted earlier, the Birds got spanked by the Nationals, 8-4, and although Nick Markakis and Derrek Lee had banner nights for the Orioles.

That's wonderful as two struggling players finally themselves going -- especially Lee -- who had five hits; however, it’s what the Orioles didn’t do that left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths.

A crowd of 35,562 - with a healthy mix of orange and black, sprinkled in with red - sat through a rain delay of under an hour before the game on Friday night. When things got started, it was one wacky game.

It seemed that the Orioles - despite pounding 18 hits and scoring only *four runs* - handed the game to the Nationals. In a sense, they buried themselves with errors, an alarming pitching performance in the bottom of the sixth inning, and a confounding inability to push runners across home plate. The Nationals would take advantage of it.

We all know aforementioned paragraph listed a litany of issues that the Orioles have had sprout up at one time or another. It was disturbing to watch on Friday.

With the score tied at four in the sixth inning, Baltimore reliever, Jeremy Accardo, walked Wilson Ramos to start the frame. He would then give up an RBI-double to Jerry Hairston that gave Washington a 5-4 lead.

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Orioles inexplicably lose in DC

The Orioles banged out 18 hits last night in DC. 18 hits yet only four runs and in an overall sloppy, underwhelming game the Orioles end up losing 8-4. The Nationals needed only 10 hits to score their eight runs, only five were earned. Three unearned runs came in the bottom of the fifth inning with Carlos Ramos on third and Jerry Hairston on first the Nationals' pitcher Jason Marquis came to the plate.

Marquis laid down a mediocre bunt in an attempt to sacrifice in the Nats' first run of the game. The ball travelled easily to the waiting glove of Mark Reynolds who picked it up, stopped, froze the runner and then threw to first. It was such an easy play, and easy throw. You could almost hear his thought process:

"Ah, delightful. It seems I have captured the ball on this poor bunt attempt. Oh! the runner on third - ahhh you crafty Ramos. You stay there, you will not travel home this day. Well, now all that is left to do is to lift my arm and casually throw the ball to first thus recording the first out of the inning."

Yes, Mark intended to throw the ball to Derrek Lee but he did not. Rather he threw it away from there. The throw, a very easy throw, went inexplicably wide and Ramos came into score, Hairston moved to third and Marquis, the pitcher that had failed just ten seconds prior was now standing on second base.

The Nationals went on to score three more runs that inning all of them unearned.

Despite the absolutely ridiculous error the Orioles fought back the very next inning to tie the game off of Vladimir Guerrero's RBI single followed by a JJ Hardy sac fly. The Orioles would load the bases that inning, with two out an Matt Wieters up he grounded out to end the inning.

The goats for last night were definitely Luke Scott and Matt Wieters, going a combined 0-10 in the middle of the lineup while the number 2,3 and 6 batters go 13-15. Scott and Wieters left 11 men on base last night allowing the Nationals to escape with a win.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Orioles Win, But Struggles Continue

The Orioles salvaged their series in Toronto yesterday, earning a 4-3 win over the Blue Jays. They are now 31-35 on the season.

Although the Orioles broke their losing skid and they broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the ninth inning thanks to Ryan Adams' single that plated two, things may not be all that good.

Starter Jeremy Guthrie left after the fifth inning due to a back strain -- not good. Who knows if a disabled list visit is in the cards for Guthrie, but if it does happen, it is a considerable blow for the Orioles. We all know that Guthrie is a hard-luck pitcher, as he always pitches well in most of his outings; however, he does not get run support, and finds himself losing far more games than he should.

He is the team's innings-eater and de facto ace; therefore, if he is out any length of time, it could leave a gaping hole in the rotation. Plus, I know -- including talking amongst my friends and fellow fans -- that Guthrie may be a candidate to be moved during the trade deadline to a contender that needs pitching.

I say keep Guthrie, and possibly extend him with a two-year deal, since he is been probably the most reliable pitcher on the team the past several seasons. The guy stays in shape, seems to want the ball, is a trooper and represents that organization well. He is on the wrong side of 30 for sure; however, his numbers speak for itself.

I'm not sure if Guthrie wants to stay in Baltimore for his entire career, or wants to be part of a winning organization; however, much like with J.J. Hardy, the organization should try to keep him.

In addition to the action yesterday, J.J. Hardy hit a solo homer, and Vladimir Guerrero went 3-for-4 with an RBI, plus got his 2,500th career hit. Jason Berken -- in his first outing since his promotion from Norfolk -- got the victory by pitching two scoreless innings. Kevin Gregg got the save, despite giving up a solo homer in the ninth inning.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Matusz Just Plain Bad; Rays Take Series

On Sunday, the Orioles as we all know lost to the Tampa Bay Rays, 9-6. The Rays easily took the three-game weekend series, using the long ball, an inside-the-park home run by Evan Longoria in the eighth and torching Oriole pitching.

In addition, the Orioles did not help out their own cause as Mark Reynolds committed two errors at third base, and Adam Jones’ misplay of Evan Longoria’s liner that led to his homer.

Baltimore’s offense did do some damage as Adam Jones and Vladimir Guerrero both homered in the first inning, plus Luke Scott had one in the eighth inning.

However, the story of the game involved starting pitcher Brian Matusz. There’s no need to beat around the bush with him – he was that dreadful on Sunday afternoon.

Matusz, who started the season on the disabled list, had two solid outings before Sunday’s game; however, his success did not come without some serious red flags. Most observed that Matusz’s velocity was down, but that being said, I – and some others – felt that at he might be able to get by with it.

That was not the case in Matusz’s third start of 2011. Aside from his stuff averaging in the mid-80’s, he got hit hard – and often.

Watching him work was pretty cringe-worthy and I’m sure many fans were asking, “What in the heck is wrong with Brian?”

Matusz allowed ten runners on base, gave up five hits, walked four and just seemed out of sorts. The southpaw only lasted 1 1/3 painful innings and apparently helped to bury his team. The Rays stole bases at will on him, he could not locate his pitches, he got hit hard, and they lacked life.

It almost looked Matusz was pitching batting practice to a Rays’ team that has been majorly pesky for the past few seasons.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Night of Comebacks, Mark Reynolds and a Bullpen Implosion: Orioles Lose to Rays

What a frustrating Saturday night to have watched a ballgame.

The Orioles, after coming back against tough lefty David Price, saw Kevin Gregg blow yet another save and saw the Tampa Bay Rays defeat them in eleven innings, 7-5.

They are now 30-32 on the season and are seven games behind first-place Boston in the American League East. Their four-game win streak was snapped as well. The bullpen was ineffective on the night and imploded at times when the game mattered the most.

Jeremy Accardo could not keep the Rays to 5-5 tie in the eleventh inning. Evan Longoria’s RBI-single gave Tampa Bay a 6-5 lead, and then they added an insurance run off Casey Kotchman’s double.

Baltimore could not rally against closer Kyle Farnsworth, who earned his 14th save. Juan Cruz – who pitched 2/3 of an inning in the tenth – got the win.

For the Rays, Kotchman destroyed the Orioles with four hits and two runs driven in. Evan Longoria had three hits and drove in three runs.

The Orioles got an excellent night from the suddenly formidable Mark Reynolds, who hit two home runs off David Price. He drove in three, plus helped engineer Baltimore’s comeback with a solo shot in the sixth inning to give them a 4-3 lead.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Markakis and Arrieta Lead Orioles to Fourth Straight Win...

As we all know, Nick Markakis has had a period of struggles at the plate. There’s been speculation whether he has been hurt, struggling, having problems or otherwise; however, on Friday night, we all saw a glimpse of vintage Nick for the first time in a good, long while.

The Orioles defeated the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-0, last night thanks to six RBIs – including a grand slam home run – by Nick Markakis, plus a lead-off home run by J.J. Hardy. They have won four straight games.

Baltimore also had a banner night on the mound by pitcher Jake Arrieta, as he threw seven scoreless innings – including five no-hit – to bring them within a game of .500, at 30-31. The pitching only allowed three hits on the night and sailed to an easy, solid win. He is now 8-3, and is one of the league-leaders in the American League with victories.

The Orioles attacked Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson – who has been one of the best young pitchers this year – early. Hardy’s homer in the first put Baltimore on the scoreboard, and in the next frame, Nick Markakis’ grand slam gave them a quick 5-0 lead. Markakis drove in two more in the eighth inning, thanks to an opposite field double.

The Baltimore bullpen did its job over the last few innings, but beleaguered reliever Mike Gonzalez had some struggles in the ninth, but got over it. He amazingly loaded the bases in the ninth and had the boo-birds in force in stands at Camden Yards waiting for an implosion. However, he got through his issues and got Sean Rodriguez to whiff, ending the game.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Orioles welcome the Rays

Jays, A's now the Rays.

Sometimes I think the schedule makers like to have a little fun.

Jeremy Hellickson takes his 2.38 ERA into Camden Yards tonight to face an Orioles team that has not beaten him in two attempts. Hell, the Orioles have not scored a run against the young starter in 14 innings. He will go up against the Orioles' hurler Jake Arrieta looking for his eighth win of the year which in a surprising bit of information would tie him for the league lead with Jon Lester. I'm not sure if that is more telling of Arrieta's talent or the futility of wins as a stat. But hey, before I completely discount the potential feat - if you have eight wins in June it means you are doing something right especially on a team that has had trouble scoring runs consistently like the Orioles.

This is a very important series for the Orioles. After an off day the Orioles need to keep the momentum up and build off the Oakland series. The Orioles did not score a lot of runs that series and they will probably need to score some more against the much better Rays team. Having just typed that I think I can honestly say that is an understatement. What made the Oakland series so great was that for the first time in awhile we saw the Orioles completely handle a team they SHOULD handle fairly easily. There has been no logical reason for the Athletics to dominate the Orioles like they have over the last decade or so. Especially on the west coast. It had me at a loss, even had Orioles center fielder Adam Jones at a loss when I asked him that very question on Tuesday.

The Rays are scuffling a bit, playing right around .500 over the month. During that time the team is batting a collective .236 with an OBP of .302 and an OPS of .680. While the Orioles offense certainly hasn't been setting the world on fire it has certainly been better than the collective efforts of the Rays.

The Orioles will have to do without Derrek Lee this weekend as he will be attending his Grandmother's funeral, and our condolences and thoughts go out to him and his family. Meanwhile in Baltimore that means Luke Scott will probably get some time at first against righties and recent call-up Brandon Snyder will most likely get the start against the lefty David Price tomorrow night.

The Orioles sit two games under .500 and the Rays sit between them and getting back. I am not expecting a continuation of the win-streak for another three games, especially going up against Hellickson and Price the next two days, but the Orioles have been playing very good baseball recently especially from the starters and the bullpen and if that can be maintained over the next couple of series we could see this team string together a nice little run of victories.

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Video: Adam Jones Speaks to Oriole Bloggers on June 7th

On June 7th, MASN in conjunction with the Baltimore Orioles held another team blogger day at Camden Yards. We all got to speak with center fielder Adam Jones and did a Q&A session with him on many, many topics.

Oriole-centric team blogs, Camden Chat, Camden Depot and Camden Crazies joined in the fun, along with some fans who were on the field for pre-game meet and greet.

In particular, one older gentleman decided to butt in our Q&A session with Jones and peppered him about questions concerning bunting, infield practice and some other prattle.

The other bloggers looked at him like what the "f**k are you doing?", however, at least when the man spoke, it was interesting. Plus, Adam's responses to him were priceless and reminds us all that perception isn't always reality.

Our questions to Adam Jones centered around the team so far, travel, life as a major leaguer, the draft, facing his old team and more. Stacey from Camden ChatCamden Chat has a great synposis of the Q&A, and Camden CraziesCamden Crazies along with Camden DepotCamden Depot have their thoughts.

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Britton and The Sheriff Help Orioles Sweep A's...

Last night, in the sweltering heat of Charm City, the Orioles swept the Oakland Athletics in their three-game set, defeating them, 3-2.

Baltimore’s Zach Britton, who had struggled through May after making things look easy on the first month on the job, was solid once again.

The Athletics jumped all over Britton when he faced them on the West Coast; however, he stifled them, only giving up a run in 6 1/3 innings. He would receive the win, while the bullpen gave up an unearned run, and Kevin Gregg got the save.

Well, we all knew at some point Britton was going to struggle, considering his age, experience, and the fact that scouting is so sophisticated now. Everyone knows Britton's stuff is extremely good and he is certainly going to be a solid major league pitcher; however, Britton struggled last month and the batters were starting to figure him out.

It is good to see that he has made some adjustments and maintained a level head. Britton looked confident last night on the mound and hopefully can build upon the start on Wednesday night.

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Off day musings

The Orioles completed a three-game sweep of those pesky pesky Oakland Athletics. The A's were dealt their ninth loss in a row after a 3-2 game yesterday at Camden Yards. The Orioles won on the backs of third baseman Mark Reynolds' two-run homer in the fifth and a fantastic 5.1 inning, six strike out performance from Zach Britton. The bullpen was again great with Jim Johnson, Koji and Kevin Gregg combining for an easy 3.2 innings of one-run ball.

All in all it is feeling good to be an Oriole fan right now. I commented that it felt as if the season was starting to slip away a week ago since the Orioles have won four of their last six and swept a team they haven't swept in 13 years. The Orioles will welcome the Tampa Bay Rays to the Yard starting tomorrow.

The Orioles are sitting two games under .500 right now despite not having Brian Roberts or Brian Matusz for most of the year. You might as well include Nick Markakis in that group as well he hasn't been here either. Derrek Lee has been on and off the starting lineup and Luke Scott has been struggling. Still, only two games under .500.

Thinking about it like that the Orioles' record has been a bit remarkable.

On Tuesday the Orioles and MASN hosted the Post and other Orioles bloggers for a night of baseball. Anthony posted the interview with Adam Jones below. I have to say this, it was a night. Talking baseball with Camden Crazies and Camden Depot all night was quite a blast. I had never been on the field before, nor come face to face with a player like that. Walking onto that hallowed turf was quite a rush.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Leftovers from Yesterday: Photos from MASN Blogger Day and Pre-Game Stuff

Actor Ed Harris is in town filming 'Game Change" for HBO, chronicling the 2008 Presidential Campaign. Harris will be playing senator John McCain - (R-Arizona), who of course lost to Barack Obama. He threw out the first pitch before last night's game.

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About Last Night: O's Win, Luke Scott, Brian Roberts and Blogger Day...

Last night at Camden Yards, pitcher Chris Jakubauskas was thrown into a spot start and honestly few people knew what to expect. In his time with the organization, he has been and up down between the majors and minors, and when he pitched on the mound as an Oriole, the results were mediocre at best.

However, last night, he stepped up in a big way, throwing five shutout innings and helping the Orioles coast to a 4-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics. Jakubauskas was decent, allowing only three hits on the night; sadly, he got drilled in the leg during the fifth inning, but finished up the frame in order to get the decision.

The improved Baltimore bullpen pitched four masterful innings to keep Oakland off the scoreboard. The offense came through as three solo homers – from J.J. Hardy, Luke Scott and Adam Jones – powered the Orioles to a win.

The good news from yesterday is that Luke Scott came through huge with a homer – that landed on hit Eutaw Street and makes him all the time leader with shots that approached that area with six – and a double. Luke has had issues with his shoulder for weeks now, and it should be little wonder that has been a leading cause of his struggles. However, let’s hope with the treatment he has been getting, Scott can now be a valuable part of the offense again.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Offense Helps Brian Matusz and Orioles Win; The Draft

It has been a struggle for the Orioles the past two weeks; however, they were able to get rolling early. Brian Matusz along with the bullpen helped them defeat the Oakland Athletics, 4-2.

Baltimore got a solid win in their first contest of a three-game set Oakland – a team that has all but owned them. They touched tough, young starter for the Athletics, Gio Gonzalez for four runs, scoring once in the first inning and three more in the second.

Brian Matusz in his outing, went 5 1/3 innings, and gave up two runs – all earned. That came off an Adam Rosales homer in the fourth inning.

He had three strikeouts and seven hits given on the night. According to various accounts from the media, his velocity was reported to be down – from the low 90’s according to the Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec to a touch below that. However, he was still effective and perhaps his decreased velocity might be due to his time off with an injury.

Hopefully, it comes back. If it does not, Matusz will need to locate his pitches effectively and realize that the margin for error may become razor thin. I do not see that much reason to worry unless he starts getting shelled on a regular basis.

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Blue Jays Take Series From Orioles and Stuffage...

After their nice win over the Blue Jays on Saturday night, the Orioles fell to them on Sunday, losing 7-4. Over the past year, the Blue Jays have owned the Orioles, and the result from this weekend’s series did not change much.

Toronto took two of three from Baltimore thanks to the longball as Adam Lind had an outstanding day, going for 4-for-4 with two solo homers. However, Escobar’s three-run homer made the difference for the Blue Jays, as it broke open a game which was tied at two in the fourth inning.

Jeremy Guthrie -- who started for Baltimore on the pitcher's mound – had a shaky performance as the Blue Jays teed off on him and hit the ball hard. He allowed six runs cross the plate in five innings of work. Guthrie has pitched well over his past few starts, but a strong Toronto lineup had their way with him.

The Orioles offense got two runs in the first inning off a Vladmir Guerrero double and a ground out by Derrek Lee. Nick Markakis plated in a run in the fifth off sacrifice fly, and Mark Reynolds hit his ninth homer – a solo shot – in the eighth inning. They had a quick 2-1 lead after the second inning; however, they could not hold onto it.

Ever since the Orioles sniffed .500 before their West Coast road trip, it has not been easy. They have lost seven out of their last nine games. The Orioles' offense has struggled and the starting pitching has had bouts of inconsistency. Well, I expected the Orioles at 26-31, to hit some rough patches, especially as the season goes on and the pressure that has been put on the young arms.

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Luke Scott, The Draft, The Orioles

The Orioles lost yesterday. So what else is new?

Tonight the Birds will welcome a slipping Oakland Athletics team to Camden Yards, they are fresh off a rather heartbreaking sweep at the hands of the Boston Red Sox, but that is not the most important thing going on tonight. Tonight is the 2011 Amateur Draft and the Orioles are picking fourth.

The likely picks: Dylan Bundy, Danny Hultzen and Archie Bradley. All three are pitchers, Hultzen is a college lefty and Bundy and Bradley are high schoolers.

All three have been rated as top ten picks in various pre-draft lists and up until this morning Bundy and Hultzen were the most common choices and seemingly out of nowhere Bradley has been linked to the Orioles by Keith Law and Jim Callis. The Orioles are picking fourth and have been linked to a player who was picked to barely get into the top ten in most pre-draft rankings and this has a lot of fans jumping directly to the Matt Hobgood comparrisons but I think that is a little premature. Bradley is considered to be a "big, strong righty" with a fastball consistently in the mid 90's and a "power" knuckle-curve.

Bundy was named Gatorade's Oklahoma Player of the Year and elected to the Rawlings First Team Preseason All-American. Hultzen is an ACC pitcher from Bethesda and is probably the most major-league ready player of the three, as he should be.

With power pitchers like Bundy and Hultzen most likely available at the fourth pick where is Bradley coming from? Questions have been raised about signability and contract value. Are the Orioles taking the cheaper road? Possibly, but it does not seem like Bradley is all that bad a pick, in fact he has just as good a chance as the other three and the reviews and reports I have read have me interested in his abilities but is he better than Bundy, Hultzen or even third baseman Anthony Rendon (projected to go second to Seattle) if he falls to the Orioles? Probably not.

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Derrek Lee returns, Orioles need a win

After one rehab start Derrek Lee is back in the lineup tonight for the Birds.

The Orioles need a win tonight to avoid falling to a new season low six games under .500. After winning four in a row to get back to .500 the Orioles have lost six of their last seven their latest coming at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays last night here at Camden Yards.

Tonight the Orioles will send Jake Arrieta to the mound against the Jay's young power-house Ricky Romero.

The Birds' offense showed a little bit of life last night scoring four runs, with the help of a J.J. Hardy two-run homer, but could not stop the potent homerun bats of the Jays. This time the Jays got a grand slam, with two out and two strikes, from catcher J.P.Arencibia as the Jays went on to an 8-4 win.

Goats for the Orioles last night once again included struggling starters Luke Scott and Nick Markakis. Two players that were expected to be cornerstones for this team are just having atrocious seasons thus far. Luke and Nick combined to go 0-9 last night leaving seven men on base between them.

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Orioles Snap Five Losing Skid: Jones Shines and Matusz Returns...

The Orioles hit pay-dirt on Wednesday afternoonWednesday afternoon, breaking a five game losing streak and defeating the Seattle Mariners, 2-1.Seattle Mariners, 2-1. They ended their West Coast swing with a 1-5 record.

We all saw the return of Brian Matusz to the moundBrian Matusz to the mound for the first time this season. Overall, he was extremely strong. Matusz went 5 2/3 inningsMatusz went 5 2/3 innings and looked like the same pitcher who emerged as a force for Baltimore at the end of last season.

Matusz threw 84 pitchesMatusz threw 84 pitches and left with the game tied at one in the sixth inning. Matusz seemed to look better as the game went onMatusz seemed to look better as the game went on and it's too bad that he didn't get to go longer. Considering the precarious starting pitching the Orioles have received over the past week or so, seeing Matusz on the mound should bring a smile to everyone’s faces.

Matusz was helped by amazing defense -- especially Jones’ catch Jones’ catch in the fourth inningfourth inning – plus mixing up his pitches. The bullpen for Baltimore kept everything else in control as Jim Johnson, and Koji Uehara kept the Mariners at bay. Kevin Gregg got the save, as he pitched a perfect ninth inning.

For Seattle, big Michael Pineda also shined on the mound as he went seven innings and gave up a run. Boy, if all goes well in Seattle in the near future, will they ever have a scary pitchings staff with Felix Hernandez and Pineda as a 1-2 combo.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Orioles Lose Fifth in A Row: Birds Cooked on Homer by Smoak...

The West Coast road trip for the Baltimore Oriolesthe Baltimore Orioles became much worse on Tuesday night as they lost to the Seattle Mariners, 3-2Seattle Mariners, 3-2.

This past week has been nothing short of frustrating for the team and us watching from home. The Orioles could be swept again this afternoon, if all doesn’t go wellif all doesn’t go well.

What can certainly be done at this point? The bottom line is the offense is not producingThe bottom line is the offense is not producing, and the Orioles – at least in the past few days – are doing enough to lose.

Baltimore starting pitcher, Jeremy GuthrieBaltimore starting pitcher, Jeremy Guthrie, was on his way to an impressive outing and could have ended the losing streak, which has now reached five games. With a 2-0 lead in the eighth inningWith a 2-0 lead in the eighth inning, Guthrie committed a fundamental error, as he attempted to retrieve a hit ball thrown – hard – by Luke Scott after an Ichiro Suzuki grounderan Ichiro Suzuki grounder.

That would defeat the Orioles as the baseball tipped off of Guthrie’s glove. Two batters later, with runners on first and second, Seattle’s Justin Smoak would pretty much bury Baltimore with a three-run homer.

The Orioles could not come back, and Guthrie’s solid outing went down the toilet.

What can you say? They have little margin for error, and if they fall behind, it is extremely hard for the Birds to come back.

Two old friends from Baltimore – pitchers Erik BedardErik Bedard and Chris Ray – played a role in the Mariners win. Bedard started the game for Seattle, went 6 1/3 innings and gave up two runs.

He matched Guthrie pitch-for-pitch until the sixth as Nick Markakis plated a run with a grounder to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead. Baltimore added another run in the seventh as Matt Wieters hit a solo homer.

Chris Ray – former Oriole reliever – got the win, as he pitched 1 2/3 shutout innings. Brandon League got the save.

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