Monday, July 30, 2012

Chen Delivers and Cools the Hot A's; Wheeling and Dealing...

The Orioles needed a win on Sunday to not lose any further ground in the Wild Card race, and they got from a superb performance on the mound by Wei-Yin Chen, plus a Matt Wieters three run homer.

When all was said and done, the Orioles defeated the Oakland Athletics, 6-1, on a wonderful Sunday afternoon in Baltimore.

They avoided a three game streak against a very hot Oakland team, and at 53-49, remain 2.5 games behind in the wild card hunt. The Orioles are 7.5 games behind the Yankees in the American League East.

Chen was star of the game, as he pitched a masterful game, perhaps one of better starts by an Oriole in a longtime. The only real downer to Chen’s outing was that he didn’t get past the sixth inning, despite striking out 12 Oakland batters and dominating them. He walked four, and upped his pitch out to over 100 before the sixth inning; therefore, he got pulled.

Chen’s feat made a bit of history as he set a record for the most strikeouts by a Taiwanese-born pitcher and the most by an Oriole since July 2007 (set by Erik Bedard). He got some major help by the Baltimore offense as they jumped on Oakland starter Travis Blackley in the fourth inning as they plated four runs in the frame – off an Adam Jones RBI-double and a Matt Wieters three-run homer, his 13th.

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

About Last Night

Last night’s loss to the Oakland Athletics was understandable; however, it was inexcusable. With the Orioles in Wild Card contention, they gave away a game that should have won.

We all know by now that the Orioles lost to the Athletics 14-9, despite two comebacks against perhaps the hottest team in baseball; alas, close Jim Johnson gave up six runs in the top of the ninth. Oakland just got single-after-single off of Johnson and led to the Baltimore loss.

I was a little galling to see that happen in person with him, but Johnson is one of the better relievers in baseball. He’s one of the crucial reasons why the Orioles are where they are in late July. However, the Orioles had this game in hand, and this loss could be a critical one. Then again, Johnson has been struglling a bit since the All-Star Game, especially within the last two or so weeks.

They have the A’s for two more games, then the Yankees, followed by the Rays. If the Orioles falter during the next week and a half, they could be done in terms of their playoff hunt. They are 52-48 and have hung around in the race much longer than anyone anticipated. They are 2 1/2 games behind the Wild Card leaders the Athletics and Los Angeles Angels. It seems like when a lot of people believe the Orioles are dead, they find a way to stay alive. Like I said, the next week-and-half will tell us a lot about them.

The bottom line is that they need to win games they should. They were 41-0 when leading after eight innings heading into Friday; however, while events like last night do happen, the Orioles must finish off their opponents.

The offense has come alive of late, and both Adam Jones and Chris Davis homered. They scored four times in the fifth and three more in the eighth using good at-bats plus being patient at the plate.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Orioles Lose 2nd in a row; the trade deadline and Penn State...

After a successful swing in Cleveland where they won three out of four games, the Orioles returned home to Camden Yards to face the rival Tampa Bay Rays.
Sadly, the Orioles could not defeat them on Tuesday night as they fell to them, 3-1. They once again got a quality start from Wei-Yin Chen, who went 6 2/3 innings and started the game on a roll; however, the Rays got him in the fifth inning as Brooks Conrad hit a two-run homer and they added another run in the sixth inning.
Overall, Chen provided the Orioles with what they needed: good pitching. Sadly, the offense did not reciprocate. However, he walked a few guys and they came back to bite him via the runs scored. That cost him and the Orioles the game on Tuesday night.
Baltimore only mustered a run off Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson (who earned the win) – and that came via an Adam Jones homer in the 4th inning that put them ahead briefly, 1-0. They only got three hits off Rays pitching, and when runners got on base, they blew opportunities.

They had runners on base in the ninth – in fact, two – off walks by Tampa closer Fernando Rodney (who earned the save); however, he struck the final two batters to end the game.
The Orioles are 51-46 and are 1.5 games back in the wild card hunt , and there are now four teams – Detroit, Oakland, the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels. They trail the Yankees by seven games in the American League East. They have lost two games in a row, after winning five straight.
That all being said, we as fans are hoping for Dan Duquette to make a move and soon. He let the media know that they will be buyers at the deadline; however, who will they get – if at all possible?
They have less than a week left, and while the pitching situation has stabilized this week, they still need another arm in rotation. With some of more prominent names coming off the board (and soon) – like Wandy Rodriguez, Ryan Dempster, and several others – Baltimore has to strike.

However, they do need a bat as well. Then again, the Orioles do have some pop in their lineup, but they do not steal, nor are a contact type of team. I do wish they could acquire a hitter that is more patient at the plate, but I think the priority should be getting a front-line starter.
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Monday, July 23, 2012

Baltimore wins fifth in a row; look to sweep Indians

After being written off by some during the first part of July thanks to an extended slump, the Orioles have turned it on during the latter part of the month. As we all know, they have been plagued by problems with their starting rotation recently; however, over the past week, the Orioles have gotten four great starts in a row from the starting pitching, leading to a four-game win streak.
On Sunday, young southpaw Zach Britton continued that trend in only his second major league start of the year as the Orioles defeated the Cleveland Indians, 4-3. They have won five in a row and are now within only six games of the first-place Yankees. Well, in that regard, they still have a hill to climb to catch them, but they have been playing exceptionally well and took advantage of the Bombers getting swept over the weekend by the surging Oakland Athletics.
They are locked in a three-way tie for the two Wild Card spots with the aforementioned Athletics and Los Angeles Angels.
Britton was brilliant on the mound this Sunday, going six shutout innings and only allowed four hits, struck out five and walked two. Obviously, he did much better in this start than what we all saw in Minnesota and everyone saw a little bit of what him so promising last season. Britton had a tough first inning; however, he settled in and mowed down the Indians throughout the duration of his outing.
The Baltimore bullpen nearly erased they had built up by the ninth inning as they gave up three runs in the final frame. Luis Ayala, who had thrown two innings of scoreless relief before the ninth inning, allowed two runs, and Jim Johnson – who came in to pitch two outs – gave up another run before registering his 30th save.

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50+ Wins

The Orioles recorded their 50th win yesterday with a win over the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. The Birds did not record their 50th win until August 24th last year. This is the earliest the Orioles have won 50 games since the still haunting 2005 season. That win came against the Minnesota Twins, and was quickly followed by six straight losses which was the beginning of a longer streak of 14 losses in 15 games.

This year, however, the Orioles attain their 50th win as the latest win in a modest four game run. Modest in length, but not in style. After the Orioles' starting rotation seemed to be in full freefall Tommy Hunter, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman put together four stellar starts in a row. The starters over the last four games have pitched 27.2 (that is just a hair under 7IP/G) and have put up a collective ERA of 1.99.

The Orioles' bats seem to be slowly waking from their slumber. Nick Markakis has flourished in the leadoff role, Jim Thome has hit homers in back-to-back games while putting up a very good .362 OBP in the middle of the order. Adam Jones continues to lead the team in everything and even JJ Hardy appears like he is beginning to emerge from his doldrums. It is amazing what a solid week of baseball can do for one's spirits.
A solid week is coming at the right time for the Orioles. The Yankees have lost three straight to the A's; Toronto is pulling the Red Sox back towards the bottom of the division and the Rays continue their sputtering ways. The wins against the Indians have also done some good in the Wild Card standings as the O's have put some separation between themselves and the AL Central teams.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is okay to start looking at those standings. The Orioles have, if nothing else, maintained thus far even after losing their ace Jason Hammel and have even successfully worked their record back over .500 (5-4) since the All-Star Break. Now we can sit here and say that the Orioles have done this against the Twins and Indians, but I hate doing that. You may have an argument with the Twins, but the last time I checked the Indians were a team in a very similar situation as the Orioles. Moreover didn't the Indians basically slap the Orioles around the park for four games just last month? At the heart of the Orioles' recent stretch of pitching prowess sits call-ups Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman. Tillman's struggles are long and storied, and even though he gave up seven runs in the first inning of his game against the Twins only one was earned and he pitched a stellar game yesterday. Gonzalez has been the biggest surprise as he has pitched very solid games against some very tough offenses and has answered the call.

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Orioles win in Cleveland; the trade dealine and moves...

The Orioles pulled out another victory as they defeated the Cleveland Indians last night on the road, 3-1. They were  aided by Jim Thome – who hit his second homer as an Oriole and 611th in his career – along with a Ryan Flaherty homer in the eighth, plus the arm of Chris Tillman.

Tillman was probably the biggest story in the game. After being killed by the Twins earlier in the week, Tillman stepped up and pitched well, going 6 2/3 innings and only giving up a run – off an early homer by leadoff hitter for the Indians, Shin-Soo Choo.

No one knew what would happen with Tillman after his scary start in Minnesota, but he showed his ability on the mound and kept the Cleveland offense at bay. The bullpen did the rest and closer Jim Johnson got his 29th save of the season.

The Orioles have won four in a row and are now 50-44. They trail the Yankees by seven games in the American League East, and are in a four way tie for the American League wild card with the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland A’s (did they ever come from nowhere), and the Chicago White Sox.

They were struggling for a good bit in July and has many wondering if they were fading and all falling into old habits; however, the concerns might have been premature. The team still has several flaws, but they are somehow in the race for a wild card spot and have hung in there for nearly two-thirds of the season.

At this point, the Orioles are very much into the playoff hunt and one has to wonder what – if any moves – will be made at the deadline for the Orioles. With the trade deadline coming soon, they need perhaps another bat or arm to give them an edge.

While the Orioles do need to make a move – for example, a guy like Chase Headley might work and be a viable part for the future – the big picture needs to be looked at.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hunter Shines on the Mound, Jones Homers; Orioles Snap Losing Skid

Yesterday, the Orioles got a well-needed victory as Tommy Hunter’s arm and Adam Jones’ propelled them over the Minnesota Twins, 2-1.

Baltimore snapped a painful three-game losing streak and finally got a stellar performance from a starting pitcher. Hunter, who was demoted back to the minors again this season for the second time, was brought back up to the majors to stop the bleeding for the Orioles. He did his job, tossing 7 1/3 innings in which he only gave up a run.

Considering how bad he looked throughout most of the season, this is a watershed moment for him. That being said, who knows if Hunter’s start on Wednesday night is the beginning of something or a mirage; however, the Orioles needed one of their young guns to step up on the mound.

He is the third pitcher in as many days to be called up from Norfolk. This time, maybe he will stick around for much longer. Really, the team needs clutch performances like with what Hunter on the moound did last night to stick around in the wild card hunt. Who know if Dan Duquette can swing a deal for starter like – for example, Francisco Liriano, who has been striking out the world but lost last night to the Orioles.

Right now, with a 47-44 record and still very much in the Wild Card hunt, can Baltimore grind out games in the second half. The offense has struggled mightily; however, the pitching issue – especially on the starting end should be paramount.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tillman Just Plain Bad; Orioles Killed By Twins...

After Saturday’s thrilling win against the Detroit Tigers, things seem to have only gotten worse for the Orioles. They lost on Sunday, and figured their first stop on a weeklong road trip against the woeful Minnesota Twins might do some good.

Sadly, it would not go as planned. The Orioles were hoping for another good start from Chris Tillman and were optimistic in his abilities after throwing 8 1/3 highly effective innings against the Seattle Mariners right before the All-Star break.
Baltimore would get their you-know-what handed to them as Minnesota killed them by a score of 19-7.

It was ugly for Tillman as he only lasted 2/3 innings and gave up six runs. Then the bullpen came onboard, and the results were ugly for them too. Overall, it was an ugly night in the Midwest, and the Orioles would benefit from erasing the ugliness from Monday out of their system.

Pretty much every pitcher who came into the game – with the exception of Troy Patton and Matt Lindstrom – gave up a run and just looked taxed. Even Jim Johnson, the All-Star closer, gave up 5 runs in 1/3 of an inning (in the ninth) in mop-up duty and trying to get some work in.

Despite the horrific pitching, Mark Reynolds had three hits, homered and drove in four runs. Both Nick Markakis and Adam Jones had three hits, plus Endy Chavez plated in two runs.

On the other hand, the Twins treated the Orioles like garbage as Ben Revere had four hits and drove in three; meanwhile, Denard Span drove in five and Joe Mauer, Jamey Carroll along with Ryan Doumit plated in two runs reach.

However, the story of the night was Tillman for the Orioles. We’ve seen him struggle with inconsistency since he was traded from the Mariners to the Orioles. It seems while he has shown flashes of brilliance, Tillman can never figure himself out and looks like a different pitcher from start to start.

Many have called him a Four-A pitcher, and while down in Norfolk this season, according to the local media, he has improved his mechanics and succeeded.

I guess now we all have to wonder if his start two weeks ago was a fluke, or if Tillman can ever be the pitcher many envision him to be. I’m sure he will get another opportunity on the mound for Baltimore; however, for a team with a shaky pitching situation, who knows.

Tillman’s outing – although an extreme example – is emblematic as to how the Orioles have looked the past month and a half. Despite being able to hit home runs, they need pitching , and maybe two guys – Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez – are giving the Orioles quality outings. With Jason Hammel hurt, the Orioles need strong performances on the mound if they are even going to stay in the playoff hunt.

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Orioles start second half season with a loss; Hammel hurt...

The second half of the season for the Orioles commenced on Friday night; however, from the looks of it, the same old problems still afflict the Birds. They would lose the first contest of a three game series with the Detroit Tigers, losing 7-2.

They have now fallen to 45-41 on the season and are eight games behind the New York Yankees in the American League East.

Aside from the loss, the biggest news from yesterday involves Jason Hammel, who left the mound in the fourth inning. It looks like he hurt his knee – the same one that was giving him issues throughout the season. Hammel would leave the game with the Orioles behind 3-0; however, a four-run fifth inning finished them off for the night as the bullpen could not hold the Tigers.

Back to Hammel – if he is injured, the Orioles are in a world of trouble. This is a team seemingly full of flaws – suspect starting pitching, a porous defense, an offense that does nothing else but swing for the fences – and if Hammel’s injury is serious, the Orioles will have to hunt for a pitcher or see what one of their minor leagues can do. Perhaps Zach Britton – who has pitched well in Triple-A – or Brian Matusz will be promoted back to Baltimore.

This is not an ideal situation for a team hunting for a wild card spot. Sorry, the Yankees have the American League East locked up, barring a crazy scenario.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Looking forward

The All star Break is upon us and the Orioles are currently sitting five games over .500, bunched with the non-New York teams in the AL East. The first half of the Orioles' season has outperformed everyone's wildest expectations and the team has some very serious, and very important decisions to make.
General Manager Dan Duquette has to decide how much he wants to wager on this summer, the Orioles' minor league system has some useful pieces that could be moved to fill in holes on the major league squad - but he can't mortgage the future for a run that could very easily fail if the Orioles don't capitalize on their solid first half play.

It boils down to, "go for it" or "wait for the future".

Reasons to "go for it":

1) The Al East is the weakest it has been in a decade and the Orioles are in a position to take advantage of it. The Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox and Tampa bay Rays are all extremely flawed teams that are dealing with scores of injuries. On top of all of that the Orioles' rivals have largely underperformed so far this year. While the Yankees have now acquired the American League's best record the Orioles have hung around long enough to remain relevant in the wild card hunt.

Don't pay attention to those "playoff prediction percentages" you see, they don't take things like injuries into consideration, nor strength of schedule. The Orioles will have one of the "easier" schedules in the second half and that will only help them in their run.

2)The second wild card. When MLB announced that a second wild card would be instituted this year most people in baseball rolled their eyes and yawned. After the drama of game 162 last year, where the Red Sox were knocked out of the playoffs, it appeared that Bud Selig was once again rigging the game to assure that both the Yankees and Red Sox would make the playoffs. yet here we are, the Red sox are in last place and the Orioles currently have a, very slim, lead in the second wild card.

The American league is a very interesting place this year. As it stands right now only three teams are legitimately out of the race (The Royals, Mariners and Twins) and the rest of the league is salivating at the thought of sneaking in the playoffs. The Orioles have a legitimate shot like the rest of them and despite their recent skid they are hanging in there and need to strike when they have their opportunity because there is no guarantee it will come again next year. if they pass up this chance they could once again be stuck as a middling team in a very tough division.

3) Breaking the streak. The Orioles have not had a winning season since 1997 and this is their best chance of breaking that streak since 2005. The team needs to show the fans that they are serious about making this team a winner in a very demanding league and the fans are frankly tired of "waiting for the kids to develop." The group of young arms known as the cavalry have largely failed to live up to the hype, catcher Matt Wieters took a couple years to come into his own, Nick Markakis really hasn't lived up to his contract and despite all of that the Orioles are where they are right now. Duquette simply can't let this first half be squandered and he needs to make a play to run for the post-season. Even if he misses the post-season the team will likely break that ridiculous streak and be on better footing next year when players like Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado may be knocking on the door.

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Orioles close out first half with a loss to the Angels

The Orioles finished up the first half of the season losing to the Los Angeles Angels, 6-0, on Sunday afternoon. They are now 45-40, and now trail the New York Yankees by seven full games in the division hunt.

As we all know, it has not been good for the Orioles this month, and they lost their second straight game yesterday as Wei-Yin Chen only lasted four innings, and gave up five runs – all earned, plus off of three homers (from Erik Aybar, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout). Obviously, Chen took the loss in a performance that was pretty sloppy, and he was pretty much unable to get his pitches over to be effective.
Luis Ayala would serve up another homer to Mark Trumbo in the fifth inning.

For the Orioles, they only mustered five hits and made Angels’ starter, Brad Mills look like an ace. He went five shutout innings before their bullpen took over.

The Baltimore offense struggled again, and maybe a break will do them some good. They just look awful, are taking poor at-bats, seemingly have no plan and made a soft-tosser like Mills look simply amazing.

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Weaver defeats Orioles, Hammel and Markakis

What can you say about the Orioles? For the past few weeks, they’ve been lackluster and on the left coast last night – in Anaheim – their struggles at the plate continued.

Jered Weaver and the Angels defeated the Orioles again, this time by a score of 3-0. Once again, Weaver treated the Orioles like garbage, as he went eight innings, allowed only three hits and struck out five in eight innings of work.

Only Wilson Betemit, Jim Thome and Robert Andino mustered a hit against one of the best pitchers in baseball – despite Weaver not throwing extremely hard. The Orioles just didn’t show a particularly good approach at the plate and seemingly can’t do much at all if they can’t hit homers.

The offense needs to badly get their stuff together if they are to stay in the race – even with the addition of Jim Thome, who frankly has not done much.

If that does not happen, the Orioles will fade from the playoff race.

Jason Hammel pitched very well for Baltimore on the mound and took the loss. He went 6 2/3 innings and gave up three runs. The Angels can hit and do all the little things right at the plate. They chipped away at Hammel, little by little, and leading 1-0 in the seventh inning, they scored twice in the frame to send him to the showers.

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Arrieta Struggles and is optioned to minors after the game; The pitching starting must improve, or else...

It goes without saying that this four-game series over the weekend is monumental for the Baltimore Orioles, as it could help them stay in the thick of things in the American League East hunt.

Then again, if they do not at least split the series in California, it could send the Orioles into quite the tailspin and dangerously close to the .500 mark, plus to the basement of the division.

The Los Angeles Angels once again defeated the Baltimore Orioles this season, this time, by a score of 9-7, on the left coast. Well, the Orioles once again got another lackluster performance from a young pitcher – Jake Arrieta.

After the game, the Orioles sent another pitcher back to the minors for seasoning. Guess who it was: Jake Arrieta.

One could say that Arrieta perhaps has the best arsenal on the Baltimore Orioles when you look at all the starting pitchers; however, all that does not make a difference if you cannot be consistent on the mound.

Arrieta looked better in June; alas, when July rolled around, he was awful – again.

Well, I watched the game until the 4th inning, and the Orioles were up 4-3 on the Angels. Jake Arrieta looked a little shaky, but if the cards were played right, he might have been acceptable on the evening.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Matusz Demoted; Orioles are Struggling Badly...

Greetings, everyone. I've been away for much of the weekend and greatly affected by the power outage in the area. Hope everyone is healthy and safe out there.

Anyhow, I didn't catch much of the Orioles this weekend aside from being at the game Friday night - which was a win; however, the Orioles have struggled both on the pitching and offensive front for the better part of two weeks

Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen could not serve as stoppers during the series with Cleveland, and they depended on southpaw Brian Matusz to do his part to help salvage it.

He could not, and the Orioles lost again on Sunday, 6-2, and his reward: a demotion. Matusz will be heading back to Triple-A to see if he can get himself straight on the mound.
It was ugly on Sunday for the southpaw. He only lasted four innings, gave up five runs – four earned – and was booed off the mound when his outing ended. I have always thought – good or bad, that Matusz is still part of the Orioles future; however, that is now in question.

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A Win is a Win, Even When Shaky; Chen Impresses

Back in the off-season, the Orioles acquired Wei-Yin Chen and I – along with many fans thought – what he would bring to the table. They were in a desperate need for some pitching, and Baltimore needed to find some arms, so Dan Duquette – the new general manager at the time – decided to scour the Asian market.

There Duquette found Chen.

Ok, so he was probably watching him for a while and swooped right on in.

Well, during the 2012 season, Chen has become a rock of the Baltimore starting rotation. He was under the radar when it came to the free agent market, and so far it has paid some great dividends for the Orioles.

My friend – who is a Nationals fan – sent me a text at 12 midnight telling me to watch the game. I decided to flip on MASN and there I saw Chen two-third of the way into a perfect game. He would lose it off a homer by Seattle’s Casper Wells, and his team almost blew the game until Robert Andino’s homer in the ninth.

The record will show that the Orioles defeated the Seattle Mariners, 5-4, in a close game; however, my attention was solely faced on Wei-Yin Chen while watching the game. He served as a stopper for the Orioles, as they had lost three straight before Tuesday night.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Orioles and Nationals team up to have fans vote for Beltways Ballot of Hammel and Harper for the All-Star Game

Orioles and Nationals team up to have fans vote for Beltways Ballot of Hammel and Harper for the All-Star Game.

The Orioles and Washington Nationals have partnered in an effort to help send the “Beltways Ballot” of RHP JASON HAMMEL and OF BRYCE HARPER to Kansas City for this year’s All-Star Game. Hammel and Harper are candidates on Major League Baseball’s Final Vote ballot, in which five players each are chosen from the American and National Leagues to compete for the final spot on their respective league rosters. Fans are encouraged to go online or use their mobile phones from now through 4:00 p.m. this Thursday, July 5, to vote for Hammel for the American League and Harper for the National League.

Fans voting for Hammel will be eligible to win a VIP Meet & Greet with Jason, parking and four (4) field box seat tickets to an Orioles home game in July or August. In addition, fans who vote online at at least 20 times for Hammel and select the Orioles as their “favorite” or “other favorite” team can receive a 50% OFF discount offer for up to four (4) tickets to an Orioles home game July 24 through 29. Voting is also available via mobile phone by texting A4 to 89269.

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