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It’s all about Leadership: The Orioles Sweep the Rays to Open the Season

Orioles starting Pitcher Chris Tillman (shown in Norfolk 2010) pitched 6 no-hit inning against the Rays before being lifted when his pitch count went over 100

“Nobody likes to hear it, because it’s dull, but the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.”  Earl Weaver

Note: This is my first baseball post of the 2011 season which actually deals with what is happening on the field. Last year I wrote almost exclusively about the Baltimore Orioles AAA affiliate the Norfolk Tides. I was a season ticket holder and decided to write on every game.  This year since I am stationed in Camp LeJeune and cannot go to Harbor Park every home game I will focus on the Baltimore Orioles and to a lesser degree the Tides. I do this because I know a lot of the players from their time in Norfolk and have met various scouts and team officials to include Orioles General Manager Andy McPhail. I would like to do this for the team that I grew up with the San Francisco Giants but since they are a West Coast team it is harder to keep up with them the way I can the Orioles.  I will also do some commentary on other teams, especially in the AL East but also try to tell the stories of players that I know from Norfolk who are now in the Major Leagues.

Can you say the word “winner in the same sentence as Orioles?” I knew you couldn’t. Well the Orioles started the season off right sweeping the Tampa Bay Rays in Tampa with dominant pitching, solid defense and more than enough hitting to get the job done. Orioles starting pitchers Jeremy Guthrie, Chris Tillman and Zach Britton allowed just 1 run on 6 hits in 20 innings work. Tillman who pitched a no-hitter as a starter for the AAA Norfolk Tides last year had a no-hitter going after 6 innings but was lifted by Manager Buck Showalter as his pitch count had gone over 100.  Orioles’ relievers were solid and some players picked up in the off-season, particularly J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds.

Are the Orioles for real? I say most definitely yes.

In 2010 the Baltimore Orioles began the season under the direction of Manager Dave Trembley lost 9 of their first 10 and 16 of their first 20 games.  Under Trembley the O’s went 15-39 before he was fired and replaced by Third Base Coach Juan Samuel who went 17-34.  The season was in the tank and it looked like the Orioles were on track to lose well over 100 games.  Then proven winner and leader Buck Showalter was as hired as Manager on August 2nd.  After that the Orioles were a different team, the players were the same but the attitude and performance was as if the team itself had risen like the legendary Phoenix. From the time that Showalter took over the Orioles went 34-23 having the second best record in Major League Baseball between August and the end of the season.  It was an amazing turnaround and it was due to leadership. At the beginning of 2010 I thought that the Orioles had the talent to finally break .500 and turn a winning season for the first time since 1997 when they went 98-64 under Davey Johnson and reach the ALCS.  They didn’t finish anything close to .500 but the turnaround at the end of the season showed that it wasn’t the level of talent it was the on-field leadership that was the difference.

Young veteran Jeremy Guthrie pitched 8 scoreless innings against the Rays on opening day

This season as always the Orioles are getting little respect from the so called experts, most predicting a slightly better year than 2010 but almost all saying that the Orioles will finish at the bottom of the AL East once again. I don’t think that this will be the case at all. I think that the O’s are going to surprise everyone this year and break .500 and finish at least 3rd in the division. They are going to give everyone trouble including the vaunted Red Sox and Yankees.  This is a tough division and though the Red Sox and Yankees have a lot of money to spend a decent number of their stars are beginning to show their age and over the course of the 162 game season injuries will be a factor.

Rookie Zach Britton called up from Norfolk to replace the injured Brian Matusz got his first Major League win on Sunday

As for the Orioles they have excellent pitching that goes deep into their minor league system and they picked up a solid closer in Kevin Gregg.  Pitching is a big deal and the Yankees will struggle in this department. The Red Sox have good pitching but some of their best including ace closer Jonathan Papelbon are showing their age and do not have the same stuff that they had before. In fact the Red Sox were shelled by Texas Rangers hitting this weekend and swept in Arlington by the Rangers who do not seem to have missed a beat coming off of their American League Championship in 2010. The Yankees took 2 of 3 from the Tigers but gave up 18 runs to the Tigers in those three games.

I know that it is very early in the season but the Orioles made all the right moves in the off season and have improved in every aspect of the game. The young pitchers after having been blooded in 2010 are about to show what they are made of against the AL East and the rest of the American League and the difference will be the pitching.  I think that Orioles will win between 85-and 90 games and make a lot of teams miserable. Of course I could be wrong but I think that I will be more right than the experts when it comes to the 2011 Baltimore Orioles squad under the direction of Buck Showalter.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Finishing Well: The Orioles’ Revival a Portent of things to Come

Luke Scott and the Orioles finally have something to be excited about

The Baltimore Orioles under new manager Buck Showalter have become a force in the American League and the American League East.  On August the 2nd the O’s had the worst record in baseball, even lower than the perpetual dwellers in the Marinas Trench of baseball the Pittsburgh Pirates. In four months of play the O’s had but 32 wins and had gone through two managers.  They were on pace to lose well at least 110 games and maybe more games than any team in Major League Baseball History in a 162 game season.

Outfielders like Felix Pie (above) as well as Nick Markakis, Adam Jones will have Corey Patterson looking for a starting position and Nolan Reimold hoping for redemption

At the end of last season I said that manager Dave Trembley had to go. At the time I suggested Bobby Valentine as a replacement. After Trembley was fired Valentine as well as a number of other candidates was interviewed, shortly after Valentine removed himself from consideration as a possible successor to Trembley. On August the 2nd the Orioles hired Showalter to take the place of Interim Manager Juan Samuel. When Showalter took over the Orioles no-one gave him much of a chance of making any real progress this season, most considered the Orioles a lost cause.  I did not think so. At the beginning of the year I predicted that the Orioles would be a .500 team and that this would be a good year for them.  That prediction did not materialize but it was not a question of talent but of leadership and the ability of the Orioles Coaching staff to get the best out of the team, especially the young talent.  The team is playing to the level that I thought that they could at the beginning of the season.

Jeremy Guthrie as well as stable mates Jake Arietta, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Brad Bergeson will have competition from others including Zach Britton who is still at Norfolk

It is my belief that finishing a season well is an indicator of the real potential of a team.  If one was to simply look at the Orioles aggregate win and loss totals one might say that the season was a disaster. That is not true. The first 4 months of the season were an unmitigated disaster as the team lost 16 of its first 18 games and never recovered under the management of Dave Trembley and Juan Samuel. The team was obviously demoralized and looked to an outsider that they believed that they would lose when they took the field. Young players, especially the young pitchers either got knocked around or were given no run support.  Veterans acquired in the off-season to provide experience and on field leadership to the youngsters were a bust and the team had numerous injuries to key players. You could not have a worse first two thirds of a season if you tried.

But all of that changed on August 2nd with a simple change in leadership. The Orioles started to win and win frequently. Not only did they win frequently they began to win a lot more series than they lost.If the season began on August 2nd the AL east would look like this:

Orioles            34-23     .596

Blue Jays         30-26   .535

Yankees          30-27    .526

Red Sox          28-27    .509

Rays                28-28     .500

There were turnarounds in hitting as well as starting pitching. Orioles starters went 26-15 with a 3.13 ERA after Showalter.  With that their starters were the 3rd best rotation in majors since August 2nd.  They have the third best record in the Majors since August 2nd with only the Phillies and Twins winning more.

The Orioles have a lot to look forward to. Buck Showalter will not rest in the off season as he gets the O’s ready for next year. There will be changes. I would think that pitchers Kevin Millwood and Mark Hendrickson will be gone; others will have to fight for their jobs. In the off season Showalter will take the raw talent that has been present on the Orioles at the Major League and Minor League levels make prudent trades as well as assignments within the organization to get them ready to challenge the rest of the AL East in 2011.

While the Orioles are definitely on the way up one has to take a look at how others are doing not just in the East but in the Majors. In the AL East the Rays Owner says that payroll will be significantly reduced and with numerous key players in contract negotiations and declaring free agency they will not be the same team that they have been the past three years. The Yankees and Red Sox are both showing signs of age with the Sox being in worse shape in the long run because they have little to speak of in their minor league system are saddled with a good number of older players and have key players entering the free agent market.  The Yankees can always spend money but as the core of the team, Jeter, Posada, Pettitte and Rivera get older they will lose something. Since the organization will be unlikely to trade such favorites at some point they will spend more time on the DL and not perform as well as in previous years. It is simple; the older guys get the more that they wear out.  This may prove problematic for the Yankees in the coming years.  The Blue Jays finished strong but one does not know what will happen with them with the exit of long time manager Cito Gaston.

Outside of the AL East only the Twins performed really well.  Almost every team in the AL was just above .500 or below during the last two months of the season. This includes teams that have a history of doing well and some that are playoff bound.  Finishing well matters and with the exception of the Orioles and Twins in the AL no teams finished strong, many stumbled and the proof is in their records.

All of this bodes well for the Orioles especially if Showalter is able to continue what he started this year.  I expect the Orioles to be competitive in the AL East. I do not think that they will necessarily win the division but they will not be the door-mat that they have been for so many years.  There is work to do in Birdland but for the first time in years there is real hope based on their performance the last two months of the season.  The team believes that it can win every time it takes the field. When there is leadership and talent there is no limit to where the O’s can go.

Over the off-season I will continue my reporting and commentary on the Orioles and their organization, particularly the Triple-A affiliate the Norfolk Tides. Over the next month I will be commenting of the MLB playoffs and begin to publish articles on the young talent in the Orioles organization and what I think might happen as Buck Showalter and Andy McPhail makes the changes to the organization to make the team a force in the American League for years to come.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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The Orioles Take Flight: The Showalter Era Takes Hold

Buck Showalter, a New Sheriff is in Town (Reuters Photo)

On August 3rd the Baltimore Orioles had a record of 32 and 73 and appeared to be heading not only for a 100 loss season but very possibly 110 or more losses.  Under Manager Dave Trembley and Interim Manager Juan Samuel they had lost 52 games before they had won 20.  It was a dismal record for a team that was demoralized and without real leadership.  Trembley and Samuel were both gentlemen and loyal organization people.  They were both popular with players but could not inspire them to win.

The organization was not only a losing organization of the field but in all departments except the minor league system. Unfortunately the promising prospects coming out of the minors entered a clubhouse where losing was accepted as a way of life presided over by an owner who did nothing to promote winning and spent no money to get All-Star caliber veterans to help provide leadership to the team. Instead of hiring top quality managers they settled for second and third tier managers for years, men who were good guys but terribly lackluster leaders and not Major League caliber managers.

The Orioles at that point seemed to be a franchise on the brink of an unrecoverable death spiral. In my times at Harbor Park last season and this season Elliott the Usher and I would spend much time together and muse about how if we ran the Orioles that things would be different.  As we talked about how to solve the problems of the world, in particular those of the Orioles I finally said that it was not the talent. I felt last season and this season that with the talent available at the Major League level as well as what the Orioles had in their farm system that they should at least be a .500 team this year.  But for the first two thirds of the season that was not the case and I told Elliott at the end of April that it was not the players but on field leadership that was the problem. I thought the Dave Trembley was a nice guy and a good minor league manager but that I felt that he had not been able to step up his game to the Major League level.  In fact I commented back on September 29th 2009 that I thought that Trembley needed to go.

“The one spot that I think that the team needs a change is the Field Manager Dave Trembley.  Trembley seems to be a good teacher but is not terribly inspirational.  Admittedly he began the year with a weak squad but something is not working and I do like his calm, but I wonder if the teams needs fire rather than calm right now.” See Oh, Oh, Oh, O’s….The Orioles Skid Continues But there are Some Bright Spots

I repeated this when the O’s had lost 9 of their first 10 games this season. Last year I was looking at Bobby Valentine as a potential manager having forgotten that Showalter was available. At the time that Trembley was fired the Orioles had a 15 and 39 record, the word by far in the majors with a pitiful .278 winning percentage. This did not improve much under Samuel who had served under Trembley as the Third Base Coach.  Samuel had a 17 and 24 record as the Orioles interim skipper with a cumulative .305 winning percentage. Most people doubted that Showalter do much with this year’s team but they were wrong. Drew Forrester wrote: As I wrote earlier this week, if I had to place a bet, I’d bet AGAINST you because history has shown that no one can turn this thing around in Baltimore…because management and ownership don’t want to do what it takes to win. But I’m really pulling for you, because I think you’re exactly what we need in Baltimore.”

I remember when Showalter was hired and I took a look at his track record. He has been successful at every team that he has managed. In fact he was in large part responsible for building the Yankees team that Joe Torre would lead to 4 World Series Championships. He did the same foundation laying work in Arizona with the Diamondbacks.  I would dare say that without Showalter building the foundation that Joe Torre might have been about as successful in New York as he was with Mets, Braves, Cardinals or Dodgers.  All of Torre’s championships came with the Yankees. I believe that this was in large part due to the acumen of Showalter and the willingness of George Steinbrenner for big name player as well as building up an excellent Minor League system to spend the money needed to produce a winner. When I saw Showalter begin to manage the O’s I knew that he would change things and that the team would start producing.  Since he took over the Orioles have won 25 and lost 15 and for the first time since 2008 had two consecutive winning road trips.  They have the second best record in the American League during this time period behind the Minnesota Twins.  The Orioles are now beating the teams of the AL East and in the past week have taken 2 of three each from the Rays, Yankees and as of tonight the Blue Jays who they will play again tomorrow.

The Orioles hitting has come alive and their starting pitchers who had been beaten about by about everyone in baseball made a turn as well.  It is interesting to look at Orioles player’s reactions after Showalter took over. Center Fielder Adam Jones said: “I think what’s really going on is everyone knows his reputation as a hard-ass. He’s going to get on you for doing this; he’s going to say something about everything. I think that’s actually worked. Hey, let’s get it done. You might as well. You don’t want him on you. I think that’s the approach a lot of guys are taking. Hey, let him sit in there with that scowl. If it works, it works.”

“It’s just that his presence, well, you can just feel the change coming. He’s been on some winning ballclubs, he knows what it takes. Everybody knows his reputation around here. They know it as someone who’s going to get on you, and it’s working for us.”

Showalter and his hard driving style, ability to get the most out of players and develop young talent is already remaking the Orioles. Any observe can sense that this team, which before Showalter’s arrival was described by Forrester as “a lot of people — players, coaches and management — who have done nothing but LOSE in their respective careers in Baltimore…  Pick a player on the team.  I don’t care what his name is or what his stats show, I can guarantee you this:  He’s contributed to LOSING during his time here.  Guys who won elsewhere in their career – like Tejada and Millwood – show up here…and start losing.  It’s the “Oriole Way”.

That has changed. As of tonight they have won 4 consecutive series for the first time since 2004.  The Orioles have made one of the most dramatic end of season turnarounds in recent memory.  Players universally talk about Showalter’s tough expectations and the difference in the clubhouse. They now believe that they can win any game against any team that they play.

The starting pitching is one department where things have changed When Showalter arrived; the rotation of Kevin Millwood, Jeremy Guthrie, Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Jake Arrieta had a combined record of 15-45 with a 5.50 earned run average. As of September 7th under Showalter, those pitchers are 15-11 with a 3.23 E.R.A.

The expectations are high. Ty Wigginton commented ”This is our manager….You’ve got his track record, and everybody knows that Buck knows how to win. That speaks for itself with a lot of guys. Let’s wait and see, but I think for some of the younger players, it kind of opened their eyes to realize: I’ve got to start getting this right.”

Brian Matusz commented: ”You can’t just walk over us….We’re playing good baseball right now. We’re doing all the little things right. It’s fun to come out and beat teams in our division and continue this streak that we have.”

The Orioles management has stated that the off season will be very busy. There will be a lot of moves and hard evaluation of talent. There is a new sheriff in town, and his name is Buck. I expect that the Orioles will now be a factor in the AL East.  I do not expect them to be the “Washington Generals” of the division and they will make the East a very interesting division next year as teams that were used to getting 10-15 wins at their expense will have to fight the Orioles at every step of the way. It will be fun to watch the Orioles the rest of this season and next year as they take flight as they have not in the last 14 years.

This could well be the start of something good.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Tides Defeat Rochester 2-1 Split Series Arietta Wins 5th

Jake Arietta Notched his 5th win against Rochester

The Norfolk Tides recovered from the loss of the first two games to the Rochester Red Wings by taking games three and four of the series, each by a score of 2-1.  On Tuesday Afternoon the Tides evened the series with a win.  Once again it was pitching and defense that did the job for the Tides with just enough situational offense to win the game.  Unfortunately Padre Stevem had this little thing called work to do and could not attend in person but was able to catch parts of the broadcast on his computer in between group sessions and individual counseling sessions with patients at the Medical Center’s Substance Abuse Treatment Center.

It is likely that Chris Tillman could soon be called up to Baltimore as a starter

Jake Arietta took the hill for the Tides facing a Rochester team that until Chris Tillman shut them down Monday had pulverized Tides pitchers.  Both Tillman and Arietta showed that they are not your typical run of the mill AAA pitchers but rather something special.  Both are power pitchers, both have become more confident and more patient, maturing immeasurably since the 2009 campaign.  The two could when they both get to Baltimore be something akin to Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale and when combined with a maturing Brian Matusz and Jeremy Guthrie could become one of the most feared pitching rotations in baseball.

On Tuesday Arietta pitched 7 innings allowing 1 ruin on 7 hits with 2 walks and 6 strikeouts lowering his ERA to 1.86, the best in the International League.  In fact of AAA level starters in the International and Pacific Coast Leagues with over 60 innings work only Luke French of the Seattle Mariners affiliate the Tacoma Rainiers has a better ERA.  The only Rochester run came in the top of the 5th when Jason Repko bunted his way aboard and then stole second. He was singled home by Matt Tolbert and that was all the scoring that the Red Wings mustered for the Day.   Arietta was followed by Kam Mickolio who again had a good outing after a rough start mowing down the Wings in order in the 8th. Denis Safate came in to get the save  striking out the first two batters that he faced, but then allowing a single to Dustin Martin who then went to second on a wild pitch and followed that with a walk to Brock Peterson before retiring Jason Repko on  a routine fly ball to left fielder Danny Figueroa.

Closer Frank Mata had His Contract Purchased by the Orioles

The Tides offense also came in the 5th inning when Anthony Swarzak walked Michel Hernandez and was pulled in favor of Jose Lugo. The first batter that Lugo faced was newly called up outfielder Danny Figueroa, twin brother of Tides second baseman Paco Figueroa.  Danny had been called up to replace the struggling Nolan Reimold who was placed on the temporary inactive list due to the birth of a baby.  Figueroa didn’t take long to figure out Lugo and promptly blasted the first pitch into the Straub Beer party deck in right field.  Tides reliever Jim Miller traded a couple of balls for the one Danny hit into the deck from fans so that Figueroa could have a memento of his first AAA level home run.

The Red Wings had 1 run on 8 hits and 1 error leaving 9 men on base, the Tides 2 runs on 4 hits with no errors and 5 men left on base.  Jake Arietta (5-2 1.81) got the win and Jose Lugo (0-3 6.54) the loss.  Denis Sarfate (0-0 S1 1.54) got the save.  The Tides have a travel day Wednesday and open a 4 game series in Pawtucket against the Pawsox on Thursday with Chris George (1-1 4.22) starting for the Tides and Boof Bonser (0-2 10.61) taking the hill for the Sox.

Justin Turner was signed by the New York Mets

There has been quite a bit of action in the personnel department for the Tides and Orioles even since last week.  Michael Aubrey was placed on the 7 Day DL on the 24th retroactive to the 23rd.  Ross Wolf was assigned to Aberdeen while Jim Miller was recalled from Aberdeen; Alberto Castillo returned to the Tides but was called back up the 25th along with closer Frank Mata whose contract was selected by the Orioles.  Danny Figueroa was promoted to the Tides from AA Bowie and Nolan Reimold placed on the temporary inactive list. Up in Baltimore David Hernandez was moved to the Bullpen a move that the Orioles say will be for the rest of the season which could open the way into the rotation for Chris Tillman.  On a further note infielder Justin Turner who was designated for assignment last week was signed by the New York Mets and assigned to AAA Buffalo.  I would expect that due to the Mets’ personnel; situation that Turner could be playing in New York by mid-summer.

Until the next time peace my friends,

Padre Steve+

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Tides Lose Opener in Georgia 7-2 Leave 9 Runners in Scoring Position; Orioles defeat Yankees 5-4 at Camden Yards

Brandon Hicks went 1 for 3 on Tuesday Night

The Norfolk Tides went down to Georgia to open their series against the Gwinnett Braves in cool and windy weather under a cloudy night sky more reminiscent of Norfolk than suburban Atlanta in front of 2547 fans at Gwinnett County Coolray Field.  The Tides hoped to come off of a loss in the final game of their series against Charlotte on Monday to restart their recent winning streak against the Braves but that did not happen as the Braves defeated the Tides 7-2 behind the solid pitching of four Braves pitchers who allowed just 2 runs on 6 hits despite walking 7 Tides batters.

Brandon Erbe fell to 0-4 continuing to struggle at AAA

Tides starter Brandon Erbe went down to Georgia seeking his first win of the season but got in trouble early walking Matt Young to lead off the inning followed by a single to Gregor Blanco, another walk this time to Freddie Freeman and a bases loaded single to Brent Clevlen which drove in Young and Blanco.  He gave up a third run in the 2nd inning when Wes Timmons and J C Boscan both singled and Timmons was driven home by a sacrifice fly off the bat of Matt Young.

The Tides would get a run back in the top of the 4th inning when Josh Bell doubled on a sharp line drive to center and was advanced to third on a single by Scott Moore.  Braves catcher J C Boscan allowed a pitch by Braves starter Tim Gustafson to get by him giving Moore the chance to take second base. With two on and no outs Brandon Snyder grounded out to short scoring Bell.  The Tides mustered nothing else in the fourth as Corey Patterson flied to left and Justin Turner grounded into a Fielder’s Choice in which Moore was out at third.

Joey Gathright went 2 for 4 with a double

The Braves took that run back in the bottom of the fourth as Brandon Erbe’s woes continued.  Erbe walked Brandon Hicks and Wes Timmons. J C Boscan dropped a perfect sacrifice bunt that Tides Catcher Adam Donachie fielded but who only had a play at first.  This advanced Hicks and Timmons and brought Matt Young to the plate.  Young hit a sacrifice fly to Left Fielder Joey Gathright scoring Hicks.  Erbe want to the showers when he gave up a walk to Gregor Blanco.  Chris George entered the game to get the final out.

In the top of the 5th the Tides got another run when Adam Donachie singled, Joey Gathright doubled and Robert Andino hit a sacrifice fly to right which scored Donachie.

With the score 4-2 and the Tides looking to get back into the game the Braves literally “stole” the game and put a stake in the heart of the Tides hopes for the night. Chris George who has been a solid middle reliever this year walked the first batter Brent Clevlen and then got Mitchell Jones looking.  George then walked Joe Thurston.  The Braves then pulled off a double steal which advanced Clevlen to third and Thurston to second.  George then got Brandon Hicks to strike out and intentionally walked Wes Timmons.  With the bases loaded J C Boscan hit a soft fly to right which fell for a hit and scored Clevlen and Thurston and advanced Timmons to third.  With Matt Young batting Wes Timmons did what is seldom done and on a double steal attempt stole home for the third run of the inning.

The game would finish with the Braves using three relievers beginning in the top of the 6th inning to shut down the Tides.  The Tides would make an 8th inning rally attempt which fell short with the bases loaded.  Ross Wolf came on for the Tides to pitch the 6th and 7th innings and Frank Mata closed out the game with neither pitcher allowing any Braves runs.  Braves pitching was adequate Tim Gustafson (1-1 6.75) got the win giving up 2 runs on 4 hits and two walks. Both teams committed an error.

For the Tides Joey Gathright went 2 for 4 with a double and a walk. Brandon Snyder and Jeff Salazar each had an RBI.  Brandon Erbe got the loss dropping to 0-4 on the season with an 8.35 ERA.  Brandon gave up 4 runs on 6 hits walking 5 in 3.2 innings work. Chris George (1-0 4.50) had his first bad outing of the year going only one and a third innings giving up 3 runs on 1 hit with two walks.  The story for the Tides was the inability to score runs. They left eleven men on base and had eleven in scoring position of which only one the Tides brought home.

The Tides and Brave meet tonight at 7:05 PM with Chris Tillman (1-3 6.11) taking the Hill for the Tides and James Parr (1-1 3.48) on the hill for the Braves.

Alberto Castillo got his first win of the year in Baltimore against the Yankees

Meanwhile at Camden Yards the Orioles got their first home win of the season as well as their first winning streak by defeating the Champion New York Yankees and their wrecking crew holding on to win 5-4.  It was a night where former Norfolk Tides shined to secure the win.   In the 6th inning Rhyne Hughes continued to shine beginning an Orioles rally with a RBI single, this was followed by one by Nolan Reimold and Cesar Izturis.  Recent Tides Alberto Castillo got the win and Alfredo Simon in his appearance as an Oriole got the save.  Tonight the Yankees send C C Sabathia against the Orioles Jeremy Guthrie.

We’ll see how the night goes.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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O’s Lose 10th Straight….How long Can this Go? Johnson Blows Save A’s Defeat O’s 4-3

“Been in this game one-hundred years, but I see new ways to lose ’em I never knew existed before.” Casey Stengel

Well sports fans it is yet another day and another loss for the Baltimore Orioles.  This time it was close, the O’s despite a persistent lack of hitting had the lead until the bottom of the ninth when closer Jim Johnson blew the save giving up 2 runs to the A’s who came from behind to win 4-3.

The O’s got 2 runs in the sixth and 1 in the 8th and had nine hits but were unable to seal the deal.  Jeremy Guthrie gave up 2 runs and 6 hits but got a no decision for his work. Will Ohman, Matt Albers and Cla Meredith held the A’s to no runs in a combined 2.1 innings work, but when it came down to the clutch the O’s again could not keep the lead.  Ryan Sweeney of the A’s had 3 of the 4 RBIs for the A’s including the walk off 2 run single in the bottom of the ninth off of Johnson. Johnson contributed to the O’s demise with two wild pitches in the bottom of the ninth one on a strike out to Rejai Davis who reached first and scored the winning run.

The O’s experienced another injury when in when Miguel Tejada slid headfirst into first base in the sixth and had to leave the game.  As of yet the extent of the injury and any impact that it will have on Tejada has not been announced.

With the loss the O’s record drops to 1-11. The teams play again Sunday with the O’s sending Brian Matusz against Brian Anderson.  Having now lost 10 in a row can the Orioles turn things around before the season slips away before it even gets going?

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Paybacks are Hell: Bulls Pound Tides 14-7, Orioles fall to A’s slip to 1 and 10

Troy Patton (0-2) got the Loss

On a warm spring evening in Durham the Durham Bulls bats repaid last Friday’s 12-6 drubbing by the Tides in spades scoring 14 runs on 20 hits and aided by 3 Tides errors.  It seems that the Tides pitchers are either very good or very bad on any given day.  They are either hot or cold and definitely not Lukewarm which at least is one positive as Jesus will not spew them out of his mouth see Revelation 3:16 but I theologically digress. The point is that Tides pitching is awesome or atrocious. Last night was a case in point.  Starter Troy Patton was pounded for six runs on six hits including home runs by Joe Dillon and Ryan Shealy and a walk in the bottom of the first retiring only one batter before being pulled for Armondo Gabino. Gabino settled things down giving up just one run on four hits in 3.2 innings work.  Patton has struggled in his first two starts and one hopes that working with pitching Coach Mike Griffin that he will be able to turn things around.

In the top of the third inning the Tides bats came to life as the Tides scored two runs. Robert Andino reached on an error by Bulls Third Baseman Angel Chavez and was driven in by Joey Gathright’s triple. Gathright would then score on a sacrifice fly by Jeff Salazar.  In the top of the fourth inning Rhyne Hughes extended his hitting streak to eight games with a triple. Josh Bell drove in Hughes with a single to center and would score on a double to left by Robert Andino.  Catcher Steve Lerud doubled in Andino and the Tides were back in the game at 7-5.

In the bottom of the fifth however the Bulls would come back and score two more runs off of reliever Andy Mitchell who since his return to the team has not had the same effectiveness as he had in previous years when he served in the starting rotation. It is possible that the switch to middle relief has throw him out of his comfort zone but I think with a bit of time that he will adjust to that role and be an effective middle reliever.  Right now however Andy is struggling and being hit hard by his opponents.  After getting Dan Johnson to ground out Mitchell gave up back to back doubles to Ryan Shealy and Angel Chavez with Chavez’s hit bringing Shealy home.  Alvin Colina singled to send Chavez to third and Fernando Perez hit into a force out which brought in Chavez.  Mitchell then got out of the inning without further damage.  Rhyne Hughes led off the top of the sixth by reaching on an error by Angel Chavez. He advanced to second on a ground out to first by Josh bell and to third on Robert Andino’s infield single to second.  With runners at the corners Steve Lerud singled to right to drive in Hughes. Joey Gathright struck out swinging to end the inning.

The Bulls hit parade continued in the bottom of the sixth Mitchell struck out Hank Blalock.  The next batter Joe Dillon reached on a throwing error to first by first baseman Brandon Snyder.  Dan Johnson grounded out to Snyder on a play that should have without the error ended the inning to advance Dillon to second. Ryan Shealy singled to drive in Dillon and the score was now 10 to 1.  Mitchell walked Chavez and Colina to load the bases and with the walk to Colina was done.  Manager Gary Allenson brought in Jim Miller into the game with two outs in the inning.  Fernando Perez then bunted Shealy home before Miller retired Elliott Johnson on a grounder to short. The Tides went down in order to reliever Dale Thayer in the top of the seventh and as the Durham crowd stretched their Bulls were up 13-6 over the visiting Tides.

Durham was not done and struck hard again in the bottom of the seventh. Back to back singles by Justin Ruggiano set up Dan Johnson who homered to left over the Blue Monster. The three run shot was his 4th home run of the year. Miller retired the last two batters to end the inning.

Rhyne Hughes extended his hitting streak to 8 games

The Tides went down in order in the top of the eighth and Miller retired the Bulls in the bottom half of the inning.  In the ninth the Bulls brought in Joaquin Benoit to close the game. The Tides attempted a ninth inning rally as Robert Andino hit his first home run in a Tides uniform but could muster nothing more to end the game.

Normally 7 runs would be enough to win a game if the pitching is good.  Last night that was not the case as each Tides pitcher except Gabino were hit hard by the Bulls’ attack. Bulls starter Virgil Vasquez got the win bring his record to 2-0 and Troy Patton dropped to 0-2 for the year.  The Tides had 7 runs on 9 hits in the loss but Durham was simply overpowering scoring 14 runs on 20 hits aided by 3 Tides errors.  Brandon Erbe (0-1) will start Saturday’s game for the Tides and the Bulls have not announced their starter at the time of this post.

On the west coast the Orioles lost their 9th straight game this time falling to the Athletics at the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum by a score of 4-2.  Starter Kevin Millwood gave up all four Oakland runs giving up 9 hits in six innings.  On the bright side relievers Will Ohman and Matt Albers shut down the A’s allowing no runs or hits to finish the game. The O’s offense was anemic but Ty Wigginton homered in the fifth to produce both Orioles runs.  The O’s offense was 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position and have and last in the league scoring only 10 of 78 runners in scoring position for the season.

The Orioles are looking to end an eight game losing streak in Oakland in which they have been outscored by the A’s 43 to 17.  The losing streak extends back to July 22nd 2007. In today’s match up Jeremy Guthrie (0-2) will face A’s pitcher Justin Duchscherer.

We’ll see what happens today for both the Tides and the Birds.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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