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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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Another Comeback: Tides Scalp Braves 5-4 on 8th Inning Rally

Kam Mickolio picked up his 4th win of the season in relief against the Braves allowing just one hit

The Norfolk Tides won their 4th game in a row on the road their longest road winning streak of the year against the Gwinnett Braves at Cool Ray Field in Lawrenceville Georgia. Early in the game it did not appear that the Tides would come out in the win column as the Braves scored early against Tides starter Chris George who was victimized, as so many other Tides have been by errors by Shortstop Robert Andino.  The Braves scored twice in the second inning on consecutive errors by Andino to give the Braves a 2-0 lead.  The Braves scored again in the 4th inning when Wilkin Ramirez singled and Clint Sammons homered to give the Braves a 4-0 lead.  Chris would give up the 2 earned runs on 8 hits in 5 innings work before coming out in favor of Kam Mickolio in the 6th inning. Mickolio pitched two strong innings of relief giving up 1 hit and no runs.  During the first 6 innings Braves starter Todd Redmond had the Tides number as he has throughout the year giving up no runs on 5 hits a walk while striking out 8 Tides.

Brandon Snyder had his 7th home run of the season 41st RBI

The Tides began their comeback in the top of the 7th against reliever Michael Dunn who had gone 2-0 with a 0.98 ERA in the International League and a win with Atlanta before Saturday and this game would be different.  Brandon Snyder crushed a pitch by Dunn over the left center field wall to put the Tides on the board and cut the Braves lead to 4-1.  Mickolio held the Braves scoreless in the bottom half of the inning and the Tides came back up to the plate in the top of the 8th.  In that inning the Tides struck hard. After Matt Angle was put out on a bunt ground ball Robert Andino singled. Jeff Salazar then walked and Braves Manager Dave Brundage decided that Dunn was done bringing in Stephen Marek who in 45 appearances for the Braves had a 2-1 record with a 1.15 ERA but who gave up 2 runs to the Tides and registered his only loss of the season the last time he faced the Tides on August 17th at Harbor Park.  Marek got Nolan Reimold to pop up on the infield fly rule but then with Lou Montanez batting Andino and Salazar executed a double steal to put them both in scoring position.  Montanez singled to score Andino and Salazar bringing Rhyne Hughes to the plate.  On a 1-1 count Hughes homered to right to give the Tides a 5-4 lead.

Rhyne Hughes hammered his 9th home run of the year in the 8th inning

Frank Mata relieved Mickolio in the bottom of the 8th and put the Braves down in order.  The Tides were silent in the 9th inning and the Tides brought Dennis Sarfate into the game to attempt the save. After getting Wilkin Ramirez to pop out and Clint Sammons to ground out Dennis gave up a two out single to Nate McLouth. He then retired Matt Young on a fly ball to left fielder Jeff Salazar to end the game and give the Tides their 4th win of the road trip. Kam Mickolio (4-3 6.32 ERA) got the win for the Tides and Dennis Sarfate got his 18th save. Stephen Marek (2-2 1.51 ERA) took the loss his second to the Tides in 10 days.  The Tides had 5 runs on 9 hits and Andino’s two errors stranding 5 runners. The Braves had 4 runs on 10 hits with no errors leaving 7 men on base. The teams will meet Sunday afternoon with Troy Patton (7-11 4.67 ERA) taking the hill for the Tides against Braves right-hander Brandon Beachy (2-0 2.67 ERA).

The Orioles transferred Jason Berken from the 15 Day to the 60 Day DL.  In Anaheim the Orioles defeated the Angels 5-0 on a strong performance by Kevin Millwood. Former Tide Josh Bell had his 3rd homer of the year a 2 run shot against Angels’ starter Scott Kazmir.  Jim Johnson made his first relief appearance since coming off the DL shutting down the Angels in the 9th inning to give the O’s a 2-0 series lead and their 5th win in a row over the Angels.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Tides fall to Yankees 4-0 despite Solid Performance by Brandon Erbe; Orioles Sweep Red Sox

Brandon Erbe allowed 1 run on 3 hits but got the loss Sunday

It was a hot day at Harbor Park but the bats of the Norfolk Tides were cold as the Tides dropped game two of their series against the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees by a score of 4 -0.  Tides starting pitcher Brandon Erbe (0-5 6.66) had his best outing of the year pitching six innings and allowing just one run on three hits. Unfortunately for Brandon and the Tides Yankees starter Jason Hirsch (2-3 3.06) and relievers Royce Ring and Amaury Sanit shut down the Tides offense allowing just three hits.

Steve Lerud forces Kevin Russo at home and

Erbe pitched his best game of the season giving up his only run in the top of the sixth inning when Kevin Russo tripled to right and scored on a soft ground ball to third that Tides Third Baseman Josh Bell could only go to first for the out.  Brandon worked out of the inning and was relieved by Koji Uehara making a one inning rehab appearance as he prepares to rejoin the Orioles at the conclusion of his rehab. Uehara allowed one hit but no runs facing four batters and making just 8 pitches of which 7 were strikes.  According to the Tides website there is a possibility of making another appearance in Monday’s game against the Yankees.

Josh Bell singles off the glove of Amaury Sanit in the bottom of the 9th

Kam Mickolio came on in the 8th inning and the big right hander struggled against the Yankees hitters. Kevin Russo singled and then Mickolio walked Reegie Corona.  With runners on first and second Eduardo Nunez laid down a bunt between the pitcher’s mound and third base. Mickolio fielded the ball and considered going to third to get the lead runner and then paused and attempted to get Nunez at first but the delay allowed all to be safe.  Juan Miranda then hit a ground ball to Scott Moore at second base and Moore came to the plate cutting down Russo. Catcher Adam Donachie threw to first attempting to get the double play but Miranda beat out the throw.  David Winfree a Virginia Beach native hit a soft ground ball to Josh Bell leaving Bell with only the play at first allowing Corona to score.  Mickolio walked Jesus Montero to re-load the bases.  Jon Weber then singled to right scoring both Nunez and Miranda and was replaced by Armando Gabino who struck out Chad Huffman.

The Tides could mount nothing else and the game ended with Erbe getting loss while having his best start of the season. One hopes that the next time he has such a performance that he will get some run support.

Meanwhile up in Baltimore the Orioles completed a sweep of the Red Sox when in the 10th inning Ty Wigginton doubled to drive in Nick Markakis giving the Orioles the win.  Former Tides pitcher Matt Albers got the win in relief of Kevin Millwood while Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon got the loss. The Orioles have won three in a row for the first time this season and swept the Sox for the first time since September of 1974.  Former Tides Outfielder Rhyne Hughes connected on a two out RBI double in the 4th inning.

Orioles reliever Koji Uehara made a rehab appearance in the 7th inning for the Tides

On Monday the Tides will face the Yankees in game three of their series and the Orioles will travel to Yankee Stadium to take on the New York Yankees.  Here in Norfolk weather permitting Chris Tillman (2-3 4.05) coming off two exception starts on the road including his no-hitter against the Gwinett Braves will face Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova (1-0 2.70).

See you are Harbor Park,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Tides Fall to Knights in Final Game of Set 9-7 despite Bell’s Dingers


Tides 3rd Baseman Josh Bell shown at Harbor Park hit 3 home runs in two games against Charlotte

In front of an early rising crowd of 4996 on a beautiful sunny Carolina morning with temperatures in the high 60s the Norfolk Tides met the Charlotte Knights at Knight’s Stadium in Rock Hill South Carolina Monday in the final game of a four game set.  The Tides had dominated the first three games on outstanding pitching performances by Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta and Brad Bergeson as well as an 18 run attack that featured 8 home runs.  However, on Monday the Tides were outslugged by the Knights who used the long ball effectively to prevent the Tides from completing a series sweep.

Troy Patton got hit hard on Monday against the Knights

Tides starter Troy Patton (1-3 8.00) was hit hard giving up 7 runs on 10 hits including three home runs in 6.1 innings worked. Dayan Viciedo was a nemesis to Troy hitting two home runs and driving in two runs. Patton also gave up 2 doubles in the game before exciting in the top of the 7th inning. Troy was relieved by newly acquired Pedro Viola (0-0 10.80) who surrendered 2 runs on 2 hits and two walks pitching two-thirds of an inning. Tyler Flowers drove in the runs with a triple.  Jim Miller (1-0 5.59) back in a closing role got the Knights out in the 8th surrendering a walk but no runs.   Patton got the loss and Matt Zaleski (3-0 4.13) the win giving up 4 runs on 5 hits including two homers by Josh Bell.  Former Tide Greg Aquino got the save for the Knights, his second of the year taking the Tides down in order in the top of the 9th to secure the win for the Knights.

Scott Moore shown here at Harbor Park doubled twice in the loss

The Knights had pulled out to a 9-4 lead at the top of the 7th but the Tides did not go quietly scoring three runs in the top of the eighth in a rally that unfortunately fell short.  The Tides offense continued where it had left off Sunday afternoon.  Josh Bell led the attack with 2 home runs with 3 RBIs in his biggest game of the season.  Justin Turner, Scott Moore and Michael Aubrey all had doubles for the Tides with Moore getting two of the two baggers driving in a run.

The big story for the Tides was 3rd Baseman Josh Bell who in the last two games has hit 3 home runs and driven in 5 runs.  Bell who came to the Tides after a year split between the Los Angeles Dodgers affiliate Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern League and Orioles AA Eastern League affiliate Bowie Baysox where he hit .295 with 20 home runs, 35 doubles and 5 triples.  After a slow start Josh appears to be coming around under the tutelage of Tides Hitting Couch Richie Hebner and is now “Bell ringing” as you may  using his bat to make some offensive music and by offensive I mean offensive if you are the Tides opponents.

Overall the Tides hit and run production in coming up. In the four games against the Knights the Tides scored 25 runs on 31 hits including 10 home runs and 7 doubles which means sport fans that if you are mathematically challenged that the Tides hit for extra bases 55% of the time in Charlotte.  The Tides team batting average is still low at .232 but coming up and the slugging percentage has improved to .391.  The Tides 18 home runs for the season have them tied for second in the International League in this category.  Jeff Salazar leads the Tides in the hitting department with a .291 average with 4 home runs 3 doubles and 11 RBIs. On the mound the team ERA has improved to 4.31 and though the Tides still are among the lead leaders in runs and hits allowed many of these runs came in only a few games where the Tides gave up double digits in losses.  Jake Arrieta leads the league in pitching at 2-0 with a 0.36 ERA allowing just one earned run in 25 innings pitched.   The fact is that this means despite the loss and the Tides falling into a three way tie with Charlotte and Gwinnett for second in the International League South that things are beginning to look up for Tides in 2010.

Tonight the Tides are in suburban Atlanta to face the Gwinnett Braves.  The Tides will start Brandon Erbe (0-3 7.98) who is still seeking his first win at the AAA level against Tim Gustafson (0-1 8.64) who gave up 3 runs on 5 hits in 6.1 innings work against the Tides on the 22nd of April.  The weather could be problematic with temperatures in the high 50s, 15 mile an hour winds and a 50% chance of rain.

Alberto Simon was called up to Baltimore

On the personnel side of the house the Orioles optioned relief pitcher Kam Mickolio back to Norfolk and purchased the contract of pitcher Alfredo Simon who has done yeoman’s work for the Tides as a starter and reliever over the first two weeks of the season.  Up in Baltimore the Orioles go for their first home win of the season against the World Champion New York Yankees who are fresh off of their visit to the White House yesterday.  The O’s will pitch Kevin Millwood against the Yankee’s Phil Hughes, more tomorrow.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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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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Woe Woe Woe the O’s Woes Continue to Grow

Earl Weaver like him or not knew how to manage and motivate

“The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three run homers.” Earl Weaver

Well if you are an Orioles fan like me you have got to be wondering what is going on in Birdland.  The Orioles sports fans are losing and are patently not following the advice of their legendary Orioles skipper Earl Weaver. After a perfectly miserable 2009 season the Orioles looked like they had righted the ship and were ready if not to be competing for the AL East title at least to be competitive and playing .500 ball.  Veteran hitters like Miguel Tejada and Garrett Atkins were added to the line-up and last year’s crop of rookies including Catcher Matt Wieters and Nolan Reimold were expected to start shining.  Additionally with Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis  and Felix Pie in the lineup the hitting drought of last year was expected to end.  In the pitching department great things were expected as the young arms of the O’s supplemented by veteran Kevin Millwood acquired from the Rangers over the winter were also expected to perform at a higher level than last year.

Matt Wieters is developing well for the O’s

Unfortunately no plan survives first contact with the enemy and it looks like the Orioles who definitely have the talent and potential to be competitive need to find a way to win.  After losing their opener in Tampa they won the second game in that series but haven’t seen a win since. They lost the third game in Tampa and returned home to be swept by both the Blue Jays and the Rays before losing last night in Oakland to the surging Athletics.  With a 1 win and 9 losses the O’s are tied with the Houston Astros for the Marianas Trench of Major League Baseball and as of the moment show no sign of coming out of this crash.

Miguel Tejada brought back for his bat leads the O’s in RBIs but is not hitting well for average…yet

The team batting average is only .232 and the have scored a total of 29 runs in their first ten games and their on base percentage is a mere .309.  Neither are they stealing bases with only 3 stolen so far this year. Felix Pie is leading the team in hitting at .400 with a on base percentage of .455 and slugging percentage of .650.  Miguel Tejada leads the team in RBIs with 7 nearly a quarter of the Orioles total run output.  Matt Wieters is showing signs of maturity at the plate hitting .313 and an OBP of .405.  However some of the bats which are expected to deliver have not woken up yet and maybe it is time to invoke prayers to Jobu to wake them up.  Brian Roberts is now on the 15 day Disabled List and has been replaced at second by Justin Turner called up from the O’s AAA affiliate the Norfolk Tides.

Big Righthander Kam Mickolio was Brought up for injured Mike Gonzales

The pitching staff widely regarded as having some of the best arms and potential in the majors has fared no better with a 4.89 ERA giving up the most hits with 97 hits to their opponents in these ten games and they have allowed 32 walks. In one area the pitching staff is doing well, the can strike out opponents ranking third in the majors with 80.  Kevin Millwood leads the staff with a 2.13 ERA while rookie Brian Matusz has the team’s only win and leads the team with 15 strike outs.  The biggest disappointment has been newly acquired closer Mike Gonzalez.  Gonzales has blown two saves and lost both games and has an 18.0 ERA.  He is on the 15 day DL and the O’s have called up Kam Mickolio from Norfolk as a middle relief man while moving Jim Johnson to the closer role.

Now it is certainly very early in the season but losses in April count just the same as losses in September and losing nine of your first ten games puts you in a very deep hole to start the season.  However at this point one has to start asking what is going on. The O’s are a very talented team and by all rights should be doing much better than their record and statistics suggest.

Orioles Manager Dave Trembley….”Nice guys…finish last?”

At the end of last year I laid the blame on Orioles Manager Dave Trembley.  As I said then:

“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.  My choice would be for the O’s to make a serious offer for Bobby Valentine now that he has returned from Japan.”

From “Oh, Oh, Oh O’s….The Orioles Skid Continues….” September 29th 2009 at  https://padresteve.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/oh-oh-oh-o%e2%80%99s%e2%80%a6-the-orioles-skid-continues-but-there-are-some-bright-spots/

Please do not get me wrong. I think a lot of Dave Trembley, however the team seems to have little life and it is my opinion that a very motivational manager with proven success at all levels of baseball like Bobby Valentine would be an ideal choice to manage the Orioles.  With so much of the season left I do not think anything is gained by keeping Trembley at the helm.  Now is it possible that Tremblay and his managerial style could turn the team around….certainly.  He is popular with the players a gentleman and a very nice person but I’m not so sure that he is the man to make this happen.  In addition to Valentine Clint Hurdle who has managed at Norfolk and led the Rockies to the World Series in 2007 is coaching at Texas and if one wanted a Baltimore connection there is Don Baylor who is currently the hitting coach for the Rockies.  If an interim manager is needed the Orioles could reach down to AAA Norfolk for Tides manager Gary Allenson who has the advantage of having worked with many of the younger O’s for the last four years and managed the Bluefield Orioles of the Appalachian League as well as the Ottawa Lynx before they moved to Norfolk and became the Tides.  He has a long history of managing in the minors and it may be his time to hit the bigs.

Norfolk Tides Manager Gary Allenson might be a good interim manager should the Orioles fire Trembley

Regardless of what course the Orioles take it is imperative that they start winning. Success breads success and as Chuck Tanner said: “I don’t think a manager should be judged by whether he wins the pennant, but by whether he gets the most out of the twenty-five men he’s been given.” Unfortunately I don’t think that Dave Tremblay is getting the most of this very talented young team and even though it is very early in the season it is not too soon to make the change at the top.  As Leo Durocher said “What are we out at the park for, except to win?”

I’m hoping that the Birds will turn it around soon.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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