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Orioles Tie Yankees for First in the AL East: There is a Political Convention Going On?

Zach Britton pitches against the Blue Jays  (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Aaron Vincent Elkaim)

“With those who don’t give a damn about baseball, I can only sympathize.  I do not resent them.  I am even willing to concede that many of them are physically clean, good to their mothers and in favor of world peace.  But while the game is on, I can’t think of anything to say to them.” Art Hill

Thank God for baseball, especially the Baltimore Orioles because I have pretty had my fill of the 2012 Presidential campaign.  But then since the campaign started the day after Barak Obama defeated John McCain in 2008 I guess I have good reason to feel this way. You see I like politics and I follow politics, sometimes if for no other reason than I find it interesting. Because of this I have been paying attention to the antics of both the Republicans and the Democrats and I think I am finally worn out by it.

So tonight with the Democratic National Convention going on in Charlotte I am tuned in to the Major League Baseball channel. I did the same last week with the Republican Convention and even though I agree more with the Democrats on many issues now than I do the Republicans I just cannot stomach night after night of partisan politics even if I agree more with some of these partisans the the partisans of the other side.

The really big important thing that happened tonight was the not the DNC. The big story was that Baltimore Orioles are are now tied for first place with the New York Yankees in the American League East. The Orioles have been coming on strong and are making believers out of baseball experts. Tonight they crushed the Toronto Blue Jays 12-0 with Zach Britton, who I know from his time at Norfolk won his fourth straight start, pitching 7 innings allowing no runs on 4 hits. Mark Reynolds went 3-4 with four RBI. The Orioles, who have one of the worst run differentials in the league pounded out 18 hits, a season high. Meanwhile in Tampa the Yankees lost again to Tampa after the Orioles took two of three in the Bronx. I find this much more  interesting and probably more important than anything that any political candidate or surrogate can say this week because it symbolizes the America that I believe in. That is the America were the scrappy journeymen can give the big guys a run for their money. I believe in the America of Field of Dreams, where deep inside, the good in baseball inspires people to better things.

“The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again.”

I guess that is why tonight on the opening night of the DNC I am watching baseball.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

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Orioles Down Yankees in the Bronx Go to 16-9

The Baltimore Orioles are one of the pleasant surprises of the first month of the 2012 baseball season. The team is winning they now are 16-9 and took two of three from the New York Yankees in the Bronx. In those three games Orioles pitchers held the Yankees to just 3 runs while the scored 13 runs in the series. Earlier in the season the Yankees took three from the Orioles in Baltimore but two of those were in extra innings where in both cases the Orioles failed to score with runners in scoring position in the 9th and 10th innings.

The Orioles pitchers are holding up well with the 4th best ERA in the Majors at 2.92 with their starters and relievers doing very well. Pitching has been a major problem for the Orioles the past few years and if the young pitchers, particularly Jake Arrieta who pitched an 8 inning shutout tonight continue to pitch well they O’s will make the American League East a much more interesting division this year.  Now led by Jason Hamel (3-1 1.97 ERA) the Orioles starters are making some quality starts. With Jim Johnson as their closer and other relievers pitching well the team is much deeper than in years past.

The Orioles also have hitting and are hitting with power, 3rd in the majors in home runs (33) and 6th in the majors for in slugging percentage (.446).  The Orioles have a number of potential All Stars including former All Stars Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Nick Markakis. Second Baseman Robert Andino is having a stellar start to his season as is Left Fielder Nolan Reimold. Shortstop J.J. Hardy and First Baseman Mark  Reynolds are providing additional power in the lineup.

At with a 7-5 record against their AL East rivals so far they are doing much better in the division. The are 6-1 against the AL Central and 3-3 against the West.

The Orioles head to Boston to begin a 3 game series with the Red Sox at Fenway beginning on Friday. They will then travel to play the red hot Texas Rangers in Arlington before returning home to face the AL East leading Tampa Bay Rays who I think are the best team in the division. Taking 2 of 3 from the Yankees, which included Manager Buck Showalter’s 1000th managerial win in New York was important. If the Orioles can continue what they are doing it will be an exciting year for all of us Orioles fans.

The season is still young but this year I think is the year the Orioles become a real force in the AL East and the League.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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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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Filed under Baseball, Batlimore Orioles, norfolk tides