Closer Craig Kimbrel's season is trending up again

Craig Kimbrel

CHICAGO – Orioles closer Craig Kimbrel’s season has once again taken a turn for the better. He got a save in the recent Seattle series – just his second save since late April.

After going thru a six-game slump where he dealt with upper back soreness and gave up seven runs in 3 1/3 innings, his last four outings looked a lot like his first 10.

In those first 10 innings, through April 22, he allowed one run with one walk and 16 strikeouts. Then he briefly was yanked from his closer’s role while staying on the active roster and dealing with the back issue.

Now, over his past four games he has not allowed a hit or run with no walks and six strikeouts.

It’s like he has had three different seasons. His last save was No. 426 of his career in his 800th career appearance. He is No. 6 on the all-time saves list.

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The streak ends: O's lose two today to St. Louis and get swept at Busch Stadium

means

ST. LOUIS – It was just a series when a lot went wrong for the Orioles. And for the first time in over two years, they have been swept three straight in the regular season.

The St. Louis Cardinals, who entered this series with a 20-26 record, did the job today, overcoming a 3-0 deficit to beat the Orioles 5-4 and complete the sweep at Busch Stadium.

Something even went wrong as the O's tried to rally in the ninth against reliever Ryan Fernandez. Austin Hays singled and went to third on pinch-hitter Cedric Mullins' single. Then pinch hitter Kyle Stowers lined one deep to right and Lars Nootbaar made a great catch. Hays scored from third but the Cards doubled Mullins off first base. No doubt he wanted to steam home with the tying run, but the ball was caught.

"I thought it was gone off the bat," Hays said of Stowers blast, adding that Mullins made what looked like a good decision in taking off on contact. "He's got a good chance to score on that ball if it gets down."

The Birds also contributed to their demise by making two errors as St. Louis scored three in the sixth to get the lead.

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Nolan Gorman's two-run homer gives Cards the win in completion of suspended game (updated)

Kyle Bradish

ST. LOUIS – The Orioles, even as visitors, took the field first today at Busch Stadium. They batted second. Their pitcher to start the day was reliever Jacob Webb.

It was not a usual day or game.

This was the resumption of last night’s suspended game in the last of the sixth with the game tied 1-1.

The Orioles have not had a lead in this series, and four batters after play resumed they were behind again today. Their only hit after play resumed was Ryan Mountcastle's single in the seventh, which snapped a 1-for-26 run. 

Second baseman Nolan Gorman’s two-run homer to right in the last of the sixth off lefty Keegan Akin – a left-on-left home run – gave St. Louis a 3-1 lead. The Cards beat the Orioles by that same score. The official attendance from the game that began last night, with many fewer here today, was 32,582.

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O's game blog: The suspended game resumes with another to follow at St. Louis

means

ST. LOUIS - The Orioles and Cardinals will wrap up their three-game series today at Busch Stadium, completing last night's suspended game and then playing the regularly scheduled third and final game of the set.

The O's have struggled to hit thus far this series, going 3-for-31 in Monday's 6-3 loss. Last night's game was suspended by rain in a 1-1 tie before the beginning of the last of the sixth inning. The O's went 2-for-21 in that one, getting doubles from Kyle Stowers and Jorge Mateo.

Mateo's two-base hit to left, stung at 107.7 mph off his bat into left field, scored the Birds' only run last night. It tied the game 1-1 in the fifth after Nolan Gorman's RBI double in the second had put St. Louis ahead.

The O's Gunnar Henderson hit his 16th homer here on Monday night, a three-run shot. He has hit four in the last four completed O's games and 13 in the last 30 games. According to MLB.com's Sarah Langs, Henderson is the fifth player age 22 or younger to hit at least 16 homers in his team's first 45 games. He joins Washington's Bryce Harper in 2015, Seattle's Alex Rodriguez in 1998, the Washington Senators' Harmon Killebrew in 1959 and the Milwaukee Braves' Eddie Matthews in 1953. 

If Henderson hits one in what is left of last night's game, he will have homered in five consecutive games. The last Oriole to do that was Jonathan Schoop in 2018. The team record is six games in a row with a home run, co-held by Reggie Jackson in 1976 and Chris Davis in 2012.

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Some nights the Orioles are very aggressive at-bat and here is why (plus Gibson faces the O's)

Ryan Mountcastle

ST. LOUIS – The Orioles have had many nights this year where they have been an aggressive hitting team. And many nights where that works out well for them.

They began last night leading the American League in runs per game. But they also ranked 14th and next to last in walk rate and they are 28th in the majors with a walk rate of 7.0 percent. American League average is 8.2.

The O’s hitters, on average, see 3.80 pitches per plate appearance to rank 11th-most in the league and league average is 3.88 per PA.

Yes, they rate low in walks, but high in runs scored and they rank first in the majors in slugging and sixth in MLB in team OPS where they are also third in the AL.

In an extended answer before last night’s game, manager Brandon Hyde explained why many nights the O’s are an aggressive hitting team that sometimes hunts pitches early in counts and why they like it that way.

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O's game suspended, to be resumed in bottom of sixth on Wednesday

Kyle Bradish

ST. LOUIS – A storm producing heavy rain that rolled through Busch Stadium tonight just after 8 p.m local time has forced the suspension of tonight’s Orioles-Cardinals game.

The game will resume Wednesday at 11:15 a.m. local time (12:15 p.m ET) with the teams tied 1-1 and St. Louis coming to bat in the last of the sixth. When that game ends, and 30 minutes later, they will play Wednesday's regularly scheduled nine-inning game. 

Tonight, right-hander Kyle Bradish made his fourth start since coming off the injured list. Just like Dean Kremer last night, he had to pitch early on with no run support.

But he got the job done allowing one run over the first four innings on 61 pitches and twice stranding runners at second and third. He did that in the third and fourth innings by getting big outs.

The Orioles didn’t score until the sixth inning last night and not until the fifth tonight.

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O's game blog: Looking for a bounceback in Game 2 in St. Louis

Kyle Bradish

ST. LOUIS – By Orioles standards and based on their play so far this year, last night’s road trip opening game was just not good enough. And the Birds will look to get back in the win column tonight with improved play in the second of a three-game series at St. Louis. 

Being held to three hits was a season low for the Orioles, the sixth time that has happened. They lost at St. Louis 6-3. 

Gunnar Henderson’s three-run homer in the sixth inning got them back into the game, but they never could get even or move ahead after the Cardinals opened a 5-0 lead in the last of the fourth.

But Henderson gained the major league lead with his 16th homer. He is the first Oriole since DJ Stewart in September 2020 to homer in four consecutive games. He has six in his past 10 games and 13 in the last 30. That is also the most in the majors in that span of games during which his OPS is 1.062.

But Monday night, the Cardinals' No. 8 and No. 9 hitters, Masyn Winn and Michael Siani, combined for four hits, two runs and all six RBIs as the home team won for the sixth time in the past eight games.

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Hyde talks opponents' stolen bases after Cardinals had four Monday night

Cionel Perez

ST. LOUIS – Orioles manager Brandon Hyde could not have been thrilled to see the Cardinals steal four bases last night in their series-opening 6-3 win.

The four steals matched a St. Louis season best done one time before. The four allowed is an O's season high, now done three times, once each by Washington, Kansas City and now St. Louis.

Adley Rutschman caught 22 percent of the runners trying to steal last year and that number is 21 percent this year.

“I think the majority of the time, it’s usually on the pitcher,” said Hyde today in the visitor's dugout. “You know, look at those four against him last night, there is absolutely nothing you can do about those four. You’re going to have to balance it with: Did he have a chance or not? And the majority of the time he really hasn’t this year.”

Hyde and the Orioles are very aware, of course, of which of their pitchers are good at holding runners and which ones have challenges. Last night’s starter, Dean Kremer, had seen his opponents steal one base on him all year and St. Louis got two bags.

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Every day Gunnar: He homers for fourth straight game and 13th time in last 30 games

Gunnar Henderson

ST. LOUIS – The Orioles remarkable Gunnar Henderson can always seem to make his special play sound like it’s not that special. But we all know better.

He can say he made an adjustment here, or a tweak there, got with the coaches and now feels more comfortable.

But however he wants to say it, he just keeps bashing baseballs out of ballparks. St. Louis right-hander Sonny Gray was no-hitting the Orioles into the sixth inning when Henderson struck. A 417-foot shot to center and a 5-0 deficit was now 5-3.

Henderson hit his MLB-leading 16th homer. He is now on a pace for the year, rounding up here, for 58 homers.

Gunnar, you pretty locked in at the moment?

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Kremer struggles, Henderson homers again, but O's fall in road trip opener (updated)

henderson

ST. LOUIS – Sometimes the strike call you don’t get leads to the fastball you throw that leaves the ballpark.

That happened to the Orioles tonight, and it was a frustrating way to begin their week-long road trip to St. Louis and Chicago.

This game sure had its frustrations for the Orioles.

Take the Cardinals' four-run last of the fourth, which gave them a 5-0 lead.

No. 9 hitter Michael Siani hit a three-run homer in that inning, but only after home plate umpire Laz Diaz clearly missed an 0-2 pitch and called ball one instead of strike three. Two pitches later, Siani hit a Dean Kremer fastball over the inner half for a jack into the right-field bullpen and a 5-0 lead.

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O's game blog: The road trip begins

kremer gray

ST. LOUIS – After going 5-3 on the season’s longest homestand, the Orioles are in St. Louis tonight to begin a three-game series and seven-game road trip that moves to Chicago on Thursday.

The Seattle pitching staff began the weekend at Camden Yards ranked fourth in the American League in team ERA at 3.33 and fifth in rotation ERA at 3.36.

But the Orioles scored 18 runs on 28 hits off the Mariners, including six doubles, three triples and four homers, while going 2-1 in the weekend series. The team average was .277 and OPS .839, and they went 9-for-28 with runners in scoring position against Seattle.

The Orioles (29-15) have won three of the last four games, 10 of 14 and 17 of their past 25. They are now 10-3-2 in series for the year and are 6-2-1 in home series. They are now 4-2 in rubber match games.

One of the best developments in recent days for the club might be that some struggling outfielders started to hit. Center fielder Cedric Mullins went 3-for-8 with two RBIs the last two days, and at least that’s a start to turning around his season. Austin Hays has five hits his last 13 at-bats, which actually dates back to before he went on the injured list. And Colton Cowser, whose average was down to .267 in early May, is now batting .310 (9-for-29) with three doubles, four RBIs and an .861 OPS his past nine games.

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Hyde's pregame notes on Kimbrel, Gibson, Mountcastle and more

kimbrel city

ST. LOUIS – The Orioles may be back to having one closer, and it’s once again veteran Craig Kimbrel. He buzzed through the ninth inning Sunday on 14 pitches with two strikeouts, recording the ninth save of his year and the 426th of his career. 

Over his past four games, he has thrown four hitless and scoreless innings, lowering his ERA from 4.73 to 3.63, with no walks and six strikeouts in that span.

So is he the main ninth-inning guy again?

“Well yeah, I think so. Probably,” manager Brandon Hyde said this afternoon at Busch Stadium before the opener of the series and the road trip in St. Louis. “I’m going to see how he feels today. … He looked great yesterday. That was awesome. Really happy. Nice to get him a three-run lead, have a little cushion there. But I thought the stuff was outstanding.”

The Orioles are reunited today with their good friend and 2023 teammate, right-hander Kyle Gibson. He pitched to a 4.73 ERA over 192 innings for the Orioles and is 3-2 with a 4.09 ERA for the Cardinals and will face the O’s Wednesday afternoon.

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At Double-A Bowie both excitement and attendance are up

Bowie Baysox crowd

For long-time fans of the Orioles minor leagues, it might come as a surprise. There were many seasons when the Double-A Bowie Baysox, playing in the shadow of Washington, D.C., struggled to draw fans.

But in the last few years that has turned around. There have been four nights this year when Bowie drew 7,000 or more and for eight Friday and Saturday dates this season, the Baysox have averaged 7,125 fans. 

From 2022 to 2023, Bowie ranked No. 3 out of the 120 full-season minor league teams with an average attendance increase of 34.4 percent. Wichita was No. 1 with a higher increase on average and Binghamton No. 2.

These are better days throughout the minors with overall attendance for all teams up 4.4 percent from 2022 to 2023. Double-A teams were up 5.3 percent and the Eastern League itself, of which Bowie is a member, was up 6.8.

Bowie is nowhere close to the top drawing team in baseball or even in its own league. But the gains are still impressive and ongoing into this season.

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O's game blog: Wrapping up the series and homestand with Game 3 against Seattle

Corbin Burnes

The Orioles offense broke out Friday in a 9-2 win over Seattle. But after taking an early 2-0 lead last night, the Orioles scored just one more run and lost to the Mariners 4-3. That sets up these teams for a rubber match today to end this series and homestand.

The Orioles are 3-2 in rubber match games and Seattle is 5-3.

The Orioles are 28-15 overall and they are 4-3 on the homestand ending this afternoon before the Orioles head to St. Louis and Chicago for a week-long road trip with the Cardinals and White Sox.

The O's bullpen last night allowed four runs or more in a game for just the fifth time all year and for the second time in the last 23 games.

With last night's game, the Orioles have officially extended their sweepless streak to 106 consecutive regular season series of at least two decisions (no ties), passing the 1903-05 New York Giants for the third-longest such streak in major leauge history.

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Before his return to the majors, Hays made a return to Double-A Bowie

Austin Hays

For Orioles outfielder Austin Hays, it was a familiar ballpark, just one he had not seen in person for quite awhile. From May 7-12, and a few days before that in practice, Hays spent time with the Double-A Bowie Baysox on his injury rehab assignment.

From 2017 through 2019, Hays, on his way up in the Baltimore farm system, spent time with Bowie. Once the Orioles' No. 1 ranked prospect, he batted .283 with 31 homers, 34 doubles and 108 RBIs in 144 total games with the Baysox. His best season in Bowie was in 2017 as just a 21-year-old when he hit .330 with 16 homers, 17 doubles and 54 RBIs in 64 games. He was a finalist that year for Baseball America’s National Player of the Year.

Now years later, he wore the Baysox uniform as a major league vet. A player for the kids now coming up through Bowie can try and learn from.

“I can feel that, as a bit older now, there are a lot more questions asked then when I was there in the past. Just kind of, ‘What’s your approach on this? What does your routine look like?’ Different questions like that,” Hays said the Bowie players asked him.

And he was very happy to help those prospects if he could.

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O's game blog: A chance for a series win against the Seattle Mariners

Adley Rutschman

Facing a first-place Seattle team, one that was 20-12 since April 10 with a team ERA of 2.63, the Orioles won the series-opening game last night. And now a win in one of the next two days will give them yet another series victory.

The Orioles offense, one that scored 3.7 runs per game the previous 14 games to rank 21st in the majors in that span, broke out last night in a 9-2 win with 10 hits and five for extra bases. Gunnar Henderson, Adley Rutschman and Colton Cowser all had two-hit games. Henderson and Cowser each drove in two runs as the Orioles went 4-for-9 with runners in scoring position and had five players drive in runs.

The first five batters scored to start the game, the first time the Birds have done that since the first six scored to begin a July 30, 2023 game against the Yankees. Jorge Mateo and Henderson tripled to begin the seventh inning, the first time the Orioles have hit back-to-back triples since July 3, 2008 versus Kansas City (4th inning, Adam Jones and Brandon Fahey). Rutschman and pinch-hitter Austin Hays followed with doubles, marking the first time the team has hit four consecutive extra-base hits since Sept. 23, 2018 at New York (6th inning, Trey Mancini, Tim Beckham, Renato Núñez and Joey Rickard).

Henderson and Jordan Westburg have hit leadoff homers the last two games, the sixth time in O's history the team has hit a leadoff homer in at least two consecutive team games and the first time since Melvin Mora did it June 28-29, 2002. Baltimore leads the major leagues with five leadoff homers this season; Henderson's four leadoff home runs are tied with Philadelphia's Kyle Schwarber for the most this season.

The O's have an majors-best 2.12 ERA in their last 15 games (since April 29). During that time, the Birds have surrendered an majors-low 92 hits while holding opponents to a .186 batting average. The 2.12 ERA is the best mark in a 15-game span in a single season by the Orioles since Sept. 6-21, 2014 (2.06).

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Fewer Ks, but also a low ERA: Corbin Burnes talks strikeouts

burnes @ WAS

Orioles right-hander Corbin Burnes, the 2021 National League Cy Young Award winner and a pitcher who finished seventh and eighth for that honor the last two years, is having another strong season. It’s his first year in Baltimore and could be his only year with the Orioles.

He is 3-2 with a 2.68 ERA over nine starts. His ERA and his .579 OPS against are both the best numbers he has posted since that Cy Young season.

But one area on the stat sheet that looks quite different for Burnes is his strikeouts total. He got 11 on Opening Day and looked dominant then with big swing-and-miss stuff, but his K rate is 7.17 per nine innings since then.

This is a pitcher with a combined 677 strikeouts (second in the majors to Gerrit Cole) from 2021 through 2023. His K rate for those three years was 10.8.

But it’s 8.2 this season, and as of yesterday Burnes ranks tied for 20th in the American League in strikeouts.

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O's game blog: John Means faces the Mariners in the Seattle series opener

means pitching white

After a walk-off win on Adley Rutschman’s two-run homer Wednesday afternoon allowed them to split their two-game series with Toronto, the Orioles' homestand will end this weekend as they host the American League West-leading Seattle Mariners.

Wednesday’s win – after the O’s went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left 11 on base – improved the Birds to 3-2 on what is now a rain-shortened eight-game homestand.

The Orioles have won four of six games and also eight of 11, 15 of 22 and 19 of their past 27 games. They are 15-9 at home and 9-5 in series-opening games. When that series opener is at home, they are 5-3.

Over the last 14 games, the Orioles have been in the bottom third of the majors in scoring runs, but they have been No. 1 in the majors in team ERA. That has allowed the Orioles to go 10-4 at a time when they have scored 3.7 runs per game in the last 14 contests to rank 21st-best in the majors in this span. The team is batting .219 in this stretch with an OPS of .691.

Baltimore batters have produced just seven runs the past three games. The O’s went 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position in the Toronto series and are batting .167 (8-for-48) with RISP their past seven games.

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A plan comes together: Looking for more walks, Ryan O'Hearn is getting them

Ryan O'Hearn

It was an interview in early March at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla. at O’s spring camp. As usual, Ryan O’Hearn was being himself which is something reporters have really come to appreciate.

He’s almost always available to us and he doesn’t go through the motions in these interviews, he provides real insight.

Like he did for me on another sunny day in Florida.

While delighted with his first season in Baltimore, O’Hearn said he didn’t want to be a “one-hit wonder” and he had a specific plan to improve this year - one that is playing out nightly in Birdland.

Few players have ever changed their walk-to-strikeouts totals so dramatically year-over-year. In the 2023 season, O’Hearn had a 4.1 walk rate and 22.3 K rate. In his career he had never come close to walking as much as he struck out.

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O's end frustrating day on offense with a walk-off, keeping a few streaks going

Adley Rutschman

Sometimes you have a frustrating day with runners in scoring position but can still win. Sometimes you get a homer from your first and last batters of the game to win. Sometimes you have streaks riding, and it looks like they will end. But they don't.

Sometimes you see curious moves happen in an inning like the bottom of the eighth, but you still win. Sometimes a segment of your fans get frustrated and restless and are sure you will not win. But you still do.

The Orioles improved to 27-14 and avoided the season's first three-game losing streak with Wednesday's 3-2 walk-off win over Toronto.

Adley Rutschman's two-run homer with no outs in the ninth produced the team's fifth walk-off win of the year and his second career walk-off homer. He also hit one April 13 of this season versus Oakland. It was the O's first walk-off homer when trailing since Rio Ruiz on Aug. 11, 2019 against Houston.

The Orioles now have 12 comeback wins.

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