O's minor league championships and Gunnar on Westburg

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When the high Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds played for the South Atlantic League championship this week, I wrote that the last two O’s minor league championship teams were the 2011 Single-A Frederick Keys and the 2015 Double-A Bowie Baysox.

And while Aberdeen fell short of a title, a reader on Twitter asked if they were the only O’s minor league titles. And the answer is certainly no since the Orioles have been playing in Baltimore since 1954.

I asked the club's public relations staff a question I have also often wondered about – how many minor league championships have O’s farm clubs won in team history? And, as with most minor league information one would seek, records are incomplete and hard to fully know since we are talking about so many teams in so many leagues over so many years.

But thanks to Nate Rowan and Liam Davis of the O’s staff, their research did produce a list of champions. And the O’s want to take a longer and closer look at this list this winter to produce as complete a list as they can for next year’s media guide.

So far, this is what can be confirmed.

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O's game blog: Mike Baumann faces Houston in Game 3

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The Orioles look to continue their winning ways over the Astros tonight as the teams play the third game of a four-game series at Camden Yards. The O’s will also try to keep their amazing recent run of pitching going, a run that has seen their staff allow just one run the last three games.

The Orioles (79-71) have 12 games remaining in the regular season and have now won three in a row by a combined 16-1 score. After scoring just two runs in the first two games of the Detroit series, they now have 16 in these three games and they have gone 10-for-18 with runners in scoring position in those games.

The Orioles improved to 44-32 at home with Friday’s win and they are 27-15 at home since June 22.

For the third time in the five games that they have played against Houston this year, the Orioles shut out the Astros last night as right-hander Dean Kremer pitched a complete-game four-hitter on 106 pitches. He threw a combined 29 two and four-seam fastballs with 29 cutters, 27 curveballs and 21 changeups. He got 15 swings and misses. In two starts versus Houston, Kremer has allowed one run and eight hits over 16 2/3.

In his past eight starts, he is 4-1 with a 2.29 ERA and has allowed just two homers in that span over 51 innings. For the season Kremer improved to 8-5 with a 3.07 ERA.

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Trey Mancini: Astros quite impressed with Bradish and Kremer

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Anyone watching the Orioles the last two nights had to be impressed with their pitching after back-to-back shutouts of the Astros, who lead the American League with 99 wins. A Houston team that entered this series third in the AL in runs scored, winners of 10 of their last 11 games and with a seven-game road win streak.

Then Houston lost 2-0 and was held to two hits and lost 6-0 and held to four hits.

O’s starters Kyle Bradish and Dean Kremer threw 17 2/3 scoreless innings with two walks and 16 strikeouts combined.

Count former Oriole Trey Mancini among those impressed. Mancini talked about those two Baltimore pitchers today from the visiting clubhouse at Oriole Park.

“The stuff is electric. Both of them,” Mancini said. “Both times we saw them they shut us down and it’s not an easy offense to shut down. You have to tip your hat to them. They did a great job out there and the stuff looks really good. I was their teammate for a long time and to see them come along the way they have is very impressive. The stuff has always been there and now that they are pounding the strike zone, it’s tough to hit.

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On night of great pitching, O's also made gains in wild card race

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In recent days, some fans in Birdland have begun to slowly check out a bit on the 2022 Major League Baseball season. But just when some headed out, did the Orioles pull them back in?

Looks that way.

With a stunning run of pitching that includes allowing just one run over the last three games, the Orioles are now three games behind Seattle for the third American League wild-card spot. Tampa Bay and Toronto (84-67) are tied for the top two spots with the Orioles 4 1/2 games behind both clubs.

Is edging out Toronto, in what would be a stunning late-season run, the Orioles' best path to the playoffs? Probably yes, because of the three games the teams still have to play to end the regular season at Oriole Park.

Now 4 1/2 games behind Toronto, the Birds would need to gain 1 1/2 games on Toronto in the next 10 days to be within three games with three to play when the clubs begin that series in Baltimore on Monday, Oct. 3.

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O's game blog: Dean Kremer faces Houston in series Game 2

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The score is 8-4. Not from last night’s game, but from four games this year played between the Orioles and the 99-win Astros, who have the best record in the American League. Yep, four games and a total of 12 runs scored by the teams.

In a Houston series that began Aug. 26, the Orioles won by 2-0 and 3-1 before losing 3-1. They won the series opener in Baltimore last night 2-0.

In those four games, O’s pitching has allowed just four runs versus the Astros. O’s starting pitchers have recorded an ERA of 0.59, allowing nine hits and two runs over 30 1/3 innings. That is against a Houston team that began this series third in the AL averaging 4.58 runs per game and third in the league in slugging and team OPS.

Right-hander Kyle Bradish took a perfect game to the sixth inning last night as he retired the first 17 batters he faced before No. 9 hitter Mauricio Dubon singled to left. Bradish came within an out of pitching a second straight complete game for the Orioles after Jordan Lyles did so Wednesday against the Tigers. He allowed two hits over 8 2/3 with no walks and 10 strikeouts. He threw 100 pitches, 70 for strikes, and improved to 4-7 with a 4.65 ERA.

In two starts this season versus Houston, Bradish has thrown 16 2/3 scoreless, allowing just four hits. Houston batters have gone 4-for-53 (.075) against him. In his last six starts, Bradish has an ERA of 1.64 and has allowed just one homer and an OPS of .420 over 38 1/3 innings. He has thrown seven innings or more in four of the six starts, and the Orioles are 4-2 in those games.

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O's rookie Terrin Vavra gets his bat going again

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Orioles infielder/outfielder Terrin Vavra's bat has started to heat up again, just as it did when he first got to the majors and went 6-for-13, batting .462 to start to his big league career.

Nothing to it, right?

Of course, we know that is not true. And while Vavra looks solid and comfortable again at the plate, for about a month starting in early August he was struggling, and not playing very much. Then he left the team briefly on paternity leave.

Over an 18-game stretch he was just 6-for-37 (.162).

“That was a big learning stage for me,” Vavra said before Thursday’s game. “It was easy to get frustrated right away. You know, when you are not getting opportunities, it’s not the easiest to get back into a rhythm, so you kind of have to create that. Luckily, we have some great guys in this clubhouse that helped me with that, as well as some great hitting coaches. Just try to a find a routine and build rhythm with that, so when you do get your chance you can, hopefully, feel more comfortable at the plate.”

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O's game blog: The Houston series opener

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Fresh off their 8-1 win Wednesday night over the Detroit Tigers, the Orioles host the Houston Astros tonight at Oriole Park. In late August, the O’s won two of three at Houston, in what may have been one of their most impressive series wins of the year.

Houston (99-51) has already clinched the American League West and comes to Baltimore as a team on a roll. They just swept three in a row from Tampa Bay, pitching two shutouts in that series. Overall they have won four in a row by a combined 25-4 score. Houston has won 10 of 11 and 18 of its last 22 games. They are 49-28 on the road, winning seven straight and 11 of 12 on the road.

But at Minute Maid Park recently, the O’s won the first two games by 2-0 and 3-1 scores, before losing the series finale by 3-1. Their series win was so impressive as Houston entered that series with a 42-18 home record on the year, with seven straight wins at home at the time and with a 27-8 record in their previous 35 at home.

The O’s got incredible pitching that weekend in Houston allowing 14 hits and four runs in three games. Their three starters – Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer and Austin Voth – combined to pitch 21 2/3 innings allowing seven hits and two runs.

The Orioles (77-71) ended that series just 1.5 games behind the final AL wild card. Now, with 14 games left, they are four games behind Seattle for the final spot and they are 4.5 back of Tampa Bay and 6.5 behind Toronto. The Rays and Blue Jays begin a four-game series tonight in Florida.

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O's Cedric Mullins on again facing Verlander and the return of Trey

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The Orioles task tonight does not sound easy. Just beat a red-hot Houston team with potential AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander (17-3, 1.78 ERA) on the mound.

The Astros are 19-6 in Verlander’s starts this year and his ERA is 1.21 since June 24.

Piece of cake, right?

Houston is 99-51, best record in the AL and have won four in a row, 10 of 11 and 18 of 22 games.

The Orioles, behind great pitching, did take two of three at Houston at the end August. But they failed to sweep, losing the Sunday game in that series that was started by Verlander. But Verlander left that start after allowing three hits in three scoreless innings with right calf discomfort. It led him to the injured list and he just recently returned from the IL to throw five no-run, no-hit innings against Oakland last Friday.

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Aberdeen's quest for the SAL championship comes up a few runs short

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ABERDEEN, Md. – After they had scored 13 runs on 13 hits Tuesday night in a huge win, High-A Aberdeen loaded the bases in the last of the first last night. It looked like they might pick up where they left off the previous game.

But the IronBirds would leave the bases loaded. A big chance ended with no runs. We didn’t know it then, but that would be their best scoring chance of the night as they lost 4-0 to Bowling Green. The Hot Rods won the South Atlantic League championship series in front of 1,548 at Ripken Stadium.

They held Aberdeen to four hits in the shutout win in the third and deciding game of the SAL championship. After they failed to cash in on the early chance, Aberdeen got just one runner to third base, and that was Max Wagner after a two-out triple in the sixth.

And the IronBirds got a tough break on the mound. Right-hander Peter Van Loon was pitching a gem, a one-hitter through four innings on 45 pitches. Then he was out of the game due a blister.

“He developed an issue with his hand, and that was the reason we had to yank him. He was pitching great,” said Aberdeen manager Roberto Mercado. “Trust me, we were going to keep him out there a little longer. But we’re not going to put a guy out there and have that finger be an issue or impact his offseason. He was outstanding as he was for us all year. Phenomenal job today.”

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Aberdeen falls in SAL championship as Bowling Green takes league title

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ABERDEEN, Md. – Seeking their first-ever league championship and the first by an O’s farm team in seven years, the high Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds came up short tonight at Ripken Stadium.

Bowling Green, a Tampa Bay affiliate, got the lead on a bases-loaded balk call and later added three more runs as they beat Aberdeen 4-0 to win the South Atlantic League championship series, two wins to one.

The IronBirds had a strong regular season, going 78-54 and then beat Brooklyn in three games in a semifinal playoff series. But they lost tonight’s third and deciding game to the Hot Rods for the SAL championship.

Aberdeen was searching for its first title since becoming an O’s farm club in 2002 and first by a Baltimore affiliate since Double-A Bowie won the Eastern League in 2015.

The balk call came in the top of the fifth with two outs and the bases loaded. Right-hander Connor Gillispie started the inning for Aberdeen and Logan Driscoll drilled a leadoff double. After a pop out, Bowling Green loaded the bases with a single and walk. Then Aberdeen manager Roberto Mercado called for righty Kade Strowd to try and pitch out of the jam. He just about did.

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O's game blog: Trying to avoid a sweep at Oriole Park

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To say the least, the Orioles have had their struggles with the last-place Detroit Tigers this year. In May, right after the Orioles had impressively taken two of three at St. Louis, they lost three straight at Comerica Park by a combined 12-3 score. Then they came home Monday night, after Sunday’s ninth-inning comeback win at Toronto and lost 11-0. They lost to the same team 3-2 last night.

Tonight the Tigers (57-91) can sweep this three-game series and their season series against the Orioles with another win at Oriole Park. The O’s, outscored 26-5 this season by Detroit, need to get back in the win column tonight.

The Orioles (76-71) need to go 6-9 or better in their remaining 15 games to post a winning record for the first time since 2016. In the wild card race, Baltimore is five games behind Seattle for the final wild card spot in the AL and are 5.5 back of Tampa Bay and 7.5 games back of Toronto.

The Orioles continue to have problems putting up consistent offense. They have just two runs and one extra-base hit, a homer, in this series, going 8-for-61 (.131) at-bat and going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

The Birds have scored three runs or less in 14 of their past 23 games. They’ve scored just 10 runs in their past six home games, getting two or less four times.

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Playoff notes and quotes ahead of tonight's SAL championship game in Aberdeen

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ABERDEEN, Md. – In the minor leagues it’s like the equivalent of playing a Game 7 of the World Series. For the O’s high Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds affiliate tonight, it’s the final game of a series and the season.

Aberdeen hosts Bowling Green, a Tampa Bay Rays farm club, in Game 3 of the best-of-three South Atlantic League championship series at 7:05 p.m. Bowling Green won 5-3 Sunday and Aberdeen won at Ripken Stadium 13-6 last night. Tonight’s winner will be the 2022 SAL champions.

The last two O’s farm teams to win championships were the Single-A Frederick Keys in 2011 with Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop in the Carolina League and the Double-A Bowie Baysox in 2015. With a team that included Trey Mancini and Mike Yastrzemski, the Baysox won the Eastern League title.

Aberdeen, an O’s affiliate since 2002, had never even won a single playoff series until this year.

Ahead of tonight’s winner-take-all game, some notes and quotes from Aberdeen.

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O's 2022 draft picks come up big as Aberdeen takes must-win playoff game

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ABERDEEN, Md. – It was certainly much more than a three-man show. But on a night when high Single-A Aberdeen had to win to save its season, the Orioles' second, third and fourth selections in the 2022 MLB Draft came up big.

Dylan Beavers, taken No. 33 overall from Cal, Max Wager, drafted No. 42 from Clemson and Jud Fabian, taken No. 67 overall from Florida, combined to go 6-for-11 with two doubles, a homer, five runs and seven RBIs as Aberdeen beat Bowling Green 13-6.

The win evens the South Atlantic League best-of-three championship series at one win each. The teams play at 7:05 p.m. tonight at Ripken Stadium in a winner-take-all game. The game 3 winner will be SAL champs.

The last farm team for the Orioles to win a league championship was Double-A Bowie in the Eastern League in 2015. Seven years later, Aberdeen can join them.

The IronBirds offense was cooking early and often.

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Aberdeen wins big to force a third and deciding game for SAL championship

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ABERDEEN, Md. – In a must-win situation tonight to force a third and deciding game in the South Atlantic League championship series, the O’s High-A Aberdeen club got it done with big offense at Ripken Stadium.

Aberdeen never trailed, scoring once in the first, three in the second and five runs in the fourth on its way to a 13-6 win over Bowling Green. After the IronBirds lost the series opener 5-3 on the road Sunday, the SAL championship is now even at 1-1 and set for a Wednesday night Game 3 showdown in Aberdeen.

If the IronBirds win the title, it would be the first by an O’s affiliate since Double-A Bowie won the Eastern League in 2015.

Tonight, Aberdeen took a first-inning lead when Dylan Beavers walked, stole second and scored on Jud Fabian’s two-out single to left. In the last of the second, Aberdeen got a pair of singles with two outs and then Beavers hit his first homer at the High-A level. The No. 33 overall pick in the 2022 draft by the Orioles drilled a three-run shot to right for a 4-0 lead.

After Bowling Green scored twice in the third off right-hander Jean Pinto, Aberdeen took control of this game with five runs in the last of the fourth. Billy Cook’s two run single made it 6-2 and Heston Kjerstad tripled in two runs to right, and scored on the play himself on a throwing error for the 9-2 margin.

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O's game blog: Looking to bounce back in Game 2 of the series

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The Orioles have enjoyed a range of emotions and results the last two days. First the stunning comeback win in the ninth Sunday at Toronto. And then an 11-0 loss last night in which they were held to just two hits by the last-place Detroit Tigers.

So, the Orioles will try to get back into the win column tonight in the second game of a three-game series and seven-game homestand at the Yard.

The Orioles (76-70) are five games behind Seattle for the final American League wild-card berth and yes, Seattle holds the tiebreaker. The Birds are 5 1/2 games back of Tampa Bay and 6 1/2 behind Toronto.

The Orioles need to finish 6-10 or better to clinch their first winning record since going 89-73 in 2016, when they made the postseason. 

The loss Monday was the O's third in the last four games and ninth in the past 14 games. They went 17-10 in August, their third straight winning month, but are now 8-9 in September.

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O's farm catcher got valuable experience on O's taxi squad this season

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While the Orioles were playing the Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend at Rogers Centre, a catcher from their farm system was soaking in the big league experience, even though he was not on the active Orioles roster.

Catcher Cody Roberts joined Tyler Nevin and Logan Gillaspie as taxi squad players for the series. For Roberts, 26, it was his third time this season on the taxi squad that includes a trip to Boston earlier and a seven-game stretch in late June at the Chicago White Sox and Seattle and this past weekend.

“It’s really cool. You get to be around the clubhouse, get to be around the guys. You see kind of the culture that is being built here right now. It’s been a cool experience,” Roberts said of being on the taxi squad.

An 11th round O’s draft pick in 2018 out of the University of North Carolina, Roberts had a huge hit on the final day last year that helped propel Double-A Bowie to the 2021 Eastern League playoffs. This season, in 80 games mostly with Bowie but with a handful of games at Triple-A Norfolk, he has hit .271/.348/.429/.777 with eight homers and 42 RBIs. He is expected to rejoin Norfolk to end the regular season. 

And there is an added bonus as a catcher on taxi squad. Unlike the others, he could stay once the games start and help out pitchers in the bullpen.

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O's game blog: The homestand opener against Detroit

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Fresh off their fourth win this season when trailing after eight innings - they are now 4-61 in such games - the Orioles open a seven-game homestand tonight with the first of three against the Detroit Tigers. Houston will be at Camden Yards for a four-game series beginning Thursday night.

After losing two in Toronto by 6-3 scores, the Orioles went to the top of the ninth yesterday trailing 3-2. But Adley Rutschman’s two-run single with the bases loaded gave them a 4-3 lead, and Jesús Aguilar’s single drove in an important fifth run.

The Orioles won it 5-4 to take the finale of the series and head home at 76-69 with their fifth win in the last 13 games. The Orioles began this day four games behind Seattle for the third American League wild card spot, 5 1/2 behind Tampa Bay for the second and six games behind Toronto for the first one.

As of this writing, the Mariners were leading by seven runs late in their game today against the Angels. 

The Orioles improved to 35-39 on the road and went 5-5 this year at Rogers Centre. They have won nine of their past 14 and 13 of 21 on the road.

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Hyde and Bautista on the huddle and mound meeting in the ninth

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It was quite the huddle on an NFL Sunday.

But it was Orioles manager Brandon Hyde leading the huddle this time, with input from pitcher Félix Bautista and catcher Adley Rutschman and some interpreting help from Ramón Urías and Jesús Aguilar.

This was some meeting of the minds. Bautista, trying to protect a 5-3 lead in the last of the ninth Sunday at Rogers Centre, had just given up a booming RBI double to George Springer that almost went out. That made it 5-4.

Now Springer was on second and there was one big out to get. And the Blue Jays had Vlad Guerrero Jr. coming up and Bo Bichette on deck.

Gulp.

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Aguilar was an unlikely hero on a day the Orioles had several in comeback win

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TORONTO – He’s No. 99 on your scorecard but No. 1 in your hearts.

OK, that is a stretch. But heading into Sunday’s series finale at Toronto, some fans must have thought that the rookies were doing their part. When would the vets pick up some slack too? Well one did late in the game yesterday and in a very big way.

It was an unlikely candidate in Jesus Aguilar, the first Oriole ever to wear a number in the nineties. But beyond that distinction he had struggled badly in his first eight O’s games. Once an All-Star in 2018 when he drove in 108 runs with a career OPS of .772, his O’s OPS was .261 at game time Sunday. He was only in the lineup because Ryan Mountcastle was hurt.

Then Aguilar, who started his day 0-for-3, hurt the Blue Jays.

His solo homer in the eighth was his first with the Orioles and pulled them within 3-2. After Adley Rutschman’s two-run single gave the O’s the 4-3 lead in the ninth, Aguilar singled in their fifth run. And they needed it when Toronto pulled within 5-4 in the home half of the ninth.

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O's comeback: They rally for three in the ninth to beat Toronto, 5-4 (updated)

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TORONTO – After 26 innings of mostly frustration on offense this weekend in Toronto, the 27th inning proved quite fruitful for the Orioles today.

Against right-handed All-Star closer Jordan Romano, one of the saves leaders in MLB with 34, the Orioles scored three runs in the ninth on Adley Rutschman’s huge two-run single and an RBI single by Jesús Aguilar.

The Orioles, who never led today until the ninth, beat Toronto 5-4 to salvage the final game of this series.

Winning for just the fifth time in 13 games, the Orioles come home at 76-69, and this win sparked a little life into their flickering playoff hopes.

Romano had recorded 14 consecutive scoreless appearances over 15 innings and had allowed just one earned run this season at home in 28 games. His home ERA of 0.31 was the best among all qualified MLB relievers. 

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