Updating Hicks and tonight's lineups

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HOUSTON - Aaron Hicks is out of tonight’s Orioles lineup after leaving last night’s game in the ninth inning with cramping in his hamstring. However, Hicks is walking without a limp today and said he should be available.

“I feel good today,” Hicks said.  “I can play today. I’m good to go. Just got to hydrate and get things going a little quicker than normal.”

Hicks slid into second base last night and felt the hamstring grab, but it became much worse after he was ready to run onto the field for the bottom of the ninth.

“Obviously, it was enough to where I couldn’t finish the inning,” he said.

“I feel amazing because the last thing you want to happen is for it to keep happening. Today, I feel really good. I’ve been hydrating a lot. So, I’ll be good to go if I have to come in later in the game.”

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This, that and the other

Mike Baumann

HOUSTON – Mike Baumann could have missed it.

The Orioles recalled Baumann from Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday, one day before they clinched a playoff berth and popped champagne corks. Baumann was soaked in beer and bubbly. He almost had a dry September.

The timing was ideal for Baumann, who swapped roster spots with reliever Bryan Baker.

“I was very happy to be a part of it,” he said. “I love these guys in the clubhouse and they’ve been working so hard this year. To be able to celebrate that moment was very special.”

Baumann broke camp with the team in a new role. The Orioles settled on him as a reliever who’d work in shorter bursts. Forget the rotation. Forget the responsibility to provide length out of the bullpen.

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Means holds Astros to one run, Mullins hits go-ahead homer in ninth for 8-7 win (updated)

Means holds Astros to one run, Mullins hits go-ahead homer in ninth for 8-7 win (updated)

HOUSTON – Orioles manager Brandon Hyde ran out of pitching. He also was running out of ideas.

His club regained the lead over the Astros tonight on Cedric Mullins’ three-run homer in the top of the ninth inning, and he had to get creative to avoid losing control of the situation. But typical of the 2023 Orioles, they figured it out.

They seem to thrive on weird.

Aaron Hicks came out of the game in the bottom half of the inning with a cramp, creating a chain reaction and some confusion in the Orioles’ 8-7 win before a stunned crowd of 34,456 at Minute Maid Park.

Cionel Pérez inherited the ninth and recorded two outs after Hyde surrendered his designated hitter by putting Heston Kjerstad in left field and moving Austin Hays to right. Ramón Urías entered at third base and committed a throwing error on a routine chopper by Yordan Álvarez.

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Pregame Orioles notes on yesterday's celebration, rotation and Mountcastle updates and more

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HOUSTON – The Orioles have moved on from the party.

They went wild yesterday after clinching a playoff berth, but arrived in Houston with their focus on the seven-game road trip and winning the American League East for the first time since 2014.

“I wanted our guys to enjoy the flight, but I think we’ve done a nice job turning the page,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “We just had our advance meeting and I thought that went really well. I thought guys were in tune to facing (Justin) Verlander today. John Means is ready on the mound. I think we pitched a lot of guys yesterday, had to, but I feel like our guys are ready to play today.”

Center fielder Cedric Mullins, whose sacrifice fly scored the winning run in the 11th inning, said the mindset shifted on the charter.

“We were making sure we got our rest,” he said. “It’s hard to sleep on a plane sometimes, but get as much as you can, especially after an intense game like that. I think the energy level here is really high, continuing to push forward after the clinch. Now, we want to win the division.”

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Orioles and Astros lineups in Houston

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HOUSTON – John Means is making his second start tonight since returning from Tommy John surgery, as the Orioles begin their last road trip of the regular season in Houston.

Means faced the Cardinals on Tuesday and allowed three runs in five innings. The Astros and Orioles are the only teams that he’s never faced in the American League.

Means has a 1.99 ERA in 11 career starts against AL West opponents. His last road start in the West was the no-hitter in Seattle in 2021.

José Abreu is 3-for-7 with a double and home run against Means.

Ryan Mountcastle is out of the lineup for the fifth game in a row with left shoulder discomfort. Heston Kjerstad makes his second start, serving as designated hitter.

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Celebration leftovers after Orioles clinch playoff berth (updated)

Orioles celebrate

Ryan Mountcastle called it “the greatest day of my life.” Ryan O’Hearn laid down a sacrifice bunt in the 11th inning, mentioned the number of times James McCann performed the same unselfish act and said, “I love this team.”

Félix Bautista walked around the clubhouse with a cigar and a smile, and nobody was more aggressive spraying champagne than the injured closer, who threw his first bullpen session yesterday since suffering a partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament. The elbow didn’t slow his celebration.

Heston Kjerstad arrived Thursday, received only four at-bats, and was treated like family. If your family circles you with champagne and beer bottles and empties them over your head. And dumps you in a laundry cart and takes you for a spin, which explained the ice water forming large puddles on the sheets of plastic covering the clubhouse floor.

The Orioles know how to win and to celebrate. They honored their veterans who spent the most seasons exposed to the painful rebuild, and the athletic youngsters who sped the recovery process.

They made sure that everyone in the organization felt loved yesterday. There were no outsiders. Rankings in the organization didn’t matter. High ranking officials or public relations staff. You were joining the fray and getting doused. You were invited – no, urged – to partake in the homer hose.

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Orioles celebrate playoff clinching and turn attention to division title


Cedric Mullins stood between first and second base, fists clenched, eyes fixed on his dugout. Teammates raced out of it. A fly ball that otherwise would be routine suddenly meant everything.

The Orioles clinched their first playoff berth since 2016, and they knew it two innings before the final out, with the Rangers losing in Cleveland. But they wanted the win. Take care of their own business.

Rays center fielder Manual Margot drifted back, made the catch and got out of the way as Adley Rutschman sprinted to the plate in the bottom of the 11th. He knew what was about to happen. He's been there.

Austin Hays ran onto the field with a water cooler hoisted above his head as Mullins was mobbed in a 5-4 win. Manager Brandon Hyde stayed back, soaking in the scene before he’d get drenched inside the clubhouse.

“As soon as I hit it, I knew it was deep enough to get the run in, and I just see everybody swarming me,” Mullins said. “It’s a great feeling. Being able to get the walk-off is one thing, but to hit the walk-off and we also clinched just added onto it. An amazing feeling. I think we’re all really just kind of feeling how our perseverance has continued to bring us success through it.”

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Orioles and Rays lineups for potential playoff clincher

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The Orioles are on the threshold of their first playoff berth in seven years.

They need a win today or a Rangers or Mariners loss to clinch.

Gunnar Henderson, who’s leading off again, tied and surpassed Cal Ripken Jr.’s single-season team rookie record for most runs scored with his 91st last night. His 27 home runs are tied with Eddie Murray for third-most.

Adley Rutschman is the designated hitter today. Ryan O’Hearn is playing first base and batting cleanup.

Ryan Mountcastle remains out of the lineup with left shoulder discomfort.

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Because You Asked - Twisters


The Orioles today can clinch their first playoff berth since 2016. Can’t really think about the division crown until finishing the first order of business.

The rebuild is behind them. I mean, really behind them. Like, pushed out of a car that speeds away.

Let’s dump out some of the contents of the mailbag, the latest sequel to the beloved 2008 original. And I'll keep stressing over missing my granddaughter's third birthday party because the Orioles could clinch.

Maybe I can attend both. But why bore you with my life?

You should know how the mailbag works. How I don’t edit for style, length, brevity or clarity. But you should cut back on the Claritin if it causes headaches, drowsiness, fatigue, dry mouth, dizziness or stomach side effects such as nausea or diarrhea. Contact your healthcare provider if these side effects become too bothersome.

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Orioles' magic number to clinch playoff berth down to one after shutout win (updated)

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Orioles manager Brandon Hyde didn’t notice any panic inside his clubhouse this afternoon. His players behaved in the usual way, talking at their lockers, watching college football on the six televisions suspended from the ceiling, playing chess at one of the tables. Jordan Westburg grabbed a plate of food. Teammates headed outside to toss a ball.

Four losses in a row annoyed but didn’t rattle.

“I just think they’re disappointed, but they’re going to bounce back, ready to play tonight,” Hyde said before batting practice. “I haven’t sensed anything. You can hear them interacting well. We had a good hitters meeting a while ago, but we do every day. So, I think they’re ready to go.”

Grayson Rodriguez was amped, retiring the first nine batters and striking out four of six. Curtis Mead swung through a 100.1 mph fastball to end the second, the second-fastest strikeout pitch by an Orioles starter in the Statcast era. No one crossed the plate.

Gunnar Henderson was fired up, too. His first two swings of the game produced a leadoff single in the first and a 428-foot, two-run homer in the second, and he delivered a run-scoring single in the fourth. He also set one Orioles rookie record and tied a Hall of Famer on another list.

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Pregame Orioles notes on Means, Bautista, Mountcastle, Baumann, offensive slump and more

Pregame Orioles notes on Means, Bautista, Mountcastle, Baumann, offensive slump and more

John Means is bouncing back in fine fashion after making his first start Tuesday since undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery in April 2022.

“Everything’s felt great,” he said today. “It’s felt better than it has in a while, so I’m really pleased with everything that’s going on and how I’m feeling.”

Means threw a bullpen session on Thursday, again with the desired results.

“Felt good, everything feels normal,” he said.

Staying with a six-man rotation puts Means on the mound again Monday night in Houston, where he could be pitted against veteran Justin Verlander. The teams haven't listed their starters for the three-game series.

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Orioles lineup vs. Rays in third game of series

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Ryan Mountcastle remains out of the Orioles lineup tonight after leaving Wednesday’s game with discomfort in his left shoulder.

An MRI was negative and Mountcastle has progressed to taking some swings. Manager Brandon Hyde expressed his optimism again yesterday.

“It’s a lot better,” he said.

Heston Kjerstad’s first major league hit last night was a solo home run. He’s out of the lineup tonight.

Aaron Hicks is in right field and Anthony Santander is serving as the designated hitter. Austin Hays returns to the lineup in left field.

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Orioles recall Baumann and option Baker

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The Orioles and Rays are tied atop the American League East. The one win that the Orioles need to clinch the tiebreaker remains on hold, but their magic number to secure a playoff spot is three after the Rangers lost last night.

It’s complicated.

What’s apparent is a four-game losing streak that’s tied for the longest this season.

The Orioles also lost four in a row June 27-July 1 and won nine of their next 11, including a season-best eight-game winning streak.

Orioles batters are 6-for-59 in this series. They’ve scored six runs in the last four games.

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Westburg happy to step aside for Kjerstad

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Jordan Westburg usually wouldn’t feel a smile creasing his face after his manager removed him for a pinch-hitter. His competitive side makes it hard to accept sitting, and definitely not with a grin, whether at the beginning or in the later innings. He wants the bat in his hands. He wants a challenge, and the chance to impact a game.

There are exceptions, though, like Thursday night at Camden Yards.

Westburg was supposed to lead off the bottom of the eighth against Rays reliever Robert Stephenson, but Brandon Hyde sent up Heston Kjerstad for his major league debut. The crowd roared when he stepped out of the dugout.

There was a more reserved but approving reaction inside of it.

Westburg knew the struggles that Kjerstad endured to reach this moment. The diagnosis of myocarditis, and later a strained hamstring. More than one setback. Questions about his professional future. Worries about his long-term health.

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Orioles held to two hits in 7-1 loss, Kjerstad's first hit is home run (updated)


The same organization that preaches the importance of never looking too far ahead happily spun its attention to the past before tonight’s game against the Rays.

The division race came with a pause button.

To honor Adam Jones on his official retirement after signing a one-day contract, the Orioles brought back former teammates who have experienced postseason baseball. Fan favorites from previous years.

An emotional distraction before the 2023 Orioles were stung by reality again.

The division lead is down to two percentage points. The losing streak has reached four games to match a season high. The reunion was special, but they need a reset.

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Orioles updates on Mountcastle, Bautista and Rutschman's move to second in lineup

bautista exits w injury v COL

Ryan Mountcastle’s health is trending in the right direction, and he could be nearing a return to the Orioles lineup.

Mountcastle exited Wednesday’s game with left shoulder discomfort but didn’t go on the injured list. He’s out of the lineup again tonight.

“Feeling even better today,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “He’s going to take some swings here coming up, so hopefully he’s available, but it’s a lot better.”

Ryan O’Hearn is playing first base again tonight and Heston Kjerstad is making his first major league start as the designated hitter.

Closer Félix Bautista also has avoided the injured list after suffering a slight tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow exactly three weeks ago.

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Kjerstad making first major league start


The pressure is building on the Orioles to hold onto their division lead, which is down to one game after last night’s 4-3 loss to the Rays.

Both teams have 91 wins. Tampa Bay has lost two more games.

The Orioles have lost three in a row, their longest streak since dropping four straight June 27-July 1.

Heston Kjerstad is making his first major league start, serving as designated hitter.

Ryan Mountcastle remains out of the lineup.

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Looking back on yesterday's activity

Ryan Mountcastle

Orioles' right-hander Kyle Bradish was asked last night for his opinion on how he pitched.

“Indifferent,” was his immediate response.

Couldn’t feel that way about everything that happened prior to the game.

The anticipation over Ryan Mountcastle’s MRI results. The predicted roster move that turned into multiple moves and caught many of us by surprise. The observations and lessons learned.

Don’t always trust body language and somber tones.

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Crucial four-game series for Orioles begins with 4-3 loss (updated)

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Orioles manager Brandon Hyde faced redundancy before the Rays.

More questions about the magnitude of the series. How his players would handle it, how he’d handle it.

“I just want our guys to enjoy it,” Hyde said during his daily media session. “This is what you play for all year. Play meaningful games in September. It’s something you always talk about.

“I really want our guys to just relax and enjoy all the moments.”

The fun times began with Cedric Mullins’ running, diving catch in right-center field to rob Taylor Walls in the second inning and likely save a run. They accelerated with Ryan O’Hearn’s leadoff homer in the bottom half and Gunnar Henderson’s 26th in the fourth.

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Mountcastle avoids injured list and is day-to-day with shoulder soreness

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The grimacing from Orioles' first baseman Ryan Mountcastle last night, followed by his removal from the game and somber tone at his locker, hinted at a serious injury to his left shoulder. He felt and heard a pop. The pain wouldn’t subside. He fidgeted at first base. Bad body language for anyone who can interpret.

The mood within the organization has taken a drastic turn. Smiles and signs of relief.

Manager Brandon Hyde said the Orioles received “great news” on Mountcastle’s MRI this morning. An expected trip to the injured list was scrubbed.

“He’s feeling a lot better,” Hyde said. “The imaging was all positive, so he’s just day-to-day-right now.”

Mountcastle has left shoulder soreness, but it didn’t remove him from the active roster.

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