On O's farm, Aberdeen in playoffs tonight & Bowie still chasing the postseason

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The playoffs begin in several leagues around Minor League Baseball tonight. For the Orioles high Single-A affiliate, the Aberdeen IronBirds, they travel to Brooklyn for Game 1 of a best-of-three league semi-final series in the South Atlantic League.

Aberdeen (78-54) advanced by virtue of winning its division in the first half, going 43-23. Brooklyn (70-62) won the second-half going 40-26. This series winner will play the Rome-Bowling Green winner for the league championship. Aberdeen will host Game 2 with Brooklyn Thursday at 7:05 p.m. at Ripken Stadium and Game 3, if necessary, will be Friday in Aberdeen.

It may not mean much now, but Aberdeen was 13-5 in the regular season against Brooklyn, a New York Mets affiliate.

“I feel confident,” Aberdeen manager Roberto Mercado, in his first season as a pro skipper, said yesterday. “We had a chance to see a bunch of their guys they recently added, and they have some good arms, but we’ll be ready for them. It should be a great series.”

Right-hander Jean Pinto (4-6, 3.83 ERA) gets the opening game start for the IronBirds against right-hander Luis Moreno (8-7, 2.84) for the Cyclones. Pinto’s ERA was 1.13 his last six Aberdeen games.

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The search for runs and wins is on as the wild card math gets more challenging

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For a while the Orioles pitching was so good they could and did win games without scoring very much. They beat Houston 2-0 and 3-1 on the last road trip and added wins in Cleveland by scores of 4-0 and 3-0. Hard to lose when you don’t allow a run as the Boston Red Sox learned Sunday.

The Boston pitching made a first-inning run stand up as the Orioles lost 1-0 to the Red Sox. It’s their first home 1-0 defeat since Aug. 5, 2020 versus Miami.

Just Friday night the Orioles beat Boston 3-2 and they had a chance to win another series. But their offense just keeps coming up short and eventually it caught up with this team.

The Orioles (73-67) had a disappointing 4-6 homestand, especially since they started it going 2-0. But they ended it going 2-6.

“Very disappointing, yeah. I thought our guys battled today and Kyle Bradish was great. But you can’t get three hits and expect to win,” said manager Brandon Hyde.

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O's offense comes up empty in series finale loss to Boston (updated)

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Today the Orioles struggling offense met struggling lefty Rich Hill. The veteran southpaw got the better of it, throwing five scoreless innings to frustrate O’s hitters as Boston won the series finale.

The Red Sox got just one run and that was in the first inning, but their pitching made it stand in a 1-0 win at Oriole Park. Hill and four relievers teamed on a three-hitter.

Baltimore (73-67) has lost six of eight games overall and has lost back-to-back home series for the first time since May 31 through June 5 against Seattle and Cleveland. The O's completed a 4-6 homestand that they started 2-0.

The Orioles got an outstanding start from rookie right-hander Kyle Bradish, who allowed just two hits and one run over seven innings. He walked two and fanned three, throwing 93 pitches. But Bradish takes a tough-luck loss and is now 3-6 with an ERA of 5.01.

“Very disappointing, yeah," manager Brandon Hyde said about a losing homestand. "I thought our guys battled today and Kyle Bradish was great. But you can’t get three hits and expect to win.

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O's game blog: O's host Boston in series finale (game now underway)

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The Orioles hope the weather forecast allows some time to get today's game in versus the Boston Red Sox with the clubs set to wrap up this three-game weekend series. The O's won 3-2 Friday, limiting Boston to two runs. But they gave up season highs in runs and hits on Saturday in a 17-4 loss.

Today's game begins in a rain delay at the scheduled start time, with hopes that they can get this one in this afternoon.

Update: The game began at 2:17 p.m. after a delay of one hour and 12 minutes at the start.

Saturday's game was the Orioles most lopsided loss of the 2022 season.

Baltimore (73-66) plays Game 140 today, and is five games back of Seattle for the final American League wild card berth. They are 5 1/2 games behind Toronto and six back of Tampa Bay. Those three clubs hold the wild card spots as of today.

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Updating Félix Bautista and other pregame notes from the Yard

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Orioles closer Félix Bautista is ready to return to the bullpen rotation. He said he feels good and could have pitched last night. Bautista was not available for Friday’s series-opening game with Boston, manager Brandon Hyde told reporters after that game, due to arm fatigue.

“It was mostly just fatigue. But thankfully I’m feeling a lot better, thank God,” Bautista said this morning with the help of team interpreter Brandon Quinones.

Hyde said before he would use Bautista, he needed to do more pregame throwing today. He wants to see one more throwing session before he puts him back into a game, should they get this game in.

“We’re waiting for the weather to break for him to play catch, so hopefully he’s available,” Hyde said.

Bautista recorded a six-out, 25-pitch save Tuesday against Toronto in his last game. He did some light throwing before yesterday’s game. The rookie is 4-3 with an ERA of 1.62 and 12 saves in 61 innings. His ERA is 1.10 in 16 1/3 innings since Aug. 5. He’s a key player on this club.

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After most lopsided loss of year, O's look for series win today

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It was a loss that was damaging to the Orioles' playoff hopes, but aren’t they all at this point?

But a 17-4 loss felt every bit the blowout it was. The Orioles were down four runs in the first, seven runs in the fourth, trailed 10-3 after the fifth and needed outfielder Ryan McKenna to pitch to record the last out in the top of the ninth.

It was bad and then it got worse.

It was the Orioles most lopsided loss of 2022.

But right-hander Jordan Lyles put it in perspective after he allowed a first-inning grand slam and his final line showed eight runs allowed over 3 2/3 innings.

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Lyles struggles early as Boston wins via blowout to even series

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During a season where right-hander Jordan Lyles has made numerous good starts for the Orioles – his ERA was 2.72 in his previous seven starts – today was clearly not one. His opponent was the Boston Red Sox. But it seemed it was also the impact of missing his last start due to a stomach virus.

Scheduled to pitch during the doubleheader Monday against Toronto, Lyles warmed up for that Game 1 start but didn’t make it due to his illness. So, he was pitching on nine days’ rest today and rust showed right from the start. So did his lack of normal velocity, which was down right from the start.

After Lyles’ wildness helped Boston load the bases three batters into the game, cleanup hitter Rafael Devers unloaded them with a grand slam into the Boston bullpen. 

The fast start and the Devers' slam led Boston to a blowout win 17-4 over the Orioles, and the game ended with outfielder Ryan McKenna on the mound for Baltimore.

The Orioles fall to 73-66 and have lost five of their past seven games. The Sunday series finale will decide which team wins this series.

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O's game blog: O's look for a series win over the Boston Red Sox

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With a 3-2 series-opening win on Friday, led by a three-run rally in the sixth and a strong bullpen performance, the Orioles are in position to win another series with a victory either today or tomorrow.

The Orioles (73-65) are four games behind Seattle for the final wild card spot as play begins today. They are 4.5 games back of Toronto and 5.5 behind Tampa Bay after the Rays lost to the Yankees today. New York now holds a 4.5 game lead over Tampa Bay for the AL East lead.

In Friday's win after starter Austin Voth gave up two runs over four innings, five bullpen pitched threw scoreless ball the last five innings for the Orioles. Right-hander Jake Reed got the win and righty Dillon Tate got the last four outs to record his fourth save.

The O's trailed last night 2-0 to the last of the sixth after Xander Bogaerts hit a two-run homer for Boston in the top of the third. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Orioles have won 11 games this season in which they trailed by multiple runs in the sixth inning or later. The only team with more comeback victories of that kind this season is the Cleveland Guardians with 12.

The O's have outscored their opponents 579-564 (+15) this season. They have outscored their opponents 389-331 (+58) in 87 games since June 1 after being outscored 190-233 (-43) in their first 51 games. Baltimore has not had a positive run differential in a season since 2016 (+29).

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Pregame notes on Bautista, Henderson, Hays and more

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His closer, right-hander Félix Bautista, was unavailable last night but Orioles manager Brandon Hyde hopes the big man can get back on the mound tonight. Hyde informed reporters after Friday's game that Bautista experienced some arm fatigue. He produced a six-out, 25-pitch save Tuesday against Toronto in his last game.

Bautista did some throwing earlier today to test his arm and Hyde was meeting with reporters as that was happening. So, the manager didn’t have an update on how that went during his pregame interview session.

“Possibly tonight, hopefully tomorrow, if he can’t go tonight,” Hyde said of Bautista’s return to the mound.

They will surely need him for the playoff push. The rookie is 4-3 with an ERA of 1.62 and 12 saves in 61 innings. His ERA is 1.10 in 16 1/3 innings since Aug. 5. He’s a key player on this club.

“Very. Very important,” Hyde said of Bautista. “ He’s been great for us all season long. Pitching in huge spots. So, want to make sure he feels good to pitch.”

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Terrin Vavra talks pitch clock plus other O's notes

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So, among the changes announced Friday coming to major league baseball will be a pitch clock in the 2023 season. The goal is to improve pace of play and reduce down time.

MLB announced these rules for next year:

* A pitcher must begin his motion before the expiration of the timer.  Pitchers will have up to 15 seconds between pitches when the bases are empty and up to 20 seconds between pitches with at least one runner on base. Testing in the minors involved 14 seconds with the bases empty and 18 seconds (19 seconds in Triple-A) with at least one runner on base.

* A pitcher may disengage the rubber (timer resets) by throwing to a base with a pickoff attempt or stepping off the pitching rubber twice per plate appearance without penalty. Subsequent disengagements result in a balk, unless an out is recorded on a runner. The disengagement count resets if the runner advances; testing in the minors had no reset until the following plate appearance.

* A hitter must be in the batter’s box and alert to the pitcher with at least eight seconds remaining.  Testing in the minor leagues included nine seconds remaining.

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O's game blog: The weekend series with Boston begins

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The Orioles have 25 games left in the 2022 regular season and three left on this current homestand. After Thursday’s off-day, they host Boston for a weekend series beginning tonight at Oriole Park.

The Orioles (72-65) lost three of four games to Toronto, scoring just eight runs in the three losses in that series. They have lost four of five games overall and now are 4 1/2 games back of Toronto for the final American League wild card berth. They are five back of Seattle for the second wild card spot and six games behind Tampa Bay for the No. 1 wild card spot.

Righty Alek Manoah held the Orioles to three hits over eight innings as Toronto won 4-1 Wednesday night. The Birds went just 3-for-30 in that game and were 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position. They saw 22 of their last 23 batters retired in the game after they had taken a 1-0 lead in the first on a Ryan Mountcastle RBI double.

Mountcastle went 4-for-16 with two doubles and five RBIs in the series against Toronto. In eight games this month, he is batting .290 with a .979 OPS to go with three homers and 11 RBIs.

Catcher Adley Rutschman went 7-for-16 in the series with three doubles, a homer, four runs and four RBIs. He is batting .417 (10-for-24) during a six-game hitting streak with three doubles, two homers and six RBIs.

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Austin Hays on his recent struggles at the plate

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In the big picture and in one sense, outfielder Austin Hays’ offense is not far off where it was last year. In 2021, he posted an OPS+ of 106, six percent over American League average. Right now, he is at 103 in OPS+.

But Hays has struggled since the All-Star break. He went 1-for-8 in the series against Toronto and is 3-for-25 (.120) with a .314 OPS his last seven games. He is batting .197 in 37 games since the break.

Over the year in 122 games, Hays is batting .249 with 15 homers, 54 RBIs and an OPS of .721. He has been dropped to eighth in the batting order for tonight’s series opener with Boston at Camden Yards.

“I would say lately I’ve been doing a better job of staying inside the ball,” Hays said of his recent offense this afternoon. “I just haven’t been making as much consistent hard contact as I would like to. Hit a lot of stuff off the end or just down off the barrel a little bit.

"But I’m hitting the ball to all fields. Staying through the middle and not striking out a whole lot. It’s just a matter of really trying to barrel up the middle through the middle part of the field. Not getting around stuff as much as I was for a couple of weeks when it was just smothering a lot of ground balls pull side.

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The interesting Cowser-Gunnar comparison (plus O's notes)

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He may have gotten off to a slow start with Triple-A Norfolk - he was 3-for-31 there through Wednesday - but O’s 2021 top draft pick Colton Cowser had a heckuva run during his 49-game stint at Double-A Bowie before the outfielder moved up.

To say the least Bowie manager Kyle Moore was impressed with Cowser and his entire game after he joined the Baysox June 28 and had three hits and a homer in his first game.

Before he left recently with his promotion to Norfolk, Cowser hit a walk-off, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to provide a Baysox win on his way out the door. That happened Aug. 28 – exactly two months after his first game with Bowie.

“It was special,” Moore said of Cowser’s play with the Baysox. “He completely dominated offensively. You can look at any number you want, and it was super impressive. Almost to the point where you can compare him with Gunnar Henderson when he was here. They are actually very similar through about the same number of at-bats, so that just tells you how good Cowser was here. Because Gunnar did the same thing. They both dominated this league.’

And Moore has a real point there.

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O's prospect Connor Norby gets honored by the Eastern League (plus O's notes)

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It was a nice honor for an Orioles prospect that might be flying a bit under the radar this year. This despite being tied for the organization lead in home runs with 23.

But Connor Norby, Double-A Bowie second baseman, got some recognition yesterday when he was named the Eastern League Player of the Month for August.

Over 26 games during the month, Norby batted .339/.405/.661 with nine homers and 26 RBIs to go with an OPS of 1.066. He led the league in hits, homers, RBIs and total bases in August and ranked second in slugging and OPS.

The 22-year-old Norby is rated as the Orioles’ No. 12 prospect by both Baseball America and MLBPipeline.com.

“Really has the look of a pure hitter,” Bowie manager Kyle Moore said of Norby before Tuesday’s game at Prince George’s Stadium. “Can really drive the ball to right-center. He can hit a homer to right-center off a really good arm. And so, that puts him in position to hit the best stuff. If you have a mid-to-upper 90s fastball, he can take you deep to right-center. If you have a little wrinkle with off-speed, he can take you deep to left-center.”

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O's game blog: Looking for a four-game split in the series finale

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As the Orioles wrap up a four-game series with Toronto tonight, they need a win to split the series. If they can get it, they move back to within 2 1/2 games of Toronto for the final American League wild card spot. A loss would leave them 4 1/2 games out with 25 games to play.

The Orioles offense broke out for a 9-6 win last night. The Orioles scored five runs in the third inning and three in the eighth as they went 6-for-11 with runners in scoring position. They had gone 1-for-14 with RISP in the Monday doubleheader loss and were batting .119 with RISP (8-for-67) over their previous 11 games before Tuesday night.

Baltimore ended a three-game losing streak. The O’s have won five of eight, eight of 13, 13 of 21 and 21 of their last 34 games.

The Orioles improved to 7-5 against Toronto, a year after going 5-14 versus the Blue Jays. They are now 28-31 on the season in AL East games.

Catcher Adley Rutschman had a two-run double last night and is 6-for-12 this series with four runs and four RBIs. He is 9-for-20 during a five-game hitting streak with two doubles, two homers and six RBIs. He moved into third place on the single-season rookie doubles list for the Orioles with No. 28 last night. He trails only Cal Ripken Jr., who had 32 in 1982, and Eddie Murray's 29 in 1977.

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Grayson Rodriguez was on the mound in Bowie and O's got a big win in Baltimore

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BOWIE, Md. – O’s top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez said he is less focused on results and his pitching line right now, but that should soon change. Last night the 22-year-old right-hander made his second injury rehab start.

He went 1 1/3 innings on 31 pitches last Thursday for high Single-A Aberdeen and went two innings on 40 pitches last night at Double-A Bowie.

The Baysox lost 7-3 to Richmond and Rodriguez took the loss. Over his two innings, he gave up one hit and one run with two walks and four strikeouts. His fastball topped in the 96 mph range, which was fine, he said. After throwing a 1-2-3 first inning with two strikeouts on 11 pitches, he got into some trouble in the second. He allowed a one-out double and that runner eventually scored on a wild pitch. He also walked two that inning.

But Rodriguez right now is mostly looking to get his mechanics in line and the feel for all his pitches as he slowly builds up his pitch count. He is expected to pitch again on Sunday at Bowie.

“Right now we’re focused on how the body feels, how it's moving in a game," he said. "So, really, throwing strikes is No. 1, but No. 2, taking the mechanics we had before the injury and what we had last year and getting back to those moving parts. Like obviously coming back in spring training when you are out in the offseason, that is one big thing, just finding that feel from the season before. That is what we’re doing right now. You know when the body starts moving like we want it to, then we will start worrying about the results.”

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Grayson Rodriguez talks about his two-inning outing at Bowie

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BOWIE, Md. – In his second rehab outing tonight, Orioles top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez allowed one run over two innings, throwing 40 pitches for the Double-A Bowie Baysox against Richmond on a cloudy and drizzly night at Prince George’s Stadium.

Rodriguez used all his pitches, with his fastball topping at 96 mph. He reached 98 in the first inning of his outing last week for High-A Aberdeen.

He rolled through the top of the first, getting the Flying Squirrels, a San Francisco affiliate, 1-2-3 on 11 pitches. His outing began with back-to-back strikeouts on secondary pitches. It looked like the first came via a slider and the second a changeup. A groundout to third completed the three-up-and-out inning.

With one out in the Richmond second, third baseman Casey Schmitt hit a breaking ball that was up in the zone out to left for a double. He advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a Rodriguez wild pitch for a 1-0 Richmond lead. Rodriguez then walked two straight batters, as he had in his second inning last week, and then ended the second on a strikeout as he reached the 40-pitch count for the night.

Lefty Cade Povich replaced him to start the Richmond third as Rodriguez threw five more pitches in the Bowie bullpen.

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O's game blog: Right-hander Kyle Bradish faces Toronto

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As the Orioles look to get their first win in the four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays they send right-hander Kyle Bradish (3-5, 5.17 ERA) to the mound. Bradish has thrown back-to-back scoreless starts as he gets ready to face this team tonight.

The Orioles (71-64) fell back to 4 1/2 games out of the final AL wild card spot with a doubleheader loss by scores of 7-3 and 8-4 on Monday. The O's have lost three in a row, giving up seven homers and 20 runs in those games. 

Over longer stretches, they have won seven of 12, nine of 15, 12 of 20, 20 of 33 and 24 of their past 40 games.

The Orioles are now 39-27 at home and are 22-10 at home since June 22. 

They were 6-3 this season against Toronto, now 6-5, after going 5-14 with no series wins in the 2021 season series.

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Tough day at the office: O's need to regroup as Toronto series resumes

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As possible results go, this was not good. A split would have been OK, a sweep would have been preferable. But getting swept in a doubleheader to start a big four-game series was not what the Orioles had in mind at 1:05 p.m. Monday afternoon.

O's pitching allowed 15 runs in the two games against Toronto. And now, during a three-game losing streak, the O's have allowed 20 runs and seven home runs.

They have fallen to 71-64 and now are 4 1/2 games behind Toronto for the third and final American League playoff spot.

The Orioles have regrouping to do and quickly. The best they can do now is split this four-game series. But doing that and being 2 1/2 games back, where they started yesterday, sounds a lot better than 4 1/2 games out.

They still have eight of their final 27 games left coming against a Toronto team that they still have a winning record against at 6-5.

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O's game blog: The Toronto series begins at the Yard

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The Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays open a huge three-day, four-game series this afternoon with a straight doubleheader at Camden Yards. Toronto (73-59) is in third-place in the American League East, six games out, and holds the third American League wild card by 2 1/2 games over the Orioles (71-62).

Toronto comes to town off a three-game sweep at Pittsburgh, where they won those games by a combined 12-4 score. Toronto has won five of six, 12 of 17 and 28 of its past 45 games.

The Blue Jays are 35-30 on the road, 27-24 versus AL East teams, 16-14 since Aug. 1 and 23-16 since the All-Star break.

The Orioles went 5-14 last year against Toronto, losing five series and tying one. This year they are 6-3 against the Blue Jays, winning two series and tying one. Baltimore pitching gave up 44 homers and had an 8.49 ERA and 1.750 WHIP over the 19 games of the 2021 season series, but the O’s staff has allowed 12 homers with a 5.01 ERA and 1.430 WHIP this season against the Blue Jays.

As a team last year, Toronto batters hit .313/.383/.582/.965 versus the O’s and averaged 8.05 runs per game. This season they are batting .294/.336/.459/.796 and have given up an average of 5.00 runs per game in the season series.

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