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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O's game blog: The Toronto series finale

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TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays recently took three of four games in a series in Baltimore. Today, they can sweep a three-game series with the Orioles at Rogers Centre. They have posted two straight 6-3 wins over the Orioles this weekend.

The O’s (75-69) began the weekend five games behind Toronto and are now seven games back. The Orioles have lost eight of of their past 12 games. They are 7-8 for the season series against Toronto and 4-5 at Rogers Centre. The teams will play three games at the end of the season in Baltimore, but the Orioles will have to gain significant ground on Toronto to make those matter.

With Saturday’s victory, the Blue Jays are now 83-63 this season, and are 20 games over .500 for the first time since finishing last year at 91-71. They are now 43-31 at Rogers Centre and moved to 35-27 in American League East division games,  having won 11 of the last 14 and 15 of the last 19. They win this series and are now 25-15-6 in series play this year and have gone 14-7-2 in home series.

Toronto left fielder Raimel Tapia cleared the bases with a double in the bottom of the fifth, putting the Blue Jays in front, 6- 2. He drove in at least three runs in a game for the sixth time this season.

Toronto’s George Springer led off the game with a single before doubling home a pair in the second off losing pitcher Kyle Bradish, who is now 3-7 with an ERA of 5.05. Springer went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, his 30th multi-hit game of the year.

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Toronto pregame updates on Mountcastle, Gunnar at cleanup and more

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TORONTO – The Orioles have just 18 games remaining, and at this point, injured first baseman Ryan Mountcastle is not a candidate for an injured list stay. But he is also not in today’s starting lineup for the series finale in Toronto.

“He’s pretty sore today,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “He’s trending in the right way. Spent a lot of time in the training room this morning. It’s just the tricep, it’s right above the elbow, is pretty sore.”

Mountcastle was hit by a pitch, a 94 mph fastball, from right-hander José Berríos in the second inning on Saturday afternoon. He stayed in the game and ran the bases, but when the O’s took the field for the last of the second, he had been replaced at first base by Jesús Aguilar. And Aguilar is playing first base today.

The Orioles have had an MLB-low 12 players on the injured list this season and Hyde gave some props today to his medical, training and strength coach staffs for that.

“We’ve done a really good job with workload. And the credit goes to (head athletic trainer) Brian Ebel and his staff and the two strength guys. And how we’re monitoring playing time and the communication that goes on between all of us and workload and how these guys are playing. Don’t jinx it, we’ve got two and a half more weeks to go. But we’ve been able to keep guys healthy into the middle of September, now getting into the deeper part of September. Only had a handful of major injuries. Look at others teams’ injury lists and they are a lot longer than ours. Lot of credit goes to the guys in the training room," Hyde said. 

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O's have lost two at Rogers Centre, but Gunnar Henderson keeps producing

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TORONTO – The Orioles have to be pleased that rookies have driven in all six of their runs in the series at Rogers Centre. But now they could use some help.

The Birds have lost twice in Toronto, both by 6-3 margins, and need to avoid a sweep today. They have fallen seven games behind the Blue Jays, who are 83-63 and have won 15 of 19 and 22 of 31 games. Toronto is 15-4 in its last 19 American League East games.

And Toronto has now won six of the last seven games between these teams, winning those six by five runs, four, four, three, three and three runs.

In the series the Orioles have three RBIs from Gunnar Henderson, two from Adley Rutschman and one by Terrin Vavra.

Henderson is a hitter on a tear, and is now batting .345/.387/.586/.973 after his first 16 MLB games with nine extra-base hits and 12 RBIs. After his first 16 games in the bigs, Rutschman had an OPS of .451 with just three extra-base hits and no RBIs.

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Toronto pulls away again in win over Orioles (updated)

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TORONTO – For the second day in a row, the Orioles had their frustrations on offense. And for the second day in a row, Toronto got one big swing to produce three runs that proved large in the fifth inning.

Toronto beat the Orioles 6-3 at Rogers Centre to take the first two games in this series. And that is the same score for the second day in a row as well.

With eight losses in 12 games, the Orioles (75-69) drop seven games back of Toronto and, for the moment, five games back of Tampa Bay for the third American League wild-card spot.

With hopes of a series win or even a sweep on Friday night, now the O’s have to win tomorrow or they will be swept three straight in Toronto.

The Orioles lost first baseman Ryan Mountcastle early today and we await further word if the issue will cause him to miss any time. Mountcastle was hit near the left elbow by a José Berríos 94 mph fastball leading off the O’s second. After a long meeting with head athletic trainer Brian Ebel and manager Brandon Hyde, he stayed in the game.

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O's game blog: Kyle Bradish to mound in Game 2 at Toronto

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TORONTO - After Adley Rutschman's two-run homer to left last night - his first major league homer off lefty pitching - the O's briefly had a 2-1 lead. But George Springer's three-run homer in the fifth put the Blue Jays ahead 4-2 and Matt Chapman's two-run homer an inning later extended that lead.

Toronto won the series opener 6-3 over Baltimore as the O's lost to the Blue Jays for the fifth time in the last six meetings, even though the season series is even at 7-7. Toronto has hit nine homers in those six games, scoring 37 runs.

So the Orioles (75-68) begin play today 4 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay for the third American League wild card, while also trailing Seattle by five games for the second wild card and Toronto by six for the first.

Last night, the O's were held to five hits or less for the fourth time in seven games, and three runs or less for the 11th time in 19 contests.

Toronto (82-63) won three of five games this week against Tampa Bay and then took Friday's series opener, its league-leading 39th comeback win. The Blue Jays have now won 10 of their last 13 and 14 of 18 games within the AL East. They are 34-27 on the season in the division. Overall, Toronto has won 14 of 18 and 21 of its last 30 games.

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Hyde pregame on the lineup, Vavra, Bradish and more

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TORONTO – The Orioles are starting four rookies today in Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, Terrin Vavra and Kyle Stowers as manager Brandon Hyde looked to add lefty bats to his lineup.

In facing Toronto right-hander José Berríos (10-5, 5.07 ERA), they are facing a righty that yields an opponent OPS of .735 to right-handed hitters and .872 against lefty batters.

“We are pretty young out there. Wanted to put in the left-handers versus Berríos today,” said Hyde in the visitor dugout. “We’re pretty left-handed today. That’s a nice change over the few years I’ve been here, we’ve been pretty right-handed. So got a few lefties in against a tough right-hander. And they’re all young. We’re young, but we’re growing and our guys have been impressive and fun to watch.”

Wanting to get Vavra on the field, Hyde is starting him in left today with Stowers as the designated hitter.

Vavra is batting .255 with a .647 OPS over 26 big league games. He got to a .462 batting average start in his first seven major league games. But now he is 3-for-24 in sporadic playing time since Aug. 12.

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O's offense not productive enough in Toronto series opener

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TORONTO - There was a sense that maybe the Orioles offense was going to start trending up. That offense produced 11 hits each night in Washington, the first back-to-back games of double-figure hits by the Orioles since Aug. 5-6.

But then last night, in the critical series-opener at Rogers Centre, the O's produced just five hits, going 5-for-31 against Toronto's bullpen procession of seven pitchers as the Blue Jays won 6-3. The offense just came up short on this night and now the O's will need two straight wins to take this series.

Held hitless through the first three innings Friday night, the O's bats briefly came alive against lefty Yusei Kikuchi in the fourth when Cedric Mullins tripled and Adley Rutschman hit his first homer against a lefty as a big league player. It came in his 93rd plate appearance against a southpaw.

But other than those two hits, the Orioles went 3-for-29 the rest of the night. Gunnar Henderson hit a solo homer to left on an 0-2 pitch with two outs in the ninth. 

“You look at their numbers, they have a good bullpen," O's manager Brandon Hyde said of the Blue Jays, now 12-4 this month and 82-63 for the year. "And we’ve seen a lot of those guys. Give them credit, they threw extremely well. We didn’t have our best night offensively and we gave up a few homers and lost the game.”

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