O's game blog: O's look to split series, wrap up 2023 playoff spot in series finale

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A series that got off to a pretty brutal start for the Orioles could have a real happy ending today with a win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

If they get the win, the Orioles (92-56) will widen their American League East lead to two games with 13 games left. And they will clinch their first playoff berth since the 2016 season.

The Orioles clinch a place in the playoffs today if they win, and even if they lose they will clinch with a loss by either Texas or Seattle. The Rays' magic number to clinch the postseason is also one, and the same scenarios are true today for the Rays. A loss by Texas or Seattle would put both Baltimore and Tampa Bay in the 2023 postseason. 

A 93rd win would also make the 2023 Orioles the 17th team in club history to have 93 or more. Five O's teams have won 100 or more. The last was the 1980 Orioles. This club needs to go 8-6 or better in its remaining games to get there.

The O's broke their first-place tie with Tampa Bay with Saturday's 8-0 win at Oriole Park. Gunnar Henderson hit his 27th homer and had three hits and three RBIs. Six different O's drove in runs as they went 6-for-11 with runners in scoring position. After the O's had scored just six runs during a four-game losing streak, they had six by last night's fourth inning.

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Brandon Hyde updates Félix Bautista's side session, plus other notes

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Orioles closer Félix Bautista, on the injured list with a partial tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, took a potentially significant step today.

He threw off a mound in the Orioles bullpen before the series finale with Tampa Bay.

“He just threw a side this morning,” manager Brandon Hyde said in his pregame press conference. “Sounds like it went pretty well. That was kind of the next step in his throwing progression. So, see how he feels tomorrow. We’re just kind of day-to-day with him right now.”

Hyde was asked if he is pleased with this progress for Bautista, who has not pitched since Aug. 25.

“Yeah. I just ran into him and (head athletic trainer) Brian (Ebel) after the side session and it sounds like it went pretty well. That’s always encouraging," he said.

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Henderson and Rodriguez lead O's to win Saturday, now team on doorstep of playoffs

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When I asked manager Brandon Hyde before last night's game how his clubhouse was holding up after four straight losses and two straight to Tampa Bay, he basically said he didn't sense any difference. His team was ready for a big game Saturday night after losing by 4-3 and 7-1 to a Rays team that was red-hot and had now tied the Orioles for the lead in the American League East.

“I just think they’re disappointed, but they’re going to bounce back, ready to play tonight,” Hyde said. “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.”

They were indeed ready to go.

After scoring six runs the previous four games, they scored six runs in four innings. Off Tyler Glasnow, a pitcher with a 3.15 ERA for the year. Glasnow was 2.53 in 10 second-half starts. 

The Rays entered Saturday's game having allowed four or fewer earned runs in 11 consecutive games, their longest streak since a club-record 19-game run from Sept. 16, 2021 to April 10, 2022. Tampa Bay's pitching staff has posted an AL-best 2.79 ERA in that span.

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O's game blog: Looking for a win in the Tampa Bay series

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Hoping their offense will break out to help the cause, the Orioles host the Rays tonight looking for their first win in Game 3 of this series. With wins by 4-3 and 7-1 the last two nights, the Rays have tied the Orioles for first place atop the American League East.

Tonight's winner will sit alone atop the division.

Baltimore's offense, which produced just two runs in the last two games of the St. Louis series, has scored only six runs on 18 hits in the past four games. The O's have lost those four by a combined 17-6 score. They are 1-5 in the last six games by a 29-20 score. 

The four-game losing streak matches the longest of the season for the Orioles, who also had lost four in a row June 27-July 1.

In this series, O's batters are just 6-for-59 (.102) scoring four runs and going 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

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Baumann on his return to the Orioles bullpen

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An Oriole for the entire season until he was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk Aug. 23, right-hander Mike Baumann is back in the clubhouse and back on the active roster today.

He was recalled as righty Bryan Baker, who pitched three innings last night, was optioned back to the Tides.

Over six games since he was sent to Triple-A, Baumann has pitched six scoreless innings allowing just one hit. He has walked five and fanned nine with an .056 average against and a WHIP of 1.00 with Triple-A.

“Just worked on consistency,” said Baumann of his time on the farm. “Just kind of fine-tuning some things. Really just kind of getting a little reset. Focusing on attacking hitters and been feeling good about it.

“I knew there was good reason behind it (being sent to the minors). I’ve been in that situation before. Control what I can control and focus one day at a time.”

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After two losses to Rays, O's offense needs to find a way as play resumes tonight

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The Orioles have not had a long losing streak all year, matching their season-high of four in a row with last night's 7-1 loss to Tampa Bay. Now with two games remaining in this series, they need to find a way. Find a way to score more against the Rays and get at least one game in this series to hold the playoff tiebreaker.

The Orioles offense recently went through a stretch of scoring 10 or more runs in four of five games, scoring 48 runs in the five contests. They scored 155 runs in a 22-game span, an average of 7.05 per game.

They would sure take that now after losses in this series by one and six runs. Baltimore batters are 6-for-59 (.102) this series with three homers, but no doubles or triples. They are 1-for-6 in the two games with runners in scoring position, showing they've had very few chances to do much on offense.

In the last four games, the Orioles have scored six runs on just 18 hits, going 2-for-24 with RISP.

Now they have to find a way.

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O's game blog: Game 2 of the Tampa Bay series

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Now working on just their third losing streak of the year of three games or more, the Orioles (91-55) host the Tampa Bay Rays (91-57) tonight. It’s the second game of this critical series to impact first place in the American League East. 

The Orioles lost 4-3 last night in the series opener and are now 26-14 in one-run games, 32-16 in series-opening games and 53-17 when they score first. They are now 6-4 versus Tampa Bay for the year and 28-17 in AL East games.

The Orioles have been so consistent this year that they have no long losing streaks, having dropped a season-high four straight from June 27-July 1. They lost three in a row twice – from May 6-8 and now.

The Orioles lead now is down to just one game atop the division. The O’s and Rays have been tied for first two times this year, on July 19 and July 21, and tonight would be a third occasion with a Tampa Bay victory.

After their 13-12 win over Boston on Saturday at Fenway Park, the O’s held a four-game lead atop the AL East.

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Adam Jones retires as an Oriole: "Baltimore is a special part in my heart"

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Adam Jones and Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias sat at the front of the press conference. Jones would soon put on his No. 10 jersey after officially signing a contract that allows him to retire as an Oriole.

At the event attended by his wife Audie and two sons and others close to him, Jones talked about a special day for him with a pregame ceremony still to come tonight.

“Glad this day has finally come,” Jones said.

“Baltimore is a special part in my heart. I still consistently watch the Orioles games, even when in Japan. I adopted this city. My wife is from here, my kids were born here.

“We put our stamp here. The Boys and Girls clubs, the YMCA and with various other groups. It was more with the people of Baltimore. So many here know me, and not just from baseball.

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Even without Bautista, O's look to 'pen in close games with Tampa Bay

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In the first nine games this year between the Orioles and Tampa Bay, the Orioles went 6-3 and they were 6-0 in games decided by two runs or less. 

But in the series opener last night in Baltimore, Tampa Bay won a close one by 4-3 on Luke Raley's tiebreaking homer in the seventh. The Rays bullpen put up four perfect innings to protect that lead. The Rays 'pen has thrown 34 straight innings without allowing an earned run.

Tonight, the Orioles hope their 'pen gets a chance to protect a late lead.

Then we will find out - Can the Orioles win close games against Tampa Bay without closer Félix Bautista?

It is really a question they are going to have answer the rest of the way and a big question for October playoff baseball.

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O's game blog: The Tampa Bay series begins

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The Orioles, who lead the American League East by two games and are 10-0-2 in their past 12 series in the division, host the Rays tonight to start a crucial four-game series at Oriole Park. 

The Orioles are 91-54 for the best record in the AL and second-best to Atlanta in MLB. They have won eight of 11, 14 of 20, 17 of 24 and 20 of the last 29 games. They are 43-27 at home and 37-19 in the second half.

Tampa Bay is 90-57 and looking to make the postseason for the fifth year in a row. The Rays have won five of six, 12 of 17, 16 of 22, 18 of 25 and 21 of their past 30 games.

Tampa Bay is 40-32 on the road, 32-22 in the second half and 71-22 when they score first. They are 19-35 when their opponent scores first.

The Orioles are 6-3 versus the Rays and one more win will give the Orioles the season series victory. They went 9-10 last season against the Rays and 1-18 in 2021.

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After pitching in 111 games with Baltimore since 2022, Bryan Baker returns to O's

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In the seemingly constant roster churn in the Orioles bullpen, lefty Nick Vespi was optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk today and right-hander Bryan Baker was recalled.

Baker has pitched in 111 Orioles games since the start of the 2022 season and was a fixture on the roster until he was optioned to Norfolk on Aug. 2. Today he returns – just in time to join the team for the biggest series of the year.

In 11 games at Triple-A, Baker went 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA. In 11 2/3 innings he gave up seven runs with seven walks and 16 strikeouts.

In 45 games this season with Baltimore, he is 4-3 with a 3.64 ERA. In 42 innings he has walked 24 and fanned 51. At the time he was optioned, he actually had pitched to an ERA of 2.25 in his previous 12 games.

“It’s great to be back,” Baker said this afternoon in the Baltimore clubhouse. “I’m excited to get back on the bump here at good ole’ Camden Yards and try to get some outs.

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After series loss to Cards, O's host Rays tonight with AL East title in the balance

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Finally everyone - from the clubhouse to the dugout, to the media to the fanbase - can turn their full attention to the Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays series that begins tonight at Camden Yards.

The Orioles begin the four-game set leading the AL East by two games. A split or better would be big for Baltimore. The Rays could use three wins or better. No one will win the division this series or lose it, but the results could have a lot to say about who eventually does both.

The Baltimore offense, which put up 10 runs or more four times in a five-game span, now has scored two and no runs the past two games. They lost the series to St. Louis - their first series loss since mid August at San Diego. They were 7-0 the last seven series until losing against the Cardinals.

Both teams enter this series playing well. Tampa Bay (90-57) has won five of six, 12 of 17, 18 of 25 and 21 of the last 30 games.

Baltimore (91-54) has won eight of 11, 14 of 20, 17 of 24 and 20 of the last 29 games.

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O's game blog: The series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals

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One day ahead of the start of a showdown series with the Tampa Bay Rays, the Orioles are wrapping up their three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Orioles (91-53, .632) lead the American League East by 2.5 games right now over the Rays, which won 5-4 this afternoon against the Twins. The Orioles beat the Cardinals 11-5 Monday night but were held to nine hits in a 5-2 loss last night where they went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

Before their offense was held down last night, the Orioles had scored 48 runs in the previous five games, 74 in the last nine and 155 in the previous 22 games.

The Orioles, who have 18 regular-season games left, lost for just the second time in the last 10 games. Overall they have won 14 of 19, 17 of 23 and 20 of 28 games. They are 28-12 in the last 40 games.

The Orioles are 43-27 at home, 37-18 since the All-Star game, 8-3 in September and 24-19 versus National League clubs. They have a .558 win percentage versus the NL and .663 (67-34) against the AL.

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Mountcastle on O's first-place run and Rays series; Hyde on Gibson

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The Orioles are closing in on clinching their first playoff berth since 2016 with a magic number of four to clinch. They have bigger fish to fry, of course, and want the AL East championship, but clinching a playoff berth will come first.

The players are not yet ready to talk much about that, even with it so close at hand. They are keeping their one-day-at-a-time approach.

“I mean I think we’ve been saying it the whole year, take it game-by-game. We keep doing that, day-by-day and pitch-by-pitch and hopefully this ends with a playoff spot,” Ryan Mountcastle said this afternoon.

I asked Mountcastle today why and how the Orioles have been so good at being in first place. It is kind of a strange question, yes, but since tying for the AL East lead on July 18, they have been in first place every day since.

With their win today at Minnesota, Tampa Bay is 28-14 in the last 42 games. The Orioles are 29-13.

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Austin Hays pushing for strong finish and Drew Rom talks O's pitching development

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Orioles' outfielder Austin Hays is trying to make his July a real outlier this season. So far it is the only month his OPS was not .800 or better.

And it is a real outlier as his OPS in July was just .446. It was a month where Hays made the All-Star team and was a starter for the American League. But his bat was slumping.

And then he started to elevate the ball again and drive it more consistently and he got back on track. In 128 games for the year, he’s batting .287/.333/.462/.795. That is good for an OPS+ of 118, better than the 107 OPS+ he posted in 2021 and the 105 number from last year.

Hays’ current OPS+ number ranks fifth among O’s regulars, behind Ryan O’Hearn, Anthony Santander, Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman.

“I want to finish really strong,” he said yesterday in the Baltimore clubhouse, before going 2-for-4 in the loss to St. Louis. “Just stay focused. Don’t get complacent. I like where I am right now, but still a lot of at-bats sitting out there. Lot of opportunity left. I really want to finish strong. Just as hungry now as I was at the start of the year.”

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O's game blog: John Means makes long-awaited return as O's host St. Louis

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John Means' long road back to a major league mound will finally end tonight. His last MLB game was April 13, 2022 versus Milwaukee. Later that month he underwent Tommy John surgery. 

It looked like Means would return by mid-season this year, but in late May he had a setback with a strained muscle in his upper back. And finally tonight he makes his first big league outing since that Milwaukee game. 

Means has pitched in six minor league rehab games, going 1-1 with a 3.74 ERA over 21 2/3 innings. He pitched three times at Double-A Bowie and the last three times with Triple-A Norfolk.

With the Tides he went 1-0 with a 2.51 ERA, allowing four earned runs in 14 1/3 innings with six walks, 12 strikeouts and a .216 batting average against. 

He threw 72 pitches for Norfolk on Aug. 25, and then 86 on Aug. 31. He was backed off to 67 in his most recent game last Wednesday when he allowed six hits and three runs over five innings.

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Gunnar Henderson on joining Ripken and Murray in the rookie 25-25 club

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Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray were Orioles Rookie of the Year winners, and last night Gunnar Henderson joined the Hall of Famers as the only rookies in team history to hit 25 or more doubles and homers in a season.

He hit homer No. 25 in the sixth inning as the Orioles beat St. Louis 11-5.

As he attempts to become the first O’s ROY since pitcher Gregg Olson in 1989, Henderson is putting the finishes touches on one strong season.

Now he put his name alongside O’s royalty.

“That is awesome,” Henderson said in the clubhouse today. “Anytime you can be considered with those two names it’s really special. Just for all they have done in Oriole history. Pretty cool to see my name with them.

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Manager Brandon Hyde on the O's recently prolific offense

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In winning their last four games, the Tampa Bay Rays did gain one game on the Orioles. But chopping into Baltimore’s division lead – a lead the O's first took July 20 - has been a challenge for the Rays.

They remained three games out and the Orioles reduced their magic number to clinch the division to 16 with last night’s 11-5 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

The O’s trailed by 4-2 in the third inning and by 5-3 heading to the last of the fifth. But two batters after Ryan O’Hearn’s double pulled the O’s within a run, Cedric Mullins' grand slam gave them an 8-5 lead. It was Mullins' second slam of the year and third of his career.

They won the series opener 11-5 and are now 91-52 with 19 games to play. The Orioles remain on a 103-win pace. They could go 9-10 the rest of the way and still win 100.

The Baltimore offense – which has been relentless recently – was that again last night.

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Cedric Mullins hits third career grand slam as O's rally, beat St. Louis

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It was a night where the Orioles trailed for most of the first 4 ½ innings. Their starting pitcher lasted just 4 1/3 innings and last-place St. Louis was trying to ruin the start of a very important week-long homestand.

Then Cedric Mullins entertained us and brought Camden Yards to life with one swing.

Mullins hit his second grand slam of the year and the third of his career to put the Orioles ahead 8-5 and they beat St. Louis tonight 11-5 at Oriole Park to improve to 91-52.

The Orioles have won eight of nine, 14 of 18, 17 of 22 and 20 of the last 27 games. They are 28-11 in the past 39 games as they opened this three-game series with their 46th comeback win of 2023.

The O’s had scored twice in the second to lead 2-1, but St. Louis got to O’s starter Dean Kremer for the lead scoring three in the third and adding one more in the fifth.

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O's game blog: O's host St. Louis as important homestand begins at the Yard

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With 20 games to play, the Orioles lead the American League East by three games over the Rays. While the Rays (88-56) play at Minnesota tonight the Orioles (90-52) will host the Cardinals to start a three-game series.

For Baltimore, this opens a weeklong homestand that will see the Birds host the Rays for four games starting Thursday night. This is the second-to-last homestand of the 2023 regular season.

The Orioles saw a seven-game win streak snapped with Sunday’s loss at Boston. Overall they have won seven of eight, nine of 12, 13 of 17 and 16 of the last 21 games. The Orioles are 27-11 (.711) in their past 38 games.

The Birds are 42-26 at home and 36-17 in the second half.

The Cardinals (63-80) are 17 games under .500 but are playing better lately winning five of its past seven, and seven of 11 games. The Cardinals have won their past two series, two to one against both the Braves and the Reds.

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