Toronto uses longball to come from behind and take series opener (updated)

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TORONTO – It took a while, but the Blue Jays showed off their power in the middle innings tonight. Two swings produced five big runs and what was a precarious one-run Orioles lead turned into a deficit that proved too big.

Matt Chapman hit two of Toronto’s three homers tonight and George Springer’s three-run shot put the Jays ahead in the fifth inning as they beat the Orioles 6-3 in the opener of a three-game series at Rogers Centre.

The Orioles (75-66) fall six games behind the Blue Jays in the wild card race. They lost for the seventh time in 11 games and for the fifth time in the last six games between these teams.

On a night the Blue Jays used a bullpen game on the mound, the Orioles didn’t get to either of their first two pitchers. But it was only the fourth inning when they saw lefty Yusei Kikuchi after the Orioles were held hit hitless at the outset by righty Trevor Richards in the first inning and righty Julian Merryweather for the next two.

But Adley Rutschman’s first major league homer off a left-handed pitcher gave the Orioles a 2-1 lead in the fourth. That was after Richards and Merryweather faced the minimum through three on a combined 42 pitches.

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O's game blog: The Toronto series begins

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TORONTO – The Orioles swept a brief two-game series this week in Washington by 4-3 and 6-2 scores and their two-city road trip continues tonight with the opener of a big three-game weekend series in Toronto.

The Orioles (75-67) and the Blue Jays (81-63) are separated by five games in the standings and will also play Saturday at 3:07 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 1:37 p.m. The Birds needed those wins at Nats Park, following a 4-6 homestand where they went 2-6 in the final eight games.

The Orioles are on a pace to win 86 games, which would be a 34-win improvement over last year. That would be an Orioles record, surpassing the 33-win gain from 1988 (54-107) to 1989 (87-75).

The Orioles are now 34-37 in road games for the season. But they have now won four road games in a row and also have taken eight of 11 and 12 of their past 18 away from Oriole Park. Since beginning the year going 3-10 in away games, they are 31-27 on the road.

The Orioles went 1-3 in their recent home series against Toronto and they are 7-6 this season versus the Blue Jays, splitting a four-game series, winning the first two in a rain-shortened series, taking two of three and then losing three of four most recently. So, they are 2-1-1 in four series against Toronto after going 0-5-1 in series and 5-14 in the 19 games in 2021 against the Blue Jays.

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Pregame notes from Toronto on series importance and more

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TORONTO – As the Orioles begin a huge weekend series in Toronto tonight, manager Brandon Hyde said yes, it’s a big series, but it doesn’t feel all that different to him and he doesn’t think it will be that way for his team either.

The Orioles (75-67) begin the series five games back of both Seattle and Toronto, the holders of the first two American League wild card spots. The O’s begin the weekend 4 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay for third AL wild card.

“I feel like we’ve been playing these games for about two months,” Hyde said this afternoon in the visitors dugout at Rogers Centre. “It kind of started that last series at Tampa. Didn’t it feel like must-win games in August? I don’t know why it felt that way, but it kind of did. So, I feel like we’ve been playing to try and hang in this thing for a while now.

“Before that Toronto series, we won five series in a row. Two tough series on the road. So I just hope we continue to play that way. I don’t think, because of the games we’ve been playing in so long and the attitude our guys have taken, I don’t think it’s anything different right now.”

Hyde is aware that win or lose, his players, most of them on the younger side, are gaining some great pennant race pressure experience.

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The O's improved play in Toronto and Gunnar Henderson's strong start

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Where just a few years ago the Orioles went winless for an entire season at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, the improved 2022 Orioles have tied one four-game series there and won a three-game series.

These are not the 2018 Orioles, who went 0-9 in Toronto and that included losses by 10, six and six runs.

But it didn’t start well for these O’s at Rogers Centre. They didn’t play there until June 13 and then lost the opener of a four-game series by an 11-1 score. It seemed then like same old, same old for the Birds north of the border.

But the next night, Ryan Mountcastle and Austin Hays homered as the Orioles picked up a big 6-5 win and the following game was a walk-off win for Toronto. But the O’s would split that four-game series when they hammered former Oriole Kevin Gausman for seven runs (five earned) in 2 1/3 innings, his shortest outing of the year.

When the Orioles returned to Rogers Centre last month they won the first two games of that series 7-3 and 4-2 before a loss by 6-1 which kept them from a three-game sweep.

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Heston Kjerstad's bat heated up late for Aberdeen, plus O's notes

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The Orioles’ high Single-A Aberdeen affiliate needs to win tonight to extend its season. Tuesday night the IronBirds lost 8-1 at Brooklyn in Game 1 of a best-of-three South Atlantic League semifinal series. Should Aberdeen win tonight at 7:05 p.m. at Ripken Stadium, the teams will play a third and deciding game tomorrow night in Aberdeen.

Aberdeen reached the SAL playoffs by going 43-23 and winning the first-half division title. Brooklyn won the second-half, when Aberdeen went 35-31 for an overall record of 78-54 under first-year pro manager Roberto Mercado.

Outfielder Heston Kjerstad was the only IronBird with a multi-hit game Tuesday, going 2-for-4 with a pair of singles. Kjerstad ended the regular season with a four-game hitting streak, going 7-for-16 with a double and homer. He batted .290 in September.

But overall in 43 games with Aberdeen, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 draft batted .233/.312/./362/.674 with eight doubles, two triples, three homers and 20 RBIs. This was after he tore it up for low Single-A Delmarva, posting an OPS of 1.201 in 22 games.

Mercado said in a recent interview that Kjerstad was indeed swinging it better later in the year.

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O's game blog: O's go for sweep in brief two-game series with Nats

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After producing a bit more offense last night then in several recent games, the Orioles hope they can have another night with 10 hits or more tonight. They will try to sweep a two-game interleague series at Washington.

The Orioles trailed 3-1 in the third inning Tuesday night but scored once in the fourth and twice in the fifth to beat the Nats 4-3. They had 11 hits and had produced that many just one time in the previous 21 games. They are now 31-7 on the year when they get 10 hits or more.

The Orioles hope that Ryan Mountcastle and Austin Hays are both starting to heat up again with the bats. Mountcastle went 2-for-3 with two walks in the win last night and hit his 22nd homer. He's batting .289/.360/.600/.960 in 12 games this month with four homers and 13 RBIs. 

Mountcastle has 60 home runs in his first 305 games, the quickest to 60 career homers in O's history. And his next hit will be the 300th of his career. Only six players in O's history have recorded at least 300 hits in their first 306 games - Trey Mancini, Manny Machado, Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Eddie Murray.

Hays has gone 4-for-7 his past two games with a double and an RBI. His bloop double in the fifth inning scored the go-ahead run for the Orioles and their bullpen made the one-run lead stand up with four scoreless. It was Hays' 31st double which leads the team.

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More on the pitch clock coming, O's over Nats and farm notes

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When the 2023 season begins we’ll be checking on the usual things. Such as if some individual players get off to good starts and more importantly, how is the team doing?

But we will also be tracking the time of games. After MLB games averaged three hours and 10 minutes last year and are at 3:04 this year, MLB announced rule changes recently including the use of a pitch clock next year to improve pace of play.

Pitchers will have 15 seconds to pitch with no one on base and up to 20 seconds with a runner or runners on.

This definitely has worked to improve pace of play and lower game times on the farm this season. In Triple-A, the average time of game is two hours and 43 minutes, while it is 2:40 in Double-A, 2:34 in high-A and 2:36 in low-A.

“The overall time of the game (should improve) for sure,” O’s outfielder Kyle Stowers told me after seeing the clock at work this year on the farm. “So I think games will be getting done a little bit quicker. I would say in Norfolk the longer game tended to be around the three hour mark or 3:10 mark where most of the games were hovering around 2:45. Definitely helped the pace of play. It will be an adjustment though. I think it will take guys time to get used to.

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O's game blog: The road trip begins in Washington

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At 5 1/2 games back of a wild card spot with 22 games and seven series left to play, the Orioles resume their schedule tonight with their last interleague series of the year.

This afternoon Tampa Bay beat Toronto 4-2 in Game 1 of a day-night doubleheader and at game time tonight, Toronto is holding the third American League wild card spot but is just 1/2 game behind both Tampa Bay and Seattle. 

The Orioles (73-67) play at Washington (49-92) versus a Nationals team that has the worst record in Major League Baseball. But the Orioles can’t overlook any team right now and they split two games with the Nationals in June. Washington got swept three in a row over the weekend at Philadelphia, losing by scores of 5-3, 8-5 and 7-5. They have lost five of six overall after going through a 5-1 stretch.

The Nats season got off to a terrible start when they began 6-15 and 12-26 and never really got much better. The club’s run differential of -206 is second-worst in the majors to Pittsburgh. The Nats are 22-47 at home and 18-29 since the All-Star break.

On June 21 in Baltimore, Washington shutout the Orioles 3-0 behind Eric Fedde as Birds batters were held to just four hits. The next night, Tyler Wells pitched five scoreless as the Orioles posted their own shutout 7-0 in a game limited to six innings by rain.

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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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