O's Gunnar Henderson: Slow start now a blip on radar for ROY favorite

Gunnar Henderson smiling

For the Orioles Gunnar Henderson, seemingly on his way to the American League Rookie of the Year Award, a season that ended well did not start that way.

In mid-May, when he was batting .170 with a .651 OPS, some around Birdland wondered if a trip back to the minors was needed. But team management never flinched, they remained confident in the then 21-year-old talent, and that confidence was rewarded.

Henderson ended the year batting .255/.325/.489/.814 with 29 doubles, nine triples, 28 homers, 100 runs and 82 RBIs. He set an O’s rookie record with 66 extra-base hits and his OPS+ was 125. After that slow start into mid-May, his OPS was .849 his last 117 games.

On his way to winning the Most Valuable Oriole award, he led MLB rookies with 6.3 Wins Above Replacement per baseball-reference.com and also led them in home runs and extra-base hits.

Among all AL position players, just Marcus Semien (7.4) and Corey Seager (6.9) of Texas produced more bWAR although he ranked 12th in the league in fWAR.

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After winning the Jim Palmer award, Chayce McDermott eyes big league job in '24


It has been an interesting last 13 or 14 months for Orioles Triple-A pitcher Chayce McDermott. Last Aug. 1, he was acquired from Houston in a three-team trade that sent Trey Mancini to the Astros. Houston had drafted McDermott in 2021 in round four out of Ball State.

This season he advanced from Double-A to Triple-A in mid-July and ends his first full season in the organization named Saturday as the O’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year, winning the Jim Palmer Award.

Ranked as the club’s No. 10 prospect by MLBPipeline.com and No. 14 via Baseball America, MLB Pipeline ranks him as the club’s top pitching prospect.

Late last season his life was uprooted by the trade, but this season ends with the Palmer award. Joining the Orioles has proven to be huge for McDermott, who turned 25 Aug. 22.

“I think people overlook sometimes that getting traded is very hard,” he said Saturday after the announcement of his award. “You get used to an organization and then you pick up and move. Meet new people, new coaches. But I feel like it was a super smooth transition, super easy. I love everyone in the Orioles organization, and they have been super helpful in my career. Now it just feels like I am part of the family.”

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Birdland celebrates the life and career of Brooks Robinson in public memorial

Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken Jr.

When the public memorial at Camden Yards began this morning, held fittingly on the foul ground right near the third base bag, emcee Scott Garceau from the Orioles broadcast team began the program saying - “I’m sure we’re all here for the same reason – we love Brooks Robinson.”

Over the next hour or so that love was on display as fellow Hall of Famers, former teammates, representatives from all around Major League Baseball, current Orioles and fans, or as Brooks would call them, "friends," honored the player that many call the greatest third baseman ever.

Early in the ceremony, among the speakers were Grant and Brooks Farley, two of Robinson's grandchildren and his son Brooks David Robinson.

“RIP Dad, we love you and if there is anything you can do up there to help the Orioles bring another championship to Baltimore, we'd greatly appreciate it," the younger Brooks said.

O's Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray spoke, as did former O's first baseman Boog Powell and former third baseman Doug DeCinces.

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After 101 wins, O's begin the hunt for 11 more

Austin Hays Smiling

Next stop for the Orioles – the MLB postseason. Their next game will be Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Saturday Oct. 7 at Baltimore’s Camden Yards against the Tampa Bay-Texas wild card series winner.

They are three wins from the League Championship Series, seven from the World Series and 11 from winning the World Series for the first time since 1983.

They will enter the playoffs with a roster devoid of much playoff experience. Manager Brandon Hyde though believes his club has indeed had big-game experience dating to late last season. And he believes it will help a lot coming up.

“I think it started last year with all the close games that we won and the type of games that we played, (and those) benefitted us big time this year,” said Hyde. “We’ve won a ton of one-run games (going 30-16) and won a lot of close games late. I think it’s been beneficial for the regular season and feel like we’ve been playing playoff-type games. Especially these last couple of weeks. The four games against Tampa, three games in Houston. Feel like we needed to win those two in Cleveland. Felt the guys wanted that and needed that. So, I feel like we’ve been playing some high-pressure games and I hope that benefits us in the postseason.

“But you never really know. There are a lot of guys without postseason experience. I do believe in the makeup of our club, I think it’s a real confident group. The young guys that have never been in the playoffs, they play with a ton of confidence. I don’t think they’ll be shaken by how different postseason baseball is.”

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O's game blog: The final regular season game of 2023

mateo orange

The Orioles end the 2023 regular season today against the same team they started with back on March 30 - the Boston Red Sox. They won that game 10-9, their first win on their way to 101 and an AL East championship.

This year this will not be the last game. The Orioles, the No. 1 seed with home-field advantage throughout the American League playoffs, will host Game 1 of the AL Division Series at Oriole Park on Saturday, Oct. 7.

At 101-60, Baltimore will head into the final game with a three-game lead over Tampa Bay (98-63). Even though those clubs have the two best records in the league, they could meet in the ALDS next week.

The Rays will be the fourth seed for the AL playoffs and the Orioles, as the top seed, will play the winner of the No. 4 versus No. 5 wild-card round. The Blue Jays could very well be that No. 5 team, but going into the final day today, it could still also be the Astros or Rangers.

The Orioles' 5-2 win last night ensured they will finish this season with a winning record over every other AL East team for the first time since 2014.

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Colton Cowser's 455-foot grand slam leads Norfolk to the AAA championship

Cowser orange

The Orioles' Triple-A affiliate, the Norfolk Tides, won a franchise record 90 games this year, setting several team records along the way. Then they lost the first game of the best-of-three International League championship series last Tuesday, before winning two in a row to take their first IL crown since 1985.

But the Tides had one more big win in them last night as they beat Oklahoma City 7-6 to win the Triple-A championship game in Las Vegas, pitting the IL champion Tides against the Pacific Coast League champion Dodgers.

Norfolk trailed 2-1 in the top of the seventh but had the bases loaded with two outs. Down 0-2 in the count against lefty Alec Gamboa, Colton Cowser mashed a grand slam to right center to turn the one-run deficit into a 5-2 lead with one swing. He hit the ball with a 107.6 mph exit velocity and it went 455 feet and deep into the Las Vegas night.

A mammoth blast just when the Tides needed it by the player ranked No. 11 on the top 100 by Baseball America and No. 14 by MLBPipeline.com.

On a cell phone call from the Las Vegas ballpark postgame, I asked Cowser what it felt like to mash a baseball in such a big spot.

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O's game blog: O's host Boston in Game No. 161

gibson city v SEA

And then there were two. Two games left in the 2023 regular season as the American League East champion Orioles (100-60) tonight host last-place Boston (77-83) in the third game of a four-game series at Oriole Park. 

The Orioles won their 100th game and clinched the division title with Thursday's 2-0 win. They lost to Boston 3-0 last night as they were held to three hits and blanked for the ninth time this season.

The Orioles offense has scored two runs or fewer in four of the last six and six of the last nine games. Baltimore batters have scored eight runs over the last four games and 26 in the past nine. They have hit just three homers in those nine games.

In this series the Orioles are 7-for-55 (.127) with two doubles and one homer, scoring two runs and going 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

The loss Friday ended Baltimore's five-game win streak by a combined 15-3 score. Over longer stretches, the Orioles have still won nine of 13, 17 of 26 and 29 of the last 44 games.

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Jackson Holliday is named Orioles' Minor League Player of the Year (updated, plus the other winners)

holliday orange

After a season when he rose to No. 1 in prospects rankings and has already been named Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year, today shortstop Jackson Holliday was named winner of the Orioles' Brooks Robinson Award as the organization's Minor League Player of the Year for 2023.

The Orioles named right-hander Chayce McDermott the recipient of the Jim Palmer Award as the club's Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Norfolk manager Buck Britton won the Cal Ripken Sr. Player Development Award. Dave Jennings won the Jim Russo Scout of the Year award.

Holliday has played at four levels in the 2023 season, beginning the year at Single-A Delmarva and later moving to High-A Aberdeen, Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. He ended the regular season with Norfolk and will play with the International League champion Tides tonight against Oklahoma City, winners of the Pacific Coast League title, in the Triple-A Championship game in Las Vegas.

Over 125 games this year between the Shorebirds, IronBirds, Baysox and Tides, Holliday, 19, has hit .323/.442/.499/.941 with 30 doubles, nine triples, 12 homers, 24 steals, 154 hits, 101 walks, 113 runs and 75 RBIs.

“Yeah, I’ve got no complaints," Holliday said via a Zoom call today with reporters about his remarkable season. "This year has gone about as well as I could possibly imagine. My goal was Double-A, and to make it to Triple-A is quite something. It’s been quite a year."

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One of few O's with playoff experience says team is "definitely ready"

hicks orange

As the Orioles get ready to play in the MLB postseason for the first time since 2016 and in the American League Division Series for the first time since 2014, experience in the playoffs is one of the few attributes this team is missing.

The only position players who have played past Game 162 are Aaron Hicks, Adam Frazier and James McCann, and Kyle Gibson and Jack Flaherty are the only pitchers with a combined 26 1/3 playoff innings.

The Orioles have played in many close games and many late-season high-pressure games this year. That should help prep them. But the postseason could prove to be something different and even more challenging.

“Just think that there will be a lot more adrenaline than they’ve ever felt before,” Hicks, who has played in five different postseasons, said. “They’re going to be a lot more nervous pregame and what it pretty much comes down to is who can calm down the fastest and just play baseball. That is what it comes down to. Little things win games in the postseason.”

Hicks has played in playoff games with the Yankees in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and last season, when he went 0-for-3 versus Cleveland in the ALDS.

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O's game blog: Beginning to wrap up the 2023 regular season

O's game blog: Beginning to wrap up the 2023 regular season

After clinching the American League East with a win Thursday night, the Orioles still have three games to play in the 2023 regular season, beginning with tonight at home versus Boston. At 100-59 coming into tonight, the Birds could finish with 103 wins, which would be third-most in club history.

Last night's 2-0 win gave the Orioles their 10th AL East championship and first since the 2014 season.

Manager Brandon Hyde joins Orioles Hall of Famer Earl Weaver as the only O's skippers to lead a team to 100 wins. The O's are the first team in the AL and second team in major leagues to reach the century mark this season, joining the Braves (103-56), who won their 100th game on Sept. 24.

The Birds are 52-27 (.658) since the start of July, the best record in the AL and the second-best mark in the majors during that time, behind only the Dodgers (.667, 52-26). The team is 162-108 (.600) since the start of June 2022, the best record in the AL and third-best in big leagues during that time, trailing only the Braves (.668, 181-90) and Dodgers (.647, 176-96).

The Orioles have now won five in a row by a combined 15-3 score. Thursday's win was the O's 12th shutout of the year - a combined three-hitter - their second shutout in three games and the third in the past 12 games.

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Some of the youngest Birds came up together to now win in Baltimore

rutschman hi five white

For some of the youngest Orioles, winning an American League East championship last night was something they had talked about when they were together on the farm. Then those players rose through the ranks in the minors and now are part of a 100-win team in Baltimore.

“That is what you dream of when you get drafted,” O’s 22-year-old rookie Gunnar Henderson said this afternoon. “You have good friends you go through the minors with, to come up relatively the same time and be on a winning team your first full year, you dream of it.”

I asked Henderson if there was a time in the minors when he looked around and thought the group of players he was with then could produce something special.

“Just felt like from all the pieces that were added over the years and the drafts that we’ve had, it’s been cool to see everyone buy in together," he said. "Everyone just wants to win. The work ethic that we have shows we want to play winning baseball. Even at the minor league level it seems all the teams are winning and doing well.

“It’s also about having good people. Never have run into anyone with a cocky attitude or that is hard to be around. It’s all just good people, and that makes for a good clubhouse. That allows everyone to go out there and play their best game. You can really enjoy playing the game and spending time with each other. That allows for great relationships and for us to play our best game.”

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Brandon Hyde is that rare skipper that led not just the rebuild, but the winning too

Brandon Hyde

We didn’t need to see the Orioles take their magic number from one to zero to know that Brandon Hyde is the right manager for this team. That should have been apparent well before last night.

But after the Orioles won the AL East with a 2-0 victory over Boston and Hyde had been doused in the clubhouse, he made his way to the interview room where he was asked this question – how does it feel to not only be the manager who saw this team through the rebuild, but to still be here when they won the division?

Hyde was not a caretaker during all the losing only to watch someone else take his guys and win. He did that.

“It means a lot,” said Hyde. “(Executive vice president and general manager) Mike (Elias) told me that he was hiring me and said, ‘I’m not hiring you to replace you when we get more talented.’ He held true to that.

“He was way more patient, honestly those first few years, than I was. I took losses hard and knew we weren’t as talented as other teams. I felt bad for the guys in the clubhouse, and it beats you up. Mike showed great patience. And understood the plan was in place. And he drafted extremely well and got more talent in this organization like he said he was going to. And you are seeing it now.

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Another title too: Triple-A Norfolk wins the International League championship

mayo white

An AL East championship was celebrated in downtown Baltimore tonight. At about the same time as the O's were winning the AL East, their Triple-A Norfolk affiliate was winning the International League title for the first time in 38 years.

The Tides tonight beat the Durham Bulls 7-0 to win the 2023 IL title. The teams were tied 1-1 in the best-of-three series with Norfolk, on their home field at Harbor Park, taking tonight's decisive Game 3.

The Tides have been the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate since 2007, and this is Norfolk's first title representing the Orioles. 

Norfolk had won previous International League championships in 1972, 1975, 1982, 1983 and 1985 - all as a New York Mets affiliate.

Now the Tides have one more. 

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O's game blog: One win from the AL East championship

Kremer black

The Orioles will take the field tonight at Camden Yards to open a four-game series against the Boston Red Sox. They need one win to clinch their 10th American League East division championship and first since the 2014 season.

The Orioles (99-59) can also become the sixth team in club history and first since 1980 to win 100 games.

Last night the club improved to 40 games over the .500 mark for the first time since the end of the 1997 season when they were 102-57.

Baltimore's 5-1 win over Washington Wednesday night was its fourth win in a row. The O's have gone through a stretch where they lost four straight, then won four straight, lost three in a row and have now won four in a row.

During the four-game win streak, Baltimore pitchers have allowed just 15 hits and three runs with four walks and 23 strikeouts. The team ERA is 0.75 in this span.

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For some O's the light at the end of the tunnel came via a 10-game win streak last season

mullins gray

When asked today when he saw a light at the end of the tunnel, and when center fielder Cedric Mullins thought the Orioles had turned from a losing team into a winning one, he cited an 11-day period in July during the 2022 season.

From July 3-13, 2022, the Orioles won 10 games in a row. A stretch that included seven wins by two runs or less and three walk-off wins. When it began the Orioles were nine games under .500. When it ended they were 45-44 and on their way to an 83-79 record. A 31-game improvement over the year before.

Now, a season later, that team is one win away from 100 victories and one win away from clinching its 10th American League East title.

“There was a 10-game win streak that we had last year where we were playing really good ball. It was consistent,” Mullins said this afternoon in the Baltimore clubhouse of a turning point for the organization. “We had the same guys going out there doing their thing. The guys on the bench were coming through. And we have been able to stay consistent with that and progress even further this year.”

For manager Brandon Hyde, that 10-game streak was a big moment.

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In 2021, the Orioles lost 110 games and now they can win 100 or more

Austin Hays

From 110 losses to 100 wins in two years is pretty remarkable. The Orioles haven't done it yet, but their next win, and they would love for it to come tonight, will put them at 100 wins and also wrap up the American League East championship.

The Orioles have won AL East titles previously in 1969, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1979, 1983, 1997 and 2014. 

The last time they won the AL East, it ended a 17-year drought and this time it would be happening nine years later.

It has been a remarkable turnaround and no doubt some around Birdland may have even just about conceded the division to Tampa Bay when the Rays played so well and won so many games early in the year.

But tonight, the O's can become the sixth team in club history with 100 wins and the first since the 2014 team to win the division.

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O's game blog: The chance for a division title tonight for the Orioles

rodriguez v CWS

With their magic number at two to clinch the American League East championship, the Orioles will host Washington tonight while the Tampa Bay Rays play at Boston with a 6:10 p.m. start time.

If the Orioles win and the Rays lose, the Orioles will be AL East champions later tonight for the first time since 2014, for the 10th time overall. They would also clinch the No. 1 seed throughout the AL playoffs. 

That would mean Baltimore would host the first two games of the American League Division Series on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 7 and 8.

The Orioles beat the Nationals 1-0 last night as Kyle Bradish allowed three singles over a season-best eight innings, throwing 104 pitches. Yennier Cano got a save in the ninth as he struck out the side.

The Orioles have gotten three straight starts of seven innings or more for the first time all year. John Means, Kyle Gibson and Bradish have combined to allow two runs in 22 1/3 innings.

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Fans around Birdland reflect on the loss of a legend

Brooks Robinson

As I started my postgame radio show on WBAL Radio last night, I knew an emotional night was coming up. As less than an hour before game time Tuesday we all got the news - the great Brooks Robinson had died at 86.

Caller after caller fondly remembered the kid from Little Rock, Ark. who long since is now thought of as Baltimore's own. But it wasn't World Series titles or Gold Gloves or great play on the diamond that they wanted to talk about.

They wanted to talk about Brooks the person. It seemed so many fans either met Robinson in person at one time or knew someone close that did. All the stories showed his warmth and kindness. His love of people. His love of O's fans. Nothing was said about a great play from the 1970 World Series against Lee May. Or all his honors or awards.

It was said that you could not find anyone to say a bad word about Brooks and that is absolutely so. Sometimes it is said about a person in kindness. Here it is said because it is so.

I have told this story a lot so bear with me one more time: The first time I truly learned about the man inside the uniform was in the summer of 1983.

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O's game blog: O's host Nats as the final homestand begins

bradish v MIA

Chasing their 98th win and with a magic number of three to clinch the American League East championship, the Orioles host the Nationals tonight to begin a two-game series at Oriole Park.

The O's (97-59) won the last two games of their series at Cleveland and lead the AL East by 2 1/2 games over Tampa Bay with six to play.

Lefty John Means and righty Kyle Gibson provided big outings that led the Orioles to those wins and provided much-needed rest for the bullpen. They pitched a combined 14 1/3 innings allowing six hits and two runs.

It was just the second time this year the Orioles got back-to-back outings of seven innings or more from their starter. That also happened June 24-25 with Dean Kremer and Kyle Bradish.

The Orioles are 51-15 (.773) when they get a quality start and 18-2 (.900) when their starter goes seven innings or more.

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Familiar late-season storyline: O's players that once lost 100 or more can now win 100 games

Hays and Santander celebrate

It is a storyline that is surfacing often now in the Orioles clubhouse. There are several players in there that were on the team two years ago that lost 110 games. Now they are on a team that might win 100 games.

Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, Ryan Mountcastle, Anthony Santander, Ryan McKenna, Ramón Urías and Jorge Mateo were position players on both clubs to name several, but not every player that fits this bill.

Hays played in 131 games that 2021 season and, of course, is a key part of the winning this year. Winning that will take the Orioles to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. And they have a magic number of three for their first American League East title since 2014.

“This is everything you dream of,” Hays said this afternoon before the series opener with Washington. “You get to the big leagues and then you try to figure out what you need to do to be on the field and get playing time. Then you kind of learn how to be an everyday player and stick here. Once you have done that, the focus turns to what do I need to do to win? What do we have to do to win?

“So we were able to last through those 100-loss seasons and kind of just find our way into the big leagues and figure out what we needed to do to stay here. Now we’re a big part of this team and it’s special to still be here going through this. Growing as the players that we have.”

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