Orioles lineup vs. Tigers

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The Orioles have scored five runs in five games against the Tigers this season, all losses, and are 1-for-26 with runners in scoring position.

To avoid another sweep tonight, they’ll count heavily on their youth and the handful of prospects who made it to the majors.

Gunnar Henderson is batting third tonight for the first time after making his debut last night as the leadoff hitter. He was the cleanup hitter on Sunday.

The hot hand is touching the higher spots in the order.

Henderson has moved to shortstop, with Jorge Mateo going to the bench.

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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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McKenna accepts role as emergency relief pitcher

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Adley Rutschman didn’t put down any fingers for Ryan McKenna in the ninth inning of Monday night’s game against the Tigers. The rookie was catching an outfielder with their team behind by nine runs. The usual routine already had been dismantled.

Just try to get the ball over the plate and get off the field. Don’t increase the embarrassment of a lopsided loss to a last-place club that dragged an anemic offense into Camden Yards.

McKenna didn’t think to jokingly shake off Rutschman and get inside the hitters’ heads a little bit. A funny idea that he hopes won’t present itself again this season.

Two trips to the mound are too many for a position player.

McKenna hadn’t pitched since his high school days at St. Thomas Aquinas in New Hampshire, describing his usage has “very minimal,” but bench coach Fredi González approached him in the dugout during a Sept. 10 game against the Red Sox at Camden Yards and asked whether he’d be willing to do it with the Orioles running out of pitching.

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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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Hyde hoping to be left with right decisions while writing out lineups

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The opposing pitcher last night wasn’t going to influence the entirety of manager Brandon Hyde’s lineup. Just a couple of concessions.

Gunnar Henderson was playing third base despite the left-on-left matchup with Tigers starter Tyler Alexander. You can’t sit the rookie. Get him in the box as much as humanly possible.

He flied to the center field fence in the second inning, one of the few hard-hit balls against Alexander in an 11-0 loss.

Adley Rutschman was catching and batting second despite splits that are much more favorable from the left side of the plate. He began last night slashing .286/.389/.510 with 26 doubles, 10 home runs and 32 RBIs in 306 plate appearances against right-handers and .165/.295/.266 with five doubles, one home run and four RBIs in 95 plate appearances versus southpaws.

Hyde will catch Rutschman or use him as the designated hitter. It’s the stretch run. The triceps injury seems like a lifetime ago.

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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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Orioles didn't win series in Toronto but again proved their competitive point

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We could harp on the two games lost over the weekend in Toronto, a bad outcome for a team scrambling to earn the last wild card. The Orioles needed to win the series, and a sweep would have been huge. Each defeat feels like a dagger. And Ryan Mountcastle was unavailable yesterday after being hit Saturday above the left elbow.

Or …

Yesterday’s comeback again says so much about the 2022 Orioles, even if they don’t make the playoffs. And so much about the future of this team. What may lie ahead next summer.

Down 1-0, 2-1 and 3-1. The Blue Jays starting Cy Young candidate Alek Manoah, who had 14 wins, a 2.43 ERA and a 0.996 WHIP. Closer Jordan Romano, with a 1.91 ERA and 34 saves, on the mound in the ninth. Everything working against them. But I’d love to know the spin rate each time the Orioles turn the tables this season.

The 15th triple play in club history, executed in the third inning after the Orioles fell behind 2-1.

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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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Mountcastle out of Orioles lineup for series finale in Toronto

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The Orioles are reduced today to trying to avoid a sweep in their three-game series in Toronto. Not how they wanted it to play out.

The Blue Jays have won the first two games by the same 6-3 score, and they lead the Orioles by seven games in the wild card race. The Orioles trail Seattle by five for the final spot.

Eight losses in the last 12 games have put the Orioles in a precarious position.

Ryan Mountcastle is out of the lineup after being hit yesterday above the left elbow by a José Berríos pitch. Jesús Aguilar is playing first base.

Gunnar Henderson is the third baseman and cleanup hitter today. Henderson is 20-for-58 (.345) with a .973 OPS, six doubles, one triple, two home runs and 12 RBIs in 16 games.

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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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Orioles did fine job of limiting use of injured list in 2022

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The transaction seemed minor compared to the start of a critical series in Toronto. Alexander Wells hadn’t pitched for the Orioles since April 26 after straining the UCL in his left elbow. But his removal from the 60-day injured list was pending and he didn’t seem likely to get back on the 40-man roster.

The Orioles quietly put him on outright waivers – these things aren’t trumpeted – and he was assigned to Triple-A Norfolk on Friday after clearing.

Wells had returned to Norfolk on Aug. 19 after making rehab starts in the Florida Complex League and with Double-A Bowie. He didn’t pitch for three weeks before his Sept. 9 start with the Tides, and he worked 2 2/3 innings in relief on Tuesday.

Pitchers John Means and Chris Ellis remain on the 60-day injured list after undergoing their respective surgeries - Means on his left elbow, Ellis on his right shoulder. No one on the club is assigned to the 10-day or 15-day lists.

It seems so strange to say that the Orioles avoided injuries in 2022, considering how Means made two starts and underwent ligament-reconstructive surgery. The staff ace didn’t make it to May. He didn’t make it into the third week of April.

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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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Orioles and Blue Jays lineups

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The Orioles must rebound quickly from last night’s 6-3 loss in Toronto, which kept them 4 ½ games behind the Rays for the last wild card, but six behind the Blue Jays.

Gunnar Henderson, who hit a home run last night with two outs in the ninth inning, is starting at shortstop. Terrin Vavra is in left field, his first appearance in the lineup since Sept. 1.

Kyle Stowers is the designated hitter, and Anthony Santander is in right field.

Adley Rutschman is catching again. Rutschman hit his first home run last night from the right side of the plate. He was hitting .158 with a .513 OPS against lefties.

Rutschman and Henderson are the youngest pair of Orioles teammates to homer in the same game since Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop on May 8, 2016 versus Oakland.

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