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

Bradish and Rutschman

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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Mountcastle leaves game with left shoulder discomfort (O's lose 1-0)

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Ryan Mountcastle drew a painful walk tonight in the bottom of the first inning.

Losing him could severely hurt the Orioles.

Mountcastle fouled off a sinker from Cardinals' starter Drew Rom to leave the count 2-2, took two pitches out of the strike zone and headed to first base. He was grimacing and rotating his left arm as if experiencing shoulder discomfort.

Head athletic trainer Brian Ebel and manager Brandon Hyde checked on Mountcastle, who swung the arm back and forth and stayed in the game. But the pain was lingering.

He paced after every pitch in the top of the second, rubbed the shoulder, rotated his arm a few more times and at least twice removed the mitt. He followed Ebel down the dugout tunnel, but returned to the field in the top of the third.

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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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Orioles notes on bullpen decision, Vespi's shuttling, Rutschman as DH, facing Rom and upcoming Rays series

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The Orioles didn’t send down left-hander Cole Irvin again today based on poor evaluations of his performance. Circumstances beyond his control removed him from the active roster and the clubhouse.

Irvin was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, with Nick Vespi recalled again.

“Because of the six-man rotation right now, as well as, the last four or five starts have been short, so our bullpen has taken a heavy load, that whole Boston series and the first game here against St. Louis,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We just felt like we needed a bullpen arm.”

Irvin has been optioned three times. He could return again but must stay in the minors for a minimum of 15 days unless replacing an injured player.

“We’ll see,” Hyde said.

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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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Orioles and Cardinals lineups for series finale

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Jordan Westburg stays in the Orioles lineup tonight and is batting fifth against left-hander Drew Rom.

James McCann is catching again, with Adley Rutschman serving as designated hitter. Gunnar Henderson is playing third base and Jorge Mateo is the shortstop.

Aaron Hicks is in center field, with Cedric Mullins on the bench.

For the Orioles
Adley Rutschman DH
Ryan Mountcastle 1B
Anthony Santander RF
Austin Hays LF
Jordan Westburg 2B
Gunnar Henderson 3B
Aaron Hicks CF
James McCann C
Jorge Mateo SS

Kyle Gibson RHP

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Orioles option Irvin and recall Vespi

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Nick Vespi is back in the majors.

The Orioles recalled Vespi this morning from Triple-A Norfolk and optioned Cole Irvin in a swap of left-handed relievers.

Irvin was removed from the rotation to create a spot for John Means. He tossed two scoreless innings last night and threw 32 pitches, pushing back his availability with the second-place Rays coming to town Thursday to begin a crucial four-game series.

This is Irvin’s third time being optioned this season. Vespi is a real pro.

The Orioles optioned Vespi for a fourth time on Aug. 24. He can be sent down one more time without the Orioles having to expose him to waivers.

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

Austin Hays

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

John Means throws white

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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Means reinstated, Krehbiel optioned


The Orioles have made the following roster moves:

  • Reinstated LHP John Means from the 60-day Injured List (left elbow UCL surgery). He will start tonight’s game.
  • Optioned RHP Joey Krehbiel to Triple-A Norfolk.

The Orioles’ 40-man roster currently has 40 players.


Manager Brandon Hyde on the O's recently prolific offense

Cedric Mullins

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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Elias explains Orioles' plans for Bautista following elbow injury

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The Orioles aren’t ready to shut the door on Félix Bautista’s season. They don’t feel the urgency to make a declaration with 20 games remaining before the playoffs.

Bautista isn’t in their bullpen, but time is on their side.

Executive Vice President/General Manager Mike Elias confirmed today in a media session that Bautista has a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. An MRI revealed the damage, which is termed “acute-on-chronic.” A sudden injury that also results from use over a period of time.

Surgery to replace the ligament, or a Tommy John procedure, remains a possibility down the road, but the Orioles aren’t traveling it this month.

“The question is when and how to deal with that,” Elias said.

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O's skipper Brandon Hyde looking forward to John Means' return on Tuesday

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As left-hander John Means gets set to make his first major league start since April 13, 2022 tomorrow night against St. Louis, the anticipation is building.

The Orioles are delighted to have Means back and now, even with just 20 games left, the club will try to determine if Means can contribute to their postseason run.

Today, manager Brandon Hyde was asked what is realistic to expect from Means on Tuesday night versus St. Louis.

“Well he is built up to five-plus innings,” Hyde said. “But we haven’t seen him pitch in a major league stadium in almost two years. How he handles his expectations, anticipation and nerves. I’m sure it’s going to feel like his first start in the big leagues.”

“So, you know, I really don’t have many expectations. I’m going to be excited to watch him. Excited to have him out there and hope he pitches well.”

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Orioles and Cardinals lineups

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After going 7-2 on their road trip, the Orioles begin their penultimate homestand of the season with a three-game series against the Cardinals.

This is the first Cardinals visit to Baltimore since 2017, when the Orioles lost the first game 11-2 and won the next two 15-7 and 8-5.

Jordan Westburg came out of Saturday’s game in the seventh inning and wasn’t in yesterday’s lineup. He’s on the bench again tonight.

"Everybody's got little things going on right now," manager Brandon Hyde said on Saturday, adding yesterday that he didn’t have any other updates.

Austin Hays also is a reserve. Aaron Hicks is in left field.

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O's top 50 prospect Samuel Basallo talks about his fantastic 2023 season

Basallo Credit: Kadalena Messiano

ABERDEEN, Md. – As he put the finishing touches on a fantastic late-year run with High-A Aberdeen in recent days, young O’s international catcher Samuel Basallo got on a home run tear.

He hit six homers his last seven games (going 14-for-26) including a walk-off homer on Thursday night as the IronBirds beat Greenville 6-5 at Ripken Stadium. It was a line shot to right field.

“Incredible. That was my first walk-off homer in my time in pro baseball. It felt incredible. Always dreamed of doing that one day,” said Basallo, with interpreting help from Aberdeen manager Roberto Mercado.

This young man, who turned 19 Aug. 13, from the Dominican Republic has now become a top 50 prospect nationally, one of the O’s best on the farm and a shining star for Baltimore’s international program.

Signed for the top international bonus handed out by the club in January of 2021, $1.3 million, Basallo (pronounced Ba-sigh-O) started this year with Low Single-A Delmarva and posted an .887 OPS in 83 games. That was a strong showing. Then he moved up to Aberdeen and his stats got better.

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O's game blog: Looking for a series sweep to end the road trip

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Now with 90 wins on the year, the Orioles are looking today for their 10th series sweep of the season, after a two-game sweep of the Washington Nationals in April and eight other three-game sweeps.

The Orioles (90-51) have wins over the Red Sox this weekend by scores of 11-2 and 13-12. The Orioles allowed 23 hits yesterday as Boston went 23-for-50 (.460), but Baltimore still pulled out the win.

The Orioles' win total has exceeded the 89 from the 2016 team, the last O's club to make the playoffs. They have won 90 for the first time since the 2014 American League East champs won 96 games. The Birds have now won 90 or more 21 times in team history. 

The Orioles hit five homers in the win, two of them by James McCann. Gunnar Henderson and Aaron Hicks hit three-run shots. The O’s season high for homers is six on July 9 at Minnesota. Yesterday was the fifth game of 2023 in which the Orioles scored 13 runs or more. Their season high of 15 runs came in that July six-homer game at Target Field.

Yesterday the Orioles had 14 hits and they’ve had 10 or more hits for seven consecutive games now, their longest streak of 10 or more hits in a game since September 2011.

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O's outlasted Boston for another AL East series win

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Once they pulled ahead to lead 5-2 in the third inning, the Orioles never trailed again on Saturday. It just felt like they did. Or that they were about to.

They gave up 23 hits and gave up three runs or more in three different innings, but when an exhausting day of baseball was over they had a 13-12 win over Boston at Fenway Park.

The Orioles have a 90-win season and now could finish 10-11 in their remaining regular season games and have a 100-win season.

They sure didn't win this game because of their pitching.

But their surging offense has now scored 34 runs the last three games, 60 in the past seven and 141 over the last 20 games.

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