On night of great pitching, O's also made gains in wild card race

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In recent days, some fans in Birdland have begun to slowly check out a bit on the 2022 Major League Baseball season. But just when some headed out, did the Orioles pull them back in?

Looks that way.

With a stunning run of pitching that includes allowing just one run over the last three games, the Orioles are now three games behind Seattle for the third American League wild-card spot. Tampa Bay and Toronto (84-67) are tied for the top two spots with the Orioles 4 1/2 games behind both clubs.

Is edging out Toronto, in what would be a stunning late-season run, the Orioles' best path to the playoffs? Probably yes, because of the three games the teams still have to play to end the regular season at Oriole Park.

Now 4 1/2 games behind Toronto, the Birds would need to gain 1 1/2 games on Toronto in the next 10 days to be within three games with three to play when the clubs begin that series in Baltimore on Monday, Oct. 3.

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O's rookie Terrin Vavra gets his bat going again

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Orioles infielder/outfielder Terrin Vavra's bat has started to heat up again, just as it did when he first got to the majors and went 6-for-13, batting .462 to start to his big league career.

Nothing to it, right?

Of course, we know that is not true. And while Vavra looks solid and comfortable again at the plate, for about a month starting in early August he was struggling, and not playing very much. Then he left the team briefly on paternity leave.

Over an 18-game stretch he was just 6-for-37 (.162).

“That was a big learning stage for me,” Vavra said before Thursday’s game. “It was easy to get frustrated right away. You know, when you are not getting opportunities, it’s not the easiest to get back into a rhythm, so you kind of have to create that. Luckily, we have some great guys in this clubhouse that helped me with that, as well as some great hitting coaches. Just try to a find a routine and build rhythm with that, so when you do get your chance you can, hopefully, feel more comfortable at the plate.”

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Aberdeen's quest for the SAL championship comes up a few runs short

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ABERDEEN, Md. – After they had scored 13 runs on 13 hits Tuesday night in a huge win, High-A Aberdeen loaded the bases in the last of the first last night. It looked like they might pick up where they left off the previous game.

But the IronBirds would leave the bases loaded. A big chance ended with no runs. We didn’t know it then, but that would be their best scoring chance of the night as they lost 4-0 to Bowling Green. The Hot Rods won the South Atlantic League championship series in front of 1,548 at Ripken Stadium.

They held Aberdeen to four hits in the shutout win in the third and deciding game of the SAL championship. After they failed to cash in on the early chance, Aberdeen got just one runner to third base, and that was Max Wagner after a two-out triple in the sixth.

And the IronBirds got a tough break on the mound. Right-hander Peter Van Loon was pitching a gem, a one-hitter through four innings on 45 pitches. Then he was out of the game due a blister.

“He developed an issue with his hand, and that was the reason we had to yank him. He was pitching great,” said Aberdeen manager Roberto Mercado. “Trust me, we were going to keep him out there a little longer. But we’re not going to put a guy out there and have that finger be an issue or impact his offseason. He was outstanding as he was for us all year. Phenomenal job today.”

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Aberdeen wins big to force a third and deciding game for SAL championship

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ABERDEEN, Md. – In a must-win situation tonight to force a third and deciding game in the South Atlantic League championship series, the O’s High-A Aberdeen club got it done with big offense at Ripken Stadium.

Aberdeen never trailed, scoring once in the first, three in the second and five runs in the fourth on its way to a 13-6 win over Bowling Green. After the IronBirds lost the series opener 5-3 on the road Sunday, the SAL championship is now even at 1-1 and set for a Wednesday night Game 3 showdown in Aberdeen.

If the IronBirds win the title, it would be the first by an O’s affiliate since Double-A Bowie won the Eastern League in 2015.

Tonight, Aberdeen took a first-inning lead when Dylan Beavers walked, stole second and scored on Jud Fabian’s two-out single to left. In the last of the second, Aberdeen got a pair of singles with two outs and then Beavers hit his first homer at the High-A level. The No. 33 overall pick in the 2022 draft by the Orioles drilled a three-run shot to right for a 4-0 lead.

After Bowling Green scored twice in the third off right-hander Jean Pinto, Aberdeen took control of this game with five runs in the last of the fourth. Billy Cook’s two run single made it 6-2 and Heston Kjerstad tripled in two runs to right, and scored on the play himself on a throwing error for the 9-2 margin.

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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 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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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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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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O's game blog: Looking for a four-game split in the series finale

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As the Orioles wrap up a four-game series with Toronto tonight, they need a win to split the series. If they can get it, they move back to within 2 1/2 games of Toronto for the final American League wild card spot. A loss would leave them 4 1/2 games out with 25 games to play.

The Orioles offense broke out for a 9-6 win last night. The Orioles scored five runs in the third inning and three in the eighth as they went 6-for-11 with runners in scoring position. They had gone 1-for-14 with RISP in the Monday doubleheader loss and were batting .119 with RISP (8-for-67) over their previous 11 games before Tuesday night.

Baltimore ended a three-game losing streak. The O’s have won five of eight, eight of 13, 13 of 21 and 21 of their last 34 games.

The Orioles improved to 7-5 against Toronto, a year after going 5-14 versus the Blue Jays. They are now 28-31 on the season in AL East games.

Catcher Adley Rutschman had a two-run double last night and is 6-for-12 this series with four runs and four RBIs. He is 9-for-20 during a five-game hitting streak with two doubles, two homers and six RBIs. He moved into third place on the single-season rookie doubles list for the Orioles with No. 28 last night. He trails only Cal Ripken Jr., who had 32 in 1982, and Eddie Murray's 29 in 1977.

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Grayson Rodriguez talks about his two-inning outing at Bowie

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BOWIE, Md. – In his second rehab outing tonight, Orioles top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez allowed one run over two innings, throwing 40 pitches for the Double-A Bowie Baysox against Richmond on a cloudy and drizzly night at Prince George’s Stadium.

Rodriguez used all his pitches, with his fastball topping at 96 mph. He reached 98 in the first inning of his outing last week for High-A Aberdeen.

He rolled through the top of the first, getting the Flying Squirrels, a San Francisco affiliate, 1-2-3 on 11 pitches. His outing began with back-to-back strikeouts on secondary pitches. It looked like the first came via a slider and the second a changeup. A groundout to third completed the three-up-and-out inning.

With one out in the Richmond second, third baseman Casey Schmitt hit a breaking ball that was up in the zone out to left for a double. He advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a Rodriguez wild pitch for a 1-0 Richmond lead. Rodriguez then walked two straight batters, as he had in his second inning last week, and then ended the second on a strikeout as he reached the 40-pitch count for the night.

Lefty Cade Povich replaced him to start the Richmond third as Rodriguez threw five more pitches in the Bowie bullpen.

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O's game blog: Right-hander Kyle Bradish faces Toronto

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As the Orioles look to get their first win in the four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays they send right-hander Kyle Bradish (3-5, 5.17 ERA) to the mound. Bradish has thrown back-to-back scoreless starts as he gets ready to face this team tonight.

The Orioles (71-64) fell back to 4 1/2 games out of the final AL wild card spot with a doubleheader loss by scores of 7-3 and 8-4 on Monday. The O's have lost three in a row, giving up seven homers and 20 runs in those games. 

Over longer stretches, they have won seven of 12, nine of 15, 12 of 20, 20 of 33 and 24 of their past 40 games.

The Orioles are now 39-27 at home and are 22-10 at home since June 22. 

They were 6-3 this season against Toronto, now 6-5, after going 5-14 with no series wins in the 2021 season series.

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O's game blog: The Toronto series begins at the Yard

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The Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays open a huge three-day, four-game series this afternoon with a straight doubleheader at Camden Yards. Toronto (73-59) is in third-place in the American League East, six games out, and holds the third American League wild card by 2 1/2 games over the Orioles (71-62).

Toronto comes to town off a three-game sweep at Pittsburgh, where they won those games by a combined 12-4 score. Toronto has won five of six, 12 of 17 and 28 of its past 45 games.

The Blue Jays are 35-30 on the road, 27-24 versus AL East teams, 16-14 since Aug. 1 and 23-16 since the All-Star break.

The Orioles went 5-14 last year against Toronto, losing five series and tying one. This year they are 6-3 against the Blue Jays, winning two series and tying one. Baltimore pitching gave up 44 homers and had an 8.49 ERA and 1.750 WHIP over the 19 games of the 2021 season series, but the O’s staff has allowed 12 homers with a 5.01 ERA and 1.430 WHIP this season against the Blue Jays.

As a team last year, Toronto batters hit .313/.383/.582/.965 versus the O’s and averaged 8.05 runs per game. This season they are batting .294/.336/.459/.796 and have given up an average of 5.00 runs per game in the season series.

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Ryan Mountcastle on the big series with Toronto

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As the Orioles begin their huge four-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays this afternoon with a doubleheader, they do so with the knowledge that they have played so much better this year against Toronto.

The Orioles went 5-14 versus the Blue Jays last year and their team ERA was 8.49. Toronto scored 153 runs in those 19 games. This season the Orioles are 6-3 versus Toronto, winning two series and splitting another. The team ERA is 5.01, with 45 runs allowed in the nine games.

“We’ve just pitched them better,” the O’s Ryan Mountcastle said in the clubhouse this morning in sizing up the team’s better play this year in the season series. “I think we put up a decent amount of runs last year against them. They have an insane lineup - top three in baseball, probably - and it was just keeping them in the yard, and I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job of that this year."

The Orioles may have to win some higher-scoring games in this series, and have won games this year against Toronto by scores of 6-5, 7-4 and 6-5.

“They have a great offense and we are going to have to just outscore them," Mountcastle said. "Score some runs, and we've got to have some good approaches today, and hopefully we get a couple today."

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DL Hall has a big fastball, but his changeup has made nice gains this year

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For O’s bullpen lefty DL Hall, it is nice to be able to touch 98 mph with his fastball as he did in a scoreless eighth inning on Saturday night at Camden Yards. He can and has hit triple digits with the pitch.

But he said Sunday that is not the pitch that has shown the most improvement for him this year.

“I can lean on my changeup a little bit more this year than last year,” said Hall. “Last year it was still a plus-plus pitch for me, but I feel like this year with getting the reps to throw it throughout a full season, I can rely on it a little bit more. And just have a better feel of it.”

Hall got a popup and strikeouts Saturday of Seth Brown, on a changeup and Shea Langeliers on a 98 mph fastball during his 1-2-3 inning on 15 pitches with 10 strikes. He made quick work of the Oakland No. 3-4-5 hitters.

His fastball averaged 97.8 mph and his changeup averaged 86.3 mph and Hall said a separation of anywhere from eight to 12 mph between those pitches is what he shoots for.

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O's game blog: O's look for two in a row over Oakland

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After a series-opening 5-2 win Friday night behind that three-run rally in the last of the eighth, the Orioles host Oakland again tonight in the second of a three-game series. A win tonight would give Baltimore another series win with a chance for a Sunday sweep.

The Orioles (70-61) are nine games over .500 for the first time since May 20, 2017. They have won three in a row, five of seven, seven of 10, 10 of 15 and 22 of their last 35 games.

The Orioles are now 38-24 at home (.613) and 1-0 on this 10-game homestand. They will play 16 of the next 21 games at Oriole Park, where they are 21-7 in the last 28 home games.

Best home records in the AL:

.692 - New York Yankees (45-20)
.683 - Houston (43-20)
.652 - Tampa Bay (43-23)
.613 - Orioles (38-24)

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The 2019 draft picks all in same lineup and Chirinos celebrates a milestone

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This is kind of a special night for the Orioles’ No. 1 rated farm system. For the first time ever, the top three Baltimore draft picks from the 2019 draft – Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson and Kyle Stowers – will all be in the starting lineup together for the parent club.

The trio were the first three picks by Mike Elias after he took over as the Orioles' executive vice president and general manager in the fall of 2018. The club took Rutschman with the overall No. 1 pick in June 2019, with Henderson at No. 42 and Stowers at No. 71.

At the end of last season, Rutschman and Stowers shared the Brooks Robinson Award as the Orioles' Minor League co-Players of the Year, and Henderson seems highly likely to win the honor this year.

“It’s really special,” Stowers said this afternoon in the O’s clubhouse. “Coming in together, we were the first three picks of the new front office. The coolest part to see is not only how we have grown so much as baseball players, but we all have become so close. It’s like rooting for your best friends. The fact we get to share the field together, be on a team together and chase after something so special as a playoff race, can’t beat it.”

In a clubhouse where the Orioles seem to be such a close-knit team, these three are the same way, but their friendship had origins in Sarasota, Bowie and Norfolk.

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O's pull it out in the eighth to get the homestand off to strong start

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As the Orioles look to cut into their deficit in the American League wild-card race, they now get to do so for a long stretch at home. Baltimore beat Oakland 5-2 last night and that was just night one of a 10-game homestand.

It started a stretch where the Orioles will play 17 of their next 22 games at home  and they will be home for 20 of their last 32 games starting Friday.

This should be good news throughout Birdland as the team is 38-24 (.613) with one of the best home records in the league. They are 21-7 in their last 28 home games since June 22.

Tied 2-2 in the eighth last night, the O's pulled out a win on Adley Rutschman's pinch-hit bases loaded walk and a Jorge Mateo two-run single.

The Orioles (70-61) improved to nine games over the .500 mark for the first time since May 20, 2017. After starting April this year going 7-14, the Orioles are 63-47 since May 1.

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O's game blog: Orioles open 10-game homestand vs. Oakland

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After completing a 4-2 road trip with series wins at Houston and Cleveland against first-place teams, tonight the Orioles begin a home series with the club with the worst record in the American League. They host Oakland (49-83) for the first of a three-game series and 10-game homestand that later includes four games with Toronto and three with Boston.

The Orioles are 37-24 (.607) at Oriole Park, where they now play the next 10 and 17 of the next 22 games. They have 20 of their remaining 32 games at home. They have the fourth-best home winning percentage in the American League. 

The Orioles (69-61) begin tonight 1 1/2 games behind Toronto for the third and final AL wild card spot. They are 3 1/2 games back of the second wild card and four games behind the first wild card berth in the league. The Orioles have won seven of 10, 10 of 15, 22 of 35 and 39 of the last 61 games.

In winning four of six games on the road trip, O’s pitching allowed just nine runs and O’s batters scored just 14. The club has pitched back-to-back shutouts, had three in six games on the trip and has 13 on the year. The Orioles take a 21-inning scoreless streak into this Oakland series. The O’s team ERA on the road trip was 1.56. O’s pitching has allowed just 27 runs the last 11 games, yielding three or fewer in eight of those 11. The Baltimore bullpen threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings the past three days.

O’s starting pitchers have seven quality starts the past eight games, with an ERA of 1.70 in that span. They have allowed two earned runs or fewer nine times the last 10 games, pitching to a 1.83 ERA of in that span. Last night, Kyle Bradish became the first Oriole ever to record consecutive scoreless starts while throwing seven innings or more and allowing two hits or fewer.

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Hearing from Gunnar Henderson ahead of his Oriole Park debut tonight

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To say the least, it’s been a strong first two big league games for baseball’s No. 1 prospect, per Baseball America, Orioles infielder Gunnar Henderson.

He’s made solid plays at third base and shortstop as O’s pitching posted back-to-back shutouts at Cleveland. At the plate he is 3-for-8 and hit his first big league homer in his first game and second at-bat.

The Orioles have gone 2-0 with Henderson in their lineup. What’s been the best part for the kid during his first two days in the majors?

“Just going out there to accomplish a dream that has been one of mine for a long time," said Henderson, who is batting eighth tonight against Oakland lefty JP Sears and playing at second base. "And especially to have my family there to experience it as well was really awesome. Couldn’t ask for a better day.”

Tonight he plays his first home game at Camden Yards and gets to hear another Baltimore edition of the national anthem.

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