BOWIE, Md. - It’s Baltimore against Washington in the Eastern League playoffs, and last night the Orioles’ affiliate, Double-A Bowie, beat the Nats’ Harrisburg team 5-3 to open the playoffs. Bowie leads the best-of-five series 1-0. The winner advances to the EL Championship Series.
The Baysox scored three runs in the eighth to break a 2-2 tie, and the bottom of the order ignited the rally. Batting No. 8, Preston Palmeiro tripled in the go-ahead run and scored for a 4-2 lead when No. 9 batter T.J. Nichting produced a sac fly. Ryan McKenna’s RBI single scored Cedric Mullins, who walked and stole a base to make it a three-run rally.
Right-hander Michael Baumann, “Big Mike” as they know him in Bowie, maybe didn’t have his A game going but still shut out the Senators through five before allowing two runs in the sixth.
After the game, Baumann talked about his strong season. He’s gone 6-2 with a 2.31 ERA in 13 games with a WHIP of 0.94 for Bowie, and his prospect status is trending up.
“I think just my mindset (has been a key),” he said. “Just going out there thinking about competing. Let the ball do its thing and see where it goes. Consistency with my slider has helped a lot. And then, you know, kind of being able to start working on throwing my curveball for strikes and have the changeup in there has helped the other stuff play up. There is still a lot of work to do, but I’ve definitely seen improvement.”
Bowie has advanced out of this playoff round just once in team history in seven tries, and that was when the 2015 team won the Eastern League Championship. This current Bowie team is now 70-41 since starting the year 7-23.
“There is some buzz in the air. The fans are more into it. There is more on the line,” said Baumann.
Bowie skipper Buck Britton, recently named the Eastern League Manager of the Year, said his club badly wants a championship.
“They’re excited for this opportunity,” he said. “I keep going back to where we were in April, and there are a lot of guys in there that are kind of playing with a chip on their shoulders. I don’t think anyone thought we would be in this situation early in the year. They’re excited and we’re here. We might as well win it.
“You don’t get a lot of opportunities to win championships. I played for nine years in the minor leagues and I never won a championship. Went to the playoffs a couple of times. There are guys in that clubhouse that aren’t going to play in the big leagues. But this is something where you know you grind with guys for five months and they become your family on the road. Just down the road, to be able to talk to the grandkids or be able to tell stories about what happened in 2019 would be special.”
As the Baysox look to take a 2-0 lead in games when they host Harrisburg again tonight, right-hander Tyler Herb (4-2, 3.95 ERA) takes the mound. Herb is the pitcher the Orioles acquired in March from the Giants for Mike Yastrzemski. He has a 2.00 ERA over his past six starts.
“Herb has been throwing a good sinker,” Britton said. “It’s tough for guys to get that ball in the air. So, as long as we play good defense behind him, he does a nice job and keeps us in games.”
Farm getting recognition: It’s been a year when the Orioles farm system has garnered some solid accolades. Three Manager of the Year awards for Britton, Single-A Delmarva’s Kyle Moore and the Gulf Coast League O’s skipper Alan Mills. Ryan Mountcastle was named the International League MVP. And Baseball America recently rated the O’s farm No. 9 in its organizations rankings.
“It’s nice for everybody,” Britton said. “I’ve only been coaching for a couple of years, but the guys that have been in the player-development department for the Orioles may have been overlooked a little bit. This shows there is a lot of talent in our development department, and it’s finally that we’re starting to see some return on it.”
I asked Britton whether the O’s farm got this good overnight or is just getting more recognition now.
“Well, there’s a lot of the same people,” he said. “We lost some big pieces in the offseason but this is kind of still the staff that was brought together with the last regime. There are a lot of guys that like to do what they do, and it’s nice they are starting to get recognition.”
The 2019 Baysox finished the regular season with team records in ERA at 3.17 and WHIP at 1.18, and that WHIP was the best in the Eastern League since 2001. Bowie finished second in the league with 16 shutouts. The Baysox led the EL in runs, hits, doubles and RBIs and struck out fewer times than any other team. Bowie finished in the league’s top three in batting average, slugging, total bases, triples and OPS.
Delmarva has work to do though: The Single-A Shorebirds lost the opener of a best-of-three South Atlantic League playoff series at Hickory 4-3. Now Delmarva needs to win the next two games to advance, with Game 2 set for Friday night at Salisbury’s Perdue Stadium.
After Delmarva scored two runs in the top of the first, Hickory got three in the home half against right-hander Grayson Rodriguez. He settled down after that, but allowed four runs over six innings to take the loss. Shayne Fontana went 3-for-4 with an RBI. Delmarva had 10 hits but went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.