What a Strange Week

What a strange week it was for Birdland. Entered the week on a high, Tillman was lights out to finish off the Tigers, to build a 2 game lead and tie the Jays for the top wild card spot. The O’s were 2 games back of the Red Sox and headed to Fenway. Then the roller coaster that began the week before came through the start and took off faster than last time. We all know what happened, Wade Miley making us wish we had Wade Wilson, Bundy struggling through some command issues but getting the run support Gausman never has. Then we were treated to the duelling pitchers that were Gausman and Porcello, with Porcello making the only big mistake by serving one up to Trumbo. For Gausman it was without a doubt his best outing of the season.

They rode high, 2-3 from the Sox in Fenway?! Headed home to face Tampa for 4? Could you have dreamed up a better scenario? Oh we Gallardo, Jiménez, and Miley starting? Well, who would’ve thought that Miley would have the best start of the series? The emotions we’re all over the place; up, down, and confused by not really knowing how to react to Wade Miley going 4 scoreless innings and being saddened by him leaving the game.

It was shocking, and having lost 2 of the first 3 I was concerned about what it would look like as Boston came to town on Monday. But let’s look back a little bit, Tampa just took 3 of 4 in Toronto. Toronto is not an easy place to win, it’s a loud stadium and the Jays are undeniably a good team. Tampa also has been noted are ‘free swingers’, much like the Orioles, living and dying off the long ball. The worrying part for the Orioles came when they couldn’t cash in Thursday night. Twice they had 2nd and 3rd with nobody out, and 1st and 3rd with one out down 1 in the bottom of the 9th. No runs. The frustration level was at the max.

A series split, combined with an implosion by the Blue Jays, and Yankees, and the Orioles are sitting in a good spot.

Starting with the Tigers series (which seems like so long ago), the common notion has been that every series was a “must win”. Well a win there, a series win in Boston, and a split with the Rays have the Orioles 3 back in the division. It may require a monumental feat to win the division. A series win this week still only gets the Orioles within 1. The Red Sox have been hot there’s no denying it (11-5 in September), they head to Tampa, and Yankee Stadium, before finishing off with the Blue Jays after the 4 game set here, there might not be anything the Orioles can do.

The roller coaster is sure to continue this week with Boston and then Arizona at OPACY.

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Detroit: Bats met balls and learned to fly

Coming in to the series the Orioles knew they had to take 2 games to keep pace and they did just that. While the offence started off slow, they got rolling mid way through game 1 and continued doing what the Orioles do best; launching the ball out of the park like it’s on a V2 rocket. Everyone got in on the long ball with 7 going out in the 3 games. Even Bourn hit his second as an Oriole, I guess he’s just trying to fit in.

This space called out The Captain before the series noting his 2-15 in the Rays series along with 5Ks. Jones answered that call, going 6-11 while tacking on 3 walks over the three games. Mr. Jones didn’t stop there, his defensive play was great, making a fantastic over the shoulder running catch to keep the Tigers in check before the Orioles poured it on Saturday night.

Defence
The defence as usual was quite good, particularly in the infield. We’ll forgive Schoop his little gaff in the penultimate game as he should have been able to turn two to end it, but all in the infield showed why they’re one of the best.

The Rotation
The pitching was up and down. Gausman had a so-so outing on Friday, his worst since his start out in San Francisco. He managed to hold the Tigers to 3 and give the Orioles a chance to win the opener. Jiménez had a second straight solid appearance. He was only in trouble once, but the offence had given him enough of a lead that it would’ve difficult (though not impossible) for anyone to blow it. Tillman had a great game coming back from the DL. He pitched a solid 6 innings, showing good control on his 106 pitches.

The Pen
The bullpen is still looking to regain the form it had when it helped lead the Orioles to the top of the AL East in the first half of the season. Brach gave up the a home run in game 1 to lose the game, while Givens continued to allow runners on base. Britton made two appearances sealing his 41st consecutive save and remaining perfect this year.

Darren O’Day hopes to be back next week, which should help solidify the bullpen, and it couldn’t come at a better time. Travelling to Boston for 3 games, while 2 back, and now tied with Toronto and 2 up on New York and these Detroit Tigers.

The next series is going to be labeled as another ‘must win’. It looks like the Orioles will need 10 wins in the last 20 to get in to the WC game. With 7 games against Boston, picking up a couple here would go along way, but a single win will definitely keep them in it.

Rays Series – Letting One Get Away

It’s the first inning, look back, way back, that’s right it’s another home run given up by the Orioles starting rotation in a stadium where the only fans are the ghosts of Rays fans passed.

The Orioles came in to the series 18-23 when trailing after the first and it looks like the pitching staff was determined to help the team turn that number around, giving up a home run in each of the first innings.

The first two games were really a tale of the first inning vs. the last 8. Ubaldo settled in and pitched a complete game (you can keep pinching yourself but it did happen) after giving up 3 on his first inning dinger to Logan Morrison. He really came in and settled down well. If he’s finding his groove it couldn’t come at a better time. Ubaldo talked about working on his mechanics and if he can find the form of his younger self the rotation looks good heading in to the stretch.

Gallardo tried to one-up Ubaldo but couldn’t quite get there. He gave up a solo shot in the first to Logan Forsythe, and then found his stuff giving up 5 hits in 5 innings for the win. The O’s beat up on Odorizzi for 7 runs with Machado hammering out his 3rd grand slam of the year.

Bundy not wanting to be left out gave up his first inning home run to Kiermaier. Bundy was brutal, giving up 5 in the 3.2 innings. The offence tried to keep the starter in the game, but after the Rays tied it up it was the end of his afternoon. The bullpen gave up 2 in the subsequent 4.1 innings. This has the feel of a game that really could come back to bite the team in the long run, though the Detroit series looming large this weekend may very well have been on peoples minds.

Barring an implosion like this again from Bundy it looks like one of Jiménez, Gallardo, or Miley will be headed to the bullpen. The question is who. My best guess says it ends up being Miley as Jiménez and Gallardo have had some decent outings recently. Heading in to Detroit for the weekend we’ll see Gausman, Miley, and what should be Tillman’s return to the rotation. We should be able to find out if Tillman does go Sunday who will be moving off the rotation as someone will be missing a start from one of the pitchers who give them a good chance to win every time out.

A series win in Detroit will go a long way to giving the team some breathing room in the playoff race. With Toronto and Boston facing each other this weekend it could help the O’s vault over one of the teams to the top WC spot.

Quick Thoughts – Ublado’s CG

So I was driving home during game one of the series against Tampa. With the spotty reception in rural Ontario, the game kept going in and out. First inning and I’m cursing in the car. Yesterday it was Miley, today it’s Ubaldo. Man that piece on Gausman to the Rescue really was right about only 3/5’s of the rotation being useful. But as I drove Ublado settled down much like the dog in the back of the car. Top of 3 and Kim gets to third, Jones on First. Reception gone. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Commercial break. I’m thinking that Pedro or Manny was able to get the sac fly at the very least. Well we all know how it turned out. I get reception back to hear Ubaldo go 1, 2,  3 in the 4th. I’m seeing a repeat of yesterday against the Yanks. Just can’t get the runs to come. Battling with the reception as we approach home I think of turning the game off and waiting it out. I’m glad I didn’t. The Orioles (outside of Davis’ home run to start things off got some people on base, and were finally able to cash in with the old RISP.

I’d be lying if I said that I thought Ubaldo would “save the season”, but in a weekend that was dominated by the rotation (outside of Miley, who wasn’t terrible outside of the first inning). I don’t wan to get my hopes up, but if Ubaldo can steady himself as an actual #4 starter in the rotation the Birds will have a shot to push Boston and Toronto to claim the division. Still 7 against Boston, so the fate of the season is very much in the hands of the Birds.

Two more left here, with Bundy on the mound Wednesday. It’s not inconceivable to get all 3, heading in to Detroit with Gausman and Tillman ready to go, and maybe O’Day back in the pen. The situation sets the Orioles up with a chance to put some distance between themselves and the Tigers while gaining or leaping over the Red Sox or Jays.