Category Archives: orioles

Brewers 6, Marlins 5 / Bucks 104, Celtics 102 / Orioles 6, Tigers 0

I’ve lived in Madison for 13 years and this is the first time I’ve noticed anybody caring about the Milwaukee Bucks.  It’s definitely the first time I’ve cared about the Milwaukee Bucks.  But now the Bucks have a legitimate superstar in Giannis Antetokoumnpo  and a likeable cast of supporting characters like 19-year-old former refugee and skinny blockmaster Thon Maker.  The kids had a rare unscheduled day on Sunday and the Bucks were in the playoffs against the Celtics and there were nosebleed tickets on Stubhub for $40 apiece so why not?

You may know that I kind of hate driving so if I’m gonna drive all the way to Milwaukee it’s got to be for more than a Bucks game.  When I thought about what the kids would really want to do it was pretty clear — see the Brewers, stay over, then see the Bucks.  So that’s what we did!

Notes on the Brewers:

  • I got lost in the impossible off-ramp spaghetti surrounding Miller Park and we ended up not getting into the ballpark until the second inning.  The Brewers were already down 4-0.  4-0!  To the sad Miami Marlins, the team Derek Jeter is using as a tax dodge, the team so bad Marlins Man cancelled his season tickets!
  • But as soon as we sat down, Travis Shaw muscled a huge home run to left center.  Didn’t even look like he got all of it, he kind of sliced it.  But Travis Shaw is a big strong man.
  • Brewers just keep creeping back.  Crowd stays in the game, at no point do you really feel the Brewers are out of it.  Three straight Brewers hit what look like go-ahead home runs but each dies at the wall.  (Ryan Braun at least gets a sacrifice fly out of it.)   In the 8th, Derek Dietrich loses an Eric Sogard fly ball in the, I dunno, the lights?  The roof?  He plays for the Marlins and he just doesn’t care?  Anyway the ball plunked down right next to him, Shaw hustles in from second to tie it, Eric Thames, who starts the play on first, tries to get in behind with the go-ahead run but is tagged out at or rather substantially before the plate because Eric Thames made a bad decision.
  • Josh Hader looks like he should be playing bass in Styx.
  • Then comes the bottom of the 9th and the play you might have read about.  Still tied 5-5.  Jesus Aguilar, who’s already warmed up twice in the on-deck circle, finally gets his chance to pinch-hit against Junichi Tazawa.  Gets behind 0-2.  And then just starts fouling, fouling, fouling.  Takes a few pitches here and there.  Full count.  Foul, foul, foul.  And on the 13th pitch, Aguilar launches it to center field.  I thought it was gonna be one more death on the warning track.  But nope; ball gets out, game over, fireworks.  I felt like my kids got to see true baseball.

On to Milwaukee.  Bucks play the Celtics at noon, in what, if they lose, could be the last ever game played at Bradley Center.  (This is a bit of a sore point for UW folks, who absorbed as a budget cut the $250m state contribution to the arena’s cost.)  We have breakfast at the hotel and chat with a nice older couple in Packers/Celtics gear — what?  — who turn out to be Boston forward Al Horford’s aunt and uncle from Green Bay.

This is only the third NBA game I’ve been to, CJ’s second, AB’s first.  We wander around inside the arena for a bit.  Two separate groups of Bucks cheerleaders come up to AB and applaud her curly hair.  I think people are especially struck by it when they see us together, because I don’t have curly hair, except here’s a little-known fact:  I do have curly hair!  I just keep it short so it doesn’t curl.  In 1995 or so it looked like this:

Anyway.  The atmosphere, as I have promised AB, is more intense than baseball.  Bucks build up a 19-point lead and seem poised to coast but the Celtics come back, and back, and back, and finally go ahead with 52 seconds left.  Jaylen Brown plainly capable of taking over a game.  Aron Baynes has a very dumb-looking haircut.  Milwaukee’s Thon Maker is ridiculously skinny and has very long arms.  He’s just 21, a former refugee from South Sudan.  We saw his first game as a Buck, an exhibition against the Mavericks at Kohl Center.  Those long skinny arms can block a shot.

Game tied at 102, 5 seconds left, Malcom Brogdon (called “The President” — why?) misses a layup, and there, rising like a Greek column above the scene, is the Greek arm of Giannis Antetokounmpo — the tip-in is good, Celtics miss the desperation last shot, Bucks win 104-102, crowd goes berserk.

 

I was going to blog about this last week but got busy so let’s throw in more sports.  Bucks eventually lose this series in 7, home team winning every game a la Twins-Braves 1991.  The next Friday, I’m giving a talk at Maryland, and the Orioles are playing that night.  It’s been five years since I’ve seen OPACY.  I brought CJ along this time, too.  The Orioles are not in a good way; they’ve won 6 and lost 19, though 3 of those 6 were against New York at least.  Attendance at the game, on a beautiful Friday night, was just over 14,000.  The last baseball game I went to that felt this empty and mellow was the AAA Tucson Toros, several months before they moved to El Paso and became the Chihuahuas.  Chris Tillman, tonight’s starter, was the Orioles’ ace five years ago.  Now he’s coming off a 1-7 season and has an ERA over 9.

So who would have thought he’d toss seven shutout innings and take a no-hitter into the fifth?  Never looked overpowering but kept missing bats.  His first win in almost a year.  Manny Machado, surely now in his last year as an Oriole, strokes a home run to dead center to get things started.  It’s a beautiful thing.  It doesn’t even look like he’s working hard.  It’s like he’s just saying “Out there. Out there is where this ball should be.”  Pedro Alvarez homers twice, in exactly the opposite manner, smashing the ball with eye-popping force.  Jace Peterson, who the Orioles picked up off the Yankees’ scrap heap, steals third on the shift when the Tigers third baseman forgets to pay attention to him.  He did the same thing against the Rays the night before.  I am already starting to love him the way I love Carlos Gomez.  Maybe now the Orioles are going to go back to being a bad team that makes good use of players nobody else wants, like Melvin Mora and Rodrigo López.

Besides me and CJ, this guy was at the game:

Never get tired of that flag.

 

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Orioles postmortem 2016

What is there to say?  Should Showalter have used Britton?  Probably.  When?  Probably when O’Day came in, when the Orioles desperately needed a double play to keep the game tied.  (But O’Day got the double play ball anyway.)  Barring that, you bring Britton in to start the 11th, I think, because Britton doesn’t give up home runs and you’ve got the home run guys coming up.  But what difference does it make?  The Orioles weren’t hitting, not off Liriano, not off anybody.  Jimenez would have been come in to pitch the 12th or 13th anyway.  The real mistake was pinch hitting Reimold for Kim.  Why?  Kim is the only guy on the team who gets on base.  Maybe he walks and Machado comes up and you have an actual chance.  Reimold is a bad defender, too; his misplay in the 11th, letting Devon Travis get to third, could have been decisive if Encarnacion had hit a single instead of a home run.

I said on Twitter it reminded me of the last game of the 1997 ALCS, but when I think it over, this one was a lot less heartbreaking.  In that game, Mike Mussina delivered one of the best Orioles playoff starts of my lifetime, and we wasted it.  Ten hits and five walks and we couldn’t push one run across.

And here’s the thing.  That 1997 team was the best Orioles squad in 15 years, and you had the real sense it was a one-shot deal.  The next year we were back to losing.  The 2016 team is probably the third-best in the last five years, and the main contributors will all be back next year.  It’s been a big adjustment, rooting for a team that’s consistently good, but my ability to absorb this loss makes me think it’s finally starting to sink in.

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Orioles 1, Red Sox 0

Was this it?  The game of the year, the game we’ll remember?  Gausman v. Porcello, both starters going 8 innings.  Gausman didn’t allow a run, Porcello just one, a home run to Mark Trumbo (of course, Trumbo).  Adam Jones got all of a Porcello pitch in the 3rd that looked to clear the Green Monster with yards to spare, but a brutal inbound wind knocked it out of the sky like a snipe.  Gausman hit 96 on his 109th pitch.  Jonathan Schoop backhanded a tough chance that took a weird hop and rolled partway up his wrist, and still managed to somehow flip the ball into his hand, like David Bowie in Labyrinth, and get the runner at first.  Schoop has the sweetest little “I made the play” smile in baseball, I think.  Manny Machado tagged up from first on a very deep fly by Chris Davis; Mookie Betts’s astonishingly throw got to second base with Machado no more than 2/3 of the way there.  He almost seemed to laugh at how out he was.  Zach Britton (of course, Britton) came in for the bottom of the 9th.  Battled with David Ortiz for 8 pitches, finally getting him to ground out to Chris Davis, who raced Ortiz, slow man versus slower man, to the bag.  Slow man won.  With two outs, Britton faced Hanley Ramirez, who swung three times, each time at a pitch farther removed from his person.  Orioles 1, Red Sox 0.  Nothing but must-win series from here onwards.

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Mariners 6, Orioles 5

I took CJ with me to Seattle, where I was giving a talk at the American Statistical Association meetings, and what luck — the Orioles were in town!  So we took in this game.

Observations:

  • I’ve never seen so many Orioles fans at an away game.  In fact, I kept seeing people in O’s gear all over Seattle.  Are they strangely popular in the PNW?  Or is it just that four years of winning has made it safe to wear orange and black in public?
  • First trip to SafeCo, a great field on the underrated Miller Park model.  The retractable roof here doesn’t open and close; it slides over the top of the stadium like an umbrella.  When it’s open, the roof hangs over the railroad tracks adjoining the park, and when a train comes by, the whistle echoes off the roof into the stadium, and it is awesome.
  • The Mariner dog is an unusually good ballpark dog.  As big as a brat, nicely blackened, good snap.  Well worth seven dollars.  The signature SafeCo food — at least, everyone around us had it — was garlic fries.  I’m sorry Seattle but these are not that good.  Huge heap of fries with a bunch of minced garlic and parsley on top.  Impressive to look at, but impossible to keep the garlic on the fries as you eat, and the fries get cold and depressing very quickly.
  • Nice sunburned-looking blond couple in front of us turned out to be Dutch people whose son, they said, played for the Orioles in the Netherlands.  What could they have meant?  I think maybe he plays for these guys? But are they actually affiliated with the Orioles?  Mysteries of honkbal.
  • “Dad has to catch a fly ball in a cowboy hat to win him and his kid Mariners tickets” is a great pregame promotion.  Every team should do this.

The game started out looking like a laugher; terrible defense and baserunning on both ends and the first inning ended with the Mariners up 4-2.  Then nothing happened for a long time.  Seattle’s Taijuan Williams wasn’t really dominant but the Orioles couldn’t really get a big hit.  Tillman got hit in the arm with a batted ball, and was bad anyway, and was out after 2 1/3, but the usual succession of long relievers shut down Seattle.  I told CJ “this team has an explosive offense and can score a bunch of runs at any time” and just then Adam Jones sneaked one over the left field fence to make it 5-4 and then Chris Davis came up.  He has grown a super-weird mustache, which CJ and I had been admiring on TV at the end of the previous night’s contest.


Davis says it helps him hit home runs and I guess so because he immediately launched a no-doubter so far into right it could have beat Ted Cruz in a primary. Maybe the best home run I’ve seen since the grand slam Jim Thome hit against the Orioles at U.S. Cellular. Did I blog that? Oh yeah, I did.

So we’re tied at 5, and we go into extras, T.J. MacFarland coming in for his third inning of work.  He faces the bottom of the order and loads the bases with one out.  Britton pitched 1 2/3 the previous night and is unavailable.  But you have O’Day warmed and ready.  Yes I know you want to save him to close, but at what point do you bring him in?  Would you rather lose with your best reliever waiting in the bullpen?  That’s what happened; McFarland stayed in to face Austin Jackson, who lashed a ball that landed about a centimeter inside the foul line and that was the ballgame.

Unusually bearable loss; much easier to take than if the Orioles had laid down and accepted that they were going to get beat by the runs they allowed in the first.

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Poem for the ALDS

These are the names that are freaking me out,
Verlander, Scherzer, and Price,
Plaguing my Oriole fandom with doubt,
Verlander, Scherzer and Price.
A trio of felines, bringing the heat,
Verlander, Scherzer, and Price,
Are these guys that a team writing “Ryan Flaherty” and “Jonathan Schoop” on the lineup card every day actually has a chance to beat??
Verlander, Scherzer, and Price.

 

Update:  I should make clear that this is meant to be apres “Tinkers to Evers to Chance,” by Franklin Pierce Adams.

Orioles 7, Brewers 6

CJ, AB and I spent Memorial Day at Miller Park, watching the Orioles outlast the Brewers 7-6 in an exciting 10-inning contest; it was Baltimore’s first visit to Milwaukee since 2008, which CJ and I also attended. Some details (CJ is helping me write this):

  • Lots of production from the bottom of the Brewers order, including back-to-back homers by Khris Davis and Lyle Overbay.  At that point Chris Tillman looked so overmatched that Kyle Lohse, in his last AB of the day, was apparently given permission to swing for the fences and hope for the best.  (He struck out.)
  • There’s nothing like watching AL pitchers try to bat.  Tillman made three tries at making contact on a bunt attempt, missed all three, and walked back to the dugout looking glum.
  • As an Oriole, Mark Reynolds was the worst third baseman I’ve ever seen, but somebody on Milwaukee’s staff has turned him around; he’s been notably good in both games we’ve seen this year, today making a diving stop and then firing a perfect throw to first from his knees.
  • Play of the game:  bottom of the ninth, Brewers with runners on second and third with one out, Reynolds up.  Ron Roenicke calls the “contact play” — pinch runner Elian Herrera takes off from third on contact, the idea being that he can probably score even on a soft groundout.  Unfortunately for Milwaukee, Reynolds hit a hard line shot directly to J.J. Hardy, who caught it and nonchalantly flipped to Manny Machado for the double play before Herrera even realized he wasn’t about to score the game-winning run.
  • Barbecue brisket sandwich from the Smokehouse unexpectedly good.  CJ ate four pieces of pizza.  Correction, CJ wishes me to say he “devoured” four pieces of pizza.  AB ate a hotdog.
  • Surprisingly high density of O’s fans in the seats behind the visiting dugout — I’d say 10-20%.
  • Former Brewer Hardy gets big cheers here when when announced.
  • I never get tired of watching Darren O’Day and his weirdo delivery.  He’s now been an extremely good pitcher for two full years and 2014 so far, and I don’t think people outside Baltimore have heard of him yet.

Here’s my Brewer-loving friend Laura Hemming, right before Roenicke called the contact play:

Sorry, Laura!

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Why is Tommy Hunter so freaking hard to watch?

Tommy Hunter is on the DL and it’s made me a calmer person. He’s been lousy this year, and not just when he blows a save, which he’s done four times; he’s been pretty terrible in the games he does save, seemingly always letting guys on and coming within a hair of blowing the game.  My heart can’t take much more.  Is it just my imagination?  Or does Tommy Hunter really have more near-misses than other pitchers?  Well, here’s one thing you could check; if Hunter is constantly letting a few guys on but then buckling down and getting the big out when he needs it, you’d expect him to be a much better pitcher with runners in scoring position than he is in general.  (In general, batters gain about 10 points of OPS when batting with RISP.)  Here’s where baseball-reference’s amazing Play Index comes in.  You can rank all pitchers in MLB history by “OPS against with runners in scoring position – OPS against overall.”  You can restrict to people who’ve faced at least 400 batters with RISP in order to get rid of small samples.  And you know who baseball’s all-time leader is in this stat?  Yep — Tommy Hunter.  Here’s the top 21.

 

Rk I Player Split G OPS OPStot Diff
1 Tommy Hunter RISP 133 .683 .777 -.094
2 Pedro Feliciano RISP 268 .604 .696 -.092
3 Hideki Irabu RISP 106 .707 .797 -.090
4 Julio Santana RISP 169 .730 .820 -.090
5 Steve Parris RISP 136 .740 .829 -.089
6 J.A. Happ RISP 131 .669 .756 -.087
7 Doug Rau RISP 209 .612 .698 -.086
8 John Grabow RISP 294 .665 .751 -.086
9 Bob Sebra RISP 86 .689 .775 -.086
10 Victor Zambrano RISP 165 .679 .764 -.085
11 Jordan Zimmermann RISP 118 .615 .695 -.080
12 Scott Proctor RISP 194 .704 .782 -.078
13 Scott Baker RISP 159 .661 .737 -.076
14 Cecilio Guante RISP 267 .612 .685 -.073
15 Frank Francisco RISP 239 .624 .697 -.073
16 Dennis Bennett RISP 163 .659 .732 -.073
17 Kevin Slowey RISP 125 .726 .798 -.072
18 Buzz Capra RISP 127 .644 .712 -.068
19 Erik Bedard RISP 222 .632 .699 -.067
20 Scott Linebrink RISP 338 .662 .729 -.067
21 John Frascatore RISP 203 .714 .781 -.067
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/23/2014.

Do any of these other pitchers have the same reputation as guys who destroy your nerves by constantly getting into jams and somehow wriggling out?

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The other Cal

Calvin Pickering was a big strong guy who came up with the Orioles and hit the ball really, really hard whenever he hit it, which unfortunately was not often enough for him to hold down a steady job in the major leagues.  CJ and I saw him a few years ago in Tucson, where he was playing for the visiting Calgary team from an unaffiliated league I think no longer exists.  Here’s an e-mail interview with Pickering, featuring this great reminiscence:

Who was the toughest pitcher that you ever faced?: PEDRO MARTINEZ MOST DEFINITELY. I remember when we was playing them in Boston and they told me that I was in the lineup and Pedro was pitching. I was like cool so the first AB I think I walk then the second AB I hit a home run off him but the funny part about that AB is that he threw all fastball and I hit a home run so the 3 AB he threw me all CHANGEUPS and I flew out so when I was heading back to the dugout he told he pick you showed me that you can hit my fastball so I wanted to see if you could of hit my change up… I just started laughing on the way back in … ever since that day we been cool.

Pickering is the kind of player who’d probably get a longer look in 2013 than he did when he played.  Terrible batting average, but walked so much that his OBP was a hundred points higher, and he had the power.

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RIP Drungo Larue Hazewood

The bearer of the greatest name in sports history is dead of cancer at 53.  He played in the Orioles’ minor league system in the early 80s alongside Cal Ripken, John Shelby, and Floyd Rayford, and made it to the bigs at the age of 20; but his major league career lasted just six games, during which he never got a hit (though he did score a run, pinch-running for Ken Singleton.)

The linked obit, from the Sacramento Bee, is truly moving:

“He wasn’t bitter about baseball. He wasn’t angry that it didn’t work out. He had a dream to play major-league baseball, and he got his chance. He did his best. He was disappointed, yes, but he was very happy becoming a husband, a father and then a grandfather.”

Lagette paused to compose herself and continued, “Family was his life, and there were grandkids crawling all over him the evening before he died, holding his hand, saying, ‘Papa, look at this.’ He was a man of very simple wants and needs, and he died with a smile, and at peace with who he is.”

It also answers the question of how Hazewood got his name:

After giving birth to the second-youngest of 10 children, Catherine Hazewood left it up to the baby’s siblings to name him. The winner of a foot race to the hospital would get to name the baby.  Aubrey won, naming his baby brother after a friend’s last name.

RIP.

 

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7 Apr 2013: Twins 4, Orioles 3

I took CJ to this game, his first at OPACY.  Great day out, perfect weather, but a terrible game, which both teams seemed to be trying their best to lose.  Joe Mauer dropped a foul popup.  Alexi Casilla made the last out for the Orioles on a weak grounder — but the pitcher bobbled it, and Casilla probably would have made first on the play if he hadn’t jogged half-heartedly out of the batter’s box.  And of course there was Adam Jones, who pulled up on a fly that was his to catch and let it drop three feet in front of him for a two-run double — yes, it was ruled a double, in an act of generosity so extravagant that the official scorer could have legally taken it off his taxes.  A week later, Jones would drop a fly ball against the Yankees to allow three runs to score in a 5-2 New York victory.  Jones looks like a really good center fielder, but the defensive metrics hate him, and I have to say the defensive metrics have the better of it at the moment.

Jason Hammel, in theory our ace, looked a lot worse than his line suggests; behind in the count all day, never seeming to find much of a rhythm.

So the Orioles, on the strength of this game, didn’t look like a good ballclub — but for the season as a whole, they’re holding their own against the powers of the AL East, and one can’t ask for much more than that.

After the game, CJ and I walked around the Inner Harbor, which has not changed at all since I was a kid, and seems to be just as crowded as popular and kid-pleasing as it ever has been.  OK, one change:  the Power Plant, which used to be a metal-oriented rock club, is now a Barnes and Noble.  Sort of strange, since metal is more popular and than it was when I was a kid, and books less so.  But Baltimore marches to its own beat.

Final note to self:  remember that, even in Baltimore, a crabcake is not the kind of food that’s likely to be good at the ballpark.

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