Sunday, June 30, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 24: Back to Back Blowouts

Baltimore Orioles victory number 24: 13-0 over the Cleveland Indians

2018 Topps Chrome Tanner Scott Auto

That is not a typo. The Orioles beat the Indians 13-0 for the second straight day.  How great is that?  Well, if you're an Indians fan, probably not that great. For the Os fans out there, it's a nice little bright spot in a dark season.

Once again Chance Cisco and Anthony Santander went deep. Renato Nunez went deep twice and Andrew Cashner threw seven scoreless innings. The man pictured above came in and shut out the Indians for the final two innings and struck out four, showing the flashes of talent that make him such an intriguing project.

Sadly, the streak of 13-0 wins will not continue as Cleveland has jumped to a 1-0 lead through 2 1/2 innings on Sunday.  Hopefully, the Os bats come alive and we can do this again tomorrow.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 23: A Blowout Sparked by the Future

Baltimore Orioles Victory 23: 13-0 over the Cleveland Indians

1985 Donruss Larry Sheets

Following an off day that followed yet another multi-game losing streak (this time three in a row) the Baltimore Orioles showed no mercy to a pitcher recently returned from the Injured List. Mike Clevinger, activated prior to the start, didn't make it out of the second inning as the Orioles racked up five hits and seven runs against the hard-throwing righthander.

In the win, which was also their second shutout of the season, the club established season highs for runs scored and margin of victory. The bulk of the offense came from catcher Chance Cisco. The young backstop went 3-5 with a home run and 5 RBI. He also was robbed of a home run in the fourth inning by a nice leaping catch by centerfielder Oscar Mercado.

Cisco, who is just 24-years-old, seems to have finally adjusted to major league pitching after struggling earlier in his career. In 13 games this year he is slashing .289/.400/.658 with 3 home runs and 12 RBIs.  That's a dramatic increase over the .181/.288/.269 he had in 160 at-bats last season. While 38 at-bats is still well within the small sample size group for this season, he is showing much better pitch recognition and is driving the ball more so far. Hopefully, he can keep it up.

Right behind Cisco in the line-up was Anthony Santander.  The outfielder went 3-4 and drove in four runs of his own, including a key home run in the second that pretty much put the game out of reach even with the Orioles bullpen.

Much like Cisco, Santander is excelling in his extended look this season and drastically improving his year-over-year numbers. Also, 24-years-old the former Rule 5 pick seems to be fully recovered from injuries that plagued him at the beginning of his career in Baltimore. He is forcing himself into the conversation about the future of the team.

That's what was nice about the win. It wasn't players who won't be around in three months leading the charge. Instead it was a couple of guys who might survive the purge and be part of the next run of Orioles competitiveness. Included in that group was the starting pitcher, John Means. The rookie southpaw did what he's done all season long - limit damage and pitch five innings. This time he went five innings on 84 pitches, gave up one hit, walked one and struck out five.

He set down eleven Indians in a row following an error by Jonathan Villar in the second inning. Kind of a tough error as Bobby Bradley ripped a line drive up the middle that Villar lept up in the air and almost snagged. I've seen more routine plays booted that have been scored as hits.

It may seem strange that the Orioles chose to remove Means after only 84 pitches in a game where he was dominating, but the young hurler had missed a start with a shoulder strain so there was no need to risk aggravating it in a blowout win. The beleaguered bullpen came in and did it's job as Brandon Kline, Paul Fry, and Miguel Castro all handed in scoreless innings. 

It was just one win, but it was a nice one and hopefully one the Orioles can build on.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 22: That one took awhile

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 22: 8-4 over the Seattle Mariners

1982 Topps Jim Palmer

It's hard to find any positives in a ten game losing streak. I guess it does free up some of my time as I don't have to sit in front of a computer and write a post about the Orioles winning. Also, it gives readers time to check out the other 21 posts in this series. Let's see...yup, up to dozens of page views on my previous posts. Huh, who knew that most of my traffic came from Twitter? Oh, well, still not enough of a valid reason to go back to that platform.

The Orioles snapped their latest losing streak by staking their starting pitcher (Andrew Cashner) to a big enough lead that even  their struggling bullpen couldn't blow it. They also played some pretty nifty defense along the way highlighted by a Richie Martin play that makes you hope he can hit at least .230 in the majors to justify playing him every day.

To add to the "fun" the Orioles put one of their lone bright spots in the rotation, John Means, on the Injured List and saw our lord and savior Trey Mancini miss a few games after getting hit on the elbow. Luckily for our sanity, Mancini only missed a few games and was back in the line-up for the victory.

Dwight Smith, Jr. was also back following his stint on the Injured List after he was hurt in Texas just as the losing streak was getting underway. In the three games Smith has played since his return the Orioles have scored 8 or more runs in two of them so it's obvious that he is the key to their offense.

While this may be the darkest of timelines for Orioles fans, it looks like the franchise is at least starting to make decisions on players. Joey Rickard was designated for assignment recently and eventually signed by the San Francisco Giants thus ending his tenure with the Orioles. The Dan Straily experiment seems to have ended with his DFA

The Straily signing back in the spring made sense. He was a veteran coming off an injury who could soak up some innings, maybe build a little value and return a fringe prospect in the summer.  That was the plan. The plan didn't work. Straily gave up five runs in 1.1 innings of work in his debut against the New York Yankees and somehow things got worse.

A couple of decent outings got his ERA down to 6.75 by the end of April, but since then it steadily rose regardless of if he was pitching from the bullpen or as a starter. In his last two outings he pitched a total of 3.2 inning and gave up a staggering 7 home runs and 13 earned runs.

The experiment was a failure, but in a year like this not everything is going to work out. There are going to be some successes (Pedro Severino, Hanser Alberto and John Means) and there are going to be some that blow up in the Orioles faces. They are still in the breaking down phase of this rebuild, and it's going to be a while until there are more good days than bad.

The goal of this season is to survive it. Maybe find a couple of diamonds in the rough, but more importantly buy time for the kids on the farm to get better. Hopefully there aren't too many more 10 game losing streaks on the way, in fact a two or three game winning streak may be nice even if it does require me to log into this site on a more frequent basis.

Why the card of Palmer? Well, because it's not too often you hear him get a little choked up like he did last night after some members of the team had a replica 1969 jersey made up and presented to him. Nice gesture from the players to one of the greats.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 21: 1990 Donruss, aka The Red Plague

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 21: 4-2 over the Toronto Blue Jays

1990 Donruss Randy Milligan

In every collection tucked into a closet or spread out in a basement there is one set that a collector has way too many cards of.  For me, it's 1990 Donruss. Distinctive because of it's red borders and copious amount of errors, variations and mistakes, this set is the epitome of the overproduced neo-vintage (aka junk wax) era of the early to mid-90s that almost killed the hobby.

I bought a lot of these cards.  I mean A LOT of them. At 50 cents per pack of 16 cards it was easy to accumulate a large quantity cheaply and quickly. Oddly enough, despite buying four or five packs a week for most of the summer, I didn't actually complete the set until two years ago or so as there were a handful of cards that I somehow missed during my initial collecting days.

In the meantime I picked up a lot of doubles. As of this posting, I have about 2,547 cards for this set. The completed set is only 716 cards so yeah that leads to quite a few duplicates.  While that 2500+ number is impressive, I've also probably given away roughly 600 cards in the last couple of years. Any trade I've made in the last three years where the recipient had 1990 Donruss cards on their wantlist received a handful or more of them even if they didn't ask for them. 

Until recently I didn't really check to see if I was sending out error cards instead of actual duplicates since, except for the most notorious ones, there really wasn't much difference between the correct card and the error card. The Trading Card Database lists 89 variations or errors in the set with the most famous being the Juan Gonzalez reverse negative, a card that was highly sought after that summer.

Errors like that are rather easy to detect, others not so much. Along with incorrect birth dates or checklists with the wrong numbers listed there were the cards with a line through a letter. Such as this Kevin Hickey card. Who even notices that? Not me that's for sure.

Despite the overabundance it remains one of my favorite sets because it came during my peak collecting run as a kid. Cards were still affordable, card shops plentiful and people traded in person. By 1992 other things had intervened in life and collecting fell onto the backburner for about a decade.

The set also had all the hallmarks of those early Donruss sets. The first 26 cards were Diamond Kings, supposedly the best players of each respective team (Micky Tettleton had the honor for the Orioles). Those cards were followed by the Rated Rookies, each adorned with the iconic blue logo. As much fun as those cards were to get in a pack, Donruss kind of whiffed in their selection as the most recognizable rookies in the set (Sammy Sosa, Larry Walker, Bernie Williams, David Justice, and John Olerud) didn't receive the Rated Rookie status. 

There were also an early form of inserts in the set as packs might contain the Bonus MVP or Grand Slammers sets in addition to the regular base cards. Donruss kept up their awesome quality control in these inserts as well because I'm pretty sure this isn't John Smoltz:

Flipping through the set to send out some more duplicates is always a fun trip down memory lane.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 20: Let the roster shuffling begin

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 20: 4-1 over the Houston Astros

2018 Topps Heritage Richard Bleier

Thanks in part to some solid relief pitching and a clutch 2-run home run by Richie Martin, the Orioles took down the best team in the American League on Saturday. After potentially running into an out in the eighth inning that would have given them the lead, the Astros gifted them a run on an errant throw by shortstop Jack Mayfield. 

Martin then gave them a cushion by blasting a 2-2 pitch into deep left field. Miguel Castro, who had come in to get the last out in the eighth shut down Houston in the ninth to end the game. Since the bullpen debacle on Tuesday in Arlington, the relievers have actually been pretty solid. In 13.1 innings they've only surrendered 2 runs (unfortunately they were both in extra innings and cost them a couple of wins).

That success could pay off later this summer as it might help GM Mike Elias pull in some more young assets. Right now the numbers aren't too pretty, in fact they are downright brutal to look at. However, it could just take a few weeks of continued success to change the market on players like Bleier (everyone loves a lefty reliever), Castro and Mychal Givens. While they won't bring back Zack Britton-esque returns they could bring in a few b-level prospects. 

Castro in particular has looked sharp on this road trip. He's been throwing hard (he touched 99 MPH a few times) and most importantly, he's been throwing strikes. That type of electric stuff could make a team overlook the 5.35 ERA and 6 home runs surrendered in 33.2 innings. He's upped his K/9 (8.29 compared to a career 6.42) and lowered his BB/9 (3.74 compared to a career 4.40). Contending teams are looking for hard-throwing relievers who can strike people out. 

Don't expect any blockbuster deals this summer, most of the heavy lifting was done last season. It's going to be more of an incremental built this summer. Maybe some international bonus slot money, some low-level prospects or the always popular "cash considerations" could be sent back the Orioles way. 

What the moves will do is open up some roster spots for the kids down on the farm. If Bleier or Paul Fry get moved, that could open a spot for Keegan Akin to get some reps with the big club.

The recent run of injuries have also led to the possibility of playing time for position players. DJ Stewart and Dwight Smith Jr.'s trips to the IL led to Anthony Santander making his season debut (and a game-saving catch) and Stevie Wilkerson's return to the roster. If they are out for any real length of time, Austin Hayes could also see some time with the Orioles. Mark Trumbo's imminent return will complicate matters a bit in the short term future, but again, there are potential openings through the trade market.

Keon Broxton isn't exactly lighting the world on fire, but a team looking for outfield defensive depth and speed could be interested. Renato Nunez has shown streaky power from the right side and could be an option for an AL team. Should a contender lose a catcher in the next month or so, Pedro Severino has done all that is possible to entice a team to entertain his services.

So there are options, just not of the blockbuster variety.  I will post up a trade list at the end of the month for the potential chips that the front office has to work with. In the meantime, it's nice to see the Orioles hanging with some of the better teams in the American League. Overall, they are playing a little better which should lead to a few more of these posts (and a better shot at that over 59 wins bet).

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 19: Deep in the heart of Texas

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 19: 12-11 over the Texas Rangers

1994 Score Jamie Moyer

We have our first reader submitted card! I'm 90 percent sure I own this card, but since I'm on the road right now I can't be absolutely certain. So, Saint Leo Mike happened to text this card to me and I'm using it.  (Normally if I'm heading out of town during the season I post a couple of drafts ahead of time, but I just plumb forgot this time.

The good news is that I was actually at the game! My first Orioles game of the season and it's in Arlington, TX. Globe Life Park, formerly The Ballpark at Arlington, is on it's last season of existence as a baseball stadium. With Link in town for work, I decided to meet up with him for a quick couple of nights of baseball.

What a night it turned out to be. The Orioles's bats, especially Pedro Severino, came alive and we were one triple from Dwight Smith, Jr. away from a cycle, something neither one of us has seen live before.

Of course, the Baltimore bullpen being what it is, the Orioles needed all 12 runs to secure the victory as reliever after reliever struggled to keep the Rangers off the scoreboard. The game ended with the tying run on second as Michael Gyvens struck out Elvis Andrus (kudus to the "Baby Shark" walk up music). The strikeout came on a slider in the dirt that skipped by Severino and all the way to the backstop.

As it was happening I was dead certain that Severino's throw was going to end up in right field and the Rangers were going to tie the game. Alas, the Orioles' bad luck extends only so far and the animated catcher made a perfect throw to Chris Davis to end the ballgame.

Walking back to the hotel, Link mentioned that he had never seen a game end like that. Therein lies the beauty of sports. Between the two of us, Link and I have been attending professional games for the better part of 60 years combined and still we see new things. 

There are also things, Holy Grail type of things, that we haven't seen yet. Neither one of us have seen a professional pitcher throw a no-hitter. Nor have we seen anyone hit four home runs in a game or for the cycle, both of which were in play last night.

I can't be sure, but I believe I've never seen a game live that ended with a 12-11 score, but based on the number of Devil Rays games I attended back in the late 90s and early 2000s I can't be sure.

Never knowing what's going to happen after you walk through the turnstile is part of the fun of going to a game. Every single time I've walked into a major league game I've hoped to see a no-hitter. It doesn't matter which team. In the back of my head there is as sense of anticipation until that first hit finds a safe landing spot in the outfield grass. Last night, it didn't take long for that anticipation to be quashed, but still we saw some fun stuff.

As I'm getting older, the exact details of games are fading away so I can't remember some of the accomplishments I saw in my younger days, if I saw any at all. There were a couple of Jake Arrieta appearances in 2015 were he flirted with no-hitters that were fun. Other than that, I would have to dig through the ticket collection to see what else I witnessed.

Now that I think about it there was also the 2015 NLDS Game 3 Cubs/Cardinals game that I attended (standing room only ticket). It was the first playoff game at Wrigley in years and one of the loudest games I ever witnessed in my life. The Cubs became the first team to hit six homers in a postseason game as they won their first postseason game at home since 2003.

I have that game recorded somewhere in my scorebook (currently tucked away in a box somewhere) and is one the reasons I keep score when I go to games by myself. As you can tell, my memory isn't the greatest so it's nice to look back and see the scoresheet. With that prompting I can remember the plays from there.

I can remember Derek Jeter's last appearance at Wrigley that went into extra innings and the applause that he got for what would be his "final at bat" growing smaller each time he came back up after the ninth inning. 

So yeah, it's fun to go to live games.  

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 18: Grand Slams are Fun

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 18: 9-6 over the San Francisco Giants

2018 Update Manny Machado Vintage Logo #35 of 99

It's not often that a team gives up five runs in the first inning and comes back to win. That, however, is the joy of the grand slam. After Andrew Cashner struggled with location and watched the Giants slap the ball around in the first inning, the Orioles came right back and put a six-spot on the board in the bottom of the inning. The highlight - a grand slam by Dwight Smith, Jr.

(Grand Slam comes at the 2:00 mark of the video)

It was great to see his father (and former Oriole) Dwight Smith so happy after the blast to right field.

It was not a pretty inning by either side, but that's probably what you should expect when the teams had a combined 39 and 72 record going into the game. There were wild throws and bobbled grounders, both pitchers were trying to live on the edges and falling behind on the count while racking up egregious pitch counts.

The following inning saw a few more runs skate across the plate. Former Orioles prospect Mike Yastrzemski hit his first career home run as the Orioles broadcast crew was talking to the man that let him go in spring training - General Manager Mike Elias.  In the bottom of the inning, our hero and savior Trey Mancini homered in the bottom of the inning to give the Orioles the lead that they wouldn't relinquish.

My favorite part of the game (granted I only watched the first two inning) was Jonathan Villar prior to Mancini's shot. He bunted to reach base. Then he stole second easily. Not satisfied with that, he stole third as well. It's nice to see a little bit of small ball still exists in this day and age of home runs and strikeouts.

Villar went 2 for 2 with two walks while Renato Nunez went 2 for 4 with a home run. While they may not bring a massive return, if they keep doing what they're doing, they could peak the interest of a club looking to add infield depth down the stretch and fetch the Orioles a couple of mid-tier prospects in return. 

Cashner gutted out five innings after his disastrous start and the bullpen actually held onto a lead as the Orioles picked up their third win in their last six games. Not quite a hot streak, but considering it took them seventeen games to win their prior three, it's a little something positive. Hopefully, that carries into the month of June and they can pick up a few more victories before the trade deadline rips through their roster once again.

According to Baseball Almanac Manny Machado has 8 career grand slams, including three in a month's span of time in 2017.