All Star Game Thoughts and Other Notes…

Well another MLB All-Star Game has come and passed…leaving us with a familiar results. The AL gained home-field advantage for the World Series again as they defeated the NL 4-3 in 15 innings. Yes, I watched every at-bat of this game..it was long but well worth it with many big plays including the NL continually getting out of jams to keep the hope alive that the long losing streak would end. This didn’t happen but the game was certainly entertaining.

For the O’s, George Sherrill pitched 2 and 1/3 innings last night of shutout ball. He looked great, coming in to strikeout Adrian Gonzalez with 2 outs and bases loaded. He ended his night by allowing some long fly ball outs but overall looked better than he has in weeks. Whether this is due to the exhibition atmosphere (although there was some tension and tight spots) or Sherrill finding himself will be realized pretty soon. He didn’t throw that many pitches overall so the big deal over his 2 and 1/3 innings in null and void.

The O’s open up the second half of the season with an 11 game homestand. Let’s hope the team is refreshed after limping into the half. They are 45-48 overall with my stated goal (as of right now) being 82 wins. That means an above .500 finish for the first time since 1997, something this franchise needs more than anything. A playoff run is unlikely, as the overall talent and tough division will make even 82 wins a tough goal.

The O’s host Detroit for 4, then Toronto for 4 with the Angels coming in for 3. A 6-5 record might be the best that Baltimore can do here, with 2 strong teams and another ballclub coming in hot (Toronto).

I’ve also posted my MLB final standings predictions: http://sportsblogadam.blogspot.com/

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End of the losing streak

The O’s ended their dreadful 5 game losing streak with a convincing 7-3 win over the Boston Red Sox on Friday night. An interesting game to say the least. The O’s did manage to create a bit of excitement by loading the bases in the ninth before striking out the final batter. For the Johnson/Sherrill combo, it has not been a good last 20 days. But they didn’t allow any runs tonight in their 2 combined innings (JJ 1.2 innings, Sherrill .1 inning). Sherrill finally recorded a save after blowing what seemed to be 3 or 4 in a row.

The offense was led by a three hit night by Brian Roberts (a HR short of the cycle along with 2 stolen bases). Nick Markakis continues to impress as he walked three times but didn’t get a hit. His OBP % is over .400 now and he will continue to be the catalyst to offensive surges for this team.

Overall, it was nice to end the losing streak and cut the deficit to 8 games in the wild card. While that may seem very far away, a couple of victories on Sat. and Sun. would cut it 6. Plus, the O’s are only 6 back in the loss column as we speak. Because Boston has played 4 more games than the O’s, Baltimore can cut it to 4 in the loss column with a sweep.

Another interesting thing I’ve seen throughout the year has been patience at the plate. The O’s are a much more disciplined ballclub and that shows with earlier exits by opposing SP’s along with higher pitch count (their related but not always).

The pitching matchups for Saturday and Sunday are as follows: Liz vs Wakefield, 7:05 pm Sat. and Cabrera vs. Matsuzaka, 1:35 pm Sunday. These two matchups will be interesting but the matchup tonight (Burres vs Bucholz) didn’t favor the O’s either. We shall see what this team has left in the overachieving first half. 45-46 is something we would have taken but this team has blown many games in the past few weeks that leave us just outside of playoff contention.

Wasted Week

The O’s wasted a perfect week to pick up ground by going 3-4 at home against KC and Texas. This was a dissapointing development as the team had been playing great at home coming into the week. Now they will head up north to battle with the Blue Jays for 3 (Tues-Thurs) followed by a weekend set in Boston to end the first half of the season.

Boston leads the wild card race at this point, with Baltimore 6 games back. This isn’t too bad for July 7, as preseason expectations weren’t high. A 3-3 week this week wouldn’t be the worst thing as that would send the O’s into the break a game over .500.

George Sherrill was the only Oriole named to the All-Star team. Brian Roberts will compete in the fan vote for the final spot. Aubrey Huff had a case at DH but Milton Bradley was picked after David Ortiz’s selection by the fans won’t matter because he’s hurt.

Tampa Bay has been playing outstanding, increasing their lead over 2nd place Boston to 5 games. They will play the Yankees this week with NYY trailing TB by 9 games coming into the series. The division race was close for awhile but TB has all but assured a first place stay into the all-star break.

 Suprisingly, the O’s nearly won yesterday’s game despite Jim Johnson and George Sherrill giving up plenty of late inning runs. The team ended up losing by 1 but it still was a tough loss to take. The Rangers can score with the best of them but after Friday’s blowout win, the O’s were poised to take the series. Needless to say, it didn’t happen.

Injuries Just Piling Up

The O’s have placed Jamie Walker, Matt Albers and Alex Cintron on the 15 day DL in the past two days. Coming up to the squad was Fernando Cabrera, Freddy Bynum and Adam Loewen (will work out of the bullpen for the time being). These three moves are all interesting but we shall see what Cabrera and Loewen add to a solid bullpen. Brandon Fahey was brought up last week for Oscar Salazar, leaving him as the starting shortstop for the time being. Interesting Bynum was the pick over Luis Hernandez but these two SS along with Fahey and Cintron means the O’s have options, none of them great at SS.

Tonight the O’s took care of business and Sherrill saved the game for the first time in three games. The O’s took the game 7-5 with Adam Loewen giving the ballclub two solid innings in middle relief. Radhames Liz picked up another win but his ERA still hovers in the mid 5’s. He’s getting enough run support lately to win games while giving up a few runs.

Brian Roberts homered while the O’s worked with a relatively new lineup. Melvin Mora was moved down to sixth (finally). Markakis hit 2nd, Huff batted 3rd, Millar 4th and Scott 5th…giving the O’s a some real punch from the 2-5 spots. This lineup looks like a quality one for the time being, as it allows Mora and Hernandez to hit lower as they struggle at the plate.

Just Another Day in Paradise (not)

The O’s are what they are. Not that we are almost midway through the season, we can see that this is the way it’s going to be. Inconsistent…check. Never out of a game….check. Lose on almost every Sunday…check. Day games= trouble….check.

Baltimore had a 3-3 overall after finishing a heartbreaker this afternoon against the Nationals. Up 1 in the bottom of the 12th, the O’s were one out away from winning another interleague series. Needless to say the Nats got a baserunner and a walk off home run to spoil our fun. As it stands, the O’s are 41-39 at this point in the season. That should be looked at as an accomplishment. They are not surprising people at a Ray’s pace but they are playing well enough to show that they have something left in Baltimore.

Sunday was dissapointing because it gave the O’s their second series loss in interleague play. The only other series they lost was 2 of 3 in Milwaukee. Another great performance by Jeremy Guthrie was thrown down the drain (sorry to forgot Jim Johnson and Chad Bradford out of the bullpen).

Now the team must rebound with 4 games against KC. Fun as that sounds, the Royals are playing better ball and will be a force this week in Camden. After that is a 3 game weekend series against Texas. These 7 games are critical, as I believe the O’s have to win at least 5. Why? Because the schedule will only be tougher after this and the O’s need to hit the all-star break on a roll. They are playing better on the road (series win at the Cubs for example) but they still need to play good ball at home. For the KC series, we get Brian Burres to start the series. We won’t see Guthrie til Friday but the other 4 starters must come up big…..or else it’ll be another series dissapoinment for the O’s

Ugly Night In The Windy City

Wednesday night gave the O’s an opportunity to win a series against the best team in the NL. Then the game started. Brian Burres was pulled from his start due to a stomach ailment and Matt Albers would have been better off calling in sick. He left after recording one out in the first, leaving the O’s bullpen in the fun position of having to get the last 26 outs. Needless to say, the O’s dropped the game, 7-4. It could have been worse on a night where everything seemed to go wrong for the O’s.

The O’s put in Lance Cormier, Ryan Bukvich, Dennis Sarfate and Jamie Walker to get those 26 outs. For as ugly as the O’s looked on Wednesday, it was good to see that they didnt have to deplete their bullpen. Arguably, they didnt use any of their top guys (Sherrill, Johnson, Bradford). Those three pitched Tuesday but itll be interesting to see how far Radhames Liz can do on Thursday afternoon. My assumption is as long as he doesn’t get murdered out there, he will have to go at least 5 plus innings. That will alleviate the bullpen a bit and it’s possible we’ll see Bukvich sent down tomorrow to get a fresh arm in there for the weekend.

One plus for the weekend is that the O’s will be sending their best three pitchers to the mound against Washington (Olson, Cabrera, Guthrie). This should hopefully allow the bullpen to rest more this weekend. Plus, once Burres is deemed ready to go, he can easily slide back into the rotation somewhere to help out the innings load. For the next few days at least, it will be very important to get strong, long starts out of the SP’s.

Trade Market for O’s Players

First of all, the O’s are in quite a unique position at this point in the season. They are 2 games over .500, only 6.5 out of first place, 5.5 out of the wild card and really playing good ball as of late. So here’s the dilemma: what to do with the veterans drawing interest from contending clubs? Certainly, there are some Orioles that are likely to be traded before July 31. If the team hits a tailspin, this possibility is even more likely. So here’s my list of who to trade and who to hold onto:

(Jay Payton, Jamie Walker, Chad Bradford, Kevin Millar) Trade all three of these guys for sure by July 31. The only scenerio in which I would keep them is if the O’s are somehow still in contention and look for real at this point. You may not get more than a prospect or two for each guy but their value will not increase at all. By turning this team over with more youth, the farm system will be more replenished and the team may struggle but should be okay.

(George Sherrill, Brian Roberts) These are the two guys that could fetch solid returns, even Major league quality players. Sherrill would be great as a closer or setup man for Chris Ray next season and in the future. Imagine that with Jim Johnson pitching the 7th? Wow, the O’s actually have something in the future in the bullpen. But, it’s possible they may get the proverbial “Offer they can’t refuse for him” in which they would never believe getting that much in return so they have to take it. Plus, whoever they add would be just like adding more players from the Bedard deal. It can turn an already lopsided 5 for 1 into a 7 or 8 for 1. Roberts is a different story. I would say resign him today for whatever the market offers but it’s not for sure that he wants to stay. I think the next month can rehatch the negotiations to figure out what he wants. I’d love to deal him now, with him hitting well and still being an elite leadoff hitter. The guy is a great 2B as well, something multiple contenders may overpay to get at this point.

(Melvin Mora) He gets his own category because I’m not sure what to do with him. He’s been on the team the longest of anyone, has played solid this year (not spectatcular but he is 35) and would leave a gaping hole at 3B. Aubrey Huff could move over there for the time being but I haven’t like Huff in the field nearly as much as Mora. We also need to address the SS issue, something I’m hoping one of these potential trades can do for us.

Tonight, the O’s travel to Chicago as the Cubs go for their 15th straight (good god help us) win at home. Good luck to Jeremy Guthrie as he will look to equal his great start vs Houston tonight. This may be the kind of series the O’s can sneak into Chicago and win 2 of 3 though. There will be no Zambrano or Dempster for the Cubs in this series and the Cubs just swept an emotional series against their crosstown rival White Sox this past weekend. The offense will need to score runs for the O’s as we have Guthrie, Burres and Liz facing Marshall, Lilly and Marquis this series. Note: Ted Lilly always give the O’s problems so don’t anticipate us bashing him on Wednesday night. But, that’s why they play the games. The importance of this series is that we can take momentum into a 7 game stretch against Washington and Kansas City that we can really jump back into contention with. But, we need to show better offense than the past two games in Milwaukee.