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April 26, 2011

Not a good time for Orioles to face surging Sox

Unlike the Minnesota Twins, who came to Camden Yards to start this homestand with a lineup depleted by injuries and illness, the Orioles aren’t exactly catching the Boston Red Sox at the right time. After starting the season 0-6, the Red Sox have won five straight games and eight of their past nine.

They are coming off a series in which they outscored the Los Angeles Angels 20-5 in securing their first four-game sweep in Anaheim since 1980. Boston’s pitching staff has hurled 19 consecutive scoreless innings and posted back-to-back shutouts for the first time since June 19-20, 2007.

Over the past nine games, Red Sox starters are 7-0 with an 0.88 ERA.

Did I mention it’s not a good time for the Orioles to be running into the Red Sox, who with a victory tonight would reach the .500 mark for the first time this season?

The good news is that the Orioles have Zach Britton on the mound tonight and Jeremy Guthrie tomorrow, followed by Brad Bergesen on Thursday.

The bad news is that the three pitchers they face -- Clay Buchholz tonight, Josh Beckett Wednesday and Jon Lester Thursday -- are a combined 24-5 in 39 career outings against the Orioles with a 2.93 ERA. Lester has done the most damage with a 13-0 record and a 2.33 ERA in 16 career starts versus Baltimore.

Buchholz is probably the most vulnerable of the three. The young right-hander has failed to go six innings in each of his past three starts. He has also walked 12 batters in his past 14 innings. But he has certainly been tough on the Orioles, going 5-2 with a 2.98 ERA and one no-hitter in nine career outings versus them.

Is this the day manager Buck Showalter juggles his lineup and perhaps moves struggling first baseman Derrek Lee out of the No. 3 hole? It wouldn’t shock me, but Showalter has rebuked questions about juggling the lineup. Is there any chance Showalter gives scuffling right fielder Nick Markakis the day off? I’d say no, but Markakis is 2-for-20 with four strikeouts and a double-play ball in his career against Buchholz. Fellow outfielder Luke Scott is just as bad, with a 1-for-16 line against Buchholz with four strikeouts and two double plays.

On the other end of the spectrum, Brian Roberts is 7-for-18 with five walks against Buchholz, while Vladimir Guerrero is 4-for-9.

The Orioles have lost 11 of 13, and their great start, which seemed to energize the fan base, is a distant memory. With Camden Yards likely to be infiltrated by Red Sox fans over the next three days, things could get really ugly around here for the home fans if the Orioles don’t start hitting the ball and playing better baseball.

Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 7:00 AM | | Comments (22)
        

Comments

After 13 straight losing seasons, how many pitchers in this division don't have a great record against the O's?
If the O's are going to compete in this division they'd better learn how to beat great pitchers, because they'll see a lot of them. The O's picked up veteran hitters to juice up their offense this season, just so they could score runs against great staffs, and it's about time some of them start earning their pay. Enough excuses.

Jeff, I have to slightly disagree with you. Things are already real ugly around here. Our team stinks! The only way the Orioles can win this series against the Sox is if the stench coming from the Orioles dugout makes it hard for the Sox to breathe.

...and to think I and many others were duped by the buzz at Fanfest and their hot start. It's going to be a long season.

I could see moving the lineup around a little, but giving both Scott and Markakis off? I don't think that's possible. Do you want Pie and Fox in the OF?

Maybe moving DLee out of the three hole might not be a bad idea, indeed, I wouldn't mind a Vlad for Derek swap. I also think it's time to give Wieters a break and move him up in the lineup and give him some protection.

Maybe:

Roberts
Markakis
Wieters
Vlad
Scott
DLee
Jones
Reynolds
Andino

Also, has any noticed that this 2-11 slide started around the time Hardy went on the DL?

...............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: I was never suggesting giving both of them the day off or even one of them. Just mentioning that the option is there with Markakis' struggles. I'm not sure of the batting order, but I'd suspect that the regulars will be in since the team was off yesterday.

I'll venture a guess of a sweep by the Red Sox. Even if Boston was on an eight game losing streak I'd pick them to sweep this series because the Orioles have no hitters who will make the Red Sox pitchers pitch deep into counts. They will be up there hacking at the first pitch all night long. I'm not even going to watch it. I have better things to do with my time.

The Orioles' inevitable death spiral has begun even earlier than I thought it would this season.
The Orioles overpayed for an old and washed up Vladimir Guerrero when nobody else wanted him. He has contributed virtually nothng this season.
The Orioles overpayed for an old and washed up Derrek Lee. He has contributed virtually nothing this season.
Peter The Great and Andy Macfail once again fooled gullible Orioles fans by bringing in old, washed up, second rate free agents. It's funny how those of us who were warning of another bad Orioles season this year on these boards were routinley shouted down by other posters.
The Orioles increased their payroll significantly, but they are still a bad team. They are still the laughing stock of the AL East and they are already back in last place. For the Orioles, it's "mo money, mo problems"...
At least the blind worship of Showalter is finally on the decline. Showalter has been revealed for the clown that he is. Showalter went out of his way to insult the Yankees and the Red Sox this past offseason, and what happened? The Yankees have won their first 4 games against the Orioles, including a 13-3 blowout. Wow, Showalter is such a 'tough guy' with his chidish trash talk. Now he just looks stupid. The fact that Showalter had his AAA caliber pitcher hit Martin with a pitch (almost in the head) simply because the Yankees had the audicity to be winning the game by a large margin tells me all I need to know about "Buck". A red hot Red Sox team comes to town tonight. I am sure they will make Showalter eat his words and will make Showalter look stupid, just like the Yankees did.

I can't believe what I'm reading. Where is your faith?

It was less than two weeks ago that the Orioles were in sole possession of 1st place in the AL East. It is a long season. We will bounce back! I am standing my prediction of watching the Orioles play in the 2011 World Series in Oriole Park at Camden Yards with Naked Ernie, Brummie_Oriole, John the Baptist, ken, The Squirrel, and even you (Jeff Z.).

Go O's!

P.S. This orange Kool-Aid is quite refreshing this morning.

Anonymous.. you're a SLUG!

Also, I was giving this some thought, why not make Brad Bergesen a closer?
Grant it, he doesn't throw smoke, but here's what wikipedia says

Because his fastball averages a speed of about 89 mph, Bergesen relies on good control of his pitches and avoids walks, rather than striking lots of batters out. His ability to get many ground balls (50.1% ground ball rate in 2009) helps him limit hits to singles and get extra outs via the double play. He also has been adept at preventing hitters from hitting home runs throughout his professional career.
Now while you really can't say that in 2011. He's given up 4 hr's in a little over 16 innings pitched. However, two things about him makes me think he has a bulldog mentality

1.) His very last play against the Yankees, he made a spectacular play, he didn't give up and he didn't quit!

2.) After Brad was drilled in the shin by that other BB from KC. Our BB got up
slap gloves with Wieters, and hobble into the Orioles' dugout unassisted before collapsing in the tunnel.

What I am saying is, maybe BB wouldn't like being switched to the bullpen, but he does seem like a "real gamer" to me and I like that. So why not give him a shot to close. When he's on, he does throw strikes, he has a couple of pitches and does keep home runs to a minimum. Let me emphasize when he's on his game! I think he could do it.

And to answer Jeff Z's question with a question. When is it "EVER" a good time to play the Red Sox? The Orioles better suck it up and show some effort tonight otherwise this season is heading for a complete tailspin!

PS Let BB start against the Red Sox and see what he can do. If he struggles, I would consider him for closer, I really would.

Markakis, Lee, Scott are killing the team. Bench them and play anyone else. What can be worse? Markakis and Bergensen could be good trade bait. DH Wieters and get Fox into the game sometimes. Can Guerrero play first sometimes? Mix it up, do something. This is the most pitiful hitting team ever. Whose the hiiting coach?

@ Ken....I like the idea of changing the lineup, but I don't know if Wieters in the 3 spot is a good one. However, you never know until someone tries it. Maybe you could put Reynolds in the 3 spot (as he is coming out of a slump)Also @ Ken, I like the point you made about JJ Hardy.

Keep in mind we still have Matusz on the DL. Our starters have been doing OK with some quality starts, our bats just aren't hitting. Despite what some pessimistic posters think, I'm still optimistic things will turn around. It's only the first month. I'm not saying we are playoff bound, but I think we will be more competitive.

Hi Jeff. I have never posted before but enjoy reading your comments and the posts' everyday. The o's drive me crazy and i was really optomistic about this season and still am, just not to the degree I was after the 6-1 start. I've had to dial back my expectations a little bit. That said, if it were me, I'd platoon Scott and Lee at first, move Fox via trade, bring up Reimhold to take his place and keep Pie coming off the bench.

Am I crazy or does Roberts look like he's lobbing the ball over to first? He's got to be hurt more than he's letting on. He can't run and doesn't throw too well anymore. What do you think of Adams playing 2nd next year?

My infield in 2 years is Mahoney at first, Adams at second, Machado at short and Snyder at 3rd. Have a great day! Go O's!

...............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: I guess I've noticed Roberts lobbing balls to first, but I don't read too much into it because when he's needed to make a hard throw like a couple of those balls that he's fielded for nearly behind second base, he's been able to do it. As for Adams, he has to improve defensively in order for him to project as a starting 2B in the big leagues.

Just for a day, I'd go with this:

Roberts (2B)
Jones (CF)
Markakis (RF)
Guerrero (DH)
Wieters (C)
Lee (1B)
Reynolds (3B)
Izturis (SS)
Pie (LF)

Maybe Markakis gets better pitches to hit with Vlad behind him. Lee isn't scaring anyone right now. Weiters has been money batting left handed so he warrants a shot at the 5-hole. I'm fine with Andino at SS too, but thought having Izturis from the left side of the plate might be good against Buckholz.

gotta love the passion of the fans even if most is negative. the o's brought in guys like vlad and lee as short term "solutions' because they don't have the players in the minors ready to play in the majors and due to their lack of winning good free agents have no desire to play in balt until they can show on they can compete on the field. this organization has been poorly run since the mid 80's and only since macphail came on board was a reasonable plan to improve created. you can't turn around 25 yrs of poor management in a couple of yrs. the pitching is improving..guys like jones, weiters, markakis, roberts, hardy are solid players. there are a couple of guys in the minors that could help in a yr or two but it takes time to build a winner. the scouting needs to improve and instruction in the minors needs to improve but they are on the right track. there is no reason to think lee won't start hitting. don't forget he had limited at bats in spring training. as for vlad. who knows. his numbers were ok last yr but the 2nd half of the season was a disappointment. reynolds, despite his numbers has played better than the last couple of o's 3rd baseman.

Couldn't agree more, Jeff.
When they are not hitting at all, the complete lack of team speed makes the offense all but unwatchable. And i'm a junkie.
I could understand going with the same lineup if this was an established squad with a winning tradition. But to not shake things up with this bunch is hard to figure.
Gotta play Pie more against righthanders. If that means sitting down Lee, Vlad, or Jones ON OCCASION, then why not ?
He's shown a willingness to platoon Scott w/ Fox,,, and Scott, despite a poor avg. , has actually hit the ball hard more consistently than the other 3 aforementioned combined.

Hi Jeff,


I was optomistic coming into the season for the first time in years, as many of us were . I still don't think the team is as bad as they look now, but they are probably not going to be as good as I thought they could be. There is a reason that Guerrero, Lee, Hardy and Dutch more or less fell to the Orioles, and two of them are already on the disabled list. Lee looks like he got old over the winter. I still think Guerrero will put up some numbers be he definitely is in a decline.


Jeff, have you heard anything about a large cyst on one of Markakis' wrists, and if so could it be affecting his swing? Jim Palmer mentioned he has been playing with it for years on MASN recently. Could you look into that?

...............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: Yeah, I've seen it for years and asked Markakis about it on multiple occasions. He said that it doesn't affect him at all and he sees no reason to get it removed. I haven't asked him about it this year, but I have no reason to believe it's all of a sudden affecting him.

Curious. If we hadn't extended Markakis' contract, and we were doing it now (disregard lousy 2011, but take into consideration full year 2010) how much would it be for ?

That contract looks untradable it's so inflated.

Sweet-swinging Ben Grieve looked like the real deal in his first 3 yrs then ...

It is officially really ugly. Doesn't matter what happens against Boston.

I was at Sunday's game at is was painful. Count me in as one of the O's fans that will no longer pay extra for "prime games" so I can sit and listen to Yankee cheers.

In the span of 10 years, our attendance went from top 5 in MLB (we lost 98 games in 2001, and yeah it was Cal's last year, but it shows the pride was still there) to bottom 6.

We can't even get our own fans to go on an 80 degree Sunday.

It might be time for brutal honesty rather than optimism. This team should get better, but O's fans won't come to the park to see it.

The pride is gone. I had the realization on Sunday while listening to all the bandwagon Yankee fans. Angelos has beat this franchise down, and the fan base with it.

We could roll off 20 straight, but I can guarantee you that if the 21st game is against Toronto on a cool Wednesday night in May, you won't get more than 25k fans.

Yup, it's really ugly. And I don't just mean this season, I'm talking about the state of the franchise.


Jeff,

I keep going back and forth on moving the lineup around. Nick has his best career numbers batting 2nd, Lee his best batting 3rd, Vlad batting 4th, etc. They're all right where they're supposed to be. So do we wait or tinker a bit?

Right now, I'd probably tinker. Set a tone to start a new series that we must change results or we'll mix thinsg up a bit and find the guy(s) who are going to get it done sooner than later.

Maybe sit Reynolds tonight and start Fox at 3rd. Reynolds is 0-3 with 3 Ks against Buchholz. Fox has never faced him. Nobody's really hitting well against him. Possibly move Jones to #2 spot and Nick back to 6th.

But in the end, shouldn't Buck do something??

Your so wrong on Vlad, he hasnt contributed? I seem to remember a pivotal 3 run bomb against the twins in the bottom of the 8th with the O's up 8-0. That was pure clutch.

I get why Buck isn't moving the line-up because they are majority veterans and he wants to give them a chance to break out of the slump. Well Buck now is the time to not give a rats @$$ who is tenured and who isn't. If I see Lee's slow swing in the 3 hole Im going to lose my freaking mind. At the end of April if you 3 hitter has 2 rbi and he has been in every game something is seriously wrong. Move Lee to the 8th spot cause his glove has to be in the field with the young pitchers. I don't know which player in a slump needs to go to the 3 spot, but Lee has got to move out. I would rather see Andino in the 3 hole right now than Lee. what about this lineup

Roberts
Jones
Wieters
Vlad
Kakis
Jones
Scott
Reynolds
Lee
Andino

Something, anything I don't care.

Lee is making the dumping of Garrett Atkins look like a dumb move.
A-rod has done more by himself...hits, doubles, home runs & RBI's than Lee, Markaikis & Reynolds combined.
Unbefreakinleavable!
This team stinks more than a week old crab cake in mid July.

We draw Buckholtz tonite - thank goodness. Maybe a good win will turn us around.

Go Os

correction being there are not 2 jones on Orioles roster

Adam jones batting 2nd and Scott batting 6th

Discouraging news about that cyst on Markakis's wrist.

The worst part about it is that this isn't an "all of a sudden" thing: Nick's SLG% has been in consistent decline since 2008.

I still believe that Nick will break out of this slump in a big way before the calendar switches to May, but if he doesn't, it's probably about time to take a closer look at that wrist.

And as I've said before, anything less than two out of three from the Red Sox is completely unacceptable. We've got our two best pitchers going tonight and tomorrow, and as good as the Sox have been since they broke out of their early season slump, their hitting hasn't been much to talk about.

Tonight is the night for the offense to break out. All of the hitters, including Vlad, need to get Buchholz to throw strikes. If he's struggling with his control from the start, do not swing at the first pitch - that includes you, Vlad. Make Buchholz work to get outs.

If the offense breaks out tonight, I'll feel good about the rest of the series. If Britton takes another Orioles-patented Tough Luck Loss™, a Red Sox sweep is probably on the way.

Let's go, O's.


...............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: Nick has had a cyst on his wrist for the duration of his professional career. He said that it has never bothered him at all.

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.


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