Posts Tagged 'Nick Markakis'

Buck Showalter & The Rejuvenated Orioles

The first four months of Orioles baseball in 2010 have been tough to bear witness to. Not to mention the twelve losing seasons that preceded them. But a different and exciting style of play has swept over the team since the debut of new manager Buck Showalter this past Tuesday.

Baltimore completed a three game sweep of the L.A. Angels last night, and they did so with an attitude of “This is how it should be.” It is hard to say how much a manager can really affect a ballclub. After all, skippers don’t hit, pitch, or field. But to anyone who saw the three victories the Orioles rattled off this week, the energy level was completely different, from the usual, as was the result on the scoreboard.

The games haven’t been perfect or pretty by any means. Take last night for example, when relief pitcher Jason Berken gave up a 3 run shot to Torii Hunter in the eighth to tie the game at 4. Showalter had the confidence to leave Berken in there, and he went on to retire four of the next five batters while recording the win.

The offense seems to have had a big spark as well. Adam Jones, Felix Pie, Luke Scott, Josh Bell, Matt Wieters, Brian Roberts, and Nick Markakis all swung the bat well and drove in runs in the three wins this week.

Buck summed it up pretty well in the post-game news conference last night: “Nothing’s as bad as it seems, and nothing’s as good as it seems. I tried to come into it with a real open mind. There’s enough track-record players here that you know they’re better than that, but things snowball. We all know that.”

The Birds finally have a guy who knows baseball, and knows baseball talent when he sees it. He is going to be evaluating the whole roster in these remaining two months to find out who are his guys are, who he can count on, who can handle adversity/injury, and who just doesn’t belong. I couldn’t be more optimistic about the future of the club, it’s in the right hands. The foundation is set, and now the time has come for a winning team to emerge.

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Time For Trembley To Go

Ok let me preface this little rant by saying that I rarely call for a coach to be fired. To me it just doesn’t make much sense. I usually defend the coaches of my local teams tooth and nail. I can’t explain it, maybe it’s because I would want the same from my fan-base if I were in the position of leading a team.

A few local examples have been former Baltimore Ravens head coach Brian Billick and current University of Maryland men’s basketball coach Gary Williams.

I defended Billick because I liked his attitude and because he brought the city of Baltimore a championship. Many did not like his attitude, he rubbed people the wrong way. People didn’t like that he was an “offensive guru” and couldn’t improve the offense of a team built on defense. But he was unique. He always defended his players even if it meant offending the media. He didn’t care what others outside the team thought, he just wanted to win. I admired that about him.

And I defend Gary Williams, every season it seems like, because a monitory of Terp “fans” are clueless and want him out. I defend Mr. Williams because he is Maryland basketball (with all due respect to the likes of Lefty Driesell and the late Len Bias). He took over a program that was having a hard time recovering from the whole Bias incident, and went on to win a national title in 2002. He has always done more with less talent compared to the Duke’s and the UNC’s. Just like Billick was, Gary is a players coach. Gary is a hard worker, a grinder. You always hear about how hard his guys play for him. They do it because they know he has their back and he believes in them.

I really could go all day talking about how great Gary is and how moronic it is to ask for him to be fired, but I’ll save that for another day. This post is about Orioles manager Dave Trembley.

For a while I’ve always taken his Trembley’s side, given him the benefit of the doubt. After all, he is managing the Orioles.

Last year the Orioles had more than their fair share of base-running miscues. My dad, whom I always vent my Oriole frustrations to, blamed it on Trembley. He said there are some things you cannot control: things like whether the guys are hitting well, or whether pitchers are throwing strikes. But mental lapses on the base paths? He put that one on Trembley and said he should be gone. I wasn’t as ready to cut him loose.

NOW I AM.

As of this morning the Orioles are 2-14. A civic embarrassment. They have lost every series they have played so far in this young season, including three sweeps. They have the worst record in the major leagues. It really is unbelievable.

The final straw for me was Tuesday evening. In the second inning Julio Lugo grounded to short and jogged is way down the first base line and was out easily (See my piece on Derek Jeter). That isn’t Dave Trembley’s fault. It was Lugo’s decision to do that. However I was waiting for Dave to chew him out on the bench or even take him out of the lineup, because that is not how you play that game. That is NOT the Oriole Way. Instead we got nothing…absolutely nothing. Trembley sat there, stone faced, and the game went on. Oh and the team lost…AGAIN!

Hold all the closed-door meetings you want, Dave. But I need to see that you care. The fans want a manager who has pride. I need to know that during a game it bothers you that one of your guys isn’t giving 100%. Cause you know what? It’s a reflection of YOU when that’s happening. I’m not a major leaguer. But if I was and I knew my manager was going to humiliate me and remove me from the game like it’s freaking little league, maybe I’d give 100%. As if being paid $9.25 million (Lugo’s 2010 salary) isn’t enough of an incentive to give it your all.

Yesterday when asked about the fans calling for Dave’s head, right fielder Nick Markakis said, “I don’t think you can blame Trembley, we’re the ones out there pitching and hitting. I think he’s done a good job overall. There’s only so much a manager can do. The rest of it is up to the players. If you’re going to point fingers, you can put it on my shoulders. I’m not swinging the bat the way I’d like to.”

God bless Nick, he’s my favorite Oriole, but what else can he say. It’s not like he’s gonna blame his boss. I feel bad for him because he has to answer these questions in the first place. All the guy wants to do is play ball.

Why was Mr. Trembley brought back for 2010? And why do I have a feeling it is going to take a while before his time as the O’s skipper is up? Earlier this week WNST’s Nestor Aparicio made an interesting point that I keep thinking about. He noted that president of Orioles baseball operations Andy MacPhail is most likely in no hurry to can Trembley because as soon as the manager is fired, blame for the losing will turn to him. Because whoever the next guy is, will be MacPhail’s guy. That could be stretch, but it makes sense to me and very well could be true.

So we shall wait and see. I’m horrible at predictions, but I’m going to say his days are numbered. I’d be shocked if he was still in charge by the All-Star break.

There you have it. I’m now on the ever-growing “Fire Trembley” bandwagon. And you know what? I’m happy I am.

O’s Finally End Streak, Dump Athletics 8-3

Ty Wigginton celebrates after hitting a two run home run in the ninth inning

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – Ty Wigginton homered and drove in four runs, and the Baltimore Orioles snapped a nine-game skid by beating the Oakland Athletics 8-3 on Sunday and spoiling Brett Anderson’s first outing since receiving a hefty new contract.

The Orioles avoided their first four-game sweep in Oakland since Aug. 23-26, 2004, jumping on Anderson (1-1) two days after the A’s gave the pitcher a $12.5 million, four-year contract.

Brian Matusz (2-0), like Anderson a hard-throwing lefty, delivered a much-needed morale boost for the struggling Orioles in his first career outing against Oakland. He struck out eight, allowing three runs on eight hits and one walk in 6 1-3 innings.

Baltimore (2-11) had lost nine in a row since its lone previous victory at Tampa Bay on April 8, and is off to the franchise’s worst start since beginning 0-21 in 1988. The Orioles also ended a nine-game losing streak at the Coliseum dating to July 22, 2007.

It doesn’t get any easier as the Birds leave the Bay Area, either. The Orioles continue their 10-game trip with three games in Seattle followed by three at Fenway Park against Boston.

Anderson, an 11-game winner in his rookie campaign of 2009, needed only 25 pitches to get through the first two innings. He retired the first eight batters of the game before giving up consecutive two-out singles to Cesar Izturis and Adam Jones and then Wigginton’s two-run double.

Nick Markakis followed with an RBI single to make it 3-0, Lou Montanez singled in a run in the fourth and Nolan Reimold hit his two-run double in the fifth.

Wigginton hit a two-run homer with two outs in the ninth off Chad Gaudin.

And as Orioles radio play-by-play man Joe Angel would say…”You can put this one in the win column!!”

The nine game losing steak is over and I’d have to believe an immense feeling of relief has swept through the Orioles clubhouse.

The bats finally came alive on Sunday as Baltimore tallied 11 hits. The birds also went 5-11 with RISP and only stranded four. Since Wednesday Ty Wigginton has four home runs and 10 RBI’s.

Brian Matusz was solid once again. It is hard to believe that Sunday was only his tenth career start. He has struck out seven or more in each of his three starts and has yet to give up a home run.

And give credit to closer Jim Johnson. He went out there and redeemed himself today after Saturday’s abysmal performance. Two innings pitched, one base runner, and no runs. A strong effort and he was rewarded with his first save of the season.

The road trip continues tomorrow night in Seattle with Brad Bergesen taking the hill for the O’s. Doug Fister gets the start for the Mariners. First pitch is 10:10

The Freefall Continues, Athletics 4 – Orioles 3

Oakland's Ryan Sweeney is mobbed by teammates after his game-winning hit against Baltimore on Saturday afternoon



Associated Press – Ryan Sweeney hit a game-ending two-run single with one out in the ninth inning, giving the Oakland Athletics a 4-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.

Adam Rosales singled leading off the ninth and advanced to second on a sacrifice. Rajai Davis struck out but reached base on a wild pitch before the Orioles opted to intentionally walk Daric Barton and load the bases. Sweeney, who earlier extended his major league-leading hitting streak to 12 games, singled to right to drive in pinch-runner Eric Patterson — he took over for Rosales at second base — and Davis, who easily scored ahead of the throw from Baltimore right fielder Nick Markakis.

Jerry Blevins (2-0) pitched an inning for the win. Oakland has won nine straight home games against Baltimore. The A’s are 9-4, their best start after 13 games since 1992. They also moved five games over .500 for the first time since July 19, 2008.

The Orioles fell to 1-11, their worst start since opening the 1988 season with 21 consecutive losses, and lost third baseman Miguel Tejada to a possible leg injury in the sixth inning.

The Orioles scored a pair of unearned runs off Oakland starter Justin Duchscherer in the sixth inning then took a 3-2 lead on Ty Wigginton’s sacrifice fly in the eighth.

So I was following the conclusion of this game online with MLB Gametracker since there was no telecast. And staring at the screen, watching the little animated baseball diamond fill up with Oakland baserunners in the bottom of the ninth, I just had the feeling that the result wasn’t going to be good. And your boy was right haha!

Really, I mean at this point in the O’s losing streak, which is now nine, you begin to expect things to go wrong. Having a lead in the ninth inning seemed to good to be true…and it was! Jim Johnson had two wild pitches in the inning, and sure enough his lack of control ended up blowing the game.

Listen, they are doing things well, let’s not forget that. Those good things by no means make up for losing. But it is so frustrating to see yet another solid pitching performance go to waste.

Jeremy Guthrie gave up two runs and only walked one in 6.2 innings pitched. I’ll take that kind of line any day of the week from this starting unit. Although I would have liked some more runs from the offense, the fact is they scored three and Guthrie gave up two. In relief, Will Ohman, Matt Albers, Mark Hendrickson, and Cla Merdith were solid in giving up none! Johnson couldn’t finish the job and the end result is another W when in fact this is a game that Baltimore should have won.

I can only imagine how difficult it must be for Dave Trembley and his players to have to explain all of these defeats before and after every game. It’s tough watching these performances, it must be a nightmare to be living them.

Make It 7 In A Row, Athletics 6 – Orioles 2

Associated Press – Ben Sheets pounded the strike zone like his old aggressive self and finally commanded his fastball, winning for the first time since September 2008 in the Oakland Athletics’ 6-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night.

Sheets (1-0), who missed all of 2009 recovering from elbow surgery, pitched six scoreless innings and made good for the first time on general manager Billy Beane’s bold offseason move of giving him $10 million to be the A’s new ace. Beane believed Sheets could return to the form that has made him a four-time All-Star.

The 31-year-old right-hander gave up five hits, struck out four and walked three to win for the first time since a five-hit shutout of San Diego on Sept. 6, 2008, while with Milwaukee.

Oakland gave Sheets a one-year contract in January, 11 months after his elbow surgery.

Ryan Sweeney had an RBI groundout and a fifth-inning double to give him a 10-game hitting streak to start the season and Kevin Kouzmanoff and Eric Chavez each hit sacrifice flies for the A’s, who got back on track offensively. Cliff Pennington drove in a pair of runs.

Another tough loss to swallow. Although the birds had eight hits, including four doubles, their scoring continued to be a major cause for concern. The team went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and left nine on base. I’ll continue to post these numbers in my blogs because I feel that until Baltimore can improve them, they are going to continue to suffer defeats similar to Thursday night’s.

Of the eight hits, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones had half of them. The two were also responsible for driving in the only Oriole runs of the night.

There were two fielding errors, one by Jones and one by Ty Wigginton. Jones could have easily been charged with a second. In the bottom of the fifth Eric Chavez hit a line drive to shallow center and Jones caught it running at full speed. When he reached to take it out of his glove, the ball came out. The out was still recorded, but Oakland’s Ryan Sweeney was easily able to tag up and score the A’s fifth run.

At 24, David Hernandez is expected to go through some growing pains in 2010. Thursday’s outing was a prime example. He was able to strike out six batters in 5 innings pitched, but that was about all it did well. He gave up five runs on seven hits. Surely that was not the type of performance he would have liked, and this isn’t to make excuses for him, but it has got to be hard for him go out there and do well when in the back of his head he knows the offense isn’t going to give him run support.

The O’s will try to reverse their bad fortune tomorrow night two of this four game series against Oakland. Kevin Millwood takes the mound for Baltimore while Dallas Braden takes the hill for the A’s. First pitch is 10:05.

O’s give up 2 in 9th, fall to Rays 4-3

ST. PETERSBURG — Carl Crawford drove in two runs with a bases-loaded double in the ninth inning to give the Tampa Bay Rays a 4-3 season-opening victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night.

Adam Jones, Luke Scott and Matt Wieters homered for the Orioles, who were unable to put the game away because of a lack of timely hitting with runners in scoring position.

Evan Longoria homered in the sixth for the Rays, who loaded the bases in the ninth against Baltimore’s new closer, Michael Gonzalez, with a single, double and an intentional walk. Crawford lined a 1-0 pitch into right field, driving in the winning runs before a sellout crowd of 36,973 at Tropicana Field.

That was a tough loss to take. I was very pleased with how Jones (a triple shy of a cycle) and Wieters (2-4 w/ a HR) performed. However, the whole lineup going 1-12 with runners in scoring position kept Tampa Bay in the ballgame and gave them the opportunity to come away victorious. And that 1 hit out of twelve didn’t even drive in a run.

Starting pitcher Kevin Millwood gave up nine hits and allowed two runs over 5 innings pitched. I really liked the way he commanded the location of his pitches and how he got out of a few jams in the third and fifth innings. He escaped the third inning unblemished thanks to Nick Markakis gunning down Dioner Navarro at the plate after Ben Zobrist’s single to right. He struck out five and only gave up one walk. He did struggle in the top of the sixth, failing to record an out while giving up the Longoria homer and then two straight base hits.

But the middle relief was a huge bright spot. Compared to 2009, when Oriole relievers gave up an A.L. worst 314 total runs, things looked much better last night. Matt Albers entered the game for Millwood with runners on first and second and got Pat Burrell to ground into a timely double play. He then proceeded strike out Sean Rodriguez to end the inning.

Relievers Will Ohman and Jim Johnson were rock solid in the seventh and eighth, retiring all five batters they faced on a combined 22 pitches.

Gonzalez came in to try to preserve the one run lead and struck out the first batter he faced. However he then gave up a single and two straight doubles, the second of which drove in the tying and game-winning runs for Tampa Bay.

It was frustrating to have the middle guys do so well in relief only to have Gonzalez blow it like that. It’s still early though, no need to press the panic button. He is a very good pitcher who will save this squad plenty of games in 2010.

Game 2 of the 3 game series is tonight at 7:10 on MASN2

Orioles 2010 Preview: Hope Springs Eternal

(Image Courtesy of Orioles.com)

Tonight symbolizes a fresh start for the Baltimore Orioles. All the opening days of the past 12 years have been fresh starts in a sense. But they way those last 12 seasons have ended up…yikes!

My favorite team has been hard to watch for the past decade. It has been frustrating, embarrassing, and sad to see sub par baseball year in and year out.

But there is plenty of optimism this year amongst players and fans alike. When I look at the 2010 Orioles I see serious potential for growth. That growth is what will hopefully translate into contention with the big boys in the A.L. East in the years to come

So here is my brief outlook of this year’s team:

The starting pitching staff is young (Brian Matusz, David Hernandez, and Brad Bergesen are 23, 24, and 24 respectively) but the they are anchored by veterans Kevin Millwood and Jeremy Guthrie. One would hope there is some improvement from 2009 in which Baltimore’s starters tied for the worst ERA in baseball at 5.37

Brian Roberts once again will lead things off and play second base. He was limited to 19 at-bats during spring training due to a herniated disk in his back. Despite this he is set to go and will play in tonight’s game.  batting second is Center fielder Adam Jones. Jones was named an All Star and won his first career Gold Glove award in 2009. He has improved vastly since joining the team 2 seasons ago. He has tremendous range in the outfield and has become more patient as a hitter. I still feel he has another season or two before he really blossoms at the plate. Right fielder Nick Markakis’ stats dipped a bit in ’09. He is entering his fifth full season as a pro and I’m looking for him to be firing on all cylinders this year. An average of over .300, 25+ home runs, and 100+ RBI’s are very realistic numbers for him.

A familiar face in Miguel Tejada is back on the squad. He will play third and bat cleanup this year. DH Luke Scott and catcher Matt Wieters fill the 5 and 6 spots respectively. This will be Wieters’ first full season in the major leagues and he’d like to pick up where he left off at the end of his rookie campaign. He had a very solid September last year, finishing the month hitting .362, knocking in 14 runs, and having an on base percentage of .425.

Also entering his first full season is Nolan Reimold. He will bat seventh and occupy left field. But he will miss tonight’s opener with a sore Achilles tendon. Felix Pie will fill in. Garrett Atkins joins the O’s after seven seasons with the Rockies. He will play first and bat eighth. He is a career .290 hitter who like Markakis, is capable hitting 25+ HR’s driving in 100+ RBI’s in a good year. His numbers dropped off considerably in 2009, it will be interesting to see if he can rebound in 2010. And batting ninth is shortstop Cesar Izturis. Last year the Orioles needed major help defensively at short and they got it in Izturis. In 2009 he had a .984 fielding percentage and committed only eight errors.

There you have it. I assume it would be appropriate to make a prediction here. I’m going to say the O’s finish 4th in the American League East and just barely miss reaching the .500 mark with a record of 80-82. Just some perspective: the birds have not had more than 79 wins since 1997, when they won the division with 98! I’ll refer back to this post in October when all the dust has settled. Hopefully I’m not too off. Enjoy the season!!!


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