Category Archives: Baltimore Orioles Shirts

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The 2018 Orioles went 47-115, the worst finish in team history. The 2019 Orioles finished 54-108—hardly a giant leap for mankind, but a tiny kind of triumph for a team with no stars, no hype, and no expectations around it.

In other ways, these two teams looked very different. The 2018 team featured big (biggish) names—Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Zack Britton, Brad Brach, Jonathan Schoop, Darren O’Day, Chris Tillman, Tim Beckham, and Pedro Alvarez—who underperformed and got cut or traded through the season for parts.

The 2019 roster had a collection of names that would send nobody running out to buy a jersey (apologies to the Jose Rondon, Dan Straily, or Chandler Shepherd fans out there).

Few players actually stayed with the team the full two seasons: Trey Mancini, Richard Bleier, Mychal Givens, Miguel Castro, Dylan Bundy, Mark Trumbo, Alex Cobb, and Chris Davis round out the whole list.

Front Office
2018 turned out to be the last hurrah for the combo of GM Dan Duquette, Manager Buck Showalter, Farm Director Brian Graham, and Scouting Director Gary Rajsich. None of these four are currently employed in baseball, though Buck Showalter still gets airtime as a studio talking head, and entertained a few offers this season for managerial jobs.

Not everything that went wrong with this team can be pinned on these guys. (I still treasure my Buck Showalter gnome, and I bear Buck no ill will outside of the Ubaldo-for-Britton Wild Card flop.) But there’s no denying the fact that The Replacements—Mike Elias (GM/Executive VP), Brandon Hyde (Manager), Chris Holt (Director of Pitching), and Koby Perez (Scouting Director)—are the main reason Orioles fans have any reason for optimism right now.

“We’re going to be the next Astros,” goes the hopeful refrain, and, what with the overlaps in personnel, the new-look international scouting department, the straight-out-of-NASA analytics team, and the sabermetrics regime being applied to player mechanics, this is no fish tale.

New things that can already be credited to this regime include a bunch of international signings (long shots, but also low cost), dramatic improvement in the lower tiers of the farm system, and a new analytic approach, especially as to pitching. Two Orioles minor league teams, the Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds and Double-A Bowie Baysox, made it to the playoffs this year, the Baysox leading the Eastern League in ERA. A few big-league guys, including John Means, Hunter Harvey, and Shawn Armstrong, credit some of their recent success to the new analytic regime.

Pitching
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. By far, the biggest thing the two teams had in common was disastrous pitching.

The 2018 starting rotation featured Dylan Bundy (8-16, 5.45 ERA), Andrew Cashner (4-15, 5.29), Alex Cobb (5-15, 4.90), Kevin Gausman (5-8, 4.43), David Hess (3-10, 4.88), and Yefry Ramirez (1-8, 5.92). (The biggest surprise for me: remembering that Cashner actually pitched worse than Cobb in 2018.) In 2019, the rotation, such as it was, featured Bundy (7-14, 4.79 ERA), John Means (12-11, 3.60), Cashner (9-3, 3.83), Asher Wojciechowski (4-8, 4.92), Hess (1-10, 7.09), and Aaron Brooks (4-5, 6.18).

There were no real bright spots in 2018 (to be expected when your best rotation arm has a 4.43 ERA), but the 2019 rotation still wins for being even more of the “scotch tape and a prayer” variety. Brooks is no longer in the MLB, Cashner was traded, it’s unclear what the team has in Wojo, and if Hess remains an Oriole at the end of 2020, I’ll be shocked.

Both of these Orioles teams finished last in the league in team ERA, but in 2019, their ERA was nearly half a run worse, at 5.59. That’s a significant difference. The bullpen was a big reason: starter ERA was pretty much equal both years, but the bullpen’s went from 4.78 in 2018 to 5.63 in 2019. It’s evidence that the team was forced to put guys out there who weren’t just uncompetitive, but way beyond the pale.

Hitting
Here’s how the offense profiled in 2019. The Orioles hit for a .246 average (12th in the AL), a .310 OBP (12th), and a .415 OPS (12th). They couldn’t score runs: 729 (12th best) and 213 dongs (12th best). But they were eighth-best in total hits—evidently, the singles came in bunches (thank you, Hanser Alberto).

Believe it or not, though, the Orioles were a worse-hitting team in 2018. A vestige of the homer-happy 2011-2016 era, they were middle-of-the-pack in homers (188 on the season—see the inflation there, by the way?), but finished last in average (.239), OBP (.298), runs (622) and second-to-last in OPS (.689). This was a feast-or-famine team.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred believes home runs gets fans into the stands, but the 2019 Orioles were marginally better small-ball practitioners, a skill that should help weather bad times ahead. As they start to plug holes in the lineup (read: find a CF and a SS who can hit) with better players, the ability to manufacture runs should improve.

Fielding
The Orioles were pretty much identically bad at fielding in both seasons. They finished last or next-to-last, according to FanGraphs, in defensive runs saved, UZR, and defensive runs above average.

Not much more to say about this one. Trade away a Tim Beckham, sub in a DJ Stewart. Seems like institutional culture matters a little less on the field than simply having good-fielding players.

Conclusions
For the casual fan (or the non-fan), the Orioles have been just plain terrible the last two seasons. For the rest of us, there’s a little more interest below the surface. Fielding remains a huge weakness, the product of a recent lack of minor league depth. Driving runners in has not been a specialty, but a new small-ball philosophy has been put in place which could help smooth things out in the next few seasons. The bullpen regressed dramatically in 2019, and holes in the starting rotation still haven’t been adequately filled. Team ERA will be the key stat to watch next season. That will help clue fans in as to whether the Orioles are trending in the right direction in this rebuild, or still drifting.

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From the highest ERA in the Majors in 2018 to an All-Star appearance in 2019, Lucas Giolito had a season that nobody could’ve imagined possible.

As Giolito worked a pair of shutout masterpieces during the season, you knew you were watching something special. Then as the season unfolded, for the first time in MLB history four teams reached the finish line with at least 100 wins.

The White Sox, at 72 wins certainly were not among the ranks of the 100-win teams.

But the Astros and Twins both DID reach 100 wins, and something else those teams have in common is a 2019 shutout defeat at the hands of Giolito. Not only were those complete game shutouts the only ones thrown against those teams this past season, but they were the only complete game shutouts tossed against a 100-win team PERIOD. Nobody hurled a CG shutout against the Yankees and nobody pulled it off against the Dodgers.

So Lucas Giolito was the only pitcher in 2019 to toss a complete game shutout against a team that finished the season with 100 or more wins.

But let’s take it a bit further.

From 2012-2019 there were 12 teams who won at least 100 games in a season. And there were only five combined complete game shutouts against those teams. Giolito owns two of the five; Sean Manaea (against the 2018 Red Sox), Luis Severino (against the 2018 Astros) and Jason Vargas (against the 2017 Indians) have the other three.

Going back even further, from 2000 to present, 26 teams won 100 games in a season and there were 25 combined complete game shutouts tossed against those teams. Lucas Giolito & Jason Vargas (2017 vs. Indians and 2011 vs. Phillies) are the only two pitchers to have more than one. But Giolito is the only one to do it twice in a season.

To find the last pitcher with two shutouts against eventual 100-win teams in the same season, you need to go back to 1999 when José Jiménez of the Cardinals did it against the 100-62 Diamondbacks, which in itself is impressive given that Jiménez was only 5-14 with a 5.85 ERA that season. But Jiménez had both of his against the same team. What about the last pitcher to toss complete game shutouts against MULTIPLE 100-win teams in the same season?

Well, the last time THAT happened was 1980, when both Larry Gura and Moose Haas had one shutout apiece against the 103-59 Yankees and the 100-62 Orioles. Gura’s shutout against the Orioles came against eventual 1980 Cy Young Award winner Steve Stone.

As far as White Sox history is concerned, Giolito was the first White Sox pitcher to toss a CG shutout against an eventual 100-win team since both Melido Perez & Eric King shut out the 103-59 Athletics in 1990. And before that, Steve Trout had one apiece in both 1979 (against the 102-57 Orioles) and 1980 (against the 103-59 Yankees). But for the last time a White Sox pitcher did it twice in the same season, it’s Tom Bradley, who remarkably blanked the 101-60 A’s THREE TIMES in 1971.

So while Lucas Giolito’s shutouts were awfully impressive at the time, they become even more incredible when you look back at the season and realize that he was the only pitcher to shut out a 100-win team this season.

And he did it twice.

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The sprawling suburban estate once called home by Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. and later, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Adam Jones , is back on the market for the second time this year.

The six-bedroom,10-bath mansion was listed for $4.25 million this month by current owner, Baltimore County-based Milden LLC.

The group had purchased the 25-acre estate from Jones, who previously played with the Baltimore Orioles, in May for $3.55 million.

It is the third time the Worthington Valley estate at 13301 Dover Road has hit the market since 2016.

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One member of the Orioles’ 2020 rotation competition instead will reportedly play overseas.

Right-hander Aaron Brooks is expected to join the Kia Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization, per Korean outlet Naver Sports and other reports. Brooks, 29, joined the Orioles midseason as a waiver claim from the Oakland Athletics, recording a 6.18 ERA in 14 outings with Baltimore.

Brooks made his first 12 appearances for the Orioles as a starter. His most effective performance in that role came against the eventual World Series-winning Washington Nationals on Aug. 27, when he allowed two hits across six scoreless innings. But even including that start, Brooks had a nine-start stretch in which he had an 8.33 ERA, soon thereafter prompting a move to the bullpen. In his first outing as a reliever, he pitched the final seven innings in a victory over the Seattle Mariners on Sept. 20, giving up one run on one hit. He followed that with two hitless innings of relief in his final outing of the year.

All-Star and American League Rookie of the Year runner-up John Means, Dylan Bundy and a healthy Alex Cobb figure to make up the front end of the Orioles’ 2020 rotation, with 2019 returnee Asher Wojciechowski also in the mix. Other members of last year’s staff who remain in the organization to contend for rotation spots include David Hess, Ty Blach, Tom Eshelman and Chandler Shepherd, though Hess is the only member of that group who remains on the 40-man roster.

Brooks’ exit reduces the Orioles’ 40-man roster to 35, with a handful of prospects needing to be added ahead of next week’s deadline to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. Among that group are left-hander Keegan Akin and right-hander Dean Kremer, both of whom figure to contend for a starting role at some point in 2020.

Shorebirds named MiLB.com minor league Team of the Year
The firsts keep coming for the Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds, who on Tuesday were named MiLB.com’s 2019 Team of the Year for the first time in franchise history.

The Shorebirds’ 90 regular-season victories were the most in the minor leagues and bested the previous franchise record by seven games. They were the South Atlantic League’s first 90-win team since 2006 and led the league in various pitching categories, including ERA, strikeouts, shutouts and WHIP.

Delmarva’s roster featured several of the Orioles’ top prospects, including left-hander Drew Rom, shortstop Adam Hall and 2018 first-rounder Grayson Rodriguez, who shared Baltimore’s minor league Pitcher of the Year honors with Michael Baumann. Adley Rutschman, the first overall pick in the 2019 draft, joined the Shorebirds in August for their playoff push, catching a two-hit shutout in his team debut.

The Shorebirds’ season ended earlier than they hoped, losing two one-run games in a best-of-three series with Texas Rangers affiliate Hickory. But their lack of a postseason championship did not keep them from earning recognition for their season as a whole.

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The Orioles had honored Frank Robinson in a variety of ways since he passed away at age 83 on Feb. 7, but not in a manner that brought together his family, his friends and his Baltimore fans for a poignant tribute to the man who put the O’s on the map.

There was a huge memorial service at Dodger Stadium on Feb. 24, but the Orioles waited for the first weekend of the regular season to celebrate Robinson’s life and the contribution he made to the franchise as a player, manager and front office executive.

“Frank loved this place,’’ his widow, Barbara, said Saturday. “He loved the people here. It was his home. His whole life was built around here. It’s so final for me. It’s so hard for me because it’s his final place. This is a pain I thought I could never feel.”

Frank Robinson, Baltimore Orioles Hall of Famer, dies at 83
ORIOLES
Frank Robinson, Baltimore Orioles Hall of Famer, dies at 83

FEB 07, 2019 | 8:10 PM
His daughter, Nichelle, said it was difficult for her and her mother to make the trip to Baltimore for such an emotional evening, but they could not stay away.

“I just want to thank this city and the fans for loving him so much … and he loved them,’’ she said. “It has always been special here. This is our home away from home.”

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That love affair started when the Orioles traded pitcher Milt Pappas and two other players to the Cincinnati Reds to add Robinson to an Orioles team that won 94 games in 1965 and had finished higher than third just once in its first 12 seasons in Baltimore.

“He changed the face of the franchise,’’ Hall of Famer Jim Palmer said. “We were a good team. He made it great. We had 24 really good players and he took us exactly where we wanted to go — to the World Series.”

Baltimore Orioles

@Orioles
“Frank Robinson was one of the greatest players that ever played. And I can not tell you how fortunate, how proud…Not only had to be as a teammate, but also as a dear friend. May you rest in peace.” – @Jim22Palmer

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The pregame ceremony featured speeches by Orioles greats Palmer, Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell, Baltimore’s acting mayor Jack Young and Jeff Idelson, president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Cal Ripken Jr., Eddie Murray and a who’s who of former Orioles sat with the family in three rows of seats facing the stage that was built in front of the pitcher’s mound.

Young read a proclamation extolling Robinson’s achievements and designating April 6, 2019 as “Frank Robinson Day” in Baltimore City. Idelson also chronicled Robinson’s career from the year he was named National League Rookie of the Year for the Reds in 1956 through the singular achievement of winning the Most Valuable Player Award in both leagues to being named Major League Baseball’s first African American manager.

Brooks Robinson, Palmer and Powell all recounted Robinson’s arrival in Baltimore and the immediate impact he had on the team and their lives.

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“As far as greatness is concerned, he is in an elite class,’’ Brooks said. “Like players like [Mickey] Mantle, [Willie] Mays and [Hank] Aaron, he could do it all. We started winning and we [went to] four World Series after Frank arrived, and that was in six years.”

Powell talked nostalgically about the years he batted behind Robinson in the Orioles lineup, witnessing virtually all of his offensive heroics from the best possible vantage point.

Schmuck: Frank Robinson wasn’t easy to get to know, but he was certainly worth the effort
ORIOLES
Schmuck: Frank Robinson wasn’t easy to get to know, but he was certainly worth the effort

FEB 08, 2019 | 5:00 AM
“I was fortunate to be on deck for most of the time Frank was an Oriole,’’ Powell said. “It was like watching Picasso at work. And when Frank took Luis Tiant all the way out of Memorial Stadium, I asked him, ‘Did you get it all?’ And he said, ‘Naw, I might have broke my bat.’ What a bomb. Frank went on to win the Triple Crown and I had a front-row seat.”

Former Oriole Ken Singleton was in the New York Yankees broadcast booth during the ceremony, but he remembers the way Robinson was revered in the Orioles clubhouse long after he was traded to the Dodgers in 1972. That reverence spread across the nation when he broke the managerial color barrier with the Cleveland Indians a few years later.

“First of all, he’s a historical figure, and not only for what he did on the field,’’ Singleton said. “He was one of the greatest players ever and, of course, the first African American manager in both leagues. Certainly that alone would place him in a historical framework, but he was much more than that. He was a real leader.

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“I played for the Orioles after Frank was here, and from what I understand, he was so good he was referred to by his number instead of by his name. They know if ‘20’ got hot, they were going on a roll. I’ve heard of situations where he walked in the clubhouse and said, ‘Boys, I feel good, jump on for about a week or 10 days,’ and he would go do it. That was the type of person he was and the type of player he was.”

‘The best player I ever played with’: Teammates, others remember Orioles Hall of Famer Frank Robinson
ORIOLES
‘The best player I ever played with’: Teammates, others remember Orioles Hall of Famer Frank Robinson

FEB 07, 2019 | 3:50 PM
This night was about the mark Robinson left on baseball and the Orioles franchise, so it featured players from the golden era of Baltimore baseball. But Robinson’s importance to the city and the sport was not lost on some of the veteran members of the current team.

“When somebody has impacted the game so much like he has, especially a certain organization, it’s nice to see that person gets their due respect,’’ said Orioles pitcher Alex Cobb, who met Robinson several times when he was a kid growing up in Vero Beach, Fla. “I know he played before my time, but I was a big baseball fan growing up. He would always come to Dodgertown for the fantasy camps and I would chase him around and get his autograph.”

Reliever Mychal Givens had a closer connection. He said Saturday that his great grandfather was a friend of Robinson’s and was revered in his home.

“Frank once wrote me [a letter] when I was a young child playing baseball, “ Givens said, “so he meant a lot to me and my family and for everything he’s done, especially being the first black manager. That’s a great accomplishment and I’d like to see more out there. To talk about his past and talk about what he’s done is a really good thing for everybody now who doesn’t know.”

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Morning, Birdland!

Baseball’s winter meetings just recently concluded, and it feels like the Orioles may nearly be done the majority of their offseason movement already. They added three players this week and now have a full 40-man roster. Brandon Hyde will be introduced as the manager on Monday. And the only rumor swirling is that they may be interested in adding a veteran outfielder, which would be more of a wish list item than it would be a necessary addition.

This is not a surprising development. Mike Elias and his crew have made it known that the Orioles are gonna stink in 2019, and likely a few years after that as well. This off-season isn’t about fighting the big boys for high-end free agents. It’s about building the foundation for a winning club. For now, that means finding the right front office people and putting in place processes that continually produce winning baseball teams.

Are Richie Martin, Drew Jackson or Rio Ruiz capable of putting up numbers at the major league level? Their past employers weren’t so sure. The Orioles might not be convinced either, but it was worth a shot to find out.

At the very least Elias has implemented a plan and is on his way to fully realizing that plan. Here’s hoping it pays off…eventually.

Links

Should the Orioles still pursue a veteran shortstop via trade or free agency? – The Athletic
At this point it feels unnecessary to add another shortstop to the mix. The goal with Martin and Jackson was likely two-fold: find a big league starter at shortstop, bulk up the middle infield options in the upper minors going forward. It’s possible that neither one of them is the answer long term. However, if they can survive the season that then gives the Orioles two young, controllable infielders in Norfolk that can easily step in and do a nice job if needed. That is an option they do not currently have. It makes little sense to complicate the issue with an expensive vet.

Leftovers from the Winter Meetings – MASN Sports
After an extended delay due to, ya know, the lack of a front office, the Orioles are fully operational. They are wheeling and dealing.

Orioles Hire Brandon Hyde As Manager – MLB Trade Rumors
It’s official. Just like the Elias hiring, the addition of Hyde was leaked days before the contract was actually signed, but the Orioles got their man. Now, it will be interesting to see how Hyde fills out his staff this late in the offseason

5 things we learned from the Orioles’ week at baseball’s winter meetings – Baltimore Sun
It is extremely weird how almost all of the talk regarding the Orioles at the winter meetings this week was positive. Everyone loves Elias and Sig Mejdal. There were plaudits for the proposed hiring of Hyde. And we even picked the consensus top Rule 5 guy with the number one pick. There is no way this lasts, right?

Orioles birthdays and history

Is it your birthday? Happy Birthday!

Also celebrating is 37-year-old Luis Montanez. You remember Montanez, don’t you? He won the Eastern League Triple Crown during the 2008 season with Double-A Bowie despite missing a month’s worth of games following his big league promotion. His career with the Orioles was less noteworthy. He played 93 total games with the Birds between ‘08 and ‘10 and hit .223/.257/.323 with four home runs.

Rick Helling turns 48 today. The right-handed pitcher was a member of the O’s 2003 staff. That season he compiled a 5.71 ERA across 24 starts and 138.2 innings.

1962 – The Orioles acquire pitchers Stu Miller and Mike McCormick and catcher Johnny Orsino from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for pitchers Jack Fisher and Billy Hoeft and catcher Jim Coker.

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FanGraphs | Tony Wolfe: The Orioles had a silver lining in 2019, and it was Jonathan Villar. He was one of the best players in the second half, and easily one of the best baserunners in the league despite non-elite speed. It’s not clear if the offensive progression sticks but with Baltimore looking to continue their rebuild, there’s always the chance he’s on the block.

Baseball Prospectus | Matthew Trueblood ($): Another thing to consider in Larry Walker’s complicated Hall of Fame case were his injuries, and one can imagine even given how prolific he was, how much more he would have compiled in ideal health.

Bill James Online | Bill James: If we assume that there’s a true value for each MVP candidate, you can say there’s always a gap between perceived value and actual value; because of that, voters will inevitably whiff on the most deserved candidate. In this model James maps out that if you added one more voter per team it could create better results by modeling success rates of differently sized voting blocs.

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Hanser Alberto is an enigma for the Orioles. A good enigma, but he’s still a mystery in many ways.

Alberto, who shocked everyone by not only making the club but at one point challenging for the American League batting championship, is 27, so he’s not exactly part of the youth movement.

But he’s accrued enough service time to be eligible for arbitration. According to MLBTradeRumors.com, Alberto could make $1.9 million, which is quite affordable for a player who hit .305 and .398 against left-handers. Alberto hit just .238 against right-handers.

Alberto had a .948 OPS against left-handers and just .609 when facing right-handers.

Unlike Jonathan Villar, who’s just a season away from free agency and could earn as much as $10.4 million in arbitration according to TradeRumors, Alberto isn’t a likely trade chip this winter.

But is he good enough to be a piece for when the Orioles improve?

There were certainly questions about his defense. He played second and third base, and at second often played recklessly. Alberto was lampooned by Sports Illustrated as committing what “may be the worst play in MLB history” on May 16.

With the bases loaded, Alberto fielded a grounder at second base and could have gotten an out at any base. Instead of starting a double play, he attempted to start a rundown with Francisco Lindor, the oncoming runner from first, missed the tag, flipped the ball to first baseman Chris Davis, who threw home as a run scored.

Alberto somehow wasn’t charged with an error, and the Cleveland Indians scored five runs in a sloppy inning that caused MASN broadcaster Mike Bordick to bemoan, “this is hard to watch.”

Despite the embarrasing miscue, Alberto had a .8 defensive WAR and a healthy 3.1 WAR overall.

This is the same player who was claimed on waivers by the New York Yankees last November 2, claimed by the Orioles on January 11, and then claimed by the San Francisco Giants on February 22 and reclaimed by the Orioles a week later.

Surprisingly, Alberto made the Orioles and became a major contributor. Unlike the team’s other surprise, John Means, who had an undistinguished record in the minor leagues, Alberto hit .309 in parts of four seasons with the Texas Rangers’ Triple-A Round Rock affiliate.

Alberto hit 12 home runs for the Orioles last season, his largest total in professional ball. Since home runs were so plentiful, and there was so much talk about a lively ball, Alberto’s power numbers can be unconvincing.

His offensive statistics don’t make him a fit in today’s game. Alberto walked just 16 times and had a .329 on-base percentage to go with the .305 average. Villar walked 61 times. On the other hand, 11 Orioles had more than his 50 strikeouts.

His ability to move between second and third made him valuable to manager Brandon Hyde, but if the Orioles decided to send last year’s Rule 5 pick, Richie Martin to the minors for more seasoning, Alberto hasn’t shown an ability to play shortstop.

The Orioles don’t have any middle infield prospects that are close to being major league ready, so there’s a likelihood he’ll return to the team next season.

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For now, it looks like more of the same for Alberto in 2020, some second base, some third and the hope that he can duplicate his 2019 success.

If that happens, then the Orioles will have a pleasant problem and perhaps a valuable commodity to trade.

Arizona Fall League championship: The Surprise Saguaros, which is comprised of the Orioles as well as four other teams, will play for the Arizona Fall League title against the Salt River Rafters on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET.

Seven players in the Orioles’ organization — right-handers Cody Carroll, Dean Kremer and David Lebron, left-hander Alex Wells, infielders Rylan Bannon and Mason McCoy and outfielder T.J. Nichting play for Surprise.

Kyle Moore, who managed Low-A Delmarva, is a Saguaros coach.

The game can be seen on MLB.com.

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It started innocently enough: Every time the Nationals clinched a playoff berth, Russell de Leon would buy cheap champagne and toast the team with a fellow bartender.

The problem, though, was what came next. Year after year—2012, 2014, 2016, 2017—the Nationals won their division; year after year, they flamed out of the NLDS in dramatic fashion. “I always got really excited, and then they lost,” de Leon says. “And then I’d root for them again, and they’d lose again.” By 2017, when the Nationals once again fell in the first round of the playoffs, it felt important to drink the champagne early, because the Nats weren’t likely to offer anything else to celebrate. Rooting for the Nationals in the postseason, he says, was “just tedious.”

On Wednesday night, de Leon held down the bar at the Pug in Northeast Washington, D.C., the kind of dive that brags about its bad Yelp reviews. (“Décor is a mishmash of anything goes and garage sale items, including the ripped booth cushions we sat on. It just felt dirty all over.”) To face Game 7 of the Nationals’ first-ever World Series, a grab bag of Washingtonians arrived: Long-time neighborhood residents who grew up rooting for the Orioles, politicos still wearing the day’s suit and tie, recent transplants who’ve helped make D.C. the most rapidly gentrifying city in the country, students from nearby Gallaudet University signing their anxiety and delight (de Leon, like a lot of H Street denizens, can do the basics). As Nats starter Max Scherzer labored through five innings against the Astros, each of the hits and walks he issued fell on the Pug’s crowd concussively—ducking, wincing, covering their heads, letting out quiet hisses. When Yuli Gurriel homered in the bottom of the second inning, the standing-room-only bar fell silent.

De Leon, 40, grew up in the Virginia suburbs and moved to D.C. proper in 2008. He started bartending at the Pug in 2011; the bar’s owner, Tony Tomelden, is a D.C. native and has covered the walls in assorted District bric-a-brac: a picture of the Washington Senators, torn-out sports pages from The Washington Post, bobbleheads of G-Wiz, Davey Johnson, and Tanner Roark. “My favorite athletes as an adult have been Sean Taylor, RG3, John Wall, and Bryce Harper,” de Leon says. “That’s really all you need to know.”

The Pug bartender Russell de Leon Claire McNear
This was a Nationals team with a tendency to make fans grind their teeth. Entering Wednesday, the team had trailed in all four of the postseason elimination games that it faced (the wild-card against the Brewers, twice in the NLDS against the Dodgers, and Game 6 of the World Series). The Nats did the same in Game 7, carrying a 2-0 deficit into the seventh inning before finally roaring back.

Anthony Rendon hit a one-out home run in the seventh, and then Juan Soto walked. The cheers for Howie Kendrick, already a postseason hero after hitting a 10th-inning grand slam to win Game 5 of the NLDS, began even before he smashed the go-ahead run off the foul pole; that ball, inked with the pole’s yellow paint, is already on its way to Cooperstown. At the Pug, beer flew.

The celebrations swept across D.C. At a drizzly watch party at Nats Park, one fan ripped off his T-shirt and flung himself belly first across the top of the dugout. A Metro driver leaped out of his idling bus to dance in the street. José Andrés cheered from the background of a newscast; Alex Ovechkin loosed a bottle of champagne at the Capitals’ Halloween party. This October, Tomelden—manning the Pug’s Twitter account—was fond of reminding followers when the Nationals were leading that it was still early. This time, with Washington’s championship sealed with a 6-2 victory, de Leon lined up a long row of shot glasses and poured. A man tried unsuccessfully to get a “fuck you Har-per” chant going, climbing onto a bench to direct a nonplussed crowd. De Leon told him to get down.

D.C. is a funny place, one whose sports fans are sometimes written off. It’s a city of transplants, of business casual and sterile downtown and nonstop politics talk; it’s also a city of mumbo sauce and go-go and people whose work has nothing at all to do with the Capitol and, until recently, rotten sports luck. Since they arrived 14 years ago, the Nats have been a unifying force—for the people who come to D.C. for work, for the people who stay many years later, for the people who’ve been here all along. They’ve welcomed in fans who mourned the Senators and the Grays alongside those who endured years of Major League Baseball’s dangling a new team before the city alongside those who moved to D.C. as adults and fell in love with baseball for the first time. On Saturday, all of them will get a parade.

This year, de Leon broke with tradition: There was no champagne when the Nationals secured their place in the playoffs, squeaking into a wild-card berth. Instead, when the last out of the World Series finally came, he shook a beer, aimed it at his customers, and let loose.

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Pennant-Winning Home Runs by the Visiting Team
On Monday we looked at the six pennant-winning home runs hit in the 100 League Championship Series and five pre-divisional tiebreakers. Those hits were immortal, special, and rare. There are five other home runs, however, that are just as immortal and special. People often overlook these, however, since they weren’t walk-offs. These are go-ahead home runs hit by the visiting team that turned out to be pennant-winning home runs.

With walk-offs, the player hits the homer, the fans go nuts, the player runs the bases, and everyone goes home. These home runs are different. After the visiting player hits the home run, the home fans typically gasp and then fall silent before trying in desperation to rally their team to victory. The home team must regroup, get out of the inning, and then try to come back in their final at-bat. All five times that a visitor hit a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning or later of a deciding game of the LCS, the home team did not even score in the bottom half, let alone come back. These hits were daggers.

Inclusion Criteria
All home runs on this list meet the following criteria:

Hit by a player from the visiting team in the deciding game of the ALCS or NLCS
Hit in the ninth inning or later
The home run drove in the go-ahead run
The visiting team did not relinquish the lead in the bottom of the inning
Without further ado, here are the five “pennant-winning” home runs hit by a visiting player.

Rick Monday, Right Fielder, Los Angeles Dodgers
Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, Blue Monday, to quote Fats Domino. The 1981 National League Championship Series was a classic between the Dodgers and the Montreal Expos. Game Five – the winner-take-all game – was originally supposed to happen on Sunday, October 18 in Olympic Stadium. However, since the roof was not finished yet, a winter storm postponed the game to Monday afternoon. Instead of there being 54,000 fans in attendance, there were 36,491, making crowd noise less of a factor. It was cold – temperature in the low 40s – and, although there was no rain falling, the field was damp.

Dodgers left-hander Fernando Valenzuela and Expos right-hander Ray Burriss pitched a dandy of a game. It entered the ninth as a 1-1 tie. The Expos brought in Steve Rogers – typically a starter – to pitch the ninth. Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey hit a popup to second for the first out, then third baseman Ron Cey ripped a drive down the left field line. What initially looked like a sure home run died, however, and Tim Raines caught it in front of the warning track for a loud second out.

Blue Monday

That brought up Monday. On a 3-1 count, he swung, hitting a towering fly ball to center. Monday, who had pulled his helmet visor down low due to the cold, lost sight of the ball as soon as he hit it. He had to watch center fielder Andre Dawson’s path to the ball to determine whether to keep running. Dawson drifted to the warning track, then the 12-foot-high wall, and ran out of room. The ball carried over the fence for a home run.

Monday picked up the ball just soon enough to see it go over the wall. He jumped and pumped his fist, nearly slipping as he landed. As he ran the bases, Olympic Stadium went deathly quiet except for the celebrations of the Dodgers. In the bottom of the inning, the Expos got the tying and winning runs on second and first, respectively, with two out. However, Bob Welch came into the game and got Expos right fielder Jerry White to ground to second for the pennant-winning final out. This game has been known as Blue Monday (or, in French, Lundi Bleu) ever since.

Tito Landrum, Right Fielder, Baltimore Orioles

The Baltimore Orioles led the Chicago White Sox, two games to one, heading into Game Four in Comiskey Park. White Sox starting pitcher Britt Burns scattered five hits across nine innings while not allowing any runs. However, Orioles starter Storm Davis and reliever Tippy Martinez, who relieved Davis in the seventh, matched him zero for zero. With one out in the top of the tenth, Burns faced Landrum, who sent an 0-1 pitch into the second deck in left field for a back-breaking home run.

It took three White Sox relievers to get out of the inning. In the process, the Orioles plated two more runs, giving Martinez a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the 10th. Martinez first retired catcher Carlton Fisk on a fly to left for the first out. After right fielder Harold Baines singled to left, Martinez struck out designated hitter Greg Luzinski for the second out. He then struck out left fielder Tom Paciorek on a dropped third strike. When Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey threw to first baseman Eddie Murray in time, the Orioles won the pennant.

Jack Clark, First Baseman, St. Louis Cardinals
Do not bring up this game to a Dodger fan. This came in Game Six of the 1985 National League Championship Series. 1985 was the first season that the League Championship Series was best of seven – before then, it was best of five. Game Five in St. Louis ended in the cruelest fashion for the Dodgers. In the bottom of the ninth, with the score tied at two, Dodgers closer Tom Niedenfuer faced light-hitting shortstop Ozzie Smith with one out and nobody on. Smith was a switch hitter who was batting left-handed against the right-handed Niedenfuer.

On a 1-2 count, Smith hit a deep drive to right that squeaked over the fence for an unlikely walk-off home run. This is the home run that led to Jack Buck’s famous “Go crazy, folks!” call. To rub salt in the wound for the Dodgers, Smith had hit six home runs that year. None, however, came while batting left-handed.

Fast forward to Game Six. The Dodgers led 5-4 in the top of the ninth. Niedenfuer, who had entered the game in the seventh, took the mound to close out the game. He struck out pinch hitter Cesar Cedeño for the first out. Center fielder Willie McGee then lined a single to left and stole second on the second pitch to Smith, who ultimately walked. That brought up second baseman Tom Herr. On an 0-1 count, Herr ripped a one-hopper to third baseman Dave Anderson, who straddled the bag as he fielded it. He stepped on the bag and fired to first, getting the fans excited, but the ball was foul. Two pitches later, Herr hit a slow grounder to first baseman Greg Brock, who flipped to Niedenfuer covering for the second out.

The Dodgers Pitch to Clark
With the runners on second and third, Clark, a feared slugger, stepped to the plate. With first base open and two out, many managers would have walked Clark to face the on-deck hitter. Not Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda, however. He had Niedenfuer pitch to Clark. Big mistake.

Clark belted the first pitch halfway to Burbank. The deep fly landed more than halfway up the left field bleachers for a three-run homer, giving the Cardinals a 7-5 lead. The stunned crowd could hardly believe what they were seeing. Niedenfuer retired the on-deck hitter – center fielder Andy Van Slyke – on a popup to the catcher, angering Dodger fans even further.

Cardinals reliever Ken Dayley pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth. When Dodgers left fielder Pedro Guerrero’s fly ball settled in Van Slyke’s glove, the Cardinals won the pennant.

Tony Fernandez, Shortstop, Cleveland Indians
This home run is one example of how cruel a game baseball can be. The Indians faced the Baltimore Orioles in Game Six of the 1997 ALCS. Orioles starter Mike Mussina pitched eight innings of one-hit ball, striking out 10 while only walking two. However, the Orioles, despite racking up nine hits off Charles Nagy, Paul Assenmacher, and Michael Jackson, could not score, so the game went to extra innings.

In the top of the 11th, Orioles reliever Armando Benitez struck out the first hitter, center fielder Marquis Grissom. Shortstop Omar Vizquel then tried to bunt his way on but failed, making two out in the inning. That brought up Fernandez, who smoked the first pitch over the high right field wall for a home run. Benitez then struck out right fielder Manny Ramirez for the third out.

Jose Mesa took the mound in the bottom of the inning to close the game. He gave up a two-out single to right by center fielder Brady Anderson, bringing up second baseman Roberto Alomar as the winning run. However, Mesa struck Alomar out on a called third strike to give the Indians the pennant despite them only getting three hits.

Yadier Molina, Catcher, St. Louis Cardinals
The 2006 National League Championship Series featured the 97-win New York Mets and the 83-win Cardinals. In Game Seven, a single in the bottom of the first by Mets third baseman David Wright drove in the first run of the game. The Cardinals tied it in the top of the second on a squeeze play by second baseman Ronnie Belliard.

It remained 1-1 into the top of the sixth, when a one-out walk by Cardinals center fielder Jim Edmonds brought up third baseman Scott Rolen. On the first pitch, Rolen sent a deep drive to left. It cleared the wall, but Mets left fielder Endy Chavez jumped high into the air and snatched the ball out of home run territory. He then made a perfect throw to the relay man, second baseman Jose Valentin, who fired the ball to first baseman Carlos Delgado in time to double up Edmonds.

The Ninth
(Mets fans might want to skip to the next section now.) The score remained 1-1 into the top of the ninth. A one-out single to left by Rolen off Aaron Heilman brought up Molina, who hit the first pitch into the seats in left for a stadium-silencing home run. Heilman then retired Belliard on a grounder to short for the second out. Pinch hitter John Rodriguez followed with a groundout to first with the pitcher covering, sending the 3-1 game into the bottom of the ninth.

Adam Wainwright entered the game to pitch the ninth for the Cardinals. He gave up consecutive singles to Valentin and Chavez to start the inning. Cliff Floyd then pinch hit for Heilman and struck out looking. Shortstop Jose Reyes followed with a lineout to center, bringing up catcher Paul Lo Duca as the Mets’ last hope. He walked, loading the bases for center fielder Carlos Beltran. On 0-2, a breaking ball fooled Beltran. He watched it float over the heart of the plate for a called third strike, giving the Cardinals the pennant.

Oddities
Of the five pennant-winning home runs by the visiting team, only the one by Clark came with his team behind. With pennant-winning walk-off home runs, only one of the five hit before this season came from a team that ultimately won the World Series. However, with the home runs listed in this writing, three of the five came from a team who ultimately won the Series – Monday, Landrum, and Molina. The home runs by Monday, Landrum, and Molina also came in the final postseason games played in those stadiums.

Pennant-winning home runs go down in memory because they’re the last play of the game. These home runs by the visitors, while not pennant-winners by pure definition, are just as memorable. Even if they didn’t end the game immediately, they still put each player’s team onto the greatest baseball stage of them all – the World Series.