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Duquette, Showalter build foundation for Orioles success

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USA Today Sports

Duquette, Showalter build foundation for Orioles success

NEW YORK—The postseason never gets old. Not for players, and not for Buck Showalter or Dan Duquette. 

Showalter had postseason teams in New York and Arizona, and the three-time Manager of the Year has a third postseason team with the Orioles. 

In 2012, his team was a happy surprise when it won a wild-card game in Texas and made it to the Division Series. Two years ago, the Orioles went to the American League Championship Series. 

On Tuesday, the Orioles try to win the wild-card game in Toronto’s Rogers Centre.

“They’ve grinded, not since February, but since the season ended last year,” Showalter said. 

“The game’s not always fair. This year it was because they got a return for what they put into it…You look up ‘grind’ in the dictionary, you should have the 2016 Orioles there because these guys never gave in,” Showalter said. 

The Orioles began the season with seven straight victories, and though they played under .500 from July 25 through the end of the season, Showalter is pleased with how they finished, winning seven of their final nine. 

“There are so many opportunities that say, ‘this may not work out this year.’ It went by quick for me because this team was involved in the competition right from Day 1 and never really got away from it,” Showalter said. 

“You go through periods where you’ve got a chance to win the division, you got a chance to be a wild-card, then you got a chance even not to be in it. You don’t overcome that without having a real strong mentality. So many times we started to say something to these guys, and I just backed off. They got it. Sometimes the best managing you do is the managing you don’t do.” 

This Orioles team was big on home runs. They ended the season with 253, four shy of the 1996 team record. They were short on speed with just 19 stolen bases, and they were thought to be short on starting pitching. 

Kevin Gausman matured late in his fourth major league season and had a 1.10 ERA in six starts against the team he beat on Sunday, the New York Yankees. 

Gausman said he wanted the ball. He wanted to start in the crucial game. 

“He’s had that body language of ‘that guy.’ I say all the time to the minor league guys and scouts, does he have it? Does he have it? And they all know what we’re talking about. He’s graduated to the right part of the process, and he’s been fun to watch. We needed him today, and he delivered,” Showalter said. 

There were veterans who have been with Showalter for years, Zach Britton, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Chris Tillman and Matt Wieters as well as younger players such as Gausman and Manny Machado, who have shown leadership quality, and it’s an accomplished team.

“Skill and talent plays. There’s just so much you can do with emotion. Pitchers on top of their game. There’s just so much you can do with emotion. You have to have some skills and sometimes that gets overlooked with our guys. These are some talented guys, and they’re talented in their ability to be consistent,” Showalter said. 

Together, it’s Duquette and Showalter’s third postseason team, one that seemed unlikely. 

Duquette added important players for this team, outfielders Michael Bourn, Hyun Soo Kim and Mark Trumbo. Each came a different way. 

Trumbo was acquired when Seattle was eager to shed his salary last winter, Kim came as a free agent from South Korea, and Bourn was picked up on Aug. 31. They added to the core that was already on hand. 

“We’ve been able to establish a winning presence and to go back to the playoffs again and have another shot at it, that’s really what we’ve been working for all year. So now we’ve got a shot to go for the dance,” Duquette said. “We want to advance in the tournament…Our team is strong and we’ve got a chance to play in the postseason. That’s all you can ask for. You just roll the dice and see if you can knock on the door and break through this time.”

The Orioles will face a difficult task in trying to beat the Blue Jays on Tuesday night. 

“Generally, people don’t pick us in the offseason, which is OK by us, but I don’t know what criteria they use. Nobody has picked us to do much and this club always finds a way to compete. We have good internal leadership, Duquette said. 

Many people think that this was Showalter’s best job as Orioles manager. 

“Buck does a great job year-in and year-out. I believe he gives his best every time he’s out there on the field,” Duquette said. 
 

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Astros, Dodgers set Series HR record amid juiced ball buzz

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USA TODAY Sports

Astros, Dodgers set Series HR record amid juiced ball buzz

HOUSTON (AP) -- Home runs kept flying over the wall at Minute Maid Park, on line drives up toward the train tracks, on fly balls that just dropped over the fence.

Seven more were hit in Game 5, raising the total to a World Series record 22 -- with two possible more games to play. Twenty-five runs were scored in a game started by the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and the Astros' Dallas Keuchel, Cy Young Award winners regarded as among baseball's best.

After a season when sluggers outpaced even their steroid-era predecessors for home runs, some are convinced that something is amiss with the baseballs.

"The main complaint is that the balls seem a little bit different in the postseason, and even from the postseason to the World Series balls," Justin Verlander said Sunday, two days before he takes the mound in Game 6 and tries to pitch the Astros to their first title. "They're a little slick. You just deal with it. But I don't think it's the case of one pitcher saying, `Hey, something is different here.' I think as a whole, everybody is saying, `Whoa, something is a little off here.'"

A record eight home runs were hit in Game 2, including five in extra innings, and Game 5's seven long balls would have tied the old mark. The 13-12, 10-inning Astros' win Sunday night was the second-highest scoring game in Series history.

Keuchel was quoted as saying after Game 2: "Obviously, the balls are juiced."

Not so obvious to everyone, even amid the power surge.

"I haven't personally noticed anything. I haven't tried to think about it either," Dodgers reliever Brandon Morrow said after giving up two homers in Game 5. "It's not something you want to put in your own head."

Same for Kershaw, even after giving up his record eighth homer of the postseason Sunday.

"I don't really pay attention to it," Kershaw said. "I just assume that both sides are dealing with it, so I'm not going to worry about it."

This year's long ball assault topped the 21 of the 2002 Series. Anaheim hit seven and Barry Bonds and his San Francisco Giants slugged 14 over seven games. That was the year before survey drug testing.

Speculation that something has changed includes a study claiming to have found differences in the size and seam height of balls since the 2015 All-Star break.

"I know there was talk about different sizes and some of the baseballs were slightly bigger and some were smaller. Some of the seams were higher, some of the seams were lower. But, no, it's been consistent," said Rich Hill, who will start Game 6 for the Dodgers. "I think that just has to do with conditions -- if it's colder it's going to be slicker. If it's a little bit warmer out or humid, I think you're going to find that you're going to have a little bit more of moisture to the baseballs."

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred insists nothing nefarious is going on.

"I'm absolutely confident that the balls that we're using are within our established specifications," he said Friday.

Verlander rejected that assertion.

"I know Mr. Manfred said the balls haven't changed, but I think there's enough information out there to say that's not true," he said.

Verlander also does not think it's an issue of how balls are rubbed up before games.

"I know baseball uses the same mud for every single ball for every single game that's played," he said. "I think there's a broader issue that we're all missing."

On the day he become commissioner in January 2015, Manfred said, "I'm cognizant in the drop in offense over the last five years, and it's become a topic of conversation in the game, and it's something that we're going to have to continue to monitor and study."

Offense started rebounding during the second half of the season, and a record 6,105 home runs were hit this year, 2.4 percent more than the previous mark of 5,963 set in 2000 at the height of the Steroids Era.

"I think it's pretty clear," Verlander said. "I think our commissioner has said publicly that they wanted more offense in the game. I'm pretty sure I'm not fabricating a quote here when I say that. I think it was already All-Star break of `15, or right before, when he said that."

San Francisco's Johnny Cueto and Toronto's Marcus Stroman also think the balls have changed, with Stroman blaming slick balls for a rise in pitcher blisters -- an affliction which has struck Hill a few times in the past couple seasons, too.

Houston's Brent Strom and the Dodgers' Rick Honeycutt, the World Series pitching coaches, both were quoted by Sports Illustrated on Sunday as saying the slickness of the ball made throwing sliders difficult.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I don't see a ton difference, but I'm not going to get in a verbal war with coaches and players who think otherwise."

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had a similar view but acknowledged the power records got his attention.

"The pitchers talk about it feels different in their hand. The one component is the slickness and guys at different ballparks rub it up differently," he said. "Sort of feels the same to me. But it's hard to argue the numbers. You know there's more velocity. Guys are swinging harder. I know in Los Angeles the air was light. It was hot. The ball was flying, carrying more than typically. But I hesitate to try to give you any insight because I really don't know."

RELATED: Nats set to hire Dave Martinez as new manager

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Wade Miley roughed up again, Orioles shut out in St. Pete

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USA Today Sports

Wade Miley roughed up again, Orioles shut out in St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Evan Longoria and Logan Morrison homered Friday night and the Tampa Bay Rays clinched third place in the AL East with a 7-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

Longoria led off the fifth with his 20th homer off Baltimore starter Wade Miley, marking Longoria's fifth straight 20-homer season and the ninth of his 10-year career.

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Morrison hit his 38th homer off reliever Chris Tillman in the seventh.

Rays starter Jake Odorizzi left his final start of the season after four innings with a sore right knee.

Brad Boxberger (4-4) got the win as the first of four Tampa Bay relievers.

Miley (8-15) lost his fifth straight start, giving up four runs and five hits in four innings. He walked five, raising his major league-leading total to 93. The Baltimore bullpen gave up five more walks.

Trey Mancini had one of Baltimore's four hits. It was Mancini's 158th hit, tying Cal Ripken (1982) for second-place all-time among Oriole rookies.

The Orioles, shut out for the 11th time, lost for the 17th time in 21 games and dropped three games behind Tampa Bay with two games left in the season.