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Clock ticking on Orioles division title hopes

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Clock ticking on Orioles division title hopes

The Orioles are in trouble. The Orioles can still win the American League East.

Both of those are correct.

Nearly one-third into the season, the Orioles are four games under .500 for the second time. Not since 2011 have they been that far below the breakeven point.

They’re only three games out of first place in the East. A year ago, they were 3 ½ games out through 50 games and won the division going away.

The Orioles haven’t yet played with their projected roster on the field, and J.J. Hardy may have another serious injury.

Last year, Manny Machado and Matt Wieters never played together, and they still went to the American League Championship Series.

There are many more worrisome signs this year than there were a year ago. Machado and Wieters were the key players on the disabled list. Bud Norris was on it briefly. This year, Wieters, Hardy, Norris, Kevin Gausman, and Jonathan Schoop gave been on the DL.

Last year’s team had Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. It also had a surprising breakout season from Steve Pearce. This year, Cruz and Markakis are gone, and Pearce is batting .186.

Hardy missed the first 25 games of the season with a shoulder injury. If the injury that caused him to miss Monday night’s game turns out to be an oblique injury (manager Buck Showalter didn’t want to use that term when talking with reporters in Houston), then it could cost him another month.

Everth Cabrera, who was supposed to be insurance for Hardy has played well defensively, but horribly offensively. He’s 2-for-26 in May, and batting just .202 with no power.

If Hardy is sidelined for any length of time, they could call Paul Janish up from Norfolk. His defense is excellent, but has a lifetime .214 average in the majors, and is hitting just .234 for the Tides.

The Orioles clearly need some offense.

Last year, they scored two or fewer runs 45 times, but won 11 of them. This year, they’ve lost 18 of 19 games in which they’ve scored two or fewer.

The offense is probably going to have to come from within. Other than Chris Parmelee or Nolan Reimold there doesn’t appear to be any help from Norfolk. The team’s two best Triple-A position prospects Dariel Alvarez and Christian Walker are batting .239 and .243.

Only four teams (Miami, Milwaukee, Oakland and Philadelphia) seem to be out of playoff contention, and there’s likely to be lots of competition for players they might want to deal.

Some of the Orioles with the best track records are stumbling. Chris Tillman has a six-game losing streak. Adam Jones has hit just one home run in his last 36 games. Chris Davis has struck out 70 times in 49 games.

There are some good signs. Three starters, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Ubaldo Jimenez all have ERAs under 3.50. Mike Wright, who’s starting tonight has looked strong in his first three starts, and the back end of the bullpen, Zach Britton and Darren O’Day have been solid.

In order for the team to contend, the starters must keep pitching at least as well as they have, and Tillman must join them. And, they must get through Brian Matusz’s suspension.

Matusz’s appeal of his eight-game suspension for having a foreign substance on his arm is scheduled to be heard Wednesday, and if it’s upheld, that makes for a tricky several days.

When Machado was suspended for five games a year ago, the Orioles played with a three-man bench and won four of five.

Showalter hasn’t said definitively what he will do, but the odds are he’ll play with a three-man bench and keep seven relievers though it’s likely he’ll change the roster during the suspension’s duration.

If there’s an injury during that time that’s thought to be relatively minor, the Orioles might have to disable that player. A two-man bench won’t work. The possible addition of Reimold might also have to wait until the suspension is completed.

A suspension of eight games that might start, say, Friday wouldn’t conclude until June 14. Even though Matusz might not appear to be terribly valuable, and generally appears in games where they trail (the Orioles are 3-14 in games he pitches), his absence makes both in-game and roster maneuvering tricky.

There is precedent on the Orioles side. While their best shot may be at winning a mediocre AL East, last year, the Kansas City Royals were 24-28 and came within an eyelash of winning the World Series.

But, if the Orioles don’t start playing better and soon, all those precedents won’t mean much.

MORE ORIOLES: ORIOLES HOPE HARDY ISN'T GONE FOR LONG

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Orioles' Adam Jones purchases Cal Ripken Jr.'s former estate, per report

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Orioles' Adam Jones purchases Cal Ripken Jr.'s former estate, per report

Cal Ripken Jr.'s 25-acre, 8,545 square-foot home went up for auction this past Saturday and the highest bidder was......Adam Jones? 

The center fielder is purchasing the Orioles legend's former Reisterstown, Md. estate, according to The Athletic

Placed on the market in 2016 for $12.5 million, Ripken reduced the price to $9.7 million last year but was still unable to find a willing buyer. The estate was eventually put up for auction and sold to Jones for an undisclosed amount. 

The six bedroom home has 10 full bathrooms, a movie theater, a gym that overlooks an indoor basketball court, a pool and a baseball field with batting cages, a locker room and soaking tubs. One of the tubs was taken from Memorial Stadium and used by Johnny Unitas and Art Donovan, but Ripken is keeping that one. 

What makes this purchase even more interesting is that Jones will become a free agent at the end of the 2018 season, but that does not mean he plans on re-signing with the team. The 32-year old, who is in his last year of a six-year $85.5 million contract, is known to dip his toes in real estate investments and his wife, Audie Fugett, is a Baltimore native. 

The deal is scheduled to close on June 11. 

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David Price's complete game shuts down Baltimore's offense

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USA TODAY Sports

David Price's complete game shuts down Baltimore's offense

BOSTON -- One strike away from a four-hit shutout, David Price happily settled for a complete game and his strongest outing of the season.

Price struck out eight and held Baltimore to five hits, including two in the ninth when the Orioles broke up the shutout before the Boston left-hander finished them off in a 6-2 victory for the Red Sox on Thursday night.

"He was amazing," Boston manager Alex Cora said. "He was outstanding. You saw it. Bad swings, up, down, in and out, changeup, cutter, sinkers ... that was fun to watch."

J.D. Martinez hit a two-run homer in the first, and Xander Bogaerts homered with two on during a four-run fifth, giving Price more than enough cushion against the struggling Orioles.

Price (4-4) struck out eight and didn't walk a batter while winning consecutive starts for the first time this season. He cruised through the first eight innings before Andrew Susac led off the ninth with a double, the first Baltimore player to reach second base in the game.

Manny Machado spoiled the shutout bid with a two-out homer, but Price finished off Baltimore on Jonathan Schoop's pop-up to center as the Red Sox improved to 4-0 against Baltimore by taking the makeup game that was rained out on Patriots' Day.

"They're a free-swinging team," said Price, who threw just 95 pitches. "You can go out there and do that or you can go out there for three innings and give up a bunch of runs."

Danny Valencia had a pair of hits for the punchless Orioles, who have lost three of four and have the second-fewest wins in the American League. Valencia nearly had a double in the fifth, but got thrown out at second by left fielder Andrew Benintendi, one of several strong defensive plays that helped Price go the distance.

Hanley Ramirez also caught a foul pop on the top step of Boston's dugout in the second and Mookie Betts ran down a fly ball that was headed to the wall in right.

"The defensive plays that I had today, it makes everything a lot easier," Price said.

Kevin Gausman (3-3) went 4 2/3 innings for Baltimore, allowing six runs and eight hits while striking out six and walking two. He was pulled after Bogaerts drove a high fastball out to left with two men on during Boston's four-run fifth.

"We just got into some sticky situations where we just had to dig ourselves out of a hole and we just couldn't," Susac said.

The Orioles also weren't happy with the strike zone, which Susac said forced Gausman to throw some pitches the Red Sox pounced upon.

Manager Buck Showalter agreed with his catcher.

"I'm very biased, but I didn't think he got a fair shake tonight," Showalter said. "There were a lot of pitches that could have and should have gone his way."

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