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Orioles sweep Yankees, within one win of 500

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Orioles sweep Yankees, within one win of 500

BALTIMORE – The Orioles come back on Sunday with something to play for—a .500 record. After their doubleheader sweep of the New York Yankees, the Orioles are within one win of their fourth straight non-losing season.

Saturday night’s 4-3 win over New York before 35,198 at Oriole Park was their fourth straight.

Tied at 3 in the bottom of the eighth. Paul Janish singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch by Dellin Betances (6-4), moved to third on a bunt single by Gerardo Parra and scored on another wild pitch and the Orioles (80-81) led 4-3.

Parra had six hits in the doubleheader.

T.J. McFarland (2-2) pitched two perfect innings for the win.

Zach Britton pitched the ninth for his 36th save.

Ubaldo Jimenez struggled through six innings, allowing three runs on five hits with three walks and two hit batters.

Manny Machado homered in the third, his 35th of the year. He homered in the first game, too. It was the fourth straight game he’s hit a home run. He’s the second player in team history with 100 runs, 30 homers and 20 stolen bases. Brady Anderson in 1996 was the other.

“I don’t know what else you can ask a guy to do. He’s stolen a base for us, he’s played as good of defense as you can play, he helped us in the one hole when we had a need there. And I think you are seeing a guy evolve into somebody capable of hitting some other spots in the order. And that’s kind of how you hope the process goes when you first bring him up,” Showalter said.

Nolan Reimold had a leadoff homer in the first, his sixth of the season.

New York (87-74) needed a win or a Houston loss to secure home field advantage for their wild-card game, but didn’t get it.

“It’s just what you are supposed to do, regardless of who you are playing. And our guys have all year. They’ve never given in, and they’ve competed and I’m real proud of them,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I know I put myself in Houston’s shoes, I know how I would expect a team to play. But I think we all know that’s not always the case. They ran everything they had at us.”

Jimenez had a rough 2014, but a much better 2015. He finishes 12-10 with a 4.11 ERA.

“It was way better than last year, for sure. It’s not like a great season. It’s an improvement compared to last year,” Jimenez said.

Wei-Yin Chen’s probable last outing with the Orioles was another fine one, allowing two runs in six-plus innings in a 9-2 win in the first game of the doubleheader.

Chen (11-8) gave up four hits and three walks, and didn’t allow a run for the first six innings. By then, the Orioles led 7-0.

He presumably finishes his Orioles career with a 46-32 record.

“During these four years, I really want to thank all my teammates, my manager, everyone on the team. Everybody really helped me a lot. I learned a lot in these four years,” Chen said through his translator.

Chen is expected to do well on the free agent market. He should be one of the top second-tier starting pitchers.

“I would be happy if I was given the chance to come back here. But sometimes as a professional player, it’s inevitable that you have to change teams and adapt to a new environment. I don't know where I will pitch next year, I just know I will do my best to pitch [in] each game,” Chen said.

Machado had three RBIs. Another run scored in the first when he grounded into a double play.

“There’s something about Wei-Yin. He comes out every day and grinds and pitches to the last [out] is made. He’s a guy we definitely want in this organization. He’s a guy we love to play behind. He’s definitely going to be missed. Hopefully, we’ll re-sign him back because we need him here,” Machado said.

The Orioles scored single runs in the first, third and fifth off Ivan Nova (6-11). They scored four runs in the sixth and three in the seventh.

If the Orioles win their game on Sunday, they’ll finish with a .500 record.

If you're not the last team standing, then those type of things are for people who look at stats,” Showalter said. “There's been so many positives this year. There's that negative feeding frenzy that goes on this type of year when you're not in the playoffs."

NOTES: Machado is the first Oriole to homer in four straight games since Caleb Joseph in Aug. 2014. … Michael Pineda (12-9, 4.24) faces Chris Tillman (10-11, 5.05) on Sunday at 3:05 p.m.

[RELATED: Chris Davis voted Most Valuable Oriole for second time]

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The Orioles mishandled their search for a new general manager and still ended up with a home run hire

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USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles mishandled their search for a new general manager and still ended up with a home run hire

The Baltimore Orioles let a lame duck general manager engineer the most important trade deadline in recent franchise history, showed interest in some of the most uninspired executive candidates on the market, attended the GM Meetings without yet having a new GM, and somehow still managed to land the best possible candidate on the market. After spending months, if not years, digging deeper and deeper into a self-imposed hole, they figured out a way to come out smelling like roses.

It’s finally official. The Orioles have hired Mike Elias to as Executive Vice President and General Manager, and he’ll be given full autonomy to oversee all baseball operations. It’s a perfect fit.

For the first time in what feels like years, the Orioles are making a decision that’s been universally lauded.

Elias leaves the Houston Astros having played a key role in their long rebuilding process, a task that at the time seemed similarly daunting to the one in front of him in Baltimore. His experience with a “trust the process”-style rebuild is one of the reasons he is such a perfect hire for a team that lost well over 100 games and holds the top overall pick in the 2019 MLB draft.

Elias is young (35), intelligent (graduated from Yale), experienced (former scout with model organization St. Louis Cardinals and assistant GM for the 2017 World Series-champion Astros), and has a scouting background (oversaw player development and all minor league teams for Houston). If popular narratives are to be believed, Elias’ youth would imply that he is hungry to prove himself in his first GM job, and that he is analytically-inclined, as most young front office executives are in 2018.

That last point is crucial, as the struggles of the Orioles in 2018 have largely been attributed to a consistent lack of interest in modern analytics, research and development, and player development. The Astros have also been quite active in the international markets, and area the Orioles have famously avoided for much of their history, and the hire of Elias could mean the franchise is interested in joining the rest of baseball in mining talent from Latin America.

It’s also interesting to note the Astros’ nearly unprecedented success with starting pitchers, especially as it compares to the Orioles’ equally unprecedented lack of success in the same area. The Orioles, once proud employers of some of the best pitchers in baseball, haven’t properly drafted and developed a homegrown pitcher in decades. Chris Tillman and Erik Bedard have ranged from serviceable to impressive for short stints, but Mike Mussina (in the ‘90s!) is the last true ace to come through the Orioles system.

The Astros, on the other hand, have established themselves as the industry standard for pitching development in recent years, both with young draftees and with acquiring “retreads” from other teams, tweaking something about their repertoire, and enjoying the results.

It helps that the Astros play in one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in baseball, but if Elias can bring to Baltimore any improvements for how to handle pitching staffs, that alone would make him worth the investment.

One point to emphasize from the official announcement is the public assurance that Elias will have full decision-making power in his role. Orioles ownership has a tough reputation around the league for being meddlesome and hamstringing their GM’s from operating as best they can.

If the announcement is to be believed (and frankly, it’s hard to imagine a rising star like Elias committing to the organization if he didn’t believe it himself), then this marks a sea change from how Peter Angelos has operated in prior seasons. His sons appear much more interested in letting the baseball people handle baseball things, and that’s cause for optimism for O’s fans.

They could have gone with the “tried and true.” They could have gone with the old-school. They could have gone with a baseball lifer. They could have gone with Ned Colletti.

No shots at Colletti, who by all accounts is a good administrative mind and a good man. But much like Buck Showalter is a terrific manager who was no longer the right fit in Baltimore, a GM of Colletti’s ilk is not what the Orioles franchise needs right now. 

Bringing in Elias, no matter the long and winding road that brought the Orioles to that decision, signals a changing of the guard in Baltimore. It signals a complete revamping of the way the front office operates. Everything from the process by which decisions are made, to how young talent is evaluated, to how modern analytics are applied to everything the franchise touches, is going to change under Elias. And, more likely than not, change for the better.

Make no mistake. This is a home run hire, and yes, pun very much intended. There’s finally cause for celebration in Birdland.

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Who is Mike Elias?

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Who is Mike Elias?

Where to begin after a team loses 115 games? That’s the main question settling into Mike Elias’ future when he takes over the Baltimore Orioles' beached ship.

Multiple reports have pegged Elias as the Orioles new general manager. He’s yet another front office member of the Houston Astros to be plucked by an outside organization for a larger role. He’s young, comes from an analytics-fueled front office and walks into a job where there only seems to be one direction to go following last season. 

Elias also has local ties. The 36-year-old is a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria. He went to Yale where he worked four seasons as a left-handed pitcher. Elias jumped into scouting for the St. Louis Cardinals directly after graduation.

Similar to Nationals manager Mike Rizzo, Elias moved up from a scouting baseline to a prominent decision-maker in the front office. Elias was ported from St. Louis to Houston when the Astros hired Jeff Luhnow to become general manager in 2011. The duo, and rest of the front office took over a team that was about to embark on three consecutive seasons with 100 losses or more. The organization became notable around the league for its fervent reworking of approach and willingness to absorb losses to vault to the top of the annual draft.

In 2012, the Astros selected Carlos Correa No. 1 overall. Elias, then a special assistant to the general manager, has received a large amount of the credit for taking a shortstop who became Rookie of the Year and an All-Star. Nine of the Astros’ 14 selections that year made it to the major leagues. Not all with the Astros. Not all with a large degree of success. But, they made it.

Houston selected burgeoning All-Star Alex Bregman with the No. 2 overall pick in 2015. 

However, the Astros’ high-end draft history wasn’t perfect with Luhnow and Elias in place. They selected Stanford starter Mark Appel with the No. 1 overall pick in 2013. Just 27, he is out of baseball after never making it past Triple A. The Astros took Brady Aiken with the top overall pick in 2014. He never signed. 

Yet, the organization continued to turn. Bregman developed into a star. Jose Altuve won the MVP award, Lance McCullers, also part of the 2012 class, became an All-Star. Four years after Luhnow arrived to reverse the organization’s course, the Astros had a winning season and reached the postseason. Two years later they won the World Series.

Hiring Elias signals the Orioles, long viewed as one of the stodgier organizations in baseball, are shifting to the modern era. Baltimore was known more for its reticence to embrace analytics as opposed to its use of the information. The move may also calm the ongoing rotation of the front office bosses. Elias will be the organization’s fourth general manager since the Nationals started playing baseball again in the District in 2005. 

Among Elias’ initial tasks is finding a new manager. The Orioles fired Buck Showalter after 8 ½ seasons. Three of them led to the postseason. But, the mess of last season forced a change.

They also need to hit in the draft. The Orioles hold the 2019 top overall pick.

Elias will try to conjure a way to resuscitate the Orioles while fighting the expansive cash flow of the New York Yankees and World Series champion Boston Red Sox within the division. 

He’s been part of turnarounds before. This one would fully be in his hands.