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Two months to go, five things we know about the Orioles

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Two months to go, five things we know about the Orioles

After Friday night’s game, the Orioles season will be two-thirds complete. Here are a few conclusions to draw from what we’ve seen.

1) Starting pitching is not what it was in 2014

A year ago, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris and Chris Tillman combined to win 44 games. The Orioles top three starters won’t come close to that this season.

At this point of the season in 2014, Chen was 11-3, Norris 8-7 and Tillman 7-5. They won 18 games in the final two months.

This year, Tillman (8-7), Miguel Gonzalez (9-8) and Ubaldo Jimenez (8-7) have already combined for 25 wins. Before he missed a turn with a sprained ankle, Tillman was on a serious roll, but Gonzalez and Jimenez have had issues in the second half.

It’s not impossible to make the postseason without multiple starters with double-digit wins. In 2012, Chen (12-11) was the team’s only starting pitcher who won at least 10 games, and still the Orioles won 93 and qualified for the postseason.

2) Chris Davis is back

After a bizarre 2014 (26 home runs, 72 RBIs, .196), Davis will easily exceed those numbers this season. In what is likely to be his final season with the Orioles, Davis has been putting on an extraordinary power display in his last 15 games. He has nine home runs and 23 RBIs.

Davis could become the only player in team history to have multiple 40 home run seasons.

In just over four years in Baltimore, Davis has 142 home runs, trailing Melvin Mora by 16 for 10th on the team’s all-time home run list.

Power is in short supply these days, and Davis could be setting himself up for an enormous payday.

RELATED: Local teams in trouble after trade deadline moves

3) Half a Wieters is better than none

When Buck Showalter announced that Matt Wieters would be activated two months ago, he said that having Wieters half the time would be better than not having him at all.

In those two months, the Orioles are 17-12 when Wieters catches, and the Orioles are 31-23.

Tillman has always felt better with Wieters catching him, though his wonderful one-hit game against Detroit came with Caleb Joseph behind the plate.

And, Wieters has provided some offensive help, too. He’s batting .264 with four home runs and 15 RBIs.

Wieters has caught on consecutive days only once, though Showalter has DH’d him five times and played him at first base another game to keep his bat in the lineup.

His return seems to have helped Caleb Joseph, too. Joseph’s batting average has ticked up from .243 to .253, and in his last 11 games, Joseph has four home runs and 13 RBIs. The Orioles almost always win when Joseph has an RBI.

Should Wieters leave as a free agent after the season, Joseph has presented himself as a credible successor.

4) J.J. Hardy’s contract was a wise investment

It’s hard to say if Hardy is playing the best defense of his career, but as Buck Showalter says, Hardy’s style is rubbing off on Jonathan Schoop.

Hardy is in the midst of his longest streak without an error (72 games). He’s made only one in the three months since he returned from a shoulder injury.
Schoop has made just one error in the month he’s been back from a right knee injury.

And, Manny Machado is playing brilliantly, too. While he’s committed 12 errors, half of them occurred while Hardy was out, and none have come in the last month.

We may well never see the offensive shortstop who hit 77 home runs in his first three years here, but in the two months since Wieters returned and added another potent bat to the lineup, Hardy’s average has moved up from .193 to .243.

5) The bullpen is nearly as good as last year’s

At this time last year, the Orioles had just added Andrew Miller to a strong bullpen and none of their key pieces had an ERA over four.

This year, Zach Britton (2-0, 1.62 with 27 saves in 28 chances), Darren O’Day (5-1, 1.31) have better numbers than a year ago.

So does Brad Brach, who may inherit O’Day’s role in 2016 if he leaves in 2016.

In his two seasons with the Orioles, Brach is 11-3.

This year, Brach is averaging fewer than seven hits per nine innings and well over a strikeout an inning.

Brach, Brian Matusz and Chaz Roe all have ERAs under three.

In three appearances, Mychal Givens has allowed just one hit in four innings, and he may be used in more crucial situations.

Jason Garcia, whose rehab assignment is over, may be added to the roster shortly, and if he returns, the Orioles will have to drop a player. Givens and T.J. McFarland are the only relievers with options.

MORE ORIOLES: Davis' grand-slam gives Orioles 7-3 win

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Stroman pitches 7 sharp innings as Blue Jays beat Orioles 4-1

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USA Today Sports

Stroman pitches 7 sharp innings as Blue Jays beat Orioles 4-1

TORONTO (AP) -- Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman gave up hits to the first three Baltimore batters Saturday.

The Orioles got just two more hits the rest of the afternoon.

Stroman pitched seven sharp innings for his second win in three starts and Toronto beat Baltimore 4-1 for its sixth straight victory over the struggling Orioles.

"He started working both sides of the plate with his sinker and I think that threw them off a little bit, especially late in counts," Blue Jays catcher Luke Maile said. "Overall it was just kind of vintage Stroman."

Baltimore right-hander Alex Cobb picked up his major league-worst 13th loss. The Orioles dropped to 1-8 against Toronto this season.

"I absolutely hate seeing that win-loss in parentheses next to my name," Cobb said. "It's sickening."

Stroman (3-7) allowed one run and five hits. He threw a season-high 107 pitches, the first time this season he has topped 100.

Stroman is 3-2 with a 3.03 ERA in five starts since returning from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss more than a month. He went 0-5 in seven starts before the injury.

"Since he's come back from the DL he's been really good," manager John Gibbons said. "I just think he's pitching like he's always pitched."

Stroman said he's focused on forgetting his early season struggles.

"I know I didn't have the first half I wanted but I've always been someone who prides myself on the second half and finishing strong," Stroman said. "That's something I'll look to continue to do this year."

Friend and teammate Devon Travis likes what he's seen from Stroman since the right-hander returned from injury.

"He's got that fire back," Travis said. "He's really under control. I think he's locking in on every single pitch."

Seunghwan Oh worked the eighth and Ryan Tepera finished for his seventh save in 12 opportunities.

Baltimore scored one run or fewer for the 27th time, the most in the majors.

The first three Orioles batters all singled, although Jonathan Schoop was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double. After Adam Jones gave Baltimore a 1-0 lead with an RBI hit to right, Mark Trumbo grounded into an inning-ending double play.

The Blue Jays answered with a three-run fourth against Cobb, taking advantage of a key Orioles error.

Justin Smoak opened the inning with a walk and, following a video review, was ruled safe at second after Cobb's high throw pulled shortstop Tim Beckham off the base on at attempted force play.

"That's not it in a nutshell but I can understand why that's the focus, a play we haven't been making," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Randal Grichuk followed with an RBI double, a second run scored on Diaz's double play grounder, and Maile capped the rally with an RBI single.

Diaz had four hits Friday, including the game-winning single in the 10th. He went 2 for 3 Saturday with a pair of singles.

The Blue Jays made it 4-1 in the fifth when Teoscar Hernandez doubled, advanced on a fly ball and scored on Cobb's balk.

Cobb (2-13) lost his sixth straight decision, allowing four runs, one earned, and four hits in five innings. Showalter said Cobb was removed to avoid worsening a blister on his pitching hand.

"I was only going to have a few more pitches going into the sixth so he felt like the risk-reward was not really worth it," Cobb said.

Grichuk made the defensive play of the game, a running catch on the warning track in left center to retire Trumbo for the first out of the ninth.

GOING DOWN?

Jones and Chris Davis got stuck in an elevator at the team's downtown hotel following Friday night's defeat. Jones documented much of the saga on Instagram. The players and fellow passengers were eventually rescued by Toronto Fire Services staff. The sound system at Rogers Centre played a few bars of Aerosmith's `Love in an Elevator' before Jones batted in the fourth inning Saturday.

NO HOMERS

Toronto won without hitting a home run for just the third time in 26 games this season.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Orioles: Baltimore is expected to demote a reliever when RHP Andrew Cashner (neck) is activated off the 10-day disabled list Sunday.

UP NEXT

Cashner (2-9, 4.56) last pitched July 10, when he allowed five runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings against the Yankees. Blue Jays LHP J.A. Happ (10-6, 4.29) is 0-3 with a 9.75 ERA in three July starts.

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Manny Machado pens goodbye to O's fans on Instagram

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USA Today Sports Images

Manny Machado pens goodbye to O's fans on Instagram

Days after being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a deal that captivated much of Major League Baseball, former Oriole Manny Machado took to Instagram to thank the only organization he's ever known. 

The 26-year-old's contract expires at the end of this season, which the Orioles chose not to renew as the last-place club enters a rebuilding phase. 

Machado put up big numbers in the team's first 97 games totaling career-highs in home runs (24), RBIs (65), OBP (.387) and OPS (.962). 

He is expected to play shortstop for a Dodgers club which finished the first half of the season 10 games above .500 in a competitive, tight NL West. 

The Dodgers will pay Machado $6.3 million. 

To my Baltimore family, I’ve spent the last few days trying to figure out how I would say goodbye but there wasn’t an easy way to do it. I first joined this organization at the age of 17 and these past eight years have far exceeded anything I ever could’ve imagined. Throughout the ups and downs, you embraced me unconditionally and you took a kid from Miami and brought me up as one of your own. I’ve enjoyed my time here and you all have played a big part in that!! Thank you Birdland! You are forever in my heart! To the Baltimore Orioles, it has truly been a blessing to put on that uniform every day. To the Angelos Family & Dan Duquette, thank you for making my dreams come true!!! To Buck and the coaching staff, thank you for your commitment and dedication to making me the best player and teammate I can possibly be…I wouldn’t be where I am today without all of you. To my teammates, we’ve shared some amazing times with lots of memories & friendships that I’ll cherish forever. Schoopy, I love you bro and I know you will carry the torch!!! ! Much love always, Manny #13

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