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Dwight Smith Jr. hosts virtual auction to support high school graduates

Dwight Smith Jr. hosts virtual auction to support high school graduates

Orioles’ left fielder Dwight Smith Jr. is using his new video game skills to give back to his hometown community.

Like many other schools around the country, his alma mater McIntosh High School in Peachtree City, Ga. was unable to host a typical graduation ceremony this year for its 400 graduates – one of whom is Smith Jr.’s younger sister. To help support the students during this frustrating time, Smith Jr. decided to host a virtual auction where all the proceeds will go toward funding gifts for each graduate. 

After developing some gaming skills during quarantine, Smith Jr. decided he would auction off the opportunity for fans to play against him in MLB The Show or Call of Duty. For $150, fans can play five innings of the MLB simulation against the Orioles' representative for the game's player league that ended in May. For $250, a group of three can challenge him in Call of Duty.

RELATED: SMITH JR. STEAMROLLS GOODRUM IN MLB THE SHOW PLAYER LEAGUE

In addition to the video game experiences, the auction also includes autographed Orioles memorabilia like an Alex Cobb signed baseball and Austin Hayes signed jersey. 

Smith Jr. hopes to raise $20,000 to support the graduating class. The auction started Wednesday morning and will run through July 30. For more information, visit 32auctions.com/dwightsmithjr

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ESPN projects Orioles as MLB's most likely 'Cinderella' team, Nationals face unwelcomed reality

ESPN projects Orioles as MLB's most likely 'Cinderella' team, Nationals face unwelcomed reality

At the beginning of the 2020 season, few expected the Orioles to finish anywhere above fifth place in the AL East, let alone compete for a playoff spot. 

But after a 10-7 start in a shortened 60-game schedule that will include an expanded playoff format, the Orioles are in a position to pull off a classic "Cinderella" story. According to ESPN, they're the most likely "bottom-tier" team from the beginning of the year to make the playoffs. 

Writer Bradford Doolittle categorized his "bottom-tier" list of teams as clubs who had a 0% chance of winning the World Series under a normal 162-game season. Among a group consisting of the Pirates, Giants, Mariners, Royals, Tigers and Marlins, the Orioles have the best current chances of making it to the 16-team postseason at 39%.

"The Orioles have mashed their way to a 119 team OPS+ and have outscored opponents by eight runs through one-fifth of their schedule," Doolittle wrote. "Their 10-7 record doesn't include a 5-2 lead they hold in a suspended game against Washington from Aug. 9 that has already reached the sixth inning. 

RELATED: LOOKING BACK AT O'S PROJECTIONS THAT LOOK WORSE BY THE GAME

"If you book that suspended game in favor of Baltimore, they'd need to go 19-23 the rest of the way to get there," he said. "Unfortunately, the O's have eight games left against the Yankees, three with the Nationals beyond the suspension, seven with Tampa Bay and three against Atlanta."

Baltimore certainly has a tough road ahead, though it's encouraging they probably won't have to go .500 the rest of the way to give themselves a shot at a playoff berth. As we've already seen with a 60-game season, anything can happen, and it'd be hard for O's fans to complain about meaningful games in September should the club stay hot.

Meanwhile, the defending champion Nationals' 6-9 start to the year has put them at risk of becoming one of Doolittle's "elite" teams to miss out on the playoffs. 

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An "elite" team is one that at least a 5% chance at winning the World Series under a normal format, and the Nationals lead a group including the Astros, Braves, Twins, Dodgers and Yankees with a 43% chance of missing the playoffs. Houston holds the next highest chance at 18%. 

The good news for the Nats here is that their pitching staff is one of the best in baseball and Stephen Strasburg has yet to make a start in 2020. They were also without Juan Soto for the first seven games of the year and the man has absolutely mashed (five home runs, 1.486 OPS) since he rejoined the Washington lineup. 

As they get healthier and more games under their belt, the Nats should put some more wins together. They just don't have a ton of time to figure things out like last season. 

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Orioles continue to prove critics wrong, sweep Phillies in fifth win in a row

Orioles continue to prove critics wrong, sweep Phillies in fifth win in a row

By the time the home runs stopped on a humid night in Philadelphia, the Orioles had not just beaten the Phillies for the third-straight game, they’d done so in convincing fashion. 

In an 11-4 win over the Phillies, the Orioles homered twice, had 15 hits and scored in four of the final five innings as they put a bow on their fifth win in a row in a series sweep.

The offense, which has carried the Orioles through the first few weeks of the season, remained red hot as the Orioles kept winning — and kept surprising the league as a result.

“The team is taking good at-bats together, playing good fundamental baseball, playing defense, turning double plays, our pitching is doing a great job for us,” shortstop Jose Iglesias said. “Everything is just going our way. We’ve just got to take it one day at a time.”

The Phillies had a two-run lead for all of one half inning, before four Orioles runs in the top of the fifth inning gave them a lead they wouldn’t give up. 

They added two runs in the seventh, three in the eighth and two more in the ninth. The Orioles have now scored 10 or more runs for the third time in the last six games — with four more innings to play of a completed game Friday afternoon, a game they've scored five runs in already.

RELATED: O'S PROJECTIONS THAT LOOK WORSE BY THE DAY

“It’s fun to win, I think this team is doing a great job battling every day,” Iglesias said. “We’re playing a good baseball game right now.”

But it hasn’t just been the bats that have carried the Orioles. Manager Brandon Hyde credited the pitching staff, which has kept batters off the base paths throughout the season. 

Starting pitcher Thomas Eshelman threw five innings, allowed four hits and just two earned runs. More importantly, he and the three Orioles relievers didn’t allow a single walk. 

“We’re just playing good baseball right now,” Hyde said. “Looking at the box score here, no walks tonight. That’s just something we didn’t do well last year. Quite a few games now where we haven’t walked many people. That is super key against good offensive clubs.”

The Orioles entered Thursday night’s game, which was delayed by rain, with one of the best offenses in the American League, with two of its hottest hitters in Hanser Alberto and Iglesias. Both went 2-for-4, and Iglesias added two RBIs. 

Approaching the 20th game of the season — a third of the 60-game shortened season, the Orioles are starting to make the league take notice of what’s going on in Baltimore.

At least through the first few weeks of the season, the Orioles have become the biggest surprise in the sport.

“Regardless of whether we're winning or losing, I see potential,” Iglesias said. “I see hungry players with a lot of talent that want to get better. I see chemistry. I’ve been around and I see a good group that wants to compete and gets along. That, to me, has a lot of value.”

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