Bradford, Guthrie Struggle in Loss

The Orioles were able to overcome an abnormally-weak outing by Jeremy Guthrie (4 2/3 IP, nine hits, six runs, two walks, three strikeouts, and two homers) last night and even score a run against Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning to force a late tie. But on nine pitches, Chad Bradford undid all of the good as the Birds lost to the Evil Empire, 7-6, last night in the Bronx.

After retiring Andy Philips to start the bottom of the ninth inning, Bradford hit Melky Cabrera, gave up a single to Jason Giambi and then the game-winning single to Derek Jeter.

The top of that inning, though, was a little less straightforward.

Melvin Mora singled to center and then advanced to second on a Ramon Hernandez ground out. But when Tike Redman hit a single to shallow center, Mora tried to score and was out by a mile at home. Brian Roberts then singled, and Redman — who had advanced to second on the throw home — scored. But if Mora had held up, the O’s could have enjoyed a lead. At the time, it seemed that Mora made the right decision to try to score. But once Roberts singled, Mora’s attempt to score looked a little too aggressive.

Third base coach Juan Samuel shouldered the blame for the move.

“They were playing very shallow and I think it was a really poor decision by me,” Samuel said in the Sun. “That was my decision that cost us the ballgame. Yes, we tied, but you can’t predict what’s going to happen next. You have to make your decision on that particular play, and that was a bad one by me.”

The O’s started off strong by scoring three in the top of the first — on a wild pitch, a Miguel Tejada RBI single and another run scoring when Kevin Millar grounded into a double play. But the Yankees struck back with two in each of their first two at-bats and added another run in the bottom of the fourth.

Corey Patterson, celebrating his 28th birthday, homered in the top of the fifth before the Evil Empire got another run in the bottom of the stanza. The Birds got one back in the top of the seventh (scoring on yet another wild pitch) — setting up the wild ninth.

The O’s other pitchers last night — Brian Burres, James Hoey, and Jamie Walker — retired all 10 batters they faced.

Meanwhile, J.R. House was recalled yesterday to take the place of Jay Gibbons — who is out for the rest of the year with a shoulder injury.

Finally, negotiations with first-round draft pick Matt Wieters are not going well. The O’s still have until midnight tomorrow to make it official — so hopefully PBO Andy MacPhail and rationalize with Scott Boras and complete a deal.

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Orioles Host Late-Inning Party

Entering the weekend, the Orioles had lost 11 straight series to the Red Sox. But this weekend, the O’s staged two late-inning rallies (and put a scare in Boston during their only loss) to capture two of three from the Red Sox — who felt right at home with the legions of red-clad fans.

“I don’t know why so many Red Sox fans want to be here and Oriole fans don’t. You look around and you realize that you’re swamped in red. It gets really old,” Roberts said in the Baltimore Sun. “You’d just like to have the support of our fans. We have a pretty darn good team. When we win, I know people will come out. But it would nice if they came out to support us when we’re in the process of developing a winning team.”

Yesterday’s magic came from Miguel Tejada, who hit a game-tying homer in the eighth, and former “idiot” Kevin Millar — who launched a three-run bomb in the 10th to send the Birds home happy.

But the game would not have been close if not for the Birds’ defense. Melvin Mora made two amazing plays at third (and several other great ones), while Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis joined the catch parade as well. It’s no wonder Baltimore has the best defense in the league.

Meanwhile, Steve Trachsel labored through 6 1/3 innings, allowing 10 hits and walking three. But he only allowed three runs and got out of jam after jam. Trachsel only had one three-up, three-down inning and looked uncomfortable throughout. From there, Jim Hoey, Danys Baez, Jamie Walker, and Chad Bradford (who got the win) allowed exactly one hit — while the O’s mounted a huge rally.

On Friday night, the O’s scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth and one more in the ninth to shock the Red Sox, 6-5. Even though the bullpen ruined another stellar start by Erik Bedard (7 2/3 IP, 4 hits, three runs, two walks, seven strikeouts), Nick Markakis joined Aubrey Huff and Melvin Mora in tying the game and then won it in the bottom of the ninth with a sac fly after B-Rob led off the inning with a double.

The good news about Saturday’s 6-2 loss is that the O’s remained the only team to not have been shut out this season. The Birds now head to Yankee Stadium for a three-game set starting tonight.

Although the Yankees have won 11 of their last 13, they’ve lost six of nine of the Birds this season. Baltimore, in fact, has a chance to win a season series with the Evil Empire for the first time since 1997 (when the O’s took the season series, 8-4, and went 5-1 at Yankee Stadium).

Here are your pitching match-ups (Yanks pitchers subject to change, it seems):

Tonight (7:05, MASN): Jeremy Guthrie (7-4, 3.22) vs. Chien-Ming Wang (13-6, 3.94)

Tomorrow (7:05, MASN): Daniel Cabrera (8-12, 5.14) vs. Jeff Karstens (0-2, 10.13)

Wednesday (1:05, MASN): Erik Bedard (12-4, 3.11) vs. Phil Hughes (2-1, 4.64)

The other big storyline over the next three days are the Matt Wieters negotiations. Wednesday is the deadline to sign the O’s first-round draft pick — and expect it to go down the wire. But I’m remaining optimistic on this one, even if Scott Boras is involved.

co-published at Random Reality Thoughts

Orioles Need Wieters

As Roch Kubatko points out, the O’s must sign Matt Wieters today. This deal has long-term off-the-field implications. The Baltimore Sun reports the sides are only $5 million apart, which is nickels when it comes to sports contracts.

As Roch writes:

But forget for a minute that my checking account will stay the same – nearly empty – no matter what the Orioles decide. They’d be investing in more than a switch-hitting catcher. They also could be investing in their second baseman and leadoff hitter, their No. 1 starter, and any free agents with even a passing interest in coming to Baltimore.

Brian Roberts and Erik Bedard are more than a little curious to see what the Orioles plan to do in the next few years before making a long-term commitment. Do they have a plan? Are they headed in the right direction? Are they really committed to doing whatever’s necessary to field a winner – such as spending like the Steinbrenners?

If signed, Wieters presumably will be fast-tracked to the majors — and everybody know that Ramon Hernandez is signed through 2009. Yes, Scott Boras is involved, but it’s time the Orioles fork over whatever money is necessary and get the deal done.

That would be the first step in the right direction and prove that MacPhail really is making a difference.

Orioles Throttle Yankees

The Orioles made sure the Yankees had no chance to mount a late-inning comeback during yesterday’s game. The Birds of Baltimore completely shut down the Bronx Bombers, allowing no runs and only two hits in a 12-0 thrashing of the Evil Empire Tuesday night.

The enigmatic Aubrey Huff led the way with a third-inning grand slam. The equally mysterious Daniel Cabrera allowed two hits and struck out five — but walked six — in 6 2/3 innings. It was Cabrera’s first appearance in Yankee Stadium since Sept. 28, 2006 — when the Biggest Loser lost a no-hit bid with one out in the ninth.

“I thought [Monday’s] game made us more determined tonight to come out here and get the job done to be honest with you,” manager Dave Trembley said in the Baltimore Sun. “I know the mood of the team after the game last night was they were real determined to come out here today and win the ballgame. I think we know the personality of the club. The personality of the club is we’ll compete. It just seems like the more we’re pushed up against the wall, the more we’ll respond to that.”

Brian Roberts stole two bases (giving him 36 on the year) and went one-for-four with an RBI and a walk, while Melvin Mora got three hits and an RBI.

Yankee-killer Kevin Millar went three-for-three with an eighth-inning homer, four runs scored, and two walks. From 2004-06, Millar hit .304 against the Evil Empire with eight homers and 27 RBIs. This season, he’s upped his average against New York to .353.

NOTE: The Yankees will wear a No. 10 patch for the remainder of the season to honor the legendary Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto, who died Monday night. Rizzuto, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994, voiced the famous play-by-play in Meat Loaf’s “Paradise By the Dashboard Light.”

Orioles Travel to Toronto

The Orioles (56-63) travel to Rogers Center to face the Blue Jays (61-59) this weekend. The O’s have won two straight games, have captured three of their last four series overall, and are 18-13 since the all-star break.

In Toronto, the Orioles face a team that they’ve struggled to beat. This year, they’re 4-5 against the Blue Jays — but were 47-67 against them from 2001-2006.

Like the Orioles, the Blue Jays boast a strong set of starters. The Jays’ starters have a 4.30 ERA and their bullpen has an ERA of 3.48 (second in the league behind Boston). The O’s starters have a 4.14 ERA (third in the AL behind the Angels and A’s), but their bullpen is struggling with a 5.08 ERA.

Meanwhile, the Jays only have scored 18 runs in the past seven days (in seven games), batting .267 with just one home run. Conversely, over the time time frame (in six games), the O’s have scored 38 runs, hit .283, and swatted seven homers.

Since the all-star break, the difference is more stark. In 31 games (fewest in the majors over that time frame), the Orioles are hitting .289 (third best in baseball), with 28 homers and 165 runs scored. The Blue Jays, though, are hitting .270 with 20 homers and 136 runs (in 33 games). For the season, the Birds are hitting .274, while the Jays are hitting .261.

Defensively, the Orioles continue to be the best in the AL — committing just 58 errors (with a .987 FP), while the Jays have 76 (with a .984 FP).

Your pitching match-ups:

Tonight (7:07 p.m., MASN): Garrett Olson (1-1, 4.60) vs. A.J. Burnett (6-6, 4.09)

Tomorrow (1:07 p.m., MASN): Steve Trachsel (5-7, 4.85) vs. Jesse Litsch (4-5, 3.54)

Sunday (1:07 p.m., MASN): Jeremy Guthrie (7-4, 3.50) vs. Roy Halladay (14-5, 3.99)