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Friday Bird Droppings: Where it’s a do-or-die series for the Orioles

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After a rainout last night, the Orioles will play arguably their four most important games of the season this weekend in the Bronx.

MLB: New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

The Orioles, against all odds, are postseason contenders as they head down the stretch of the 2020 season. And their four-game series at Yankee Stadium this weekend could either put them solidly into a wild card berth or cripple their chances at making the playoffs.

I don’t want to say the entire season hinges on these next four games, but...well, it could. This weekend’s series is the Orioles’ most important of the year. They’re squaring off against a reeling Yankees team that currently holds the final postseason slot, 1.5 games ahead of the Birds.

These are the games the O’s need to win. There’s no scoreboard watching. No other games matter. This is going to be a head-to-head, mano a mano, leave-it-all-on-the-field dogfight. Everything is on the line between these two clubs. Mother Nature even upped the suspense by raining out last night’s scheduled opener, setting the stage for four games in three grueling days.

If the O’s get swept, they can all but kiss their playoff chances goodbye. They’d be 5.5 games out with just 14 to play, on the brink of mathematical elimination. If they lose three of four, they wouldn’t be much better off, with a 3.5-game deficit that would be awfully tough to make up in two weeks. Even a series split, keeping them 1.5 games back, would take the power out of the Orioles’ hands. The O’s have no remaining games against the Yankees after this weekend, so they’d have to get help from other teams to make a move in the standings.

But taking three of four to pull within half a game? Now we’re talking. And in the unlikely scenario that the O’s pull off a four-game sweep this weekend? Well...let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but we can safely say that the excitement level in Birdland would be off the charts on Monday morning.

After tonight’s doubleheader, we’ll have a strong sense of where this series is heading. Let’s hope the Orioles are ready to make some noise.

Links

Notes on Cobb’s return, rest of rotation and more (game postponed) - School of Roch
With Alex Cobb returning this weekend and Dean Kremer and Keegan Akin looking good so far, is the Orioles’ rotation...kind of good? I’m not crazy, am I?

Ryan McKenna hopes to move from taxi squad to Orioles’ roster; Weekend rotation set; Hyde on Harvey - BaltimoreBaseball.com
I had kind of forgotten all about Ryan McKenna, but the O’s added him to their taxi squad for this road trip, putting him a step closer to the bigs. He’s not going to have a Ryan Mountcastle-level impact, but I say call him up. His speed and defense could be useful, if nothing else.

Connolly: Gary Thorne has a MASN contract but no schedule – messy saga continues – The Athletic
And now for your daily dose of bad news: Gary Thorne might never announce for the Orioles again, if Dan Connolly’s speculation is correct. The O’s appear to have no plans for Thorne to work this season even though they signed him to a contract a few weeks ago. I’m holding out hope that he’ll be back next season when COVID is (hopefully) in the rearview mirror.

Chatting with Baltimore Orioles Broadcaster Ben McDonald - Birds Watcher
Not all MASN broadcast changes this year have been bad; the increasing role of Ben McDonald has been a welcome sight. Here he reflects on his career with Birds Watcher’s Jesse Morrison.

Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! Two current Orioles relievers celebrate a birthday today: Maryland native Evan Phillips (26), who has a 4.09 ERA in 11 games for the O’s this year and is currently at the Bowie alternate site; and Shawn Armstrong (30), who has a 2.19 ERA in 11 games and is currently on the injured list.

Also born on this date are Andrew Cashner (34), who spent parts of two years with the Birds in 2018-19 and is now out of baseball; and the late shortstop Eddie Miksis (b. 1926, d. 2005), who played four games for the O’s in 1957-58.

The Orioles have an outstanding 41-25 record all time on this date, which hopefully will continue with two more wins tonight. Among the noteworthy games on Sept. 11:

  • In 1958, O’s manager Paul Richards got wacky with his lineup, penciling three pitchers as starting position players for a road game so he could strategically pinch-hit for them if their spots came up in the top of the first. The tactic didn’t help him avoid a 7-1 loss to the A’s.
  • In 1959, the O’s blanked the White Sox twice in a doubleheader, which Baseball Reference understates as, “Jack Fisher and Jerry Walker hurl the shutouts.” What it fails to mention is that Walker’s was a 16-inning (!) shutout. He allowed just nine of the 55 (!!) batters he faced to reach base, and the O’s walked off in the 16th on a Brooks Robinson RBI single.
  • The Birds also had walkoff wins on this date in 1970, on a Mark Belanger 13th-inning single against the Red Sox, and in 1974, on a Boog Powell 17th-inning single to beat the Yankees. Orioles starter Ross Grimsley pitched 14 innings in the latter, giving up just two runs.
  • In 2015, the Orioles crushed two grand slams in one inning against the Royals, with Nolan Reimold and Steve Clevenger doing the honors as part of a 14-8 humiliation of the Royals. It didn’t erase the sting of the previous year’s loss to Kansas City in the ALCS, but it sure felt good.
  • And on this date last year, the Birds’ Jonathan Villar hit MLB’s 6,106th home run of the season, setting a new record. The Orioles beat the Dodgers, 7-3, with the aforementioned Shawn Armstrong getting the win on his 29th birthday.