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Friday Bird Droppings: Where the Rays picked on someone their own size

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The Rays trounced the Orioles by winning 18 of 19 games this year, but it turns out they’re pretty impressive against good teams, too.

Division Series - Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays - Game One Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

If you’re flabbergasted by the fact that the Orioles went 1-18 against the Tampa Bay Rays this year, take heart: it wasn’t only because of the Birds’ incompetence.

I mean, sure, the incompetence was a big part of it. Eighteen losses is absolutely absurd. But the Rays are also a genuinely sensational team.

That’s not exactly breaking news. The Rays won 100 games this year and were the best team in the American League by a healthy margin. Still, seeing them in action in their postseason opener last night, in which they made a 92-win Red Sox club look like chopped liver, reinforced how good the Rays are at what they do. From starting a rookie left-hander throwing 100 mph gas, to hitting moon shot home runs, to flashing the leather at seemingly every defensive position, to showing off their speed and baserunning acumen with a straight steal of home, Tampa Bay is a team that can do it all. And they do it all on a shoestring budget with a roster that’s in constant turnover.

I’m conflicted about the Rays’ success. On the one hand, it’s encouraging to see that it’s possible for a team to be an annual contender without having the limitless payroll of the Yankees, Dodgers, or other high-spending behemoths. It’s the kind of approach Mike Elias and the Orioles are trying to emulate — building an elite pipeline of talent in the minors, then (hopefully) supplementing it in the majors with some shrewd signings and under-the-radar acquisitions. The Rays prove it can work exceptionally well.

On the other hand, why did it have to be an AL East team? As if the Orioles weren’t already facing enough obstacles with the perpetually contending Yankees and Red Sox and up-and-coming Blue Jays in their division, now they’ve got to figure out how to beat the canny Rays at their own game. It’s just making the O’s rebuilding effort that much harder to pull off.

For this month, I’ll be pulling for the Rays. It’d be nice to see them win their first World Series, especially at the expense of so many unlikeable teams in this year’s playoffs. But if that happens (or even if it doesn’t), it’d be great if they could, like, cool their jets for a while and let the Orioles have a puncher’s chance. Is that too much to ask?

Links

Answers to your Orioles questions, Part 1 - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Among other notes, Rich Dubroff predicts that Adley Rutschman will make next year’s Opening Day roster and Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg could be in the majors late in the season. It’d be exciting if he’s right, but I have a feeling Mike Elias is going to slow-play his prospects.

More hardware for Grayson Rodriguez, plus other notes - Steve Melewski
This just in: Grayson Rodriguez is good. Film at 11.

Alan Mills thanks fans "for embracing me" - School of Roch
It doesn’t matter if it was more than two decades ago — any story about Alan Mills is required by law to mention his decking of Darryl Strawberry during that epic Orioles/Yankees brawl.

Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! It’s also the birthday of righty reliever Manny Barreda (33), who was a cool story for this year’s Orioles. After 15 years of toiling in the minors and the Mexican League, Barreda finally made his major league debut this season at the age of 32 — and he earned the win in his very first game, thanks to a nine-run rally in the eighth by the Birds. He pitched just three games before being outrighted back to the minors, but even if he never makes it back to the bigs, he’ll always be able to say he achieved his dream.

Ex-Orioles born on this day include a couple of former first round MLB draft picks, outfielder Keith Reed (43) and right-hander Mike Morgan (62). The former’s big league career lasted six games; the latter’s spanned parts of four decades. And it’s the birthday of 1972-74 O’s infielder Enos Cabell (72) and the late righty Bob Mabe (b. 1929, d. 2005), who pitched two games in 1960.

The O’s have played five postseason games on this date in history, and they won four of them, giving up a total of just two runs:

  • In 1966, in the first World Series game ever played in Baltimore, the Orioles edged the Dodgers with a 1-0 victory, giving them a commanding 3-0 lead in the series. Paul Blair’s fifth-inning home run provided the only scoring the Birds would need, as 21-year-old Wally Bunker tossed a shutout, holding L.A. to six hits and striking out six. A crowd of 54,445 packed Memorial Stadium for the festivities.
  • In 1983, the Orioles punched their ticket to the World Series by completing an ALCS victory over the White Sox, three games to one. The O’s and Sox battled for nine scoreless innings in Game 4 before Tito Landrum homered off Chicago starter Britt Burns in the 10th. The Orioles added two runs against the bullpen to seal a 3-0 clincher. Storm Davis and Tippy Martinez combined for 10 scoreless innings for the Birds.
  • In 1997, the Orioles opened the ALCS with a 3-0 shutout of Cleveland in front of more than 49,000 fans at Camden Yards. Scott Erickson was brilliant, surrendering just four hits in eight scoreless frames, and Randy Myers closed things out with a perfect ninth. Brady Anderson’s leadoff homer and Roberto Alomar’s two-run shot backed the stellar pitching.
  • And in 2012, the Orioles evened up the ALDS against the Yankees at one game apiece with a 3-2 win in Baltimore. The O’s managed only one extra-base hit but got timely knocks when they needed them, with a Chris Davis two-run single and Mark Reynolds RBI hit supporting Wei-Yin Chen, who threw 6.1 strong innings in his postseason debut.