There is no good news to report for the Orioles as today begins. Just kidding! Possibly just to make me look foolish after having started writing this post with the previous sentence, the Orioles ARE maybe going to deliver some good news to us today. Following Wednesday’s annoying loss to the Cardinals, in which Ryan Mountcastle suffered some kind of shoulder injury of unknown severity, The Baltimore Banner reported that Heston Kjerstad is on his way to Baltimore.
It’s NOT clear whether this means Kjerstad will be activated tonight, which the Banner acknowledged is not yet known. Activating Kjerstad could be contingent on what happens to Mountcastle. If the first baseman hits the injured list, maybe Kjerstad joins the team. Maybe they call up Kjerstad regardless, drop Ryan McKenna back to the minors, and try to play a rookie down the stretch in hopes of providing a lefty power spark in the season’s remaining home games. The Rays do have four right-handed starting pitchers on the board for the series.
As of this writing, it’s simply not known. Other beat writers have not added their own reports in response to this scoop. Kjerstad DID leave Wednesday’s Norfolk game after two plate appearances, which certainly lends credence to the idea that the team found out something about Mountcastle’s shoulder and decided Kjerstad is their response. “It doesn’t feel good,” Mountcastle told reporters after the game, and added that he’s “just praying for the best.”
These don’t sound like very positive quotes from him, but who knows. The idea of being without Mountcastle stinks, as he’s been rocking an .897 OPS in the second half of the season, though he’d cratered hard through the first action in September. As one of the Orioles who is absolutely capable of going on an extended heater and carrying the team for a week or two, it would be tough to go through the rest of the season without that potential.
This is all backdrop going on in the aftermath of a Cardinals series that they just concluded yesterday with a 1-0 loss to seal a series loss against a last place team at home in September that has no positives, unless you want to feel better that the O’s didn’t get swept.
In terms of all of the stakes going into yesterday’s game, with the Rays already having won before the Orioles even played, with the Rays coming into town next, with the Orioles having had a muted offense against the no-longer-good Adam Wainwright the previous night and with former O’s prospect Drew Rom, who had not yet been good in MLB, you can make a real case that getting shut out last night is the worst loss of the season so far. Scoring three runs in the previous two games is probably the worst consecutive losses they’ve suffered to date.
It’s a real downer headed into what has seemed for two months to be the big, crucial series of the remainder of the season. The four games coming from tonight through Sunday are probably going to determine who wins the AL East. You probably already know what’s being played for there, but in case you don’t: The Orioles are holding a two game lead over the Rays in the East. With only one win in this series, the O’s guarantee that they win the season series against the Rays, giving them a head-to-head tiebreaker and effectively an extra win advantage in the standings.
Winning tonight feels even more important than it would have done already because if the Orioles drop the opener even with Kyle Bradish on the bump, their lead will drop to just a single game - and we already know that Friday’s starting pitcher is the disappointing Jack Flaherty. That would be a bad scenario, and it would be worse still if the O’s had fallen into a tie heading through to Saturday’s game.
Will Kjerstad be a part of that lineup, or a part of this coming series at all? The first round pick from 2020 has batted .298/.371/.498 over 76 games with Triple-A Norfolk, with ten home runs. After a scorching July, Kjerstad went through a serious August slump, with just one home run in 27 games; he’d been doing better through his early September action. The hitting prospect promotions from Norfolk this year have generally had better results than this, although as Mike Elias has been known to say, the Orioles are looking at more than back of the baseball card stats.
Holding the line tonight is the first step towards getting at least a series split. If the Orioles can split these next four games, they’ll still have a two game lead with 13 games left to play. The final ten of those games are against teams that will not be making the playoffs. That’s a favorable schedule overall, even if the Astros loom right after the Rays. But they’ve got to hold the line tonight and they’ve got to find a way to get the offense going again and get the series split, otherwise we’re going to see the Orioles in the wild card round instead of earning the bye that, through 145 games, they have in their possession.
Until 7:15 tonight, all we can do is pace nervously and anxiously stare at the clock, waiting until the ultimate showdown of ultimate destiny is set to begin. Note that tonight’s game has that 7:15 game time because it is a Fox national game, and there will not be a MASN broadcast of the game.
Around the blogO’sphere
How the Orioles’ Kyle Bradish became the ace of the AL’s best team (The Athletic)
This is a cool headline to see in a national publication. Here’s hoping nothing happens tonight to dampen Bradish’s case to be an ace and that nothing happens this weekend to change the O’s being the AL’s best team.
Orioles option Irvin, recall Vespi for fresh bullpen arm (Baltimore Baseball)
Cole Irvin draws the short straw for no reason other than that other players - starting pitchers for a few games in a row - did not do their jobs well enough.
‘Anti-chump’ clause makes Ravens a silent party to Orioles lease talks (The Baltimore Sun)
I legitimately can’t believe that it’s mid-September and we’re STILL in limbo about the Orioles lease. John Angelos, you remain among the worst.
How Rubén Francisca’s left arm became a secret weapon for Orioles hitters (The Baltimore Banner)
This is about the batting practice pitcher and how he’s been doing a good job, not that the O’s offense showed anything from this the last couple of games.
Suggesting an Orioles prospect for the Arizona Fall League (MLB Pipeline)
The trio who do prospect writing for MLB suggest Coby Mayo for the AFL. This would be very out of character for how the Orioles have used the AFL since Mike Elias took over. It’s usually players who missed significant time with injury during the year or who need to be looked at for a Rule 5 decision. Mayo is neither of these, nor are other exciting young names like Samuel Basallo and Jackson Holliday.
Birthdays and Orioles anniversaries
Today in 1969, the Orioles clinched the American League East with a 10-5 victory over Cleveland. This gave the Orioles a division lead of 18 games with only 17 left to play.
In 1971, the Orioles played a doubleheader against the Tigers, with Frank Robinson homering in each of the games. The second of these homers put Robinson into the 500 home run club, at the time just the 11th member. These days, there are 28.
There are a pair of former Orioles who were born on this day. They are: Famous double-hitter Delmon Young, and 2007-08 reliever Chad Bradford.
Is today your birthday? Happy birthday to you! Your birthday buddies for today include: baseball Hall of Famer Kid Nichols (1869), actor Walter Koenig (1936), basketball Hall of Famer Larry Brown (1940), Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks (1955), Academy Award-winning director Bong Joon-ho (1969), rapper Nas (1973), and singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse (1983).
On this day in history...
In 1752, Great Britain finally adopted the Gregorian calendar that’s still in use today, so this year skipped September 3-13.
In 1814, Francis Scott Key penned his poem after Fort McHenry in Baltimore was successfully defended against a British bombardment. We know it these days as our national anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner.
In 1901, then-Vice President Theodore Roosevelt became the president after the death of William McKinley, who had been shot eight days prior.
In 1994, Major League Baseball formally canceled the remainder of the season in response to the players having gone on strike.
And that’s the way it is in Birdland on September 14. Have a safe Thursday. Go O’s!