I don’t remember the last time that the Orioles had a big series with the Kansas City Royals. While that is in fact a reflection on how inept both teams have been on the field in the past decade plus or so, however not in total. I feel like for quite a few years the Orioles would open the season against Kansas City at the yard; tough to have a “hugely relevant series” that early in the season. Some might question why I would go so far as to say that this is so big; every game and every series is big, right…?
…yes, without a doubt. However the Orioles currently lead the American League East by one game over Tampa, who opens up a three-game set in Boston this weekend. While the Red Sox are in the cellar, they’ve been playing well and making their move of late. So while those two teams will beat up on each other this weekend, the Orioles play host to the Royals. You never want to underestimate your competition, especially seeing that teams would see the O’s on their schedule for years and just assume that they had won the series before it even started. However the Royals are a team that the Birds should handle. They swept Kansas City two weeks ago in a two game “mini-series” at Kaufman Stadium. As we remember the games were hard-fought; this time around the Orioles will get them at the yard, which makes a difference.
My point is that the Birds might be able to put a bit of breathing room between them and Tampa this weekend. Even if they come out of the weekend with only an extra game on the Rays in the standings, that stands for something. The Birds depart on a three-city road trip after Sunday’s game which will take them through Toronto, Tampa, and Boston. That’s nine straight games in the division. I suppose what I’m saying is that some padding in the standings would be nice. In no way am I suggesting that the O’s will walk all over Kansas City and totally have their way with them, because I don’t believe that. Ned Yost is a good manager and that team has some great talent. But ultimately good teams win games they’re supposed to win and then deal with the tougher ones. The Orioles need to take two-of-three at a minimum this weekend.
First thing’s first; tonight Buck Showalter will give the ball to Jason Hammel who has a 5-1 record. However Hammel hasn’t been the most durable in games, and of course missed a start awhile back due to knee soreness. His stock and trade of late has been that he starts out very strong but then fizzles quickly. On the plus side, when I say he starts strong he really stymies opponents. The good news for tonight is that the bullpen is going to be well rested because of the afternoon game on Wednesday followed by yesterday’s off day. However this is a big start for Hammel because he needs to prove that he can go deeper than five innings, or he might find himself on the outside looking in when Zach Britton gets here in the near future. Hamme will be opposed by former Oriole Bruce Chen, who’s won his last three decisions after starting 0-4. Chen’s seemed to find himself after leaving the Orioles, and he’s been keeping the ball down nicely and recording outs on ground balls according to scounting reports.
Yesterday I wrote about the Orioles extending Adam Jones, and this morning FOX Sport’s Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Orioles and Jones were very close to an extension. The rumors are that the apparently imminent deal would make Jones the highest paid player in Orioles’ history. As I write this column the news has all but been confirmed to a degree, however I’ll run an update as soon as it’s made official. (That might not necessarily be today, but if the reports are true I would expect some sort of announcement this weekend given that the team will be going on the road after Sunday.) But going a step further, an extension for Jones would indicate to the fans that this team is making a run at contending. For so long the Orioles felt they were jilted at the altar when potential free agents were on the market. As I said yesterday the Orioles have a huge advantage with Jones in that he’s a star in the here and now, and no other team is able to negotiate with him for the time being. I suspect that as this story continues to grow legs below it there are going to be some pretty ticked off fan bases out there as they realize that there will be no Adam Jones sweepstakes or trades. Nothing’s official yet, but the wheels are turning. Assuming this gets done, we might be hearing Springsteen’s “Glory Days” blaring at the yard for the foreseeable future.
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