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Davis to head to O's spring facility to work out

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BALTIMORE -- Chris Davis, who is serving a 25-game suspension for using Adderall without a therapeutic use exemption, will go down to the Orioles' spring facility in Sarasota, Fla., soon to continue working out.

O's manager Buck Showalter, who spoke with Davis again on Sunday, said the team will check to see if Davis is permitted to play in instructional league, though Showalter didn't provide an exact date of when Davis would head south.

"I've got a pretty good idea, but I'm going to leave a little wiggle room there and make sure he can get everything he needs to get done," Showalter said. "I talked to him about it and got an idea how long it would take to make sure his family is fine. He's been working out already."

Showalter wouldn't provide the exact details of his conversation with Davis, citing it as a private conversation, but commended Davis for taking things the right way.

"Chris, he gets what's going on," Showalter said. "He's living in reality. Think about it. This is self-inflicted. He's not looking for any sympathy. His 'No' button wasn't working that day. Everybody knew the rules. There are consequences, and he's going to deal with the consequences and take them on. Life goes on, baseball goes on. He understands there are a lot tougher things going on in this country and this world than what's going on there.

"I'm not going to beat him up anymore than he's already beaten himself up. Piling on really isn't an option for me."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["jeter_farewell" ,"rivalries_east" ] }

Jeter has fond memories of Orioles, Showalter

Jeter has fond memories of Orioles, Showalter

BALTIMORE -- One year ago this month, Derek Jeter trudged into the press conference room in the bowels of Camden Yards to discuss his least favorite topic -- not being in the lineup. In this case, his season was over, reluctantly completed due to a third stint on the disabled list.

On Sunday, Jeter followed those same footsteps for a much more preferable conversation. Refusing to let last season's injury-marred campaign be his final memories of a storied big league career, Jeter has had some performance highs and lows, but he is pleased to being ending his career on his own terms.

"I'm happy with the fact that, up until this point, I've been healthy and been able to play," Jeter said. "It's completely different circumstances here."

The Orioles paid tribute to Jeter's career in a pregame ceremony on Sunday evening. Jeter was presented with a United States Navy captain's hat, a bucket of jumbo steamed crabs by former Oriole Boog Powell, and an oversized crab mallet made out of the same wood as his Louisville Slugger bats.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter and outfielder Nick Markakis also helped offer Jeter an oversized cake depicting his jersey, and the club made a $10,000 donation in Jeter's name to the Miracle League of Manasota, a non-profit group that operates near the Orioles' spring home in Sarasota, Fla.

The American League East rivals have a complicated history with Jeter, who heard some boos from the home crowd during the first three games of this series -- rare around the league this year -- but Jeter said that he has very much enjoyed his contests at Camden Yards.

"I just love the stadium," Jeter said. "I love the playing surface. I love the atmosphere. Ever since I first came up, it was always pretty electric here in the stadium. We had to play some pretty tough Orioles teams in the playoffs. It's just a good feeling.

Showalter was in charge of the Yankees' clubhouse when Jeter received his first call to the big leagues, and though Jeter played only 15 games for the 1995 squad, he credits Showalter for allowing the wide-eyed rookie to travel with the team as an inactive player for the playoffs.

"Buck kept me around and allowed me to see what the postseason atmosphere was like, which I think helped me the following year going into the playoffs," Jeter said. "Even though I didn't get a chance to play [in '95], I got a chance to see and feel what the atmosphere was like. I owe him for that."

A year later, Jeter's Yankee Stadium fly ball was heading into the glove of Orioles right fielder Tony Tarasco when young fan Jeffrey Maier inserted himself into franchise history, a play that helped turn the tables in the 1996 American League Championship Series on the way to a World Series title.

"That's a long time ago. Sometimes it feels like it's not so long, but it was a very long time ago," Jeter said. "Those are the memories that I'll share with people ... playing those great teams."

Showalter suggested on Sunday that the Orioles should have given Jeter an enlargement of the Maier homer.

"I would've had Tony Tarasco come out and hand him the picture," Showalter quipped. "That's how we think of him. We're really excited he's retiring."

Jeter replied: "I've already reaped the benefits of it. I don't need a poster. I've had other reminders."

Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., who paid tribute as a guest for Derek Jeter Day earlier in the Bronx, was also never far from Jeter's thoughts. As a youth, Jeter -- who'd grow to be 6-foot-3 -- would inevitably hear that larger players simply didn't play shortstop at the higher levels.

"Just growing up and playing shortstop and being tall, people would say, 'Well, shortstops aren't tall,'" Jeter said. "The first line of defense is Cal Ripken, and then everybody would shut up, you know what I'm saying? He set the standard."

Showalter said that when he thinks of Jeter's career, the defensive image of ranging into the hole and preparing to execute a jump throw flickers in his mind. Mostly, though, Showalter said he thinks about the five championship rings -- and without Jeter, the Yankees will lose some of that presence.

"It's a lesson to all of us. This game will move right on," Showalter said. "I think it's just that presence you lose, that voice of reason. You think about all the time he spent there, he never did anything that embarrassed his family, his team, his teammates, the organization, the city. That's real hard to do."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Ubaldo: O's winning has made tough year easier

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BALTIMORE -- It's been a bizarre season for Ubaldo Jimenez, one far from what he could have expected when he signed a four-year, $50 million contract with the Orioles in the offseason. He struggled through injury and inconsistency for 20 starts before moving to the bullpen in August for the first time in his career.

Still, as the O's move toward clinching the American League East in the coming days, Jimenez could be the one on the mound when the division title is wrapped up.

Just how they drew it up.

"It would be sweet," Jimenez said. "It would be really nice to be able to do that."

Because of Friday's doubleheader against the Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore needs a sixth starter to take the mound on Tuesday against the Blue Jays. Jimenez, who posted a 4.83 ERA in 20 starts, was the logical choice to make his first start since Aug. 16.

Jimenez has thrown a handful of bullpen sessions and tossed a simulated game between the two parts of the doubleheader. He doesn't expect to have any physical issues despite only pitching twice since his last start.

"The only thing I can really think about that game and go out there and do my job," he said.

And mentally, he should be fresh, too. Manager Buck Showalter has frequently praised Jimenez's handling of the demotion, and the spot starter said it's been easier because the O's have a chance to win the division.

Had the Orioles been limping to the finish line and Jimenez found himself unable to help, the season would have been even more of a challenge for the righty.

"If it was going to be like that, it was going to be really hard," he said, "but it hasn't been that hard, because we've been winning."

David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Gonzalez's gutsy effort not rewarded by O's

Rallies fall short; Yankees' three-run second the difference

Gonzalez's gutsy effort not rewarded by O's play video for Gonzalez's gutsy effort not rewarded by O's

BALTIMORE -- Nelson Cruz's single in the third inning appeared to be the start of a rally for the Orioles. After falling behind by three runs in the second, the O's had threatened again and finally plated a run.

Two batters later, the inning was over and the Orioles managed to plate only one run. Despite tagging Yankees starting pitcher Shane Greene for six hits in the first three innings and more than doubling its rival's hits total, Baltimore struggled to score on Saturday afternoon. The Yankees made Baltimore starter Miguel Gonzalez pay for his few mistakes, and a three-run second inning was all they needed for a 3-2 win in front of 44,231 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Baltimore's loss keeps its magic number to clinch the American League East at five, as the Blue Jays beat the Rays, 6-3, earlier in the day. Toronto now trails the O's by 10 1/2 games in the division.

"You're not always going to be where you want to be," Gonzalez said. "That was a tough inning right there, but we were able to minimize the damage afterward."

The pitch that started Gonzalez's first unspectacular outing since the beginning of August, however, wasn't quite a mistake. The 82-mph changeup sat well below the bottom of the zone and may have even hit the dirt had Brian McCann kept the bat on his shoulder.

Instead, the powerful catcher's bat became a nine iron. The ball sliced through the rain and soared over the towering right-field wall to start the decisive three-run inning.

"McCann did a really good job; you've got to tip your cap there," Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph said. "[Gonzalez] kind of lost command there, just for a few batters. That's all it takes sometimes with good teams."

Gonzalez (9-8) walked the next batter and allowed a single and double to follow before a double steal -- including a steal of home by Chris Young -- capped the frame. Gonzalez didn't allow a hit the rest of the day and allowed only the three runs on three hits in all despite striking out only one batter.

Still, that qualifies as Gonzalez's worst outing since he surrendered four runs in five innings against the Mariners on Aug. 2.

"In a lot of ways, that's one of the more impressive outings of the year from him, because he wasn't carrying much," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I think that's the difference in Major League pitchers -- guys who can have success out there and keep you engaged in a game."

After the third inning, Greene (5-3) didn't give the Orioles many chances. He retired eight of the last nine batters he faced -- Steve Pearce belted a solo homer with one out in the sixth -- and finished the game with nine strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. In 12 1/3 innings against Greene this season, Baltimore has struck out 18 times.

"You can see why they're so high on him," Showalter said of Greene. "A lot of cutters, a lot of command, a lot of different looks. You can tell he's pitching with a lot of confidence. I can see why they like him."

When Greene left, the O's chances opened up. Baltimore got the leadoff hitter aboard in each of the final three frames. In the seventh, the bottom of the order and leadoff hitter Nick Markakis spoiled Ryan Flaherty's leadoff walk. An inning later, the heart of the order couldn't capitalize on Adam Jones' leadoff single.

One day after playing the hero in Game 1 of Baltimore's doubleheader sweep against the Yankees, Jimmy Paredes once again had a chance to be the hero when he led off the ninth inning. Paredes singled off David Robertson, moved to second on Flaherty's sacrifice bunt and advanced to third on a Delmon Young groundout.

Markakis, already with two hits on the day, stepped in with a chance to tie or win the game against a reliever who threw 35 pitches a day earlier. But the outfielder grounded out to secure a loss for the O's, who left eight runners on base and slipped to 29-21 in one-run games this season.

"Those type of games, sometimes we find a way to win," Joseph said. "It didn't happen today, but we'll suit up again tomorrow."

David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Showalter successfully challenges game's first play

Showalter successfully challenges game's first play

BALTIMORE -- Orioles manager Buck Showalter successfully challenged a ruling at first base in the first inning of Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Yankees at Camden Yards.

Jacoby Ellsbury chopped the second pitch of the game to second base, where Baltimore's Ryan Flaherty made a diving stop and flipped the ball to first base.

Initially, first-base umpire Ed Hickox ruled that Steve Pearce's foot came off first base, resulting in a safe call. Showalter immediately challenged. After 25 seconds, the call was overturned, and O's starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez went on to have a 1-2-3 inning.

Showalter is 14-for-28 on challenges this season.

David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Key connections: Star-Spangled Banner, baseball forever linked

Verses that became National anthem celebrates 200 years, is part of baseball's fabric

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Francis Scott Key never got to see a big league baseball game. He died in 1843, some 26 years before the first professional team was established. But you can imagine his joy if he did get that chance. These days, he'd probably sit in a shiny bleacher seat, waiting for a batting-practice homer with a soft, weathered glove raised high ... in his non-writing hand. Maybe he'd inhale a hot dog while jotting down a few pretty lines for his next song. That would come about an hour before he'd hear the iconic bars of his first one, which, contrary to American lore, does not end with the words, "Play Ball." Odds are he'd be pretty happy at the twilight's last gleaming.

This weekend, the celebration of the 200th anniversary of our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," is on, and Key's memory is being rightly feted for his poetic description from the "dawn's early light" of Sept. 14, 1814, at the height of the War of 1812.

Hours after being stuck on a ship in Baltimore Harbor as the British pounded Fort McHenry in the Battle of Baltimore, Key saw the skies clear from the smoke and the indelible image that "our flag was still there."

The verses were called "The Defence of Fort M'Henry," and it was put to the tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven," a British drinking song purportedly written by John Stafford Smith that had been composed more than 30 years earlier and served as the theme of the Anacreontic Society of London, a men's club of amateur musicians.

Soon after Key wrote the words, a local newspaper gave it the title "The Star-Spangled Banner," and in 1931, it became our official anthem. All the while, another grand tradition steeped in collective nostalgia and American togetherness -- the game of baseball -- was steaming along, gaining prominence in our country's conscience.

Not surprisingly, the national anthem and the National Pastime became stitched together forever, like red laces in white horsehide.

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball, the playing of the national anthem before big league games did not become an everyday tradition until 1942. Taking that into account (and including a slight margin of error based on the lack of documentation regarding split doubleheaders in the earlier days), the Star-Spangled Banner has been heard right before the first pitch of at least the last 121,000 games. Oh, say can you see, indeed.

So with that in mind, 200 years after the night a 35-year-old Washington, D.C.-based attorney known to friends as Frank found himself under a war-torn sky, with honor in his heart and a pen in his hand, we go around the horn with nine things to know about "The Star-Spangled Banner" and its now-eternal link to the national pastime.

1. A first for everything
The first time the song was played at a baseball game was May 15, 1862, at William Cammeyer's Union Grounds park in Brooklyn. It had been converted from an ice skating venue into a field for summer sports, including what, at the time, was known as "base ball." In the midst of the Civil War, a band played "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The first big league Opening Day to feature the eventual anthem took place in Philadelphia on April 22, 1897. The New York Tribune newspaper included a brief and lyrical account of the game: "Opening Day here was a great success. The weather was delightful and the attendance numbered 17,074. The players paraded across the field, company front, and then raised the new flag, while the band played 'The Star Spangled Banner.' "

In spite of all the pageantry, there had to be some accounting for the four errors that led the Phillies to a 5-1 victory over the Giants at the Baker Bowl.

"The game was rather dull and long-drawn out," the article read, "and on the part of the New-Yorkers was somewhat unsteadily played."

2. An unforgettable rendition
The first national anthem played at a World Series game occurred on Sept. 5, 1918, during World War I, when Major League players were in the midst of being drafted into service. The regular season was ordered by the government to be completed by Labor Day, hence the Fall Classic that year was played in September.

The Cubs borrowed Comiskey Park from the White Sox to take advantage of the larger seating capacity, but things got quiet in Game 1, a 1-0 shutout by Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth. But that game will be forever remembered for what occurred in the seventh inning.

That was when the military band on hand struck up "The Star-Spangled Banner," and the song took on a different meaning. Red Sox third baseman Fred Thomas, for example, was on furlough from the Navy, and he saluted the flag during the playing of the song.

And then the crowd caught on. The New York Times opened its account of the game by writing, "Far different from any incident that has ever occurred in the history of baseball was the great moment of the first world's series game between the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox, which came at Comiskey Park this afternoon during the seventh-inning stretch" and then continued with the play-by-play … of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"First the song was taken up by a few, then others joined, and when the final notes came, a great volume of melody rolled across the field. It was at the very end that the onlookers exploded into thunderous applause and rent the air with a cheer that marked the highest point of the day's enthusiasm."

The Cubs and Red Sox repeated the tradition for the rest of the Series.

3. Making it official
Even though the Secretary of the Navy in 1889 had designated "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the official song to be played at the raising of the flag, and even though President Woodrow Wilson, a huge baseball fan himself, treated it and referred to it as our national anthem, it had failed to stick in Congress after numerous attempts in the 1920s.

Baseball's increased use of the song prior to games, a petition with millions of signatures, and a nice little push from noted composer John Philip Sousa helped finally get the job done on March 3, 1931, when President Herbert Hoover signed into law the establishment of the song as the official national anthem of the United States of America.

4. A lasting tradition
"The Star-Spangled Banner" still wasn't being played before every baseball game in 1941, but on April 26, 1941, the ball got rolling in the Bronx. As The New York Times reported, "With more war new in the making, president Ed Barrow of the Yankees ordered that 'The Star-Spangled Banner' be played before all games at the Stadium.

"Meanwhile, all continued to go well for the Yankees and [Joe] DiMaggio. He singled home a run in the first and scored twice as New York beat Washington 8-3 for its fourth straight victory."

By the following year, with the country deep in World War II, the anthem became the daily staple of baseball that we know today.

And DiMaggio was still hitting.

5. Controversy hits the field
It was October 1968, and the country was fighting in Vietnam and had already lived through the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that year. Protests were boiling over in the streets at home, and the Detroit Tigers were hosting the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

Jose Feliciano was a 23-year-old blind folk singer from Puerto Rico who had scored a hit on the U.S. charts with a cover of The Doors' "Light My Fire," and Tigers radio legend Ernie Harwell invited him to sing the national anthem at Tiger Stadium prior to Game 5.

Feliciano was accompanied in left field by his acoustic guitar and his guide dog, Trudy, and he launched into an emotional, heartfelt, and, well, different version of "The Star-Spangled Banner." He strummed the guitar in a slightly syncopated, Latin-influenced rhythm, careened back and forth from the traditional vocal melody to something more adventurous, and offered the finishing flourish of "Yeah, yeah."

It was bold and innovative and fresh, but it was also many years ahead of its time. Feliciano was booed heartily by the crowd and caused a public uproar that took years to live down.

"Back then, when the anthem was done at ballgames, people couldn't wait for it to be over," Feliciano told The Guardian last month. "And I wanted to make them sit up and take notice and respect the song. I was shocked when I was booed. I felt, 'God, what have I done wrong?' All I was trying to do was create a soulful rendition. I never in my wildest dreams thought I was going to have the country against me, radio stations stop playing me.

"But in part, it was good -- because I ended up meeting my wife. She couldn't understand the injustice and started a fan club, even though we'd never met. We fell in love and the rest is history."

On Oct. 14, 2012, prior to Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park in San Francisco, the same stylized, heartfelt version of the national anthem was performed by Feliciano on his acoustic guitar.

This time the crowd roared.

6. "O"-dience participation
The anthem itself is a tradition, and at Oriole Park in Camden Yards in Baltimore, there's a tradition baked into the tradition. When the song rounds third base and heads for home with, "O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave," the crowd screams the "O" together, celebrating their beloved O's.

This started at the old Memorial Stadium in the club's pennant-winning season of 1979. Out in Section 34 of the upper deck, Orioles superfan Wild Bill Hagy would lead fans in chants of O-R-I-O-L-E-S, with the emphasis on the "O." Mary Powers sat nearby and took the inspiration to another level.

"We would accentuate the 'O' in any word that would have an 'O,' and one night when they were playing the anthem, I thought, 'There's an 'O!' in this song,' and the first time I did it, I remember people turning around and looking like, 'Oh, my God, I can't believe she just did that,' " Powers recently told WBAL-TV.

"Well, Wild Bill had a little grin on his face, so the next night, he did it with me, and once he put his blessing on it, everybody started to do it."

Orioles fans still do it -- loudly -- and will likely be doing it in October this year.

7. Setting the (low) Barr
We all know now that Feliciano's rendition was eventually respected, if not appreciated. We all also know now that the version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" performed by comedian Roseanne Barr before a Padres-Reds doubleheader at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego on July 25, 1990, was not.

Barr screeched a fast, off-key rendition of the anthem that drew loud boos midway through, and when she was finished, she grabbed her crotch and spit, as if to mimic a ballplayer. The joke bombed, she was lambasted all over TV and in the newspapers, and she inspired President George H. W. Bush to call the whole act "disgraceful."

Bush's comment was met with bipartisan approval.

8. A hymn of healing
The horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, changed the United States forever, but not only in tragic ways. The courage, brotherhood and human decency shown that day in New York, Washington, D.C., and on a hijacked airplane that would crash in a Pennsylvania field showed our country's strength and will to persevere.

The emotion was palpable 10 days later when the Mets played the Braves at Shea Stadium in the first professional sporting event in New York City since the attacks. Marc Anthony delivered a somber rendition without musical accompaniment and the game was played quietly until the eighth inning, when Piazza's two-run home run gave the Mets the lead and got the crowd going again.

"I remember standing on the line during the national anthem -- actually when the bagpipes and band came out -- I said to myself, 'Please, God, give me the strength to get through this,' " Piazza told the New York Daily News in 2008. "I was fortunate to find the strength to hit a home run in that situation. I'm flattered, I'm honored that people put that moment as a time where it helped the city at least have a little bit of joy in a really tough week."

9. 200 and many more
Every year now, we're treated to incredible musical talent on the baseball field. From the seasoned operatic pipes of longtime Yankees national anthem singer Robert Merrill to commercial acts James Taylor, Paul Simon, Sammy Davis Jr., John Legend, Lyle Lovett, the Grateful Dead, Slash from Guns N' Roses, Mary J. Blige, Billy Joel, Idina Menzel, Kelly Clarkson and countless others, it's now a grand American tradition to bring out the best in the business to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the biggest baseball games.

But Sunday, the song itself will shine.

At Fort McHenry in Baltimore, a real-time anniversary program will kick off, with artillery salutes, a reading of the song's four stanzas and a replica 15-star, 15-stripe flag raising at precisely 9 a.m. to commemorate the history that Key had witnessed.

And MLB teams playing at home will show a special video montage of "The Star-Spangled Banner." In conjunction with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the program Great Performances, Maryland Public Television has provided the montage originally seen in the PBS production Star-Spangled Banner: The Bicentennial of our National Anthem to the ballparks and to MLB.com and all 30 club websites and official MLB social media channels.

Fittingly, the last game on Sunday will be played at Camden Yards, about three miles away from Fort McHenry, and fittingly, the Orioles will play the Yankees.

We all know what song we'll hear right before the first pitch.

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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O's plan to give Ubaldo Tuesday's spot start

Friday's doubleheader necessitates extra starter; righty 'most equipped'

O's plan to give Ubaldo Tuesday's spot start play video for O's plan to give Ubaldo Tuesday's spot start

BALTIMORE -- Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez threw a simulated game between the two games of Friday's doubleheader at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and will start for the O's against the Blue Jays on Tuesday.

Due to Friday's doubleheader against the Yankees, the Orioles have a need for a sixth starter, and Jimenez, who has started 20 games for Baltimore this season, is a more logical choice than Joe Saunders or T.J. McFarland.

"We feel like it disrupts our bullpen the least," manager Buck Showalter said. "We think that he's the most equipped, length-wise. We feel like he's better equipped to pitch that part than behind Mac or Joe. Also, we think he's our best option to win the game."

Jimenez began the season in the O's starting rotation and could have even been considered the team's ace. He was an All-Star in 2010 and helped pitch the Indians to the postseason in 2013 before signing a four-year, $50 million deal with the Orioles last offseason.

After stumbling to a 4.83 ERA in his first 20 appearances -- all starts -- Jimenez was moved to the bullpen in August. He's made two appearances as a relief pitcher, allowing four runs and walking four in 4 1/3 innings.

"He's not happy about it, make no mistake about it; he wants to be contributing this season," Showalter said. "And he has. But we were at that time of season where we had six guys, and we thought it was more beneficial for them to pitch every fifth day and more beneficial for our team."

The Orioles entered Sunday with a chance to clinch the American League East before Tuesday if they win their next three games and the Blue Jays drop three straight. If Baltimore does clinch, it could open the door for more opportunities for Jimenez.

And what if Jimenez finishes the season with a handful of strong outings? Showalter won't rule out anything entirely.

"Pitch a seven-inning shutout and [make] the playoff roster, pitching Game 1? I don't know," Showalter said. "This game's about pitching and hitting and going with the hot guys. Who gets hot at the right time of the year? I wouldn't preclude anything."

David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Norris, De Aza cut O's magic number to five

Righty's 10-K effort complements outfielder's two triples in nightcap

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BALTIMORE -- Bud Norris wasn't around Oriole Park at Camden Yards when discouraging news hit around 11 a.m. ET on Friday. He heard about Chris Davis' 25-game amphetamines suspension when he woke up at home, hours before he had to head to the ballpark and pitch in Game 2 of a day-night doubleheader.

Norris arrived to find that the O's didn't miss a beat. They outlasted the Yankees for another extra-innings win in Game 1, and Norris wouldn't spoil that, either. The right-hander stepped right in to help shut out New York for a 5-0 win and sweep their first doubleheader against their nemesis since 1984.

"A lot of people woke up this morning and got some bad news," Norris said of Davis' suspension. "But we still love him. He's still a part of our group. We are not going to forget that. We just know that we have to keep moving forward and keep playing baseball."

Norris (13-8) followed up Kevin Gausman's seven scoreless innings in the Orioles' 2-1, 11-inning win in Game 1 with seven more in the nightcap. In 20 innings, Baltimore held New York to one run to claim a 10th win in 13 tries against the Yankees. With wins on Saturday and Sunday, the O's can eliminate New York from contention for the American League East title.

The Orioles, meanwhile, can clinch the division as soon as Monday. The Blue Jays fell to the Rays, 1-0, on Friday moments before Baltimore won to stretch the O's lead in the division to 11 1/2 games and cut their magic number to five.

"We pitched well for 20 innings -- real well," manager Buck Showalter said. "Bud was good, and the bullpen finished it up. Good pitching solves a lot of problems."

The latest problem in a season that has already seen third baseman Manny Machado and catcher Matt Wieters go down with season-ending injuries is a regular season-ending suspension for Davis. The corner infielder, who finished third in AL Most Valuable Player Award voting in 2013, tested positive for an amphetamine -- identified as Adderall by Davis -- and will miss 25 games. Because the suspension includes the postseason, Davis will miss the Orioles' final 17 regular-season games and as many as eight in this playoffs.

For 10 innings in Game 1, the Orioles were held scoreless, showing how much they could miss Davis. The game-winning hit, though, came from Jimmy Paredes. The offensive hero in Game 2 was outfielder Alejandro De Aza. Neither was on the Major League roster two weeks ago.

"I think we played every position player here in both games," Showalter said. "I wasn't going to pitch anybody twice in the doubleheader. Fortunately, I did that, but only because we've got some skilled people that can do a job.

"It's kind of been who we are."

De Aza brought a dynamic to Baltimore's Game 2 lineup -- which lacked Adam Jones and Nick Markakis, and batted Paredes third -- that it simply didn't have before the outfielder arrived. De Aza, who has a hit in all eight of his games with the O's, smacked two triples on Friday night. The Orioles had a total of 10 entering the nightcap.

The first one came on a line drive into the right-center-field gap off Bryan Mitchell (0-1) and gave Baltimore a 2-0 lead. De Aza's eighth-inning triple, which missed a home run by inches off the towering right-field wall, put the finishing touches on Baltimore's win.

Joining the O's, it seems, has rejuvenated De Aza, who's gone 13-for-33 since being acquired.

"I feel young again," De Aza said. "I feel 20 again. I'm just having fun with these guys."

As Norris tore through a struggling Yankees offense, the Orioles' eight hits let them coast to victory. Norris set a new season high for himself with 10 strikeouts, matching the season high for any Baltimore pitcher this season.

"He had good stuff," Yankees designated hitter Jacoby Ellsbury said of Norris. "I thought all his pitches were working for him."

For now, the 43,707 that packed into Camden Yards can forget about the bad news they got on Friday morning. The postseason seems to be an inevitability for the O's, even without Davis, and a run is possible even without him.

David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Davis suspended 25 games for amphetamines

Penalty will carry into postseason should AL East-leading Orioles continue on

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BALTIMORE -- The Orioles were dealt another blow on Friday morning, as first baseman Chris Davis was suspended for 25 games by Major League Baseball for testing positive for amphetamines associated with the drug Adderall.

The suspension -- which means it was Davis' second violation -- is effective immediately and will cause him to miss the remaining 17 regular-season games as well as eight postseason games should Baltimore advance that far. While Davis won't be eligible until he serves out his suspension, MLB has decided he can still be placed on the American League Championship Series roster under the ban. Meaning if the O's get there, Davis can return in-series.

The Orioles, who entered Friday's doubleheader against the Yankees with a 10-game lead in the AL East, are now without catcher Matt Wieters (Tommy John elbow surgery), Manny Machado (knee surgery) and Davis as they head into October.

Davis, who led the Major Leagues last year in home runs with 53 and RBIs with 138, issued a statement through the MLB Players Association shortly after the news broke.

"I apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Orioles organization and especially the fans," Davis said. "I made a mistake by taking Adderall. I had permission to use it in the past, but do not have a therapeutic-use exemption (TUE) this year. I accept my punishment and will begin serving my suspension immediately."

Davis learned he would be suspended on Thursday night and called manager Buck Showalter to deliver the news personally. He also reached out to several of his teammates.

"It was tough. Put a little damper on the Ravens game, that's for sure," Showalter said. "You've got to learn to deal with the problems and the challenges along the way, and if they're self-inflicted, there's no woe-is-me. And this is self-inflicted. Chris is, like he does a lot of things, I think you guys will see the next day or so, he's going to attack it head on."

Davis, named the Most Valuable Oriole last season, was unable to replicate his monster 2013 this season. The 28-year-old slugger hit 26 homers with 72 RBIs in 127 games, but he batted just .196 with a Major League-leading 173 strikeouts while dealing with prolonged slumps and even an occasional benching. But with Machado out for the season, Davis had shifted to third base quite a bit and gave the team steady defense despite his struggles at the plate.

How will the suspension be viewed in light of Davis' accomplishments last season?

"At this point, it's not up to me to gauge what's fair or not fair," Showalter said. "I know what the positive test was for, and believe me, I'm not condoning any positive test. Everybody knows what the rules are, so it is what it is. We've all made mistakes, and none of us would like to have our whole life judged by our worst decision.

"I'm disappointed. I know Chris is, too, but it is what it is. We'll try to deal with it and move on. Timing's never good, but it's one of those challenges. It's why we have [testing] in place. Fully supportive of it. These are the things that everybody knew about beforehand, and it's another way that we want our fans to be able to trust a lot of things."

The Orioles are 72-55 this season with Davis and 14-4 without him in the lineup. They entered Friday with a magic number of eight and will rely on some of their role players to fill the void. Kelly Johnson, who the team acquired in a trade with Boston late last month, started at third base in the first game on Friday, with Steve Pearce at first. Showalter said the team was also weighing whether to bring up an extra infielder from the taxi squad in Sarasota, Fla. But having to cover for a major loss on the field is nothing new for this year's club.

"We asked that same question where Matt was concerned, where Manny was concerned, where J.J. [Hardy] has been concerned, where some pitchers we've had go down," Showalter said. "I've got a lot of confidence in our guys. We're always looking at the what-ifs. Chris has had some physical issues and we've been able to plug some people in that did a nice job for us, so we'll see."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["rivalries_east" ] }
{"content":["rivalries_east" ,"walkoff" ] }

Clutch in a pinch: Paredes lifts O's to Game 1 walk-off

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BALTIMORE -- In the wake of losing first baseman Chris Davis to a 25-game suspension, Orioles manager Buck Showalter made it clear that the team was going to have to rely on other guys to step up.

On Friday afternoon, it was Jimmy Paredes. The pinch-hitter delivered a two-out, two-run double in the bottom of the 11th inning to give the first-place O's a 2-1 walk-off win over the Yankees in Game 1 of a doubleheader. The victory whittled the Orioles' magic number to clinch the American League East to seven and kept the Yankees in third place behind Toronto.

Was Paredes' hit the kind of lift the O's needed?

"Of course, of course -- to try to underplay [the Davis suspension] wouldn't be completely frank about it," manager Buck Showalter said. "But I think everybody's still kind of putting their arms around it. Like I said before, we've had a lot of challenges, some of them self-inflicted, and you've got to fight your way through it. We did that today with the pitching, just like they did."

The O's 11th-inning rally got started when Yankees reliever Adam Warren issued a leadoff walk to Nelson Cruz, and one out later, J.J. Hardy was hit by a pitch. After Kelly Johnson struck out, pinch-hitter Steve Clevenger worked a walk to load the bases for Paredes. Batting in place of Jonathan Schoop, Paredes hit a liner to right field to finally put Baltimore on the board and set up a dog pile of celebratory teammates to greet him at home plate.

"I can't replace Chris Davis," Paredes said. "I can't say this team does not need Chris Davis -- he is a tremendous player and a great teammate, and I am sorry this happened, and we will miss him. Any team would want to have a player like Chris Davis in their lineup.

"It's really sad that something like this happened to one of our teammates. I was brought in to get the job done in a situation like today, and we will do our best to pick the team up until he returns."

The Yankees scored their first run in the top of the inning on Chris Young's two-out homer off reliever Brad Brach. Brach was preceded by scoreless innings from relievers Zach Britton, Darren O'Day and Andrew Miller, along with seven impressive frames from starter Kevin Gausman.

"He was really good," Showalter said of Gausman, who tied a career high with seven strikeouts. "He had to be, because [Yankees starter Brandon] McCarthy was good, too."

The Orioles (87-59) had just three singles over McCarthy's seven innings -- two from Alejandro De Aza -- before Johnson became the first to touch second base with a leadoff eight-inning double that forced Yanks manager Joe Girardi to go to his bullpen.

The O's put runners on the corners after that, catching a break when Nick Hundley dropped down a bunt and Yanks first baseman Mark Teixeira's throw to third was off the mark. After No. 9 batter Schoop struck out, Nick Markakis hit one to second baseman Stephen Drew, who threw across the diamond to pick off Johnson at third. De Aza worked a two-out walk off reliever Dellin Betances, but Adam Jones struck out to leave the bases loaded and the game scoreless until the 11th.

Gausman, who allowed seven hits and two walks, got to watch all of the 11th-inning action unfold from the dugout.

"It's fun," said the 23-year-old right-hander, who picked off Antoan Richardson to end his afternoon. "It seems like right now whoever you put up there -- Clevenger's going to walk and then you pinch-hit Jimmy right there and it's the winning base hit -- everything's just kind of clicking right now. It's pretty fun to watch."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["rivalries_east" ,"walkoff" ] }
{"content":["rivalries_east" ] }

Buck: Others must step up in Davis' absence

Showalter's O's have overcome injuries; must now get past slugger's suspension

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BALTIMORE -- Having already lost Matt Wieters and Manny Machado for the season, the Orioles will now also have to head down the stretch without first baseman Chris Davis, who was suspended Friday for 25 games for testing positive for an amphetamine. But how much of a blow is it for first-place Baltimore, which entered Friday with a 10-game lead despite Davis' down offensive year?

Defensively, the Orioles will miss Davis, who had been playing mostly third base recently with Machado out. Kelly Johnson, who was acquired in a late August trade with the Red Sox, started at third in Game 1 of Friday's doubleheader vs. the Yankees, and the versatile veteran figures to get the majority of playing time -- along with a postseason roster spot -- with Davis' suspension. The O's also have Ryan Flaherty, though manager Buck Showalter said the team is still debating bringing up an extra infielder.

"We still have a chance to achieve what we set out to achieve," Showalter said. "There are some people that are going to get some playing time that weren't expecting it."

Steve Pearce will be counted on heavily as well, as the infielder/outfielder is having a career year (.287 average, 16 homers and 39 RBIs) and has already been thrust into an everyday role at first with Davis' switch to third. Pearce has a team-leading 5.0 WAR (wins above replacement), and he hit fifth -- Davis' predominant spot -- for the sixth time this season during Friday's first game. Davis, who had 53 homers and 138 RBIs last year, ends the regular season with 26 homers and 72 RBIs, but he had just a .196 batting average and 173 strikeouts, equating to a 1.8 WAR.

Still, without Davis' power threat, Pearce adds protection behind Nelson Cruz. And Showalter had Alejandro De Aza, who was acquired in a deal with the White Sox on Aug. 30, in Pearce's typical second spot during Friday's opener -- a move that could now become the norm.

Showalter has juggled his lineup all season, and the Orioles will need guys like Johnson, De Aza and Pearce to contribute at a high level if they're going to go deep into October. While Davis won't be eligible until he serves out his suspension, MLB has decided he can still be placed on the American League Championship Series roster under the ban. Meaning if the O's get there, Davis can return in-series.

"We asked that same question where Matt was concerned, where Manny was concerned, where J.J. [Hardy has] been concerned, where some pitchers we've had go down. I've got a lot of confidence in our guys," Showalter said. "We're always looking at the what-ifs. Chris has had some physical issues, [and] we've been able to plug some people in that did a nice job for us. So we'll see."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["rivalries_east" ] }
{"content":["rivalries_east" ] }

Teammates eager to welcome back Davis

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BALTIMORE -- The Orioles' clubhouse was in a state of shock on Friday morning as news quickly spread of first baseman Chris Davis' 25-game suspension after he tested positive an amphetamine, identified by Davis as Adderall.

"I haven't spoken to him personally," outfielder Nick Markakis said of Davis, who is not allowed in the O's clubhouse during his suspension. "I don't know if anybody else has spoken to him. Everybody makes mistakes. You have to be careful when you make your mistakes. Now is not a good time to make a mistake, but these are things you have to deal with, and hopefully we can get far enough along for him to come back and help us out."

Reliever Darren O'Day, who also played with Davis in Texas, said he did speak with the slugging infielder on Thursday night -- when Davis found out about the suspension -- but the topic didn't come up. Davis' absence is the latest hit for an O's club already without catcher Matt Wieters and third baseman Manny Machado, who both sustained season-ending injuries.

"Yeah, it's similar but different," O'Day said of the adversity the O's are hoping to overcome. "You can't really predict injuries. You failed one test. You can't put anything in jeopardy and mess around. Yeah, it's going to be more to overcome, for sure."

O'Day, as the team's player rep, said he was glad that Major League Baseball was enforcing its Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, despite the possible ramifications to Baltimore's playoff aspirations.

"I wish this hadn't happened to Chris, but I like to know that [if] it's happening, at least test the right people," O'Day said. "As for the TUEs [therapeutic use exemption], they've been tough on it, which is great. It should be a rigorous process to these TUEs. It's a long season. You're going to suffer some attrition from the length of the season and the games you have to play, so everybody should have to suffer through it the same way."

Davis said in a statement he issued on Friday morning that he previously had a TUE but does not this season, leading some to wonder what changed and what prompted the slugger -- who had already tested positive once -- to risk another positive test.

"Look at what Adderall is," center fielder Adam Jones said. "It's to get you going, but it's not something that's going to sit there and make you look like the Incredible Hulk. It's just something that's going to get you going for a little bit. It's unfortunate, but we've got to move on and stay focused."

Added Markakis: "He didn't get in trouble for steroids. He got in trouble for amphetamines. Either way, it was wrong. I know he knows that. We have rules to abide by. Those are things we have to do as a baseball player. We have to follow the rules and the guidelines, what they set. They don't set them for just any rhyme and reason. It is to keep the integrity of the game and protect our players, too. It's just a bad situation overall, and I think [Davis] knows that, and we all know that, and it's something we have to deal with."

Davis, who was struggling in the follow-up campaign to his magnificent 53-homer 2013 season, has hit .196 with 26 home runs and 72 RBIs.

"Me personally, I wouldn't question what he did last year," Jones said. "But you put it into the billions of other people, let their opinion matter, we don't care. We care about this clubhouse; we don't care about the opinion outside of it."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["rivalries_east" ] }

MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Orioles face yet another challenge with loss of Davis

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MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Orioles catcher Matt Wieters' season consisted of 26 games before he had to give in to an aching right elbow and undergo Tommy John surgery in June. Third baseman Manny Machado was limited to 82 games because of injuries before he finally called it a year and underwent knee surgery in late August.

As if those losses weren't enough of a challenge, now the O's are faced with slugging first baseman Chris Davis suspended from playing the final 17 games of the regular season and as many as eight in the postseason, should Baltimore advance as far as the American League Championship Series.

It shouldn't keep the Orioles from getting to the postseason, though. They went into Friday's doubleheader with the Yankees leading the AL East by 10 games. But how far will they go in October without Wieters, Machado and now Davis?

Davis' suspension, which began Friday, was for testing positive for the use of what he admitted was Adderall. Presuming no weather-caused game cancellations late in the season, eight games will remain on his suspension when the postseason begins. That means he'd be out of the AL Division Series, a best-of-five series, and for part of the AL Championship Series, a best-of-seven series. The O's would be permitted to put him on their ALCS roster and play one man short until he is eligible to return.

If the Orioles were to sweep the ALDS and the ALCS, Davis would still have a game remaining on his suspension, which means even his World Series status could be in doubt.

What's more, Davis cannot be around the team during the suspension ends, which means he would have to work out on his own. Although when Manny Ramirez was suspended while he was with the Dodgers, he was allowed to play at Triple-A in the final days before returning, so Davis could possibly go to Florida to work out if he were to rejoin the O's in the postseason.

Davis said all the right things on Friday for the wrong thing that he did, but that doesn't offset the damage the Orioles face in their quest for their first World Series championship since 1983.

"We're going to try and deal with it and move on," manager Buck Showalter said. "Timing is never good, but it's one of those challenges. It's why we have [the drug policy] in place, and we're really supportive of it. These are things everybody knew beforehand."

No doubt about that.

Davis said in his statement that he had an exemption to use Adderall a year ago, but said he doesn't have one this year.

"I apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Orioles organization and especially the fans," said Davis. But it couldn't have caught him totally off-guard. Baseball does provide a warning. The Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program does not call for a suspension for amphetamines until a second positive test.

Davis, who led the Major Leagues with 53 home runs and 138 RBIs while hitting .286 and finishing third in the AL Most Valuable Player Award voting a year ago, hit .196 this season with a Major League-leading 173 strikeouts, but he does have 26 home runs and 72 RBIs.

Davis is second on the team in home runs to Nelson Cruz, who himself was suspended for 50 games, for his involvement with Biogenesis, while with the Rangers last year, returning only for a Game 163 against Tampa Bay to decide whether the Rangers or Rays would claim the second AL Wild Card berth. Cruz leads the O's this season with 101 RBIs. Davis is third, behind Adam Jones, who went into Friday with 85.

Cruz and Jones can add to those numbers in the next couple of weeks. And they can enjoy helping the Orioles to the postseason for only the fourth time since 1983. Davis, however, won't be able to be a part of any of that, and he might not be able join them until sometime in the playoffs.

It is the price that a player pays for violating the drug provisions in the Basic Agreement. There is no wiggle room.

"At this point, it's not up me to me to gauge what's fair and not fair," Showalter said. "You take what's coming your way and you deal with it."

It can be difficult to overcome. The Rangers can attest to that. Had they not lost Cruz for 50 games last season, they can argue that they would have clinched a Wild Card spot and never been forced to face the Rays in that tiebreaker game, which they lost.

But it doesn't ensure doom.

The Giants proved that in their run to the 2012 World Series title. Melky Cabrera, who was the All-Star Game MVP that year, was leading the Majors with 159 hits and had 11 home runs and 60 RBIs on Aug. 15 when he was handed a 50-game suspension.

The Giants were 64-53 at the time, tied for the National League West lead. They lost that first game without Cabrera, but then won 30 of their final 44 games. While Cabrera's suspension ended in the midst of the postseason, the Giants declined to activate him for the World Series.

The Giants swept the Tigers in four games.

Cabrera was given a championship ring for his contributions prior to the suspension. But they never revisited talks about a contract that had begun at the All-Star break, allowing him to become a free agent.

The Orioles have fared well despite the challenges thrown at them earlier this season with the losses of Wieters and Machado.

Now they are being asked to move forward without Davis.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Write 'em Cowboy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["rivalries_east" ] }

Hardy returns after week off to rest ailing back

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BALTIMORE -- J.J. Hardy was back in the Orioles' starting lineup Friday for the first game of their doubleheader against the Yankees after a weeklong absence to deal with back spasms.

Hardy was at shortstop and batted sixth. He took some early work before the first game and was not expected to play in the nightcap.

Hardy has dealt with spasms throughout the season. In April, he missed six games (and five in a row) due to the injury. In August, he missed another game before the spasms flared up again at the start of September. Utility infielder Ryan Flaherty has filled in at shortstop during Hardy's absences this season.

Hardy is batting .281 this season with nine home runs -- his fewest since 2010, when he was with the Twins.

David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["rivalries_east" ] }

Joseph making most of long-awaited opportunity

Rookie catcher had set record for career games played at Double-A Bowie

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BALTIMORE -- Caleb Joseph heard the same criticisms often enough to know what to expect when he went up to the Cape Cod League in 2007: "We'll give him a chance," coaches and scouts often said. "He's OK. He doesn't really do anything great."

It wasn't particularly a surprise to Joseph when the Falmouth Commodores released him before the season. They were waiting for a pair of catchers to be eliminated from the College World Series, and their runs ended sooner than expected.

A few hours before Joseph was ready to get on a train for another league, he received a call from Mike Roberts, the father of then-Orioles All-Star and current Yankees infielder Brian Roberts. The elder Roberts, who coaches the Cotuit Kettleers in the Cape Cod League, wanted Joseph to try out.

There wasn't much that stood out to Coach Roberts about Joseph, except for a "buggy-whip" swing. It's almost all hands, and [it is] exceptionally rare for a college righty.

Roberts gave Joseph a chance, and he was rewarded with an All-Star season by the catcher.

"Pretty much like the story of my life," said Joseph, now 28. "Given a lengthy opportunity, I was going to the All-Star team."

It wasn't the first time Joseph was passed over for flashier prospects, nor would it be the last.

Joseph was passed over by Southeastern Conference programs, only to become a seventh-round Draft choice out of Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., by the Orioles in 2008. He watched so many younger players put up lesser numbers and pass him by at Double-A Bowie that he nearly retired, only to finally get his chance in the Majors as a starter this season for a Baltimore club that could play deep into October.

Joseph's opportunity finally came through a mixture of patience and an untimely break for the O's. Thirty-four games into 2014, starting catcher Matt Wieters' season came to an end due to an elbow injury. After six years in the Minors, Joseph finally got called to the Orioles.

Four of those years, Joseph spent in Bowie, where those bound for the Majors separate themselves from fringe prospects. He now admits he grew content with being the latter.

"Looking back, I realized that to make it to the big leagues, you've got to really stand out if you're a guy like me," Joseph said. "When I was in it, I was just satisfied with kind of being pretty good in that league."

Some time before Joseph set the Baysox's record for games played, he knew he had to change something. His record-setting 400th game only proved that.

The occasion was Bull Durham meets Cal Ripken Jr. Play stopped when the game became official after the fifth inning for fireworks. After the game, Joseph was presented a No. 400 jersey.

"That's not the kind of record you want to have," Mark Joseph recalled his son, Caleb, telling him over the phone.

Joseph finished that season with a .299/.346/.494 slash line and 22 home runs while setting Bowie career records for hits and RBIs. But he had already proven he could hit. Joseph needed to show that he could also catch.

At the insistence of catching coordinator Don Werner, Joseph started mimicking Wieters midway through last season. Like the American League Gold Glover Award winner Wieters, Joseph now sets his feet to throw before he receives the ball.

"It's a totally different kind of style," Joseph said. "What he does is really hard. I'm still trying to figure it out."

This "cheat" has helped Joseph compensate for an admittedly mediocre arm and bump his caught-stealing percentage from 34 percent in the Minors to an AL-leading 43 this season -- a better number than even Wieters has posted.

Baltimore's catchers -- Joseph, along with Nick Hundley -- have filled in adequately for Wieters in the midst of a pennant race.

"It makes it a lot easier to see how they're playing," Wieters said.

And Wieters' cheat made it easier for Joseph to stay in the mix until he had a chance to find his bat.

As of Aug. 1, Joseph was a sub-.200 hitter. The next day, he went 2-for-3 with a home run. Joseph's average jumped to .209. The next game was the same -- 2-for-3, one home run and another spike. Manager Buck Showalter surmised that Joseph had finally grown comfortable enough with his defense to be loose at the plate.

"You don't do the things he did over a long season catching last year," the manager said after Joseph's second homer, "and not have offensive skills."

In each of the next three games, Joseph again launched a home run. His batting average jolted to .228 and has since risen to .236, to go along with nine homers.

Aug. 9 was the day Joseph etched his name in the O's record book with a fifth straight game with a homer -- a club mark for catchers. His buggy-whip hands darted through the zone at the first pitch he saw that day.

As he rounded the bases, Joseph could think back to every opportunity he was denied. His celebration was a bit more pronounced, complete with a yell and emphatic high fives. They finally had to take him seriously now. Joseph had left his mark in the bigs.

"It's just a big whirlwind of emotions," Joseph said, holding back tears after the feat. "You set a record, and maybe seven, eight months ago, I was thinking about hanging it up. Every day in the big leagues is such a blessing."

David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["rivalries_east" ] }

O's sweep Sox, shave magic number to 8

Six-run third backs Chen's seven innings of three-hit ball

O's sweep Sox, shave magic number to 8 play video for O's sweep Sox, shave magic number to 8

BOSTON -- Boston has been real good to the Orioles.

Baltimore (86-59) dominated the last-place Red Sox the entire three-game set, with Wednesday's lopsided win the latest show of force, whittling the O's magic number -- now down to 8 -- and maintaining their commanding American League East lead. Backed by a magnificent effort by starter Wei Yin Chen, who took a perfect game into the sixth inning, the O's used a six-run third to outdistance themselves in a 10-6 victory and secure a sweep at Fenway Park.

"We're trying as fast as we can to seal our deal, so we're trying to win every single game that we can," catcher Caleb Joseph said after the Orioles held off Boston's five-run rally attempt in the ninth.

"Late in the season, it's kind of easy after you've won two games to just kind of be content with that, but this group, I've never been part of a group that -- as [Adam] Jones would say -- stays hungry to win every day. And that's a testament to the leadership that we have here. These guys come out and post up each and every day and they kind of lead us, and the other guys, we just try to follow them because they've been there and done it. We're just trying to do as they do."

The victory, which improved the O's to 34-19 against the Sox since 2012, also clinched the season series between the two for the third consecutive year. The Os haven't won three consecutive season series against Boston since taking four in a row from 1964-67.

"You watch the games. None of them are easy," manager Buck Showalter said of his club's sweep. "Winning a Major League game is one of the hardest things to do in sports. It's nine innings. It's a grind, every night. This is one of those sports where you can never drop your guard and assume anything."

Chen gave the Orioles some early confidence, needing just 59 pitches to get through five perfect innings while holding the Red Sox to one run over seven dominant innings.

"It comes across your mind, but still a perfect game is very difficult to do," Chen said through his interpreter of whether the possibility of having a special afternoon crept into his mind. "I just tried to concentrate on each at-bat, and if I had it, I had it. If I don't, it's OK."

Chen's quest was ended with Dan Butler's one-out double off the Green Monster in the sixth, but the lefty allowed just two hits after that in the 93-pitch outing before Ryan Webb took over.

"He's been a guy that's notoriously pitched effectively against us," Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Chen, who has a team-leading 15 wins. "He pitches right-handers in. He's got multiple secondary pitches that he can go to, but I think more than anything, it's the consistent location that he shows and today wasn't any different than the way he's been pitching all year."

The Orioles' offense did the rest, piling on Red Sox starter Brandon Workman by batting around in the third. Red-hot Alejandro De Aza got things going by driving in Ryan Flaherty -- who had four hits on the day -- and Adam Jones followed with a two-run double. Joseph, who hit a two-run homer off Craig Breslow in the fifth, and Flaherty both singled in runs to complete the six-run frame.

"It was nice to give Wei-Yin a little help -- not that he needed any," said Flaherty, who became the third O's player to tally two hits in the same inning this season. "It was a big offensive inning, early in the game, and really set the momentum."

Boston made things interesting in the ninth, scoring five runs off Orioles reliever Joe Saunders. Making just his second appearance for Baltimore this season, Saunders allowed a two-run double to Daniel Nava followed by Carlos Rivero's three-run homer. After Tommy Hunter recorded the next out, Darren O'Day came on to get the save and preserve the sweep.

"Our guys never assumed anything," Showalter said. "That's one of the things about this club, that's why they kept adding on runs. You know [the Red Sox are] going to get a run on you, especially in this ballpark." 

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Perched atop AL East, O's have overcome plenty

Baltimore cruising toward playoffs thanks to Showalter, Duquette and perseverance

Perched atop AL East, O's have overcome plenty play video for Perched atop AL East, O's have overcome plenty

MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

To see the Orioles leading the American League East by 10 games might lead one to a couple of conclusions.

First, this season has been easy. What's stressful about a 10-game lead? Second, the Orioles surely escaped the kind of crippling injuries that have hit the Yankees, Rangers, Braves and others.

Nope and nope.

The Orioles were five games out of first place on June 16 and trailed both the Blue Jays and Yankees. They didn't climb atop the AL East for good until July 5 and led by a mere 1 1/2 games on Aug. 31. Until the last few weeks, they were assured of nothing.

Injuries? Catcher Matt Wieters and third baseman Manny Machado have missed 180 games. Neither will play again this season. Shortstop J.J. Hardy has missed 16 games and is currently sidelined with a back issue.

These are three core guys. When people talk about club's leadership and work ethic and resilience, Wieters and Hardy are at the top of that list. At 21, Machado has a chance to be one of baseball's special players.

None of these losses have slowed the Orioles. Whether it was first baseman Chris Davis shifting over to third for a few games or Caleb Joseph coming up from the Minors to become the No. 1 catcher, the O's just kept going.

They've used 42 players in all, including 20 pitchers. They've still played their best when the games matter most. They've hit 19 more home runs than any other Major League team since the All-Star break. For the season, Nelson Cruz (39), Davis (26) and Adam Jones (25) are first, ninth and 12 in the AL.

Baltimore's rotation is 19-9 with a 3.18 ERA since Aug. 1. That rotation is the place people tend to point to when they portray the Orioles as a team not built for October. But if you measure October potential by a season's worth of performance, the O's are capable of playing with anyone.

Chris Tillman has emerged as the living, breathing definition of a No. 1 starter, having gone 5-0 with a 2.08 ERA since the All-Star break. The Orioles are 22-9 when he gets the ball. Every other starter -- Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, Kevin Gausman -- has been solid.

In short, this is a club without a weakness, a club that has soared past every challenge. In running up a 10-game lead, the Oroles revealed a couple of things about themselves you probably already knew.

Buck Showalter is a great manager, a brilliant psychologist and leader and a master tactician. He works every angle, leaves no stone unturned. Showalter's players know he has their backs and that he will put them in position to succeed and give them every chance to do just that.

Dan Duquette, the Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations, is among the best in the business at finding talent -- not just spending for it, but surrounding himself with great baseball people who search for sometimes overlooked players and envision them contributing to a winning team.

In turning those players over to Showalter, the O's know he will look at them with an open mind and see them for the things they can do rather than the things they can't.

And some thought this little Showalter-Duquette marriage might not be made in heaven.

Showalter hadn't managed a game in four years when Orioles owner Peter Angelos hired him 105 games into the 2010 season. At the time, Baltimore was headed toward a 13th straight losing season. Two years later, the O's won 93 times and were back in the playoffs for the first time since 1997.

Showalter would be the first to tell you that the Orioles had a good core of talent in place and that in guys like Jones and Wieters and Jim Johnson, he didn't just have talented players. He had guys who were burning to win.

"They'd had their noses bloodied," Showalter said, "and they were tired of it."

Showalter worked his genius from the beginning. He taught and talked and taught some more. He drew lines. What had been acceptable yesterday would not be acceptable today. Showalter had to send some guys packing.

And then Duquette, 10 years removed from his last big league job, arrived before the 2012 season. He, too, was seen as something of a gamble by Angelos.

Duquette has been brilliant. In the last three seasons, the O's have been ranked 15th, 15th and 19th in payroll. To make the postseason twice in three years with those payrolls is a tribute to Duquette finding bargains like Miguel Gonzalez (Mexican League), Steve Pearce (waivers) and Chen (international free agent).

Duquette's predecessor, Andy MacPhail, already had the franchise headed in the right direction, but Duquette and Showalter applied the finishing touches.

Now, one of the country's great baseball cities is excited again and one of its most beautiful ballparks is rocking. The Orioles are drawing close to 30,000 fans a game at Camden Yards and will finish with their highest home attendance in nine years.

And the best stuff may be yet to come.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Orioles to battle NL East in Interleague Play in '15

For fourth time in six seasons, Baltimore opens slate in St. Petersburg

Orioles to battle NL East in Interleague Play in '15

BOSTON -- The Orioles will once again have a short opening road trip to begin the 2015 season, with Baltimore slated to start the year with a three-game set against Tampa Bay. It marks the fourth time in the last six years the O's have started at Tropicana Field, where they will make the quick hour drive from their Spring Training home in Sarasota, Fla.

Baltimore opens its home slate April 10 against the Blue Jays and also host the Yankees during the first homestand. The O's complete their first turn around the American League East by traveling to Fenway Park from April 17-20, with the O's in Boston for Patriots Day for the second consecutive season.

As for Interleague Play, the Orioles will spend a week in New York, playing the Mets from May 5-6, then a four-game AL East set against the Yankees. The O's host the Phillies for two games June 15-16, then travel to Philadelphia for two games. Baltimore will also head to Miami for a three-game set against the Marlins in May.

The Braves will come to Camden Yards from July 27-29 and the Mets visit Baltimore for a two-game set Aug. 18-19. The O's-Nationals series will start July 10-12 in Baltimore before switching to Washington on Sept 21-23, a scheduling change. Traditionally the clubs play back-to-back series.

Also new is the later finish, with the O's ending the regular season with an Oct. 2-4 series against the Yankees.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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De Aza swats pair as O's lower magic number to nine

Jones goes back-to-back in third; Tillman lasts five, 'pen stifles Boston

De Aza swats pair as O's lower magic number to nine play video for De Aza swats pair as O's lower magic number to nine

BOSTON -- It should come as no surprise that the Orioles hit three home runs in Tuesday night's 4-1 win over the Red Sox, since the American League East sluggers, who lead baseball with 191 long balls, are poised to reach the 200-homer mark for the third consecutive season.

But it was a new face who put the first-place Orioles (85-59) one step closer to October, with Alejandro De Aza homering twice -- including his first in a Baltimore uniform -- to whittle Baltimore's magic number to clinch the division to nine. The O's, who are 33-19 against Boston (63-82) since 2012, maintained a commanding 10-game lead over the Blue Jays in the AL East and are 11 games in front of the third-place Yankees.

But they still swear, publicly at least, that there isn't a whole lot different about these September games.

"You understand what's going on," center fielder Adam Jones said of Baltimore's largest divisional lead in 35 years. "But 'til it's at zero and we clinch a spot, we've got something to do."

De Aza, acquired in a late August trade with the White Sox, wasted no time in achieving his second career multi-homer game. The outfielder took Boston starter Anthony Ranaudo deep in his first at-bat, driving a 1-1 pitch an estimated 396 feet for a two-run homer to right that also scored Nick Markakis.

"He put some good swings on it," manager Buck Showalter said of De Aza, who also doubled in the ninth. "I really like the ball he hit the other way, too, after the fact. He didn't get big. He's quietly been very steady since he got here."

De Aza extended the Orioles' lead to three in his next at-bat in the third, sending Ranaudo's 1-1 fastball over the bullpen in right field.

"It's chemistry and I want to be part of that," De Aza said of joining the club's home run barrage. "Honestly, I wasn't looking for those home runs, but it's coming and I'll take it."

Jones followed with his 25th homer, a towering shot that cleared the AAA sign above the Green Monster in left field and presumably landed along the street. Jones is the first outfielder in Orioles history to record four consecutive 25-homer seasons, and his blast improved Baltimore to 23-0 this season when hitting at least three home runs.

"I look at it from the side of when we give our pitchers the lead, they are shutting the door. I will take that," Jones said of the statistic. "They are the ones who are going down there having a shutdown inning as the next one. We are giving them some support and they are giving us some support by going out there and throwing up a zero."

Baltimore starter Chris Tillman did just that, shutting down Boston in the latter part of the first and third innings. Tillman also continued his streak of 18 consecutive starts in which he's allowed three earned runs or fewer, although the righty wasn't at his best.

"It was tough for me," said Tillman, who lasted five innings and allowed six hits and two walks. "From the get-go, my fastball command wasn't sharp, but my other pitches were. I think if I'm able to throw strike one a few more times, I'm a little better off. I struggled in the strike one category. I felt like I was digging myself out of holes all night, but we were able to make some pitches when we needed to and that's always a plus."

Boston's only run off Tillman came on Xander Bogaerts' homer to left in the fourth and he exited the 108-pitch outing in favor of Evan Meek, who recorded the next five outs. Andrew Miller threw two-thirds of an inning in his first outing against his former club and closer Zach Britton was able to rebound from a shaky start to the ninth to pick up his 34th save.

Britton, who has been a pleasant surprise all season, allowed a leadoff walk to Bogaerts, who was thrown out at the plate by Kelly Johnson as he tried to score on a double. The first out of the inning kept the Red Sox off the board, then Britton recorded the next two outs to end it.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["rivalries_east" ] }

Gonzalez, O's blank Red Sox, trim magic number to 11

Righty remains hot, while Baltimore capitalizes on three Boston errors

Gonzalez, O's blank Red Sox, trim magic number to 11 play video for Gonzalez, O's blank Red Sox, trim magic number to 11

BOSTON -- The Orioles' September trip to Fenway Park isn't exactly the pivotal series it looked to potentially be this spring. Instead, it was a showcase of two clubs going in markedly different directions.

The O's, who received another terrific outing from right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, capitalized on three errors from the last-place Red Sox to pull away with a 4-0 series-opening victory Monday night. The win extended Baltimore's lead to 10 games in the American League East and lowered its magic number to clinch the title to 11 with 19 games remaining.

The Orioles -- who have won 13 of their last 16 series openers -- hadn't had a double-digit divisional cushion since Sept. 22, 1979, a date so long ago that no member of the active roster was even born yet.

"Yeah [it's cool], but just a step," said manager Buck Showalter, who was a player in the Double-A Eastern League 35 years ago, of reaching a 10-game cushion. "Every night you get the opportunity to take a step toward your goal. Like Boston has done. They set a real good example [in winning the World Series] last year. At times this year, you realize how fleeting and how close it all is."

The Orioles are certainly in some recently uncharted territory, trailing only the Angels for the AL's best record and on a seemingly fated course for what would be just their second postseason appearance since 1997.

"We hear it, we hear what's going on, but it doesn't feel like that," infielder Steve Pearce said of Baltimore's remarkable regular season. "We still know we've got a job to do. And we go out there and we play. We play hard and we let everything else take care of itself."

Gonzalez is taking care of his own business quite nicely as the righty continues to build a strong case for a postseason rotation spot. Coming off his first career shutout, Gonzalez continued his second-half surge and has allowed just one run over his last 22 1/3 innings.

"Any time he has the type of outing he had last time, you are wondering how he is going to respond the next time out, but I think he answered those questions pretty well," Showalter said of Gonzalez, who exited after a trio of singles in the seventh. "Miggy is attacking the strike zone with a lot of different pitches. And really pitching confident because he's got command of three pitches."

Gonzalez, who tossed 6 1/3 innings against Boston, has allowed two or fewer runs in nine of his last 10 starts. Asked where his confidence level is, Gonzalez -- who was optioned twice this season just to get the O's an extra arm -- seemed happy with where he is now. The difference?

"Staying positive and staying aggressive every time I go out there and not do too much," Gonzalez said of his recent adjustments. "Especially like today, it was a big zone. I thought we made some good plays behind me. Everybody they did their job."

Boston mustered just six hits off Gonzalez, who struck out four, with Tommy Hunter recording a pair of strikeouts in the seventh to keep his scoreless outing intact.

"He's strung it together," Hunter said Gonzalez. "When you feel hot, you want the ball. He's kept his roller coaster on the uphill climb. Hopefully it keeps going. We've all got his back. Hopefully he just goes out and keeps throwing the way he's been for the last three months, three-and-a-half months, whatever it's been. It's been incredible. It's fun to watch."

Red Sox righty Joe Kelly also went 6 1/3 innings, but was victimized by some shoddy defense -- including Boston's inability to turn several double plays -- and allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits and three walks.

The O's got started on Pearce's second-inning RBI and added a pair of runs (one unearned) in the sixth. Adam Jones' sacrifice fly in the seventh, which was dropped by left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, extended the lead to four.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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O's lose review on close play at second base

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BOSTON -- The Orioles lost their challenge in the ninth inning of Monday's 4-0 win over the Red Sox, with umpires confirming the on-fielding ruling that Alejandro De Aza was out.

De Aza, who reached on a walk, tried to steal second as Nelson Cruz struck out, but Boston catcher David Ross threw down to second baseman Dustin Pedroia just in time to complete an inning-ending double play.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter came out to challenge the ruling, but after a review of one minute, eight seconds, the call was confirmed.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["replay" ] }

Miggy, Cruz earn co-AL Player of the Week nods

Tigers slugger notches six multihit contests; O's outfielder posts seven-RBI game

Miggy, Cruz earn co-AL Player of the Week nods play video for Miggy, Cruz earn co-AL Player of the Week nods

Two of the league's elite sluggers who are helping their teams push toward postseason berths -- Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera and Baltimore outfielder Nelson Cruz -- have been named the American League co-Players of the Week.

Cabrera, the two-time defending AL Most Valuable Player Award winner, had seen his power wane over the month of August before busting out in the first week of September with two doubles, five homers, nine RBIs and eight runs over his last seven games to go along with a .500 (15-for-30) batting average.

It's Cabrera's 11th career Player of the Week nod and seventh with the Tigers. He last earned the honor on Aug. 12, 2013. Cruz earned his third career weekly honor after hitting .407 (11-for-27) with a double, a triple, four homers, 12 RBIs and six runs in seven games.

Cabrera led the Majors in hits, homers and total bases (32) last week, and he was tied for first in runs scored. He led the AL in batting average and slugging percentage (1.067), and he hit safely in all seven games, with six multihit games and a pair of two-homer games.

On Sunday, Cabrera hit the 100-RBI plateau for his 11th straight season. He's the only big leaguer with such a streak.

Cruz led the Majors in RBIs last week after driving in all seven of the Orioles' runs on Sunday against the Rays. He's the first O's player to rack up seven RBIs in one game since Luke Scott on July 7, 2009, and the first AL player since Garret Anderson (May 8, 2003) to drive in all seven of his team's runs in a game.

"They are special, but this is not the time to enjoy those numbers," Cruz said. "We've still got 20-something games games to go. After it's over, you can enjoy it, but right now we just have to stay focused and win more games."

Cruz leads the Majors in homers (39) and is second in the AL with 101 RBIs.

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Cruz drives in seven as Orioles pad lead

Outfielder sparks ninth-inning comeback, homers for win in 11th

Cruz drives in seven as Orioles pad lead play video for Cruz drives in seven as Orioles pad lead

ST. PETERSBURG -- Nelson Cruz single-handedly topped the Rays, 7-5, in 11 innings Sunday, driving in seven runs with two homers and a triple to stop the Orioles' five-game road losing streak, prevent a weekend sweep by the Rays, increase the O's lead in the American League East to 9 1/2 games and reduce their magic number to clinch to 12.

It was quite an afternoon.

"He's been playing at a high level, all year -- as a teammate and as a player," praised manager Buck Showalter. "He's been solid since the day he got here. I think the guys have really come to respect the way he carries himself."

"It was one of those wild, crazy games," said Cruz, who continues to lead the league in home runs with 39 and now has 101 RBIs. "It wasn't pretty but it was nice to come away with the W."

Cruz became the first player with seven RBIs to account for all of his team's runs since Colorado's Jason Giambi did so on May 19, 2011, and the first AL player to do it since Anaheim's Garret Anderson on May 8, 2003. The last seven-RBI game by an Oriole was by Luke Scott on July 7, 2009.

Fittingly, the strange game ended in controversy as reliever Andrew Miller struck out the Rays' Logan Forsythe. The ball ricocheted off Forsythe's leg and bounced all the way to the backstop while Sean Rodriguez raced home from second base.

While first Showalter and then Rays manager Joe Maddon came out of the dugouts to discuss the play with the umpires, the Orioles came out on the field to celebrate.

"He swings at the ball, the ball hits him, the ball is dead, and the game is over," Showalter explained. The umpires agreed.

So the Orioles left town Sunday night the same way they came in, 9 1/2 games ahead of the Yankees, despite dropping two out of three to the Rays this weekend.

"Losing two out of three is not what we envisioned," admitted starting pitcher Bud Norris, who worked the first six innings and served up four home runs. "But you've got to build momentum somewhere.

"We've got a lead. And we know we've got to keep going."

"I think we're in pretty good shape," said Cruz. "We've just got to stay focused and go about our business like we do every day."

The Orioles are 13-5 in extra innings and 44-11 in multi-homer games.

Cruz, who belted a two-run homer in the sixth inning, and lashed a clutch, bases-loaded ninth-inning triple down the right field line in the ninth Sunday to give the Orioles a 5-4 lead, smacked his second homer of the game over the center-field wall with Nick Hundley aboard and one out in the 11th.

"I was just looking for something I could drive," he said. "Maybe hit it in the gap so we could score."

Cruz has 13 multi-homer games in his career, including three this season.

"It was a challenging day," Showalter said. "We got more runs than they did. At the end of the day, that's what matters."

The Orioles used 23 players, the most in club history since Sept. 14, 1960, against the Tigers and one shy of the franchise record. It also was the most players Showalter had ever used in his career.

"It was an organizational lineup. We got contributions from a lot of people. A lot of good things. This was an organizational win as much as any."

On the brink of their sixth road loss in a row, the Orioles loaded the bases before anyone was out in the top of the ninth as singles by Ryan Flaherty, and pinch-hitters Jimmy Paredes and Adam Jones. After Delmon Young struck out, Cruz delivered his triple, boosting his RBI total for the year to 99.

The Rays tied things up with an unearned run off closer Zach Britton in the bottom of the ninth when Evan Longoria reached first on an errant throw by shortstop Flaherty, James Loney singled, Brandon Guyer bunted both along and pitch-hitter Sean Rodriguez bounced a high chopper to third.

Forsythe, in the Rays starting lineup because Yunel Escobar was ill, walked to load the bases. But pinch-hitter Ryan Hanigan flied to right to send the game into extra innings.

The blown save was the fourth by Britton, who had converted 18 in a row.

Norris, who had allowed just two home runs in his previous nine starts, served up four to the Rays on Sunday, although all came with the bases empty. He worked six innings, allowing four runs on eight hits, striking out four.

Back-to-back homers by Longoria and Loney put the Orioles in a 2-0 hole in the opening inning. The Rays then loaded the bases against Norris in both the second and third innings, to no avail.

In yet another strange moment in what has been a weird series, the Rays' David DeJesus flied to left center with two outs in the fourth. Alejandro De Aza, playing left, and David Lough, who was filling in for Jones in center, converged on the ball. De Aza caught it momentarily, but Lough jarred it loose as the two collided, sending the ball flying out of De Aza's glove, then chased the ball as it rolled all the way into the left field corner while DeJesus raced around the bases for an inside-the-park home run.

"You can't hear out there, that's what happened," Showalter said. "I saw it, it was almost like it was in slow motion. I was afraid they were going to run together. The heck with what happened after the fact. I was more concerned about the players' safety."

"It was just a quirky play," Norris said.

After Lough had singled, leading off the sixth, Cruz belted his 38th homer of the year off Jeremy Hellickson, to trim the Rays' lead to 3-2.

The next curious play came later in the top of the sixth when the Orioles loaded the bases with one out against reliever Steve Geltz. Flaherty popped up but Rays catcher Jose Molina and the third baseman, Longoria, let the ball drop between them in front of the plate, clearly in fair territory, for an automatic out under the infield fly rule.

Kevin Kiermaier homered, leading off the bottom of the sixth, for the Rays' fourth home run of the day.

Jones and Nick Markakis, the only two Orioles to start every one of the season's first 141 games, along with J.J. Hardy, who is battling lower back spasms, started on the bench for Sunday's game. The artificial turf at Tropicana Field was a big part of the reason.

"We all know they would all like to play but this turf has 'heavy-legged' a few people," Showalter explained. "It's another one of those things about playing here, especially this time of the year.

"I know the history of what that does to a guy's legs, especially when you've been playing a lot. They've worked very hard to get us where we are. And I want to keep them that way. It's best for them and best for the club. One of the benefits of having a full roster this time of the year.

"Playing on that turf can take a toll on your back and knees," Markakis said. "Buck thought we needed a day off and we'll take it."

All three players are expected back in the lineup Monday night in Boston.

Hardy and the Orioles hope by taking another day off Sunday, the shortstop won't have to miss any more time down the stretch.

"I think I've dodged a bullet in a way," Hardy said. "To be safe, we're taking one more day. I hope these two days will take care of it and I won't have to deal with it the rest of the year. We want to try to avoid missing a week or a week and a half like I did in April. I feel like we've gotten ahead of it. Hopefully, it won't happen again for the rest of the year.

"The spasms, it's wierd. When they come up, they're telling me something is wrong and be careful," the Orioles' shortstop continued.

The Orioles believe they are entering the final three weeks of the season as healthy as they can be.

"We've gotten everybody out of the woods a little bit," Showalter said. "We want to keep some people out of the woods, out of harm's way."

Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Confusion, arguments follow final play of game

Confusion, arguments follow final play of game play video for Confusion, arguments follow final play of game

ST. PETERSBURG -- Crack open your MLB rulebooks -- the Rays' series finale against the Orioles at Tropicana Field Sunday certainly ended on an interesting play.

The final out of Tampa Bay's 11-inning, 7-5 loss was a dead-ball strikeout, as Logan Forsythe swung and missed at a third strike from Baltimore reliever Andrew Miller that hit him in the thigh. When a batter swings at a pitch that hits him, the ball is dead, the pitch is a strike and no runner is allowed to advance.

"I swung at the ball and it hit me in the leg," Forsythe said. "It was a good slider, 3-2 pitch, started in. It was better than the previous slider and just kept coming in on me. As soon as I saw it, I tried to hold up, but the swing was going.

"I've seen that play before, and that's always been a dead-ball situation."

At first, though, home-plate umpire Greg Gibson did not rule that the pitch had hit Forsythe, and the pitch bounded away from catcher Nick Hundley to the backstop. Hundley, too busy arguing that the pitch had hit Forsythe to retrieve the ball, allowed Sean Rodriguez to score from second base and Forsythe to advance to first on the apparent dropped strike three.

"You never know," Forsythe said.

But after the dust settled, Baltimore manager Buck Showalter came out to ask Gibson to confer with the rest of the umpiring crew.

"He swung at the pitch and it hit him," Showalter said. "The ball's dead and the game's over."

After a short discussion, the umpires ruled that Forsythe had indeed swung and been hit by the pitch, resulting in a game-ending strikeout.

At that point, Rays manager Joe Maddon left the home dugout to argue the overturned call himself, as he thought that Forsythe had not swung at the pitch. Replays, though, showed that the umpires had made the correct call, and Maddon acknowledged his error after the game.

"I owe the umpires a bottle of wine," Maddon said. "Because they were right. So that's how the game ended. It's unfortunate, it's weird -- but what hasn't been weird this year?"

David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Wieters progressing, optimistic about next season

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ST. PETERSBURG -- Injured Orioles' catcher Matt Wieters, who is traveling with the team, is pleased with the progress he is making and cautiously optimistic about next season.

Wieters underwent surgery in June to reconstruct a ligament in his right elbow.

"It seems like about every week or two weeks we'll get a good breakthrough with something and move forward," Wieters said. "Then we'll have another week or two of trying to get to that next phase or feeling where we're trying to get it back to feeling as normal as possible as quick as possible.

"But it's all going well," said Wieters. "We keep getting closer to it."

Wieters admitted he won't know if he will be able to have a full Spring Training until he resumes throwing, which may not happen until November.

"For me, the big thing is, anytime we get to add new exercises and new strengthening things that kind of give us more optimism and gives us something else that we can work on."

Manager Buck Showalter recently noted that head athletic trainer Richie Bancells was "upbeat" about Wieters' progress, particularly the catcher's improved range of motion.

Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Showalter praises callups' ability to fit in

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ST. PETERSBURG -- Despite all of the new faces on the Orioles' roster during this final, crucial month of the season, Buck Showalter is not worried about anyone disrupting the clubhouse chemistry.

"I don't think anybody wants to upset the apple cart," the Orioles' manager declared. "We spent a lot of time making sure the people we called up and traded for would fit into the dynamic of what we're trying to do here and what everybody's supposed to bring.

"That skill that you bring that we need, we just need to be able to count on it," Showalter said. "Quintin Berry knows what he's here for. If he didn't quite completely hear me, believe me, there are some guys who will tell him.

"There's such a lack of ego here," Showalter added. "They're very mature about what they are in the midst of. When you want something as bad as this group does, they're very tunnel-visioned.

"September is an eternity for most teams, but especially because of the way the rosters are set up in September. It's a whole different game."

Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Showalter puts bullpen decisions in coaches' hands

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ST. PETERSBURG -- As they do every day, pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti huddled with Buck Showalter before Sunday's game against the Rays to discuss the health and availability of the Orioles' relief pitchers.

"I don't take it for granted, but Dom's got his arms around it," Showalter explained. "I trust him. And we sit down every day about 6:15 for a 7 o'clock game and go over the whole bullpen. We've got 'yes' and we've got 'no.' We don't have any gray. You go out there it's 'available' or 'not available.' We read body language, face, how they feel physically.

When it comes to managing the bullpen, nothing is left to chance

"I can tell you how many times, on one hand, someone said, 'I shouldn't or can't or won't pitch today.' They don't say that." Showalter said.

"That's not a pitcher's decision. You can't put that in their head. That's not fair to them. It's like going out [to the mound] and asking somebody if he wants to pitch to somebody or if he wants to stay in [the game] or not. That's not their job. Don't put them in that position. That's not fair to a pitcher."

Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


O's fall to Rays on walk-off passed ball

Gausman strikes out seven over seven strong innings

O's fall to Rays on walk-off passed ball play video for O's fall to Rays on walk-off passed ball

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays continued to play the role of spoiler in the American League East on Saturday afternoon, again slowing down the Orioles' pennant push with an unusual 3-2 win at Tropicana Field.

For the second game in a row, runs were hard to come by -- as the winning run scored on a two-out, walk-off passed ball by catcher Nick Hundley in the ninth. Yunel Escobar, who reached base on an error by Ryan Flaherty and advanced on a sacrifice bunt, crossed the plate when a pitch by Andrew Miller eluded Hundley.

"I didn't catch the ball," said Hundley, who accepted all the blame. "It was probably a strike. [It had nothing] to do with the pitch or the location. I just flat out missed it. We lost a game because I missed a ball. It's cut and dried right there.

"That's on me. I didn't make the play. I can't remember the last time that happened. I let the team down. I've got to do a better job."

Manager Buck Showalter tried to take some of the heat off his catcher.

"There were a lot of things that went wrong before that," Showalter said. "We can't dwell on that."

The ending marked the first time in 2,733 regular-season games that Tampa Bay won on a game-ending passed ball, according to STATS, Inc. The Orioles had not lost on a walk-off passed ball since at least 1974, STATS said.

Kevin Gausman worked seven strong innings for the Orioles, yielding two runs on five hits, while striking out seven and walking four.

"I was a little bit sporadic, for some reason," said Gausman, who has now worked at least seven innings in his last two starts. "But I felt good.

"Physically, I feel great. I feel I get stronger as the game goes on."

Steve Pearce returned to first base on Saturday and Delmon Young was back in the lineup as the designated hitter, as Showalter loaded his lineup with right-handed hitters against the Rays' Drew Smyly. It was Pearce's first appearance in the starting lineup since Aug. 29, and Young's first start since last Monday.

Chris Davis was not in the original starting lineup, but went into Showalter's office before the game and told the manager he wanted to play. Leading off the second inning, he belted the first pitch he saw from Smyly into the right-field seats for his 26th home run of the year.

"Chris doesn't realize I did that on purpose," Showalter quipped after the game.

With 21 games remaining, Davis is on pace to hit 30 HRs, which would mark his third year in a row reaching that plateau. With a current .196 batting average, he could join Arizona's Mark Reynolds (.198, 32 HR in 2010) as the only players in Major League history with 30-plus homers and a sub-.200 batting average.

The Rays took the lead in the third. Ben Zobrist walked and eventually scored on Evan Longoria's sacrifice fly. David DeJesus, who had singled, crossed the plate after Adam Jones couldn't hang on to Wil Myers' sinking drive to right-center.

Smyly worked the first six innings for the Rays, holding the Orioles to one run on four hits. He struck out eight and walked two.

"He's going to be a good one," Showalter said, praising the Rays' young left-hander. "We got to see two real good young pitchers today."

"He's tough, that's why it was such a big trade," said Gausman, referring to the Trade Deadline swap that sent Rays ace David Price to the Tigers for Smyly.

Smyly has worked 153 innings, prompting the Rays to consider shutting him down for the rest of the season -- possibly after one more start. That led Showalter to quip, "I wish they had done it a week earlier."

Hundley's single to left leading off the seventh inning missed being a home run by inches. But he was stranded at first, as Flaherty, Jonathan Schoop and Nick Markakis struck out.

The Orioles tied the score in the eighth. Pearce walked, took second on a throwing error by Rays reliever Jake McGee, and crossed the plate on Nelson Cruz's single to center.

Baltimore had runners on first and second with one away, but Young lined to third and Longoria helped turn an inning-ending double play.

"If Delmon doesn't hit that ball right at somebody," said Showalter, "maybe it's a better story."

Shortstop J.J. Hardy, who has been bothered by back spasms, was not in the lineup on Saturday.

"We're just trying to stay ahead of it," Showalter explained. "We're trying to be proactive.

"It didn't seem like he felt all that good after Friday night's game. But I expect he'll be in there Sunday."

Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Davis gets start after initially being set to rest

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ST. PETERSBURG -- Chris Davis' name was not in the Orioles' starting lineup when it was originally posted in the clubhouse late on Saturday morning. When Davis saw that, he immediately marched into manager Buck Showalter's office. Minutes later, a new lineup card was on the wall, with Davis batting fifth. It was no big deal.

"I have the ability to reconsider," Showalter explained. "Chris and I talked. I thought he might need a day off.

"Chris has that cachet. I like that."

Initially, Showalter planned to rest Davis -- who began the day batting .193 -- against Rays left-hander Drew Smyly, and play right-handed hitting Jimmy Parades at third. Davis entered the day 1-for-8 with five strikeouts against Smyly, although he did homer in their last meeting on Aug. 27.

Showalter, who said he had two lineup cards made out all along, insisted Davis did not talk his way into the lineup.

"Nobody talks his way into the lineup," Showalter said. "But they can talk their way out."

Davis led off the second inning on Saturday with a home run.

Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


O'Day says he's ready to pitch again

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ST. PETERSBURG. -- Darren O'Day, the Orioles' dependable late-inning reliever who was conspicuous by his absence on Friday night when the Tampa Bay Rays rallied for three runs in the eighth inning against Ryan Webb and Evan Meek, threw a bullpen session and performed some precautionary drills on the field before Saturday's game. Afterward, the right-hander declared, "I think I'm good to go."

Both O'Day and manager Buck Showalter said O'Day was available to pitch on Saturday. "He's had some challenges in his hamstring a little bit," Showalter said.

"I'm not a doctor, but I think I might have broke up some scar tissue," said O'Day, who last pitched on Tuesday, when he served up a grand slam against the Reds, and has been bothered by soreness in his upper left hamstring.

O'Day was on the disabled list in the Angels' Minor League system with a strained left hamstring in 2007.

"It's in the same spot, but that was much worse," O'Day said. "When you traumatize a muscle like that, it stays with you for a while.

"When you come to the game and know you're not going to pitch, it's pretty frustrating. I don't like watching baseball. I like to play."

Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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