Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Luis Ayala, 2012 Topps Update Series #US270

My recent fascination with 2014 Topps Heritage notwithstanding, I've bought very few current-issue baseball cards over the past four years. I recently found myself in Target with some time to kill, so I wandered into the card aisle looking for bargains. I spotted a $20 repack box that was full of 2012 and 2013 Topps products, 20 packs in all, and took the plunge. If nothing else, I figured it would give me some trade bait (assuming that I ever put forth the effort to initiate trades with other collectors again) and a few packs of Allen and Ginter and Heritage without the usual sticker shock. Besides, within the span of a few hundred new cards, I was bound to find something to surprise me. I actually laughed when I pulled this Luis Ayala card from the lone pack of 2012 Update. It was new to me, and the image of the jacket-clad middle reliever pointing a bat at the camera with what I hope was mock-menace was a welcome departure from the customary sea of stock action photos that has come to define Topps' flagship set and update series. It's always nice to have a reminder that card collecting can be fun...what a concept, huh?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ben McDonald, 1990 Score Rising Stars #93

I've been talking up the O's hitters lately, so let's give a little love to Chris Tillman. He's been excellent ever since a disastrous one-inning, five-run start in Texas on June 5 that pushed his ERA to a season-worst 5.20. Last night the righty shut down the White Sox over eight innings, allowing one run (a first-inning home run by Jose Abreu) on three hits and striking out nine. He improved to 10-5 with a 3.55 ERA, and now has a streak of 14 straight starts with no more than three earned runs allowed. The last time an Orioles starting pitcher pulled that off, it was Ben McDonald in 1993. That was Ben's best full season in the majors, as his 13-14 record was offset by a 3.39 ERA (132 ERA+), seven complete games, and 171 strikeouts. But unlike McDonald, Tillman might be pitching in the postseason this year.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Nick Markakis, 2010 Topps National Chicle #73

It's often said that baseball is a team sport, but Nick Markakis sure seemed like he was single-handedly beating the White Sox on Monday night. The veteran left fielder went 3-for-5 with a pair of runs scored and a two-run homer as the Orioles won an 8-2 game that was much closer than the final score. O's starter Bud Norris cruised through the first six innings, but a two-out single by Avisail Garcia in the seventh trimmed the lead to 3-2. Then Conor Gillaspie drove a Norris pitch deep to right field, and Nick left his feet and robbed Chicago's third baseman of a potential go-ahead home run. If you missed it, here it is, and if you already saw it, you probably want to watch it again:

By the by, Markakis is batting .400 in August and entered tonight's game with a 10-game hitting streak. It's nice to see him looking more lively than he did in 2013.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Jeff Conine, 2002 Upper Deck Vintage #55

Hey, just a little bit of Jeff Conine catching a pickoff throw as Alfonso Soriano dives back to the bag for your Monday night. I found eight Orioles-at-Yankees games from 2001 featuring Niner at first base, and Soriano reached base in seven of them. So, that doesn't narrow things down for me. I never claimed to have all of the answers, though.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Steve Pearce, 2013 Orioles Postcards

Steve Pearce broke out of his second-half doldrums today, helping the Orioles avoid a sweep at the hands of the Indians. The journeyman led off the sixth inning with a double and scored the tying run, sparking a two-run rally to give the Birds a lead they would not relinquish. He also provided some welcome insurance with his 12th home run, a solo shot in the seventh inning that was positively crushed.  According to the MASN broadcast, the MLB average speed for a ball struck off the bat is 77 mph; Pearce's blast against Chen-Chang Lee was over 100 mph. Chris Davis also had two extra-base hits, a pair of doubles. The second of those put the O's up 2-1. Jonathan Schoop's 12th homer made it 4-1, which was the final score. Kevin Gausman struggled with his control but permitted only two hits in six innings, and Darren O'Day, Andrew Miller, and Zach Britton each tossed a scoreless inning in relief. That's 70 wins for Baltimore, a number they didn't reach once between 2007 and 2011. This isn't your slightly older cousin's Orioles team.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Earl Weaver, 1974 Topps #306

This is a momentous day in Orioles history, though really, aren't they all? With 60 years of history to choose from, there's always something to celebrate or lament. On August 15, 1975, Earl Weaver managed to get ejected from both ends of a doubleheader for the first time. He'd repeat the feat twice more in his Hall of Fame career.

It was a Friday twinbill at Memorial Stadium. Things didn't go well for the Birds in the opener, as Mike Torrez was chased in the third inning. Wayne Garland allowed a few inherited runners to score, putting the home team in a 5-0 hole. The visiting Rangers scored a sixth run in the fourth inning on an odd play. First base umpire Ron Luciano, a longtime Weaver nemesis, initially called Jim Spencer out at first to complete a would-be double play. Then Luciano quickly reversed himself, ruling that first baseman Tony Muser failed to touch the bag. Cesar Tovar scored from third base, and Earl had a conniption and earned an early shower. The O's rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, but it was all for naught. Garland and Dyar Miller combined to allow four runs in the very next inning, giving Texas a 10-6 lead. That would be the final score.

Baltimore's skipper was still fuming when he brought out the lineup card before the second game, and he let Luciano know about it. Weaver insisted that the ump, who ejected him from a total of four minor league games and eight more in the majors, had a vendetta against him. Ron gave Earl more fuel for his fire, as he delivered a second heave-ho before the first pitch could be thrown in the nightcap! Fortunately, the Orioles salvaged a split by battering Texas 13-1. They pounded 18 hits off of Clyde Wright and Tommy Moore. Doug DeCinces homered, tripled, and drove in five runs. Lee May and Tommy Davis had three hits each. Mike Cuellar was the beneficiary, cruising to a complete-game, five-hit victory. It's a shame the manager wasn't around to see it.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Jimmy Key, 1998 Donruss Preferred #93

Last night I shouted myself hoarse at Camden Yards as the Orioles stunned the Yankees with a four-run rally in the bottom of the eighth. Yankee killer Jonathan Schoop hit a game-tying homer off of All-Star reliever Dellin Betances, and Adam Jones provided the game-winning blow with a two-out, three-run homer against Shawn Kelley. 5-3 final to wrap up the rain-aided two-game sweep. Now there are 43 games left, and Baltimore is 7.5 up on the second-place Jays and eight games ahead of New York, with the most demanding stretch of their 2014 schedule in the rear view.

The last time the Orioles had such a substantial cushion was September 13, 1997. Those O's were a veteran, high-payroll team, a club that led the American League East all season long. Jimmy Key tied with Scott Erickson for the team lead in wins, and when was the last time you thought about those guys? This is rarified air. Enjoy it, and allow yourself to dream about October.