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Duquette, Showalter build foundation for Orioles success

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USA Today Sports

Duquette, Showalter build foundation for Orioles success

NEW YORK—The postseason never gets old. Not for players, and not for Buck Showalter or Dan Duquette. 

Showalter had postseason teams in New York and Arizona, and the three-time Manager of the Year has a third postseason team with the Orioles. 

In 2012, his team was a happy surprise when it won a wild-card game in Texas and made it to the Division Series. Two years ago, the Orioles went to the American League Championship Series. 

On Tuesday, the Orioles try to win the wild-card game in Toronto’s Rogers Centre.

“They’ve grinded, not since February, but since the season ended last year,” Showalter said. 

“The game’s not always fair. This year it was because they got a return for what they put into it…You look up ‘grind’ in the dictionary, you should have the 2016 Orioles there because these guys never gave in,” Showalter said. 

The Orioles began the season with seven straight victories, and though they played under .500 from July 25 through the end of the season, Showalter is pleased with how they finished, winning seven of their final nine. 

“There are so many opportunities that say, ‘this may not work out this year.’ It went by quick for me because this team was involved in the competition right from Day 1 and never really got away from it,” Showalter said. 

“You go through periods where you’ve got a chance to win the division, you got a chance to be a wild-card, then you got a chance even not to be in it. You don’t overcome that without having a real strong mentality. So many times we started to say something to these guys, and I just backed off. They got it. Sometimes the best managing you do is the managing you don’t do.” 

This Orioles team was big on home runs. They ended the season with 253, four shy of the 1996 team record. They were short on speed with just 19 stolen bases, and they were thought to be short on starting pitching. 

Kevin Gausman matured late in his fourth major league season and had a 1.10 ERA in six starts against the team he beat on Sunday, the New York Yankees. 

Gausman said he wanted the ball. He wanted to start in the crucial game. 

“He’s had that body language of ‘that guy.’ I say all the time to the minor league guys and scouts, does he have it? Does he have it? And they all know what we’re talking about. He’s graduated to the right part of the process, and he’s been fun to watch. We needed him today, and he delivered,” Showalter said. 

There were veterans who have been with Showalter for years, Zach Britton, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Chris Tillman and Matt Wieters as well as younger players such as Gausman and Manny Machado, who have shown leadership quality, and it’s an accomplished team.

“Skill and talent plays. There’s just so much you can do with emotion. Pitchers on top of their game. There’s just so much you can do with emotion. You have to have some skills and sometimes that gets overlooked with our guys. These are some talented guys, and they’re talented in their ability to be consistent,” Showalter said. 

Together, it’s Duquette and Showalter’s third postseason team, one that seemed unlikely. 

Duquette added important players for this team, outfielders Michael Bourn, Hyun Soo Kim and Mark Trumbo. Each came a different way. 

Trumbo was acquired when Seattle was eager to shed his salary last winter, Kim came as a free agent from South Korea, and Bourn was picked up on Aug. 31. They added to the core that was already on hand. 

“We’ve been able to establish a winning presence and to go back to the playoffs again and have another shot at it, that’s really what we’ve been working for all year. So now we’ve got a shot to go for the dance,” Duquette said. “We want to advance in the tournament…Our team is strong and we’ve got a chance to play in the postseason. That’s all you can ask for. You just roll the dice and see if you can knock on the door and break through this time.”

The Orioles will face a difficult task in trying to beat the Blue Jays on Tuesday night. 

“Generally, people don’t pick us in the offseason, which is OK by us, but I don’t know what criteria they use. Nobody has picked us to do much and this club always finds a way to compete. We have good internal leadership, Duquette said. 

Many people think that this was Showalter’s best job as Orioles manager. 

“Buck does a great job year-in and year-out. I believe he gives his best every time he’s out there on the field,” Duquette said. 
 

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Adam Jones is making Orioles fans proud with play after amazing play at World Baseball Classic

Adam Jones is making Orioles fans proud with play after amazing play at World Baseball Classic

By Lisa Redmond (@LisaARedmond

Team USA is headed to the World Baseball Classic for the first time ever (!).

After a 2-1 victory over two-time WBC winner Japan, Team USA will play Puerto Rico Wednesday night for the title. Marcus Stroman is set to start for Team USA and Seth Lugo will do the same for Puerto Rico.

The standout playmaker for the Americans has been Orioles pie-thrower Adam Jones. Jones, a five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove award winner, has dropped some jaws with huge plays that helped push Team USA to the finals.

Against Colombia in the first round, Jones hit a walk-off single that allowed Christian Yelich to score from third and lifted Team USA to a 3-2 victory in the tenth inning. His walk-off during Friday night's game in Miami is only the third in WBC history for Team USA. The other two came from David Wright and Alex Rodriguez.

Moving onto Saturday night's contest against the Dominican Republic, Jones made the highlight play of the 2017 WBC. In his hometown of San Diego, Jones robbed fellow Oriole Manny Machado of a monstrous home run. Nearly leaping into the stands, Jones somehow snagged the should-have-been-gone ball.

After the catch, Team USA pitcher Tyler Clippard could be seen on video mouthing “Oh my God,” while Machado couldn’t help but tip his hat to Jones as he ran back to the dugout. Team USA would go on to beat the Dominican Republic 6-3 and advance to the semi-finals.

The Orioles star told MLB.com that even he was stunned when he caught the ball.

I'm still in kind of shock that I even got to that ball ... I mean, off the bat I'm just like this ball's hit really far, so just keep going, keep going. You know this California air's going to slow it down, and just never quit. That's just the style I play with. I don't mind running into a wall or two.

The stats on that catch are pretty shocking, too. According to Statcast, Jones plays as shallow as any outfielder does, usually at 307 feet from the plate. However, on this play he was 321 feet out, helping him run down the ball with a leaping grab.

Statcast calculates that the ball left Machado's bat at a velocity of 106.2 mph and a launch angle of 26 degrees. Those numbers combined gives a batter a 95% chance of a hit and a 90% chance of a home run. But Machado's odds didn't mean much with Jones roaming center field. 

After beating the Dominican Republic, Team USA moved on to play Japan Tuesday night and, for the third time, Jones made the difference. At the top of the eighth with the score tied at 1 apiece, he hit a go-ahead RBI which bounced off the glove of Japan’s third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda, giving Brandon Crawford extra time to score before throwing Jones out at first. Team USA went on to beat WBC heavyweight Japan, 2-1. 

If you have watched any of the WBC games, you can see just how much fun Jones is having throughout the series. Hopefully, the good times will keep rolling for Team USA as they play for the title tonight at 9 p.m. at Dodger Stadium.

RELATED: ORIOLES' ZACH BRITTON HOPES TO DUPLICATED GREAT 2016 SEASON

 

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Orioles' Zach Britton hopes to duplicate great 2016 season

Orioles' Zach Britton hopes to duplicate great 2016 season

SARASOTA, Fla. – It's been a short spring training for Zach Britton.

Early in camp, the Baltimore Orioles' left-handed reliever, who converted all 47 of his save opportunities in 2016, felt discomfort in his left oblique and was held out. Britton has said if this were the regular season he would have pitched, and that he is close to being ready to go.

Manager Buck Showalter had wanted Britton to begin pitching in the second week of Grapefruit League games and follow the plan he set for two veteran right-handers Brad Brach and Darren O'Day.

Instead, the Orioles kept Britton out until March 14 when he allowed two runs on four hits in an inning against Tampa Bay. Britton was upset after that game, but he followed it with a scoreless inning on March 17 against Pittsburgh.

The oblique issues are long gone, Britton said.

"Well, the second one was a lot better than the first one. That's a good sign," Britton said. "No more symptoms of that, nothing's creeped back or anything. I feel really good now. I can just focus on getting ready for the season. I feel pretty good with where I'm at this year compared to where I was last year."

Britton followed the two innings with a minor league game Monday where he struck out the side on 12 pitches.

His schedule is set for the rest of spring. On Wednesday, Britton will pitch an inning against Tampa Bay, and after a few days off, he'll pitch on consecutive days.

"I'm pretty close. As a reliever now, it only takes a few innings., Britton said. "It kind of clicks for you one day, and then you're ready for the season to start where as a starter you've got to build up those innings, and I don't need to do that anymore."

In 2016, Britton had a marvelous season. After giving up his third earned run of the year on April 30, Britton went nearly four months – until Aug. 24 when he allowed his fourth and final run.

"A historical year," Showalter said. "I don't think you'll ever see another year like that."

The Orioles ended that year with Britton famously sitting in the bullpen when the Toronto Blue Jays won the American League wild-card game last October.

Early in spring training, Britton was the most popular interview subject in the clubhouse, but now the attention has gone elsewhere.

"A lot of people want to ask me about the wild-card game, and I think you guys have all covered it. I don't know how much more you can say on that, but everyone wants to talk about it and bring it up when they come in," Britton said. "There are other storylines in here that were a little more interesting, I think."

MORE ORIOLES: Adam Jones beats Colombia with a walk-off in World Baseball Classic