Baltimore Orioles

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Orioles are projected to be one of the worst teams in baseball in 2017

Orioles are projected to be one of the worst teams in baseball in 2017

The Baltimore Orioles made the playoffs last season on the strength of one of the top offenses in baseball and a dominant bullpen, but they lost in heart-breaking fashion in the Wild Card game to the division-rival Toronto Blue Jays.

The Orioles largely have the same roster as they did last year, but according to Baseball Prospectus, Baltimore is projected to finish in last place in the American League East, and have one of the worst records in baseball at 73-89. Only the Royals (91 losses) and the Padres (93 losses) are expected to have more losses than the O's. Additionally, Baseball Prospectus is giving the Orioles a 3.1 percent chance to win the division, and a 7.8 percent chance to make it to the Wild Card game. The 73 wins that are projected for the O's would be the fewest the team has had since 2011 when manager Buck Showalter took over in his first full season as the skipper. The Red Sox are projected to win 90 games and win the AL East in 2017. 

With designated hitter Mark Trumbo back with a new contract, the Orioles offense should still be a juggernaut, but the pitching staff is what is expected to let them down in 2017. Baltimore is projected to allow 816 runs this season, which is the highest projection in all of baseball. The Reds are expected to give up the second most at 803. 

That high projection for the Orioles seems to be a result of a well-below average starting pitching staff which, according to USA Today Sports, ranks as the 24th-best rotation in baseball

Although expectations aren't high for Baltimore in 2017, they shouldn't be counted out entirely. The team is still led by an MVP level player in third baseman Manny Machado, still has the best closer in baseball in Zach Britton and has steady veteran leadership in centerfielder Adam Jones, shortstop JJ Hardy and first baseman Chris Davis. 

If the Orioles are to compete for a playoff spot it will most likely come down to the starting rotation playing above expectations. If Kevin Gausman can continue the roll he was on in the second half of last season, and if Dylan Bundy can blossom into the stud he was drafted to be, the O's could end up pushing the Red Sox and Blue Jays at the top of the division. 

Related: Camden yards named best sports stadium in North America

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Gausman's arm, Machado's glove shuts out Tampa Bay

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USA TODAY Sports

Gausman's arm, Machado's glove shuts out Tampa Bay

ST. PETERBURG, Fla. -- The Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays are teams currently heading in different directions.

Kevin Gausman pitched six strong innings, Adam Jones homered and the Orioles sent the Rays to their season-worst fifth straight loss, 5-0 Monday night.

"It all feeds off the starting pitching," Jones said.

MUST SEE: Machado starts an around the horn double play

The Rays began the day tied for the second AL wild-card spot. Baltimore won for the sixth time in eight games.

"It's all about how we finish as a team," Gausman said.

Gausman (7-7) gave up five hits and struck out eight. He has permitted seven hits over 13 scoreless innings in two starts this season against Tampa Bay.

The right-hander is 4-1 in his last seven starts.

"Kevin was throwing strikes, and working with some tempo and command," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Darren O'Day, Brad Brach and Richard Bleier completed the six-hitter.

Blake Snell (0-6) went a career-high seven-plus innings. The lefty, who entered with 19 of 30 career starts lasting five or fewer innings, allowed three runs and six hits.

"Snell was tough," Showalter said.

Jones, who also doubled and singled, has an RBI in six straight games. Manny Machado drove in two runs during a three-run eighth and Jonathan Schoop drove in a run for his eighth game in a row.

Rays catcher Wilson Ramos left in the fifth after he was struck on the head by a piece of Ruben Tejada's broken bat. The team said Ramos got six staples and will be evaluated.

"He won't start tomorrow, but we're confident that he feels good," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "A little bit of a scare there. I think Wilson would have preferred to stay in the game. We just weren't able to stop the bleeding."

Jones opened the game with a double and went to third on a wild pitch, but Snell rebounded to strike out Machado and Jonathan Schoop, and retired Mark Trumbo on a popup.

Jones hit his 19th home run in the third.

Snell left in the eighth with two on and no outs. Sergio Romo, in his Rays debut, gave up a two-run single to Machado and Schoop's sacrifice fly. Schoop has 18 RBIs during his streak.

Tampa Bay loaded the bases with two outs in the third but Evan Longoria grounded out. Mallex Smith hit a leadoff triple in the fifth but was left stranded.

"We've just got to continue as this little bit of a funk goes," Cash said. "we've got to find a way to get ourselves out of it."

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Orioles' Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop pull off crazy around the horn double play

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USA TODAY Sports

Orioles' Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop pull off crazy around the horn double play

Quietly the Baltimore Orioles are trying to move back into the American League playoff picture. With more defensive plays like the team saw in the first inning on Monday, their odds will greatly improve.

Facing off against the Tampa Bay Rays in the first game of a three-game series, Manny Machado started what would be a key play for Baltimore. 

With one out and a runner on first base, Machado scooped up an Evan Longoria grounder that was flying down the third base line. Running into foul territory the 25-year-old threw across his body to Jonathan Schoop, who made a high-reaching grab at second and delivered a perfect throw down to first. Ending the inning, the Orioles kept the Rays scoreless with only one hit in the bottom half of the first inning. 

Schoop is coming off his first American League player of the week honor after an impressive stretch in seven games. Mainly the award was for his offensive numbers, but he proved to be a valuable double play partner as well. 

Not only is it a huge play in the moment, but it had to be an empowering play for the psyche of starting pitcher Kevin Gausman. On the mound for the Orioles against the Rays, Gausman was struggling post All-Star break. In three games had allowed 14 earned runs, 20 hits, and six home runs.