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With NBA Season Over, Let's Enjoy Baseball's Brief Life on Center Stage

I wasn’t rooting for Lebron James and his remarkable young sidekick Kyrie Irving. But I am glad that Cleveland’s long drought without a major sports championship since 1964 is at last over. And who knows? The Indians are definitely a contender in a mediocre AL Central.

Of course, as a confirmed Orioles addict, the AL East has been the race I’m following the most closely. The Birds’ lead is only one game as summer begins but Baltimore just finished a week in which they won three-game series at Boston and at home against Toronto, their two biggest rivals so far in 2016.

The Orioles are winning without any semblance of a consistent starting rotation.
There have been remarkable performances like Chris Tillman’s and rookie Tyler Wilson’s victories in Boston, but there is no assurance that either one will continue
to provide consistent deep-inning performances.

Tillman did improve his record to an impressive 10-1 in winning the rubber match against Toronto, but he only worked five innings, giving up four runs in second inning. All came on on two-run homers to the Blue Jays potent double play combination of Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis, both back from stints on the disabled list.

The Blue Jays starting pitching is not exactly overwhelming, but the Birds were fortunate that Toronto’s best starter this season, Marco Estrada, did not work in the recently concluded series.

One thing I’ll say about the 2016 Orioles – they are resilient, the offense can be explosive, and the defense is often extraordinary. The latest example: Reliever Mychal Givens, a converted shortstop, made a remarkable sliding grab and accurate throw on an infield dribbler to preserve the lead in Saturday's 4-2 victory over Toronto.

The loss of Manny Machado to a four-game suspension will hurt, but the return from injury of JJ Hardy to shortstop will definitely help.

The decisions from MLB justice are certainly strange. Machado was bound to be suspended for charging Yordano Ventura after being plunked by a 99 mph fastball. But Ventura in effect was suspended for only one start - he was the instigator and not for the first time.

One thing about baseball - there is always something new and something controversial. Looks like an exciting summer ahead and as always my hope remains that the Orioles will be “playing meaningful games in September” and beyond.

That’s all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it!

YIBF (Yours In Baseball Forever), Teny Ymota (The Earl of NY, Your Man On The Aisle)
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Roughned Odor's Baserunning and More Drama from Baseball's Division Series

As a chastened Orioles fan, I can take a little solace that the Texas Rangers’ surprise rise to the edge of the American League Championship Series may have started when they took three out of four in Baltimore just before the All-Star break.

It was before they made the trade deadline deals in late July that brought them a likely ace in Cole Hamels from Philadelphia, and also in the same deal lefty Jake Diekman who has become a key member of their bullpen. Add in Sam Dyson who came from the Marlins.

I don’t think I ever saw better baserunning than supplied by Roughned Odor in the Rangers’ 14-inning second straight playoff win over Toronto. He went first to third on an infield grounder, and then scored on a short fly ball to center, deking his left hand into home plate and pulling it away and touching it with his right hand before Russell Martin could apply the tag.

Center fielder Delino DeShields Jr. has also provided a lot of spark as the Rangers’ new leadoff hitter. He had three hits in the extra-inning victory and beat out a routine grounder to short for a big insurance run in the 14th inning rally. (Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is still hurting from the injury to his non-throwing shoulder and it may well have affected his throw to first. He certainly has not been hitting with authority.)

Like his father, who had been recruited to play point guard for Villanova basketball, DeShields Jr. before signing with the Montreal Expos, is a great athlete who both Ole Miss and the University of Georgia were interested in for football.

DeShields is only a rookie so it is too early to predict how great his career will be.
He may have a chance, though, to make most people forget that his father’s greatest claim to fame may be that the Expos traded him even up to the Dodgers for Pedro Martinez.

In an age when MLB is drawing more and more players from the international market, the Rangers may lead every team for being a veritable United Nations on the field.

Roughned Odor is from Maracaibo, Venezuela family filled with players and coaches.
Shin-Soo Choo is from Korea, Adrian Beltre and his temporary replacement Hanser Alberto are from the Dominican Republic, and injured ace starter Yu Darvish is from Japan.

There are a lot of home-grown stories on the Rangers including starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo who went to nearby Fort Worth Trimble Tech HS, and reliever Ross Olmerdorf who grew up in Austin TX and went to Princeton.

Arguably the brightest man in baseball, who has worked in Washington, DC as a high-level government agricultural researcher, Olmerdorf has rescued his career by resorting to a Bob Feller-style full windup.

Every playoff season has its own special drama and 2015 is no exception.
Joe Maddon's Cubs used two safety squeeze bunts in a row to stoke a 5-run rally to even up their series with the Cardinals at 1-1. And now the Cardinals must face Jake Arrieta at Wrigley Field. Every pitcher is ultimately hittable but Arrieta is as hot as any hurler in the history of the game.

Best thing about the Cubs is that they are versatile as well as talented and Maddon has them all thinking, "W" for winning and nothing else. When asked in spring training about Cub curses and 106 non-winning seasons in a row, Maddon replied, "I don't vibrate at that frequency."

The Mets’ chance for a sweep on the road against the Dodgers’ great aces Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke came to a dramatic halt on Saturday night when Chase Utley slid hard into Ruben Tejada at second base, breaking up a possible though not likely double play.

Unfortunately Tejada’s leg was broken by the slide and now Wilmer Flores, the Mets’ better-hitting more defensively-challenged shortstop, takes over that key position. I’ve always liked Flores’ bat and we’ll see how he responds to his big challenge.

Certainly Flores will always be remembered for breaking into tears on the field at the trading deadline in late July when he thought the Mets had sent him to Milwaukee in a trade for former Met centerfielder Carlos Gomez.

It was one of the most touching moments of the entire season and reminded us of how ballplayers, despite their celebrity and great riches, are human beings after all.

In my next post we'll have the answers to these still-unresolved questions:
Can Jake Arrieta lead the Cubs to the edge of the NL Championship Series?
Will the Rangers complete their upset victory over the heavily-favored Blue Jays at their home park in Texas?
Can Houston use home-field advantage to dethrone Kansas City as American League champion?
Will the Mets add to the Dodgers’ recent miseries in the playoffs?

In the meantime, Always remember: Take it easy but take it!
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