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Planning for 2015 is Underway!

Good Evening Keys Fans!

The first game of the 2015 season may not be until April 9, but the Keys front office staff is already well into its planning for next year. This season featured a ton of great new promotions such as the Candy Drop, as well as old favorites like Fredneck night and the Cowboy Monkey Rodeo. Now, we want to get your take! On Thursday, we will be having our annual marketing retreat, where we will look at this past season, and discuss new promotions and ways to make the fan experience better. So tell us your ideas by sending us a tweet (@frederickkeys) or by visiting our Facebook page.

Although we may be planning for next season, a number of Keys are still focusing on THIS YEAR. Currently, seven former members of the orange and black are playing for the Glendale Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League. That includes four individuals who spent time at the Grove this season: Jason Esposito, Parker Bridwell, Ashur Tolliver and Mychal Givens. Following a monster second-half where he .320 over 67 games, the ex-Vanderbilt Commodore picked up where he left off yesterday. In his first game since Labor Day, Esposito went 2-for-4 with a home run and a triple while playing third base and hitting out of the nine-hole.

Jason Esposito 640x360

 

Parker Bridwell also pitched well, working two  scoreless innings, while adjusting to bullpen life.

Bridwell 640x360

According to O’s Director of Player Development Brian Graham, Bridwell will pitch in relief during the Fall League. In his minor league career, the righty has pitched only four games out of the pen, but possesses excellent stuff and could flourish there. Graham has more about Bridwell and the O’s other six fall leaguers here.

Former Key Zach Davies got the start in the Desert Dogs first game, giving up two runs in 1.2 innings and Garabez Rosa went 1-for-5, in the Desert Dogs 9-3 win over the Mesa Solar Sox. Glendale’s game today was rained out, but we’ll have a full round up of the team’s contest tomorrow against Surprise on Friday.

We also wanted to wish congratulations to former Key Zach Britton and his wife on the birth of their baby boy Zander Lee Britton. The full story can be found here.

Britton is expected to be ready for game one of the ALCS against the Royals. Britton may be joined by another former Keys lefty in the bullpen when the ALCS rosters are announced. MASN’s Roch Kubatko has more here. It should be a fun series, as neither team has claimed a World Series since the 80s (O’s won it all in ’83 while the Royals were champs in ’85). One of my favorite articles of the day was this one by David Wilson which talks about what members of that ’83 team are up to now.

The Keys staff is very excited about the Orioles chances, but the staff of the Wilmington Blue Rocks (the Royals Carolina League affiliate) is also pretty gung-ho, that their quest for the crown (bonus points for the pun) will also be successful. Do I sense a wager anyone?

Dr Evil

 

If there is one, my guess is that it won’t be for one mmmmmmmilllion dollars. Stay tuned though!

Keep those promotional ideas coming and shake your keys!

Geoff

Off to the ALCS!!

Good Afternoon Keys Fans!

Well it’s official, the O’s are going back to the ALCS! On Sunday evening, Buck Showalter’s team polished off the Detroit Tigers with a 2-1 win. And in case you missed it, former Key Zach Britton picked up the final double play which wrapped it up.

Although it may have been more fun to celebrate at Camden Yards (Adam Jones pieing fans again would have been flat out awesome) many folks were still celebrating on Monday, and skipped work to greet the club as they arrived back home:

Duquette Rally

Showalter Rally

A very cool sight. Here is a little bit more about the welcome home rally from Steve Melewski.

Thanks to their ALDS victory, the Orioles are back  in the ALCS for the first time since 1997. That year, Baltimore took on the Cleveland Indians, eventually falling in six games. The O’s were led by the likes of Cal Ripken, Mike Mussina, Rafael Palmeiro and Roberto Alomar.

Although that team didn’t have a ton of ex-Keys on it, there were still a few alumni on the squad, including  Armando Benitez, Rocky Coppinger, David Dellucci, Arthur Rhodes, Nerio Rodriguez and Rick Krivda.

Meanwhile, a host of others also spent time rehabbing in Frederick. In fact if you take a look at the O’s four primary starters that season (Jimmy Key, Mike Mussina, Scott Erickson and Scott Kamieniecki) Mussina was the only member of the quartet who never donned a Keys uniform.

Jimmy Key pitched for Frederick in 1998 while rehabbing from a left rotator cuff injury

Jimmy Key pitched for Frederick in 1998 while rehabbing from a left rotator cuff injury

Scott Erickson rehabbed for the Keys on April 25, 2000, tossing 6.2 innings against Potomac and allowing 2 runs

Scott Erickson rehabbed for the Keys on April 25, 2000, tossing 6.2 innings against Potomac and allowing 2 runs

This year’s Orioles club has a few more Keys players. Currently five former Keys are on the team’s playoff roster (Zach Britton, Jonathan Schoop, Nick Markakis, Caleb Joseph, Kevin Gausman) while Steve Pearce and Ryan Flaherty have both rehabbed with the Keys. That number should increase by one for the ALCS, as Brian Matusz (2009, ’11 rehab) will likely be needed to contain some of Kansas City’s left-handed bats. Namely, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, who sported the two top OPS’ in their series against the Angels (Hosmer finished with a 1.703 and Moustakas a 1.048). Both were great in clutch spots as well, with Moustakas hitting a go-ahead homer in game one against the Halos, and Hosmer supplying the eventual game winning blast in game two.

Matusz was left off the ALDS roster to create space for Ubaldo Jimenez, a righty who never saw the mound in the Tigers series.

Like the O’s, the Royals are hungry, having not been back to the World Series since 1985. That year they won it all, topping their I-70 rival, St Louis.

There’s no question, the ALCS will be very emotional for both sides. But besides the hunger factor, the Royals present a number of challenges. MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli does a good job of outlining five big questions facing the Orioles. In case you are wondering, a couple of former Keys factored into the conversation.

Speaking of former Keys, best of luck to Parker Bridwell, Jason Esposito, Mychal Givens, Zach Davies, Ashur Tolliver, Michael Ohlman and Garabez Rosa who will start play in the Arizona Fall League tomorrow! That group is playing for the Glendale Desert Dogs. First up: the Mesa Solar Sox. Here is a complete breakdown of the Desert Dogs roster, which is comprised of Orioles, White Sox, Tigers, Dodgers and Brewers prospects. Although former Key Dariel Alvarez is mentioned in the article, he has been replaced by Rosa on the roster.

Shake your Keys! #IBACKTHEBIRDS #WEWONTSTOP

Geoff

 

 

It’s Playoff Time!

Good Afternoon Keys Fans!

The wait is over! At 5:37, the ALDS will kickoff between the Orioles and the Tigers from Camden Yards.

Camden on 1st Day of Playoffs

As you can see, the field is perfectly manicured. Now they just need the O’s, the Tigers and a full-house to round out the ensemble. With the wildcard round all wrapped up, the club knows it will be playing tonight at 5:37 and Friday at 12:07 at Camden Yards. Saturday will be an off-day, before the series picks up in Detroit on Sunday at 3:45. As we mentioned earlier, the Orioles will face Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, David Price and Rick Porcello. Baltimore will counter with some combination of Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Bud Norris.

Meanwhile, former Key Kevin Gausman (’12) will work out of the bullpen. Told earlier “be ready for Thursday” if Gausman throws today, it would mark his first relief appearance of the year. Still it is nothing he is unfamiliar with, having thrown 15 times out of the bullpen in 2013. Of course this could always change if the O’s advance to the ALCS or someone gets hurt (remember you can’t make roster changes until the next round of the playoffs).

Speaking of playoff rosters, the O’s officially submitted theirs this morning. Due at 10 a.m. Gausman was one of seven former Frederick players to make the cut.

The other former Keys include:

Caleb Joseph

Joseph with Keys

Nick Markakis

Markakis Homer

Steve Pearce (rehab)

Ryan Flaherty (rehab)

Jonathan Schoop

Schoop 1

And…Zach Britton

Britton 3

 

You are probably thinking to yourself, wait…there should be another left-handed pitcher here. That southpaw, of course being Brian Matusz (’09 Keys/’11 rehab). However, Matusz was left off the ALDS roster in favor of Ubaldo Jimenez. The arguments for the move are that Detroit is a predominately right-handed hitting lineup, and Matusz is a match-ups pitcher. However, Jimenez’s lack of consistency and lack of bullpen experience (four games) as well as Matusz’s superb numbers since the All-Star break (1.42 ERA) have left some scratching their heads.

As we noted earlier though, Matusz can always be added for the next round. In general, the O’s playoff pitching staff is right-handed heavy, with Andrew Miller and Britton the only southpaws in the bullpen (T.J. McFarland was also left off the roster). Here is a full analysis of the roster break down, and some predictions.

The Tigers roster is here and includes outfielder Rajai Davis, who has been battling a sprained pelvic ligament. For those wondering, former Keys pitcher Jim Johnson (’04-05) didn’t make the cut, after posting a 6.92 ERA in 16 relief appearances with the Tigers.

Let’s go O’s and shake your keys!

Geoff

 

 

You Know That Finnegan Guy From Last Night? The Keys Beat Him

Good Evening Keys Fans!

Talk about a way for the postseason to get started.

9-8 (Royals over A’s), 12 innings, 4 hours and 45 minutes, multiple lead changes, and one big comeback.

It had everything. And whatever noise records were set on Monday night during the Chiefs/Patriots game at Arrowhead, they may have been eclipsed by a Kaufman Stadium crowd which had not seen postseason baseball in 29 years. At one point they got so loud that I thought my television was shaking (it was actually yours truly jumping up and down due to all the playoff fervor).

If all that wasn’t enough, the game had plenty of unsung heroes, including left-hander Brandon Finnegan, who dominated the A’s over 2.1 innings in his first postseason relief appearance.

Impressive to be sure, but most folks were probably thinking……WHO IS THIS GUY?

Brandon Finnegan

Well if you didn’t know, don’t beat yourselves up. Only months ago Finnegan was pitching for the TCU Horned Frogs in the College World Series. Selected by Kansas City with the 17th overall pick in this year’s draft, the 21-year-old made only 13 appearances in the minor leagues before getting called up to the bigs.

As you might imagine, a player getting called up to the Majors the same year they are drafted is very rare. When you take a look at Finnegan’s numbers though, you can tell it was warranted: 13 games (5 starts), 1.33 ERA, 27 IP, 20H, 4ER, 26 K, 4 BB.

Not too shabby. More than half of his minor league time came at Double-A Northwest Arkansas, but Finnegan did pitch in five games for the Royals affiliate in the Carolina League-the Wilmington Blue Rocks.

Naturally you are asking yourself, well, did the Keys ever see Finnegan?

The answer is yes, on August 1 up at Frawley Stadium. Only a Keys super fan or their nerdy media guy could tell you that was Finnegan’s last Carolina League start. Something you probably wouldn’t remember anyways.

But, this you might: Brandon Finnegan’s first professional defeat came to the Keys. It also marked the first time the Texan had gives up A RUN in a professional game. Through his first four outings (totaling 11 innings), Finnegan had almost four times as many strikeouts as hits allowed (11 K/3H). And while he would only give up two base knocks in four innings against the Keys on the 1st, one of them would lead to his first pro setback.

Here’s the proof:

In case you were wondering, Finnegan was out-dueled by someone of the same namesake-Branden Kline. On that night, the Frederick native tossed 5.1 innings of scoreless baseball.

We’ll call ESPN later to see if we can get this trivia question on Baseball Tonight (I’m not liking our chances).

Speaking of playoffs, the O’s get underway tomorrow night at 5:37 against the Tigers at Camden Yards. Chris Tillman gets the ball for Buck Showalter’s crew and will be countered by Tigers righty Max Scherzer. From there, the O’s will see Justin Verlander and David Price.

It will be a tall task, but GM Dan Duquette think his team is up for the challenge.

For now though, all is quiet at Camden….

Camden

Shake your Keys!

Geoff

Frederick Keys Top 10 Moments (#5)

Good Evening Keys Fans!

It is amazing to think that 162 games have come and gone. For the Orioles though, the season will be longer than that! On Thursday, the team begins its journey for a World Championship when it hosts the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the ALDS. Chris Tillman gets the ball for the O’s and is expected to be countered by Max Scherzer. The Tigers starting rotation is formidable, especially after Detroit acquired David Price at the trade deadline (the trio of Scherzer, Price and Justin Verlander account for the last three AL Cy Young winners). However, the Tigers bullpen  is one of the club’s weak spots. MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli discusses some of the other chinks in the armor of the AL Central champs.

In Keys news, a MAJOR congrats to Jason Esposito who was named a minor league Gold Glove Winner.

Esposito93

The announcement was made at lunch time by Minor League Baseball and the Rawlings Company. Selected as the Gold Glove recipient for third base, Esposito becomes the first Key to take home a Gold Glove. More details about the award can be found here. Given out difficult it is to win a Gold Glove, Esposito received plenty of l0ve on social media:

Once again, huge props to Esposito for a terrific season both defensively and at the plate (he hit .320 in the second-half and .354 in July FYI).

While we are on the topic of third baseman, it is time to continue our countdown of the season’s top 10 moments! For moment #5 we are going to expand things a bit, as we travel all the way back to late April. Yes, you guessed it-we’re talking Manny Mania: Manny331

Manny504

On the mend from left knee surgery, Machado played in three games with the Keys from April 25-27, and as you might expect, there would be plenty of media:

Machado rehabs

And also tons of excited Keys and Orioles fans:

Macahdo with lots of fans

With three big crowds at the Grove Manny would not disappoint, hitting a combined .667 (8-for-12) with four doubles, a triple, two RBIs and five runs scored. Three of those hits came in his first game, including a double in his first at-bat and a triple to open up the third inning.

An impressive display to be sure, but Sunday would verify that he was ready to head back to Camden Yards. Going 4-for-4, Machado helped spark a five-run Keys third inning, as the orange and black earned a 10-3 romp over the Carolina Mudcats:

It was a lot of fun to see Machado in action for a few days, and bef0re he left, he spent a few minutes on our pre-game show:

Best of luck to Machado as he rehabs from right knee surgery, and to the Orioles as they get ready f0r the Tigers. We’ll continue the rest of our Top 10 countdown this week. Stay tuned!

Shake your Keys,

Geoff

 

 

Frederick Keys Top 10 Moments (#6)

Good Evening Keys Fans!

It’s time to continue our countdown of the season’s top 10 moments! In case you missed any of the previous 10 moments, simply scroll down the page for a recap and audio highlights. Before we get to moment #6 on our countdown list, we want to give a quick congratulations to former Key Garabez Rosa, who has received a late invitation in the Arizona Fall League. Rosa will play on the Glendale Desert Dogs, and takes the place of another ex-Key, Dariel Alvarez.

Rosa-405

Rosa spent all of 2014 at Double-A Bowie, where he hit .282 over 124 games with 11 homers and 69 RBIs. He split time between several infield and outfield spots. A Frederick player from 2011-12, Rosa joins a talented cadre of ex-Keys headed to the Fall League, which is considered a “finishing school” for minor league prospects. As many players will tell you, getting selected for the AFL is an honor and a sign of encouragement. Since the league’s inception in 1992, approximately 60% of Fall League alumni have gone on to play in the Major Leagues.

Rosa will be joined by former Keys Jason Esposito, Parker Bridwell, Zach Davies, Michael Ohlman, Ashur Tolliver and Mychal Givens. Before season’s end, I had a chance to ask Bridwell about playing in the Fall League:

In case you missed it, here is a full release detailing the selection of Bridwell and Esposito to the Desert Dogs.

Alright, without further or do, it is time to continue the countdown! After discussing two fine pitching performances, moment #6 details one of the most impressive offensive innings of a year. If you are wondering, no, it is not one of the Keys two eight-run innings from the season. Rather, it was an inning where Frederick scored four runs, but did something very rare.

The game in question took place on June 14 against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, and was the second-to-last game (or penultimate game if you want to sound fancy) of the first-half. Offense came at a premium over the first seven innings, with starters Alex Claudio and Brady Wager allowing just one run each.

Matt Price pitched a scoreless eighth, while Justin Sprenger returned for the home-half of the inning. Entering the frame, the sidearmer had allowed only one hit through 2.1 innings. However the Keys finally diagnosed him in the eighth. And the first man to break the code, was Sammie Starr:

Starr228

That proved to be the decisive blow, but Frederick wasn’t finished. Following a double by Tucker Nathans, Michael Burgess stepped to bat and promptly applied the dagger:

Burgess359

With the damage all but done, Pelicans manager Joe Mikulik kept Sprenger in the game. He would get Esposito to bounce out, but trouble would strike a third time with Zane Chavez up at bat:

It was the only time all season the orange and black would hit three longballs in an inning. Additionally, it marked one of only three occasions all season where the club would hit four homers in a game (Joel Hutter added a fifth inning blast).

Stay tuned for more of the countdown!

Shake your Keys!

Geoff

 

Frederick Keys Top 10 Moments (#7)

Good Evening Keys Faithful!

Earlier this afternoon the Orioles slammed the door shut on the Yankees playoff hopes, thanks to a 9-5 victory. Thus, Derek Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium will be a meaningless one. Although some will complain about the year-long sendoff tour for Jeter and make snacks at all the gifts and things that he has received along the way, it is hard to ignore the way he played the game and the respect other players had for him.

Two Orioles notes from last night:

-Nelson Cruz became the sixth player in franchise history to hit 40 home runs in a season:

Cruz 2

The 40 longballs rank as the second-most by a player in his first season with Baltimore. Currently, the Major League leader in longballs here is a look at the video of Cruz’s big fly from last night.

-  Chris Tillman received word that he will start Game 1 of the American League Division Series. It is a nice honor for Tillman who did not get a chance to pitch when the O’s were in the postseason two years ago.

Although all is quiet on the Keys front at the moment, here is scouting report on Baltimore catching prospect Chance Sisco, who won the South Atlantic League batting title as a 19-YEAR-OLD. Seriously. Sisco figures to make his home in Frederick next season. He was selected by Baltimore in the second round of the 2013 draft.

Sisco

If Sisco continues his upward trend, he may be catching fellow-prospect Dylan Bundy one day. Rated the organization’s top arm by Baseball America earlier this year, the Oklahoma native made six starts for the Keys this past season as he continued his recovery from Tommy John surgery. So why do we bring up Bundy? Well, he is the subject of moment #7 on our top 10 list from the 2014 season.

Bundy 640x360

After back-to-back subpar outings against the Salem Red Sox, Bundy would try his luck against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans on July 22. Limited to 75 pitches per start, the right-hander’s first three starts were a mixed bag. Although he was pitching better than his 9.26 ERA indicated, command was still a problem. As a result, he never made it through the fifth frame in any of his first three starts.

On the Grand Strand, something clicked though. Over his first four innings Bundy was economical. He surrendered only two hits, and retired eight in-a-row at one stretch. In the fifth, things got a little dicey. With the score 0-0, Lewis Brinson singled off Bundy and stole second. Two batters later, Nick Vickerson reached on a walk, while both men advanced into scoring position with two outs. That sent up Rangers prospect Jorge Alfaro, who would provide Bundy with one of his biggest challenges of the night:

As you may have heard in the background, Bundy had a little cheering section behind him, which provided a nice greeting as he came back into the dugout.

Now the question was could Bundy pick up a win? As well as he had thrown, his counterpart Victor Payano was matching him pitch for pitch. However in the sixth, the lefty make one misstep to the wrong hitter:

With a little more than 10 pitches remaining in his 75-offering allotment, Bundy worked a lightning-fast sixth to conclude his night:

The six innings was the most Bundy had thrown since August 20, 2012, when he was pitching for Double-A Bowie, and following his lockdown sixth, hard-throwing Matt Hobgood would do the rest:

Hobgood582

Working three no-hit innings, Hobgood put the finishing touches on the three-hit shutout and Bundy’s first win.

Stay tuned for moment #6 tommorrow.

Shake your Keys!

Geoff

Frederick Keys Top 10 Moments 2014 (#8)

Good Afternoon Keys Fans!

And a happy Tuesday to everybody. Last night just goes to show that even division champs can have a case of the Mondays. Held to one hit on the game, the Orioles were shutout by the Yankees 5-0 in the Bronx. Michael Pineda was the story for the Bronx Bombers, tossing 7.1 innings and striking out eight. For those that missed it, here is a full recap from MASN’s Steve Melewksi

One fact from the game that could show up on a Sportscenter “Did you Know?” segment: Despite clinching the AL East for the first time since 1997, the club has been one-hit three different times this season, tying a club record. The O’s would be one-hit three times in 1968 as well (tip of the cap to O’s PR Wizards Jeff Lantz and Jay Moskowitz for the tidbit).

The good news is that Baltimore did not lose any ground in its bid for home field throughout the playoffs (remember the AL won the All-Star game and has home field advantage in the World Series). Los Angeles suffered an 8-4 setback in Oakland, due in large-part to a six-run A’s first, where Angels starter C.J. Wilson walked four and failed to get out of the initial frame. At the moment, the O’s are 2.5 games behind the Halos for the best record in the American League.

In other Orioles news, the 2015 Spring Training Schedule was released. Having been down to Spring Training a couple of times myself, I can attest it is a blast. Players are extremely accessible, and as you might expect the weather is gorgeous.

Plus, if you don’t want to spend all your time at the ballpark you can check out the gorgeous beaches of Siesta Key:

Siesta Key

And if you’re a breakfast person, I recommend hitting up “The Broken Egg”

The Broken EggAt the Broken Egg it is not uncommon to run into ESPN’s very own Dick Vitale, who lives nearby and is often on hand to sign autographs to benefit the Jimmy V Foundation.

In non-Orioles news, here is a great article which talks about all the pieces required to move a Major League team from point a to point b. Tip of the cap to Doug Raftery who brought this article to my attention (it focuses on the Washington Nationals). If you’ve never been around a professional team on a travel day before, prepare to have your mind blown.

Alright, time to change gears and get back to our top 10 countdown of the year’s best moments! After we started things with two walk-off wins, we’re going to shift gears to pitching. August was a tremendous month for Keys starting pitchers, where top-notch performances were the norm, especially from this man:

Blackmar166

 

 

One of the Carolina League’s top arms, Mark Blackmar went 4-0 with a 2.12 ERA over five August starts, before being traded to the White Sox at the end of the month for outfielder Alejandro De Aza.

As the numbers indicate, Blackmar was a tough customer during the season’s penultimate month. However, his outing against the Wilmington Blue Rocks on August 10 really stood out. With the Keys looking to avoid a three-game  sweep, Blackmar sliced through the Wilmington order, facing the minimum through six frames. During that time, only Fred Ford reached via a walk, before being set down on a double-play.

Given the Blue Rocks offensive struggles throughout the year, it was hard to ignore the no-hitter talk once the game reached the seventh inning. Even though Blackmar needed nine outs, two things had you thinking something special could happen:

1) Wilmington had already been no-hit in  BACK-TO-BACK GAMES earlier in the year by the Lynchburg Hillcats. It was believed to be the first time that had happened in Carolina League history.

2) Blackmar’s defense was firing on all cylinders, thanks to  a quick game pace and a TON of quick swings. Although there were a number of fine plays in the field, Jason Esposito stole the show with two fine plays from foul territory:

Sadly, the no-hit bid would come to an end in the seventh. With one out, Blackmar would tangle with Raul Mondesi, who entered the day 5-for-10 in the series with two home runs:

It may not have been the conclusion he wanted, but that would be the only run (and one of just two hits) Blackmar allowed on the day. He would end up as the winning pitcher (Frederick won 5-2) while the victory kicked off a four-game winning streak for the Texan, the longest of his professional career.

You can bet that won’t be the only great moment by a Keys pitchers! Tomorrow, we will look at one of the season’s top performances by a Keys pitching duo.

Talk soon and shake your keys!

Geoff

 

 

 

Frederick Keys Top 10 Moments 2014 (#9)

Happy Monday Keys Fans!

I hope you all enjoyed your weekend, and the last drops of summertime. For former Key Christian Walker, the end of summer proved to be the sweetest. On Wednesday afternoon, he received word that he had been called up to the Orioles following a stellar minor league season between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. In 139 games, Walker hit .288 with 26 home runs and 96 RBIs en route to being named the O’s Minor League Player of the Year. Put in the starting lineup on Wednesday, he recorded his first big league hit in the seventh inning off Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ. And after the game, you can guess what happened:

Three days later, he hit his first home run off Red Sox starter Rubby De La Rosa, as well as his first multi-hit effort in a 7-2 Orioles win over the Red Sox. On Sunday, Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun examined Walker’s fantastic season, and how he has remained consistent with his hitting approach.

In other Orioles news, Nelson Cruz was named “Most Valuable Oriole” on Sunday afternoon, besting Adam Jones and former Key Zach Britton for the award. Although Jones and Britton were very deserving, it is hard to argue with Cruz’s selection. Following a 50-game suspension last year, Cruz had few suitors in the offseason. Taking a chance, the Orioles hit the jackpot. The Major League’s leader in home runs (39) and second-leading RBI man (106), Cruz has been worth every penny of the $8 million he has received.

Shifting our focus back to the Keys, it is time to continue our top 10 moments of the season countdown! Last week, Wynston Sawyer kicked things off with a game-winning double against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Today, we fast forward two weeks to bring you moment #9.

Although the saying typically goes “April Showers bring May Flowers” Mother Nature must not have gotten the memo on May 10. Rains fell throughout the day, forcing the Key City Roller Derby to be postponed, while the grounds crew was constantly called into action. In spite of all the rain, the game eventually got underway.

Making his season debut, Keys starter Joe Van Meter struggled with command, walking four over 3.2 innings. One of those walks forced home a run in the third, while a sac-fly by Nick Basto and an RBI groundout by Keon Barnum staked the Dash to a 3-0 edge after 4.5 innings.

Van Meter 2

With rain starting to fall again, Frederick needed runs and fast. Three more outs and the game would be official. Fortunately, Mother Nature intervened. After Steel Russell struck out to begin the bottom of the fifth, home plate umpire Travis Godec called for the tarp. Furious (because his team was two outs away from a win) Winston-Salem manager Tommy Thompson tried to convince both umpires to keep the game going to no avail. Roughly an hour and a half later, play was suspended, meaning the Keys and Dash would continue Saturday’s game on Sunday as part of a “pseudo doubleheader.”

It would not be the last time all year that a game would be rolled over to the next day, but the conclusion of this quasi-twinbill was arguably the most memorable.

Entering the ninth inning, the Keys trailed 3-1, a precarious position to be sure. Coming into the contest, Frederick was 0-14 when trailing after eight frames. However this game would veer off script.

With one out, Russell singled off Leyer, sending nine-hole batter Sammie Starr to the plate. Homerless coming into the at-bat, the Canadian pounced on a mistake by the Dash righty:

Sammie Starr277

Clearly frazzled, Leyer surrendered an infield single to Glynn Davis, before committing a balk to place the winning run at second. Now the question was, could the Keys convert with a man in scoring position?

Lucas Herbst was unsuccessful, but Brenden Webb would have the answer with two outs:

Not a bad way to kick off a Sunday Funday! The 4-3 victory was the club’s second of three walk-offs in 2014.

Stay tuned for more of the Top 10 countdown later this week!

Shake your Keys!

Geoff

 

 

 

Former Keys Help Back the Birds

Good Morning Keys Fans!

Tuesday was an exciting night to be an O’s fan. For the first time since 1997, the Orioles are AL East champs! Even more thrilling was that the club was able to accomplish the feat in Baltimore for the first time in 1969. And while I’m sure that celebration was fun, how could it top this?

That’s how you make a lifelong connection!

Then there were those that celebrated the more traditional way…

Orioles Clinch 1

Orioles Clinch 2

Orioles Clinch 3

Orioles clinch 4

No matter how you celebrated, it was a night that that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

What has been most impressive is how the O’s have done it. Without guys such as Matt Wieters and Manny Machado, the club was still able to book a trip to the postseason with more than a week to spare. Tuesday night’s clincher really underscores this point, with the Orioles getting a quick lift from Steve Pearce (three-run homer), insurance from Jimmy Paredes (solo homer) and a dagger from Alejandro De Aza (bases clearing triple).

That may be the headline of the season. However for Frederick fans, one additional storyline has been the number of former Keys that have contributed to the Orioles success:

Zach Britton (’09 Keys)-One of the league’s biggest surprises. Since taking the closer’s reins from Tommy Hunter, Britton has posted a 1.74 ERA, and is fourth in the American League with 35 saves, while he has the most in the Majors since May 15. Not bad for the Keys single-season ERA leader (he had a 2.70 ERA in ’09)

Kevin Gausman (’12 Keys)-Although his stay in Frederick was short, his dominating stuff left a quick impression. Now in Baltimore to stay, the former LSU Tiger has turned it on down the stretch. In each of his last three starts he has worked at least seven innings, and given up just six combined runs during that span. His ERA is a very respectable 3.57.

Caleb Joseph (’09 Keys)-After hitting .284 with the orange and black in ’09, Joseph seemed to stall at Double-A. Then an injury to Matt Wieters provided a golden opportunity. Since making his Major League debut on May 7, he has provided stability behind the plate, and has worked his way into the gold glove conversation. With the Orioles has thrown out 41% of all attempted base stealers, a mark that would be the best in the Majors if he qualified.

Brian Matusz (’09 Keys/’11 on rehab)-Like Gausman, Matusz has turned it on for the O’s down the stretch. In his last 23 appearances he has been virtually lights out, recording a 0.96 ERA (18.2 IP/2ER).

Jonathan Schoop (’10-’11 Keys)-Despite some recent struggles at the plate, Schoop has shown signs of what he is capable of. A few weeks ago, he homered in 3 consecutive games. Just 22 years old, Schoop last won a championship with the Keys in 2011, when his double-play partner was none other than Manny Machado.

Nick Markakis (’05 Keys)-One of the leader’s of the O’s, Markakis has tallied 50 multi-hit games this year. There was little doubt after last night’s clinch he would get his first pie in the face:

Markakis Pied

Although Steve Pearce and Ryan Flaherty have only been with the Keys on rehab assignments, both have played integral roles in the O’s Division title. Pearce especially,  who has had a career year, batting .294 over 96 games (that includes 18 home runs).

Even Alejandro De Aza has a Keys connection. A member of the White Sox until late August, he was traded to the O’s in exchange for two guys with Keys connections: Mark Blackmar and Miguel Chalas. Although the loss of Blackmar was particularly tough for Frederick fans, De Aza has provided a huge spark. He has hit safely in 11 of 12 games with the Orioles, hitting .327 during that time with seven extra-base hits. And oh by the way, the O’s have won 11 of the 12 games where he has been the lineup.

In short, this season for the O’s has been special, but for Keys fans it’s even more special because of all the Frederick connections.

So in the words of O’s GM Dan Duquette, keep on partying like it’s 1969

Shake Your Keys!

Geoff

 

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