Orioles split twinbill with Toronto to cap 31-game rise

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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BALTIMORE – As the Toronto Blue Jays casually celebrated their victory on the field, the fans at Camden Yards weren’t quite done with Baltimore’s feel-good season.

They gave the Orioles a standing ovation, and eventually the players came out of the dugout to acknowledge it.

“I thought it was an extremely cool moment, but thank you to all the fans for the support this year,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Unfortunately we couldn’t end it with a win in this last game of the year. We really appreciate how they came out this year, and we know there’s an excitement about this team going forward.”

The Orioles lost 5-1 to Toronto in the second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader, but they did win the opener 5-4 in come-from-behind fashion. They ended the season with an 83-79 record, a 31-game improvement over 2021.

Toronto had a more modest one-game improvement to 92-70, but the Blue Jays can now focus on the postseason. They are the AL’s top wild card and will host Seattle in a best-of-three series.

Otto Lopez hit a tiebreaking two-run single in the seventh inning of Wednesday’s second game. Terrin Vavra hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to lift Baltimore to a win in the opener.

Lopez had three hits in the opener and two more in the second game. Both teams substituted liberally, combining to use 49 players in the twinbill. Toronto’s George Springer was the only active position player who had the whole day off.

“The entire pitching staff, it kind of went according to plan, how we mapped it out,” Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider said. “Came out of it healthy. Overall really good day.”

With the second game tied at 1 in the seventh, Toronto put men on first and third with one out thanks to a throwing error by reliever Cionel Perez. After Bradley Zimmer stole second, Lopez’s single brought home both runners.

Zimmer added a two-run single in the eighth.

Yusei Kikuchi (6-7) retired all five of his hitters to earn the win in relief for Toronto. Yennier Cano (1-1) took the loss.

The Blue Jays loaded the bases in the first and took a 1-0 lead on Danny Jansen‘s grounder. The Orioles tied it in the sixth on an RBI double by Kyle Stowers.

Baltimore rallied from a 4-0 deficit in the opener, thanks to Vavra’s first career homer.

“Those are kind of the moments you kind of think about when you’re coming up and playing this game at younger levels,” Vavra said. “To be able to kind of do it in a big moment, that was pretty cool and something I’ll remember forever.”

Gabriel Moreno hit his first career home run for the Blue Jays, a three-run shot in the sixth, but Mitch White (0-5) allowed five runs and seven hits in four relief innings.

“It would be nice to maybe get off the deck in the first to the fifth and then cruise in. That’s what I’m hoping for once in a while,” Hyde joked. “We like to make it tough, and then pitch out of jams, and then pop one late to get a win.”

DL Hall (1-1) earned his first career victory in relief, and Bryan Baker worked a perfect ninth for his first career save.

Lopez opened the scoring for Toronto with an RBI single in the second. After Moreno’s drive to right-center made it 4-0, Austin Hays hit a two-run double in the bottom of the sixth for the Orioles.

FIRST TO SECOND

Baltimore’s Jorge Mateo led the AL in stolen bases with 35, one more than teammate Cedric Mullins.

ATTENDANCE

Baltimore drew 1,365,900 at Camden Yards this season, its highest attendance total since 2018. The team drew 1,307,807 in 2019, its last home season before the coronavirus pandemic.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Orioles: Baltimore could have started Jordan Lyles on normal rest Wednesday but decided to have him end his season after a career-high 32 starts.

UP NEXT

Blue Jays: Alek Manoah is set to start Toronto’s postseason opener against the Mariners.

Orioles: Baltimore’s first spring training game is Feb. 25 against the Minnesota Twins.

Bonds, Clemens left out of Hall again; McGriff elected

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO – Moments after Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, almost two decades after his final game, he got the question.

Asked if Barry Bonds belonged in Cooperstown, a smiling McGriff responded: “Honestly, right now, I’m going to just enjoy this evening.”

A Hall of Fame committee delivered its answer Sunday, passing over Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling while handing McGriff the biggest honor of his impressive big league career.

The lanky first baseman, nicknamed the “Crime Dog,” hit .284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs over 19 seasons with six major league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot in 2019. Now, he will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the writers’ vote, announced Jan. 24.

“It’s all good. It’s been well worth the wait,” said McGriff, who played his last big league game in 2004.

It was the first time that Bonds, Clemens and Schilling had faced a Hall committee since their 10th and final appearances on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling dropped after he made hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

While the 59-year-old McGriff received unanimous support from the 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee – comprised of Hall members, executives and writers – Schilling got seven votes, and Bonds and Clemens each received fewer than four.

The makeup of the committee likely will change over the years, but the vote was another indication that Bonds and Clemens might never make it to the Hall.

This year’s contemporary era panel included Greg Maddux, who played with McGriff on the Braves, along with Paul Beeston, who was an executive with Toronto when McGriff made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 1986.

Another ex-Brave, Chipper Jones, was expected to be part of the committee, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall.

The contemporary era committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A player needs 75% to be elected.

“It’s tough deciding on who to vote for and who not to vote for and so forth,” McGriff said. “So it’s a great honor to be unanimously voted in.”

In addition to all his big hits and memorable plays, one of McGriff’s enduring legacies is his connection to a baseball skills video from youth coach Tom Emanski. The slugger appeared in a commercial for the product that aired regularly during the late 1990s and early 2000s – wearing a blue Baseball World shirt and hat.

McGriff said he has never seen the video.

“Come Cooperstown, I’ve got to wear my blue hat,” a grinning McGriff said. “My Tom Emanski hat in Cooperstown. See that video is going to make a revival now, it’s going to come back.”

Hall of Famers Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also served on this year’s committee, which met in San Diego at baseball’s winter meetings.

Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy rounded out the eight-man ballot. Mattingly was next closest to election, with eight votes of 12 required. Murphy had six.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their final chances with the BBWAA. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) on the 2021 BBWAA ballot. The right-hander went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 seasons, winning the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004 and 2007.

Theo Epstein, who also served on the contemporary era committee, was the GM in Boston when the Red Sox acquired Schilling in a trade with the Diamondbacks in November 2003.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.