Throughout the past few weeks of the season, runs have come at a minimum for a struggling Orioles offense. The absence of Nick Markakis’ bat has left a tremendous hole in a strikeout happy Orioles lineup. Due to the decrease in runs, the Orioles must rely on their starting pitching more than ever before.
The problem is only two out of the five starters have shown consistent success. Those two starters are Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen.
Hammel had a 2.61 ERA and a record of 8-2 going into tonight’s game against the Angels. He quickly turned from staff veteran to the ace of the staff. Hammel’s outstanding WHIP is 1.12 and has posted 87 strikeouts to 29 walks. Opponents are hitting .215 against him. He has gone consistently gone deep into games including a one-hit complete game shutout in Atlanta.
Chen is 7-3 with a 3.38 ERA. Chen is very difficult for left handed hitters to handle. The only negative aspect of Chen’s game is pitch count. Though some of that can be blamed on poor fielding behind him, Chen has yet to pitch a complete game. However, he consistently goes six or seven innings, sometimes reaching eight.
Following these two starters are the rest of the O’s rotation. Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, and Tommy Hunter have yet to maintain consistent trust in their manager with their weak performances. Arrieta, has been the better of this bunch, especially in his last three starts. In his last three starts Arrieta has controlled all of his pitches and regained his confidence. He moved from the right side of the pitching mound to the left side, and it seemingly is making a positive difference.
In his last five starts, Brian Matusz has gone 1-4 with a 6.20 ERA. During this stretch, hitters are hitting .324 against him and he has allowed 17 runs in 24 innings. Matusz does not have the same poise and command he had early in the season. Matusz has lacked consistency all year and he has not solidified his spot in the rotation in the future just yet. In his last start, Matusz surrendered five runs in five innings while giving up 13 hits. If the Orioles are active at the trade deadline Matusz’s rotation spot may be in jeopardy.
Assuming the number five starters role this season, Tommy Hunter has been somewhat of a disappointment. Hunter has surrendered the most home runs per innings pitched in the major leagues. In his last five games, Hunter has a 7.03 ERA and hitters are hitting .317 against him. In his last 24 innings he has given up 8 home runs. In 13 games started by Hunter this season he has given up a total of 19 home runs. For him to have any shot in remaining in the rotation or the major leagues, Hunter must keep his ball out of the middle of the plate. If his home run numbers continue to stay where they are, it won’t be long before Hunter finds himself back in the minors.
Currently, the Orioles find themselves 8 games over .500. For them to be serious contenders they are going to need to trade for a quality starter at the deadline to complement Hammel, Chen, and Arrieta. The back end of the Orioles rotation needs to step up in order for the Orioles to earn wins.
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