The Orioles turned in their sixth straight quality start last night in Cleveland behind Tommy Hunter’s A-List performance. Hunter’s line: 7 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 4 K. (Last of the runs charged to Hunter scored after he left the game.) Unfortunately for Hunter, the Birds could only muster one run as they went 0-for-4 with runners-in-scoring-position. I suppose one could ask themselves which is more concerning; the fact that they went 0-for-4 with RISP, or the fact that they only got four runners into scoring position the entire game. The Birds also grounded into three double-plays over the course of the game, which were rally-killers.
The O’s were done in by Shin-Soo Choo’s two-run homer in the third, however Cleveland also added on an insurance run in the eighth. Interestingly, the Orioles’ lone run came from Ryan Flaherty who scored on a double by the new guy – Omar Quintanilla. Ultimately though the series and the road trip ended on a sour note, the Birds took three-of-four from Cleveland. Unfortunately in doing so they probably lost the wrong game; it would have been much better for momentum had they lost one of the other games so that they could return home with some momentum. However it’s tough to sweep someone in games (or three) anywhere much less at their place. The starting pitching was sensational in all but the first two games of the road trip, so that’s a trend that should give Oriole fans a lot of hope.
Speaking of returning home, the Birds have a six-game home stand coming up at the Yard with Tampa and Oakland. This might be one of the bigger home stands at Oriole Park in years given that both teams are in the wild card hunt along with the Orioles. Tampa comes into tonight’s game after having a day off (in Baltimore), but they come in reeling after dropping a series to Seattle at home over the weekend. This is when you want to play your AL East rivals if you’re the Orioles! However the Birds should also be wary coming into the game, because we saw Minnesota struggling last week and they seemed to find themselves against the O’s (in the first two games of the series at least). Tampa’s a team that a lot of people are talking about as potential sellers at this point, and they have a lot of pieces to sell off at that. Luckily for the Orioles one piece they won’t be seeing is Evan Longoria, who’s still on the DL.
Tampa will send Jeremy Hellickson to the mound tonight at Camden Yards. As we know if there’s one thing that Tampa has it’s quality pitching, however Hellickson didn’t factor into the decision in his last start (a 10-6 loss to Cleveland). He allowed three runs in six innings along with a few walks. The Orioles will counter with Wei-Yin Chen, who was able to hold on long enough to get a win in his last start in Minnesota when the O’s took a late lead. This series could have wild card implications, however it could just as easily have implications in the division as well. Again, while the O’s can’t take Tampa lightly, you certainly would rather play them when they’re struggling a bit as opposed to when things are chugging along for them.
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