The past week was one of the big ones thus far in the season for the Baltimore Orioles (35-33), as they took on division rivals in the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays. Going 4-3 on the week, not to mention gaining a game on the Blue Jays in the divisional race, is definitely a positive considering the negativity that followed last weekend’s series against the Oakland A’s.
The Orioles’ winning week had one notable improvement: Pitching! After weeks of disappointment from the starting pitching, the Orioles’ starters have been producing effective performances.
The week started with Bud Norris (6-5, 3.73) shutting down the Red Sox at Camden Yards. Norris pitched eight innings, giving up no runs on just three hits. It is very likely that he could have completed the game, but Buck Showalter opted to go to Tommy Hunter (1-1, 6.52) fresh off the disabled list.
On Tuesday, the Orioles’ watched as Chris Tillman (5-4, 4.82) rebounded from his one-inning start against the Texas Rangers. Pitching six inning and allowing one run unfortunately wasn’t enough, as Tillman took the loss in the game, but it was a very encouraging start nonetheless.
In the finale on Wednesday, Wei-Yin Chen (7-2, 3.76) pitched seven innings and allowed no runs to earn his seventh win of the season. It is very good to see him finally settling in as both an innings eater and a productive member of the rotation. In his last three starts, Chen has pitched 18.2 innings and allowed just three earned runs with 17 strikeouts.
The series against Boston will hopefully be looked at as a turning point for the rotation, as the Orioles’ pitching staff allowed just one run in the three games. Unfortunately, the one run that Boston scored against Tillman accounted for their only win in the series.
After Boston left town, the high flying Toronto Blue Jays arrived for a four-game set. The Orioles started the series back 4.5 games and the series presented a great opportunity for the Orioles to get back on the heels of the Blue Jays, but it also offered the Blue Jays a chance to push the Orioles back to 6.5 games out or even 8.5 games out. The series ended up being split 2-2, so not much was really resolved, but the effective pitching continued.
Kevin Gausman (2-1, 3.71) followed up his terrific performance against the Oakland Athletics (the highest scoring offense in the AL) with yet another gem against the second highest scoring team in the AL. His six innings, allowing one run, carried the Orioles to victory in the opener, but more importantly, it may have solidified a spot in the rotation for the Orioles’ top pitching prospect. In his last two starts, Gausman has pitched 13 innings and allowed just two runs against the top two scoring teams in the AL, which must help both his and his manager’s confidence. Showalter hasn’t confirmed it, but the fact that both Gausman and Miguel Gonzalez are both expected to pitch in the upcoming series in Tampa implies that a six-man-rotation may be in order moving forward.
Another promising performance from the series came in the second game as Ubaldo Jimenez (2-8, 4.86) pitched six solid innings, allowing just two runs, in the Orioles’ loss. If this team is going to take off, they really need their prized offseason acquisition to start pitching like his paycheck says he can pitch, and that was certainly a nice sign.
In the last two games, Norris earned another victory and pitched another quality start and Tillman took the finale loss, despite another quality start of his own.
Overall, pitching marked the week for the Orioles, which was a much needed turn of events considering their ineffectiveness for most of the season. Unfortunately, their offense couldn’t really take advantage of the performances of their pitchers. In a week where the opposition scored just 14 runs in seven games, one would expect more than a just a 4-3 record.
Starting Monday at Tropicana Field, the Orioles will continue their stretch of AL East games against the last place Tampa Bay Rays. Not only are the Rays surprisingly the worst team in the AL East, they are the worst team in MLB. Their consistently overpowering pitching has been mediocre (seventh in the AL) this season, which does not combine well with their last place offense. The Orioles will look to make sure the Rays’ bats stay cold in the three-game set before an off-day on Thursday.
On Friday, the Orioles will arrive in New York to take on the Yankees. Sitting a half game in front of the Orioles, the Yankees have had a similar season thus far. Their offense has scored just eight runs less than the Orioles and their pitchers have an ERA just .02 better than Baltimore’s. It is always exciting to watch these two team battle, and this series may hold important playoff implications later in the season, making it an exciting weekend match-up.
Tuesday (7:05 P.M. ET): Miguel Gonzalez (3-4, 4.17) vs. Bedard (3-4, 3.83)
Wednesday (7:05 P.M. ET): Kevin Gausman (2-1, 3.71) vs. Alex Cobb (2-4, 3.99)
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