It’s not complicated: Orioles need more nights like Norris’ debut


Bud Norris throws in the third inning Thursday night against the Houston Astros at Camden Yards. Photo: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Bud Norris‘ debut as a Baltimore Oriole grades out as pretty impressive. Other than two, quite harmless, solo home runs, it was a solid outing and a reason for optimism as the Orioles move into August. Dependable starting pitching will make the world go ’round from here on out.

The 6-3 win had a lot of things go right – refreshingly timely hitting, defense, and of course, pitching. There were RBIs by Brian Roberts, Nate McLouth and Manny Machado, and one by Chris Davis that went much farther, his 39th homer and 100th RBI, making him the first player in baseball to reach triple digits in that department this season.

Even though there is a school that says winning series and taking the proverbial two out of every three will do the job over the long haul, the trick now is to have nights like last night consistently. When a team is, say, 2 1/2 games out of first, in order to move into first – and as the commercial says, it’s not complicated – it has to win on three different nights that the first-place team loses. But it also must not lose on nights when the division leader wins.

Think of how hard that is when that team is 5 games out. The Red Sox decided to make things that much harder last night but scoring 6 runs in the bottom of the 9th to flip the Mariners.

If the Orioles pull this off and overtake either Boston or Tampa Bay for the division, or earn a wild-card spot, they”ll have to throw in a winning stretch pretty similar to the Rays’ 21-4 July, as daunting as that may sound. The good news is that the Orioles are one of the few contenders who hasn’t gotten red hot yet. Tampa has, Boston has, Kansas City is now, and Cleveland is now.

Pitching is what accomplishes things like that, and it needs to steam along without sputtering the way it has for the majority of the season. Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette identified the crux of the matter as Jason Hammel, and Duquette traded for Norris as Hammel’s replacement in the rotation, while Hammel went on the DL to rest a forearm ailment that somehow didn’t get much publicity all year. You have to question a player for not communicating a physical problem to the team for that long, if that is what happened.

At any rate, history is too littered with September collapses to do too much worrying now. But to be in a position to pass a team that fades, the Orioles need a more consistent stretch than they’ve had to date. Four-game winning streak, run out of gas, five-game winning streak, run out of gas. That’s been the pattern, with five being their longest streak. That’s how you get to 15 games over .500, only to slide back to 10 over and slip to 5 games out.

Here come the Mariners, and Chris Tillman‘s chance to win his 14th game tonight. Someone remind me: Do Tillman and Adam Jones have  pretty good histories against their former team? It seems so.

On a final note, congratulations to Brian Roberts and his wife on the expected birth of their first child this afternoon or evening.