Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
The Baltimore Orioles (28-27) finished another disappointing week (Monday-Sunday) with a 3-4 record heading into Monday’s off-day. Now just one game over the .500 mark, the birds sit 4.5 games behind the first place Toronto Blue Jays (34-24) and one game behind the second place New York Yankees (29-26).
Baltimore started the week against the NL Central leading Milwaukee Brewers and dropped two of three to lose the series. The frustrating aspect was that the series could have just as well went the other way had a two-out infield hit in the ninth inning not tied the game. The real disappointment would come upon the first two games of the four-game series in Houston against the Astros.
Whereas the Brewers are a tough team atop their division, the Houston Astros are a young, inexperienced team in dead last in the NL West and ten games under .500. This was a series that the Orioles needed to take at least three wins from. Unfortunately, the offense fell into yet another lull, despite effective performances out of their starting pitching.
Ubaldo Jimenez (2-6, 4.65) followed up his extremely poor performances last week against the Cleveland Indians by allowing just one earned run over six innings, while striking out eight in Thursday night’s series opener. The Astros sit next to last in the AL in runs scored, and Jimenez took advantage.
In Friday night’s game, Miguel Gonzalez (3-4, 4.17) took the loss after pitching 6.2 innings while allowing two earned runs.
The final scores in those games; 3-1 Houston, and 2-1 Houston.
At the beginning of the season, many baseball prophets (including myself) predicted that if the Orioles’ pitching staff was just “mediocre,” the Orioles’ loaded offense would be enough to carry them throughout the season. Now, two months into the season, the Orioles’ offense ranks 8th in the AL with 234 runs scored. Mediocre pitching combined with mediocre hitting will almost always result in a mediocre record, which the Orioles currently have.
It is almost scary to think of where the Orioles would be if not for their late off-season signing of Nelson Cruz. Cruz currently leads the Orioles in AVG (.314), HR (20), RBI (52), 2B (13), R (39) and even is tied for the lead in BBs (23). Cruz also leads the AL in HR and RBI.
Well, now the Orioles might need to think of what their lineup might look like without him as he left Sunday’s 9-4 victory against the Astros after being hit on his left hand by former Orioles Scott Feldman (3-3, 4.25). Unable to comfortably grip a bat, manager Buck Showalter removed him from the game and arranged for X-Rays (which came back negative).
Monday’s day off will be extremely important in allowing Cruz’s hand time to heal, but now might be a good time for the rest of the Orioles’ lineup to heat up.
It’s never a good thing to be overly reliant on one batter in a lineup because, like Cruz, that player is always prone to injury. Now would be the time for Adam Jones, Chris Davis and others to begin contributing offensively, because the last thing the Orioles need is to dig themselves too big a hole to climb out of.
Riding a two-game winning streak, the Orioles will look to take advantage of the Texas Rangers’ (29-28) floundering pitching staff and get their bats going before heading back to Baltimore for a weekend series against the Oakland Athletics (35-22).
Coming up this week:
The Orioles will travel to Arlington, TX, to face the struggling Texas Rangers who also sit just one game over .500. The Rangers’ story thus far has been very similar to the Orioles. They have had mediocre to bad pitching complemented by mediocre hitting. Ranking 7th in the AL with 238 runs scored, the Rangers have lacked their usual home run numbers with just 35 (14th).
Following the conclusion of their Texas tour, the Orioles will head back to Camden Yards for a weekend series against the A’s. Leading the AL West, the A’s are quite possibly the best team in the AL. Leading the league in ERA (2.83) and runs scored (296), there aren’t too many holes in the A’s. Certainly, the Orioles would like to send a message to the rest of the league by taking at least two wins from the three game set.
Pitching preview vs. TEX:
Tuesday (8:05 P.M. ET): Ubaldo Jimenez (2-6, 4.65) vs. Joe Saunders 0-1, 4.15)
Thursday (8:05 P.M. ET): Miguel Gonzalez (3-4, 4.17) vs. Colby Lewis (4-4, 5.44)