Jun 22, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Despite losing the first games of both of this week’s series, the Orioles responded by taking the last two of each. Another AL East filled week saw the Orioles go 4-2 against the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees, while also gaining three games on the first place Toronto Blue Jays.
Last week, the Orioles’ pitching was the story. This week, it was a little bit of both pitching and hitting.
Kevin Gausman (3-1, 2.74) continued his stretch of domination, pitching six scoreless innings and getting the win against the Rays on Wednesday. His continued run of success certainly has gotten fans excited, despite his recent demotion to Triple-A Norfolk (a temporary move as he remains scheduled to start against Tampa Bay on Friday).
Gausman’s recent performances certainly have solidified a spot for him with the Orioles as a starter, which might have some fans wondering who will be bumped from the rotation. Well, considering Miguel Gonzalez (4-4, 4.41) has returned from the DL and that Ubaldo Jimenez (2-8, 4.63) has pitched much better with extended rest, it seems as though Buck Showalter has unofficially adopted a six-man rotation.
In six games over the past week, the Orioles used six different starters. Though it is still unofficially a six-man rotation, the system may be just what the doctor ordered for the Orioles. Considering Wei-Yin Chen’s (7-2, 3.78) late season fatigue issues over the past couple of years, Bud Norris’ (7-5, 3.62) nagging injuries, Jimenez’s improvement with extra rest, and the potential of an innings limit on Gausman, this system may bring out the best of the current crop of Orioles starters.
Pitching Performance of the Week: Chris Tillman
On the final game of the week against the Yankees, Tillman pitched seven shutout innings, outdueling New York’s Masahiro Tanaka (11-2, 2.11). The gutsy, and encouraging, performance by Tillman gave the Orioles a series win and allowed the Orioles to move one game closer to the first-place Blue Jays.
Just as there were many positive developments in the starting rotation, the Orioles’ power hitters continued their torrid month of June.
Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz and Steve Pearce connected for two home runs each over the course of the week, pushing the Orioles even further atop the June leaderboard for team home runs. The Orioles have now hit 30 homers in June and are six in front of the Cincinnati Reds for the month.
The explosiveness of the Orioles bats for the month certainly is noteworthy, considering the team’s reliance on the longball.
In seasons past, the Orioles’ massive power numbers were enough to keep them in contention, despite uninspiring pitching. For much of this year, however, it was the Orioles’ pitchers who were getting snubbed by anemic hitting.
So, it is certainly a pleasant sight to see Baltimore hitters teeing off at such a high rate.
Offensive Performer of the Week: Steve Pearce
If Pearce hadn’t convinced Orioles fans that he deserved more regular playing time already, this past week should have done it. In 21 at-bats, Pearce had 10 hits, including four doubles, two home runs, and seven RBIs. To compliment his aggressive swinging, he surprisingly added five walks to those numbers. Pearce ripped pitchers apart in spring training, and then saw virtually no playing time until Chris Davis got injured in May. After sporadic usage by Showalter, Pearce’s consistent hitting has finally paid off. For the season, Pearce is now batting an impressive .339/.395/.576.
The week had a lot of highs (J.J. Hardy’s first home run of the season) and lows (Zach Britton’s blown save on Friday night), but the Orioles now sit just 1.5 games behind the Blue Jays and are tied for second with the Yankees. It appears that the hitting and the pitching may now be aligning, and a weak upcoming schedule may help the Orioles stay on track.
The Orioles will come home to start a 11-game homestand, first facing the Chicago White Sox. Sitting in the cellar of the AL Central, the White Sox’ pitching has been their biggest weakness. A team ERA of 4.39 (14th in AL) has offset the production of their slightly above average offense.
Following an off-day on Thursday, the Tampa Bay Rays will arrive in Baltimore to play a four-game series (including a doubleheader on Friday). The Rays still boast MLB’s worst record and present another opportunity for the Orioles to do some real damage within the division.