Baltimore Orioles: Starting pitching still key


Photo: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not something anybody probably predicted but over the last few weeks the Orioles’ starting pitching has been their biggest strength. Everybody knows that an efficient offense is key to compete in the American League East. However, it’s the teams with consistent starting pitching who are always playing in October. Recently it looks as if the Orioles have found just that.

Entering June the two biggest question marks in the rotation were Chris Tillman and Ubaldo Jimenez. Tillman had two of his worst starts of the season in May allowing a combined 14 earned runs in only 6.2 innings over those two starts. However, over his last five starts he has allowed one run or less three times and gone at least six innings in four of those games.

Jimenez struggled as well in the middle of May allowing five runs in consecutive starts on May 18 and 24. However, since then he has allowed two runs or less in four of his five starts entering Wednesday’s game. His biggest flaw has been his inability to pitch deep into games. Over those five games he finished six innings only once. This is due in part to walking 23 in 25 games during that span.

The two wild cards in the rotation are Miguel Gonzalez and Kevin Gausman. Gonzalez was on a role in May throwing four consecutive quality starts to end the month. However, an oblique injury stopped his momentum and forced him to miss almost three weeks. In the two starts since returning Gonzalez has failed to get an out in the sixth inning. It will be interesting to see if Gonzalez can regain the consistency he had before his injury.

Orioles’ fans have been waiting patiently since Kevin Gausman was taken in the first round for the highly-touted prospect to force himself into the Orioles’ rotation. In the bullpen for the second half of last season, it was easy to see why he was such a priced prospect. It has never been a question of stuff for Gausman but when he would figure out how to pitch at the major league level. Now it is beginning to look like he has. It’s a small sample size but he has collected three straight quality starts. In those three starts he has gone at least six innings and allowed one run or less.

The most consistent starters this season have been Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris. Chen has allowed three runs or less in eight of his last ten starts, and is tied with Norris for the team lead with seven wins. He has also only walked 14 in his 15 starts this season. Bud Norris entered the season as the team’s fifth starter. However, Norris currently leads the original five in ERA, and was working on his third straight quality start when he was removed from Saturday’s start with a hamstring injury.

Nobody doubted the Orioles offense entering the season, but it was obvious they would need quality starting pitching to contend in the AL East. There is a lot of season left, but if the starting staff can build on the momentum of the last few weeks the Orioles could easily make a run at the division title.