May 7, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Bud Norris (25) reacts int he dugout after he was taken out during the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
With their win last night, the Orioles salvaged two out of three to take the series win from their recent rivals, the Toronto Blue Jays. It sounds like hyperbole, specifically for this early in the season, but last night may prove to be an extremely significant win.
A loss last night would have meant their third series loss to Toronto already this season. A win on the other hand gives the Orioles some momentum heading into a stretch where they play 14 straight outside the division.
The Orioles still have a litany of issues that need to be solved before anybody can even mention climbing back into contention. One, the defense remains inconsistent, to put it delicately. At the plate, the strikeouts seem to be piling up, especially in key situations. Also, the base running seems especially stagnant, even for an Orioles team hardly known for their speed.
However, the most important issues to straighten out may be the performances of Chris Tillman and Bud Norris. For two of the most valuable members of the rotation last year, this season have been consistently abysmal, putting two massive gaps in a team that depends so much on its starting rotation.
So far this season, last season’s ace, Chris Tillman, has pitched to a 6.28 ERA. Tillman is important to the staff for a number of reasons, but the most important may be his innings. He has been the lone workhorse on the rotation, being the only player exceeding 200 innings the last two seasons.
However, obviously those innings must be quality innings to have a significant impact, and that hasn’t been the case so far. Although, given his track record, it’s easy to have faith Tillman can recover his All-Star form and turn his season around. The Orioles just need it to be sooner rather than later if they are going to remain in contention.
The more pressing concern is Bud Norris. So far this season he has a staggering 9.88 ERA. In his six starts this year, he has yet to give up less than three runs, and has made it past the fifth inning only twice. That’s a lot of less than competitive games.
For a team that’s looking to contend, the rope is going to be short for any starting pitcher, and Norris may be reaching the end of his. He is scheduled to start Saturday, but if he continues his ineffectiveness, it may be his last chance already. The Orioles already have potential starters T. J. McFarland and Mike Wright in the bullpen, as well as Kevin Gausman beginning his rehab in Norfolk.
If you want to take a lot of positives from the last series, it would be that the Orioles look like they are getting closer to being the team most people expected about. However, it needs to be a quick turn-around or the orioles may find themselves in a hole they can’t dig themselves out of.