Baltimore Orioles player of the week: Craig Kimbrel locks it down

Craig Kimbrel was nearly perfect for the Orioles all week long
Texas Rangers v Baltimore Orioles
Texas Rangers v Baltimore Orioles / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

The Baltimore Orioles are returning home from a successful west coast road trip against the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics. The O's won each series 2-1 and are heading into the final week before the all-star break with a 3 game lead over the New York Yankees in the AL East. They're now 57-33, good for the best record in the American League.

The week started with a tough series in Seattle against a Mariners team that has arguably best starting five in baseball, but it was Orioles pitchers who came out on fire. Game one was a pitchers duel between two of the games best young pitchers. Grayson Rodriguez out-dueled George Kirby in a 2-0 win as the Birds took the first game of the series. GrayRod went 6.1 innings of two hit ball while striking out eight. Yennier Cano, Cionel Perez and Craig Kimbrel retired all eight batters they faced to secure the victory.

Game two was Dean Kremer, making his return from the IL, and getting the best of Logan Gilbert. The Orioles offense was twice as good in this game as they put up four runs. Ryan O'Hearn accounted for three of them with his two RBI double and solo homer, but as the game came to a close it was Kimbrel who shut the door on the Mariners. Kimbrel earned his second save in as many days without allowing a hit and striking out two batters in each appearance. Kimbrel was likely not available for game three but was also not needed.

The Orioles got comfortable on the West Coast, taking 4 of 6 on their road trip

After taking two out of three from the Mariners, the Birds traveled to Oakland for their final series in the Oakland Coliseum against the last place Athletics. Baltimore fans may have expected an easy series, but were treated to a hard fought battle from both sides. In game one of the series, the O's got a brilliant performance from breakout star Albert Suarez who got his fifth win in his second consecutive quality start. Austin Hays had three hits, scored a run and had an RBI before Kimbrel locked down the win with his third two strikeout save of the week.

The Orioles offense did everything they could in game two as they scored eight runs over the final three innings, but it wasn't enough. The A's hitters hit everything and they all seemed to land. They hit plenty of balls hard but even the soft contact was finding open spaces. Kimbrel got the day off as it was James McCann who came in to pitch the final inning for the Orioles in this one.

The quality pitching returned for the series finale as GrayRod pitched 6.0 innings and allowed three runs to earn his second with of the week. First inning home runs from Anthony Santander and Heston Kjerstad, gave the Orioles an early 4-0 lead. The A's fought back and scored three runs but it wouldn't be enough. The Birds scored two more and called upon Kimbrel for his fourth game of the week. Kimbrel responded by delivering his fourth two strikeout save in as many attempts.

After being used frequently and going through a tough stretch early in the season, Kimbrel has returned to his all-star form, even though he was snubbed from the team. Over the last two weeks, Kimbrel is a perfect 7-7 in save opportunities and has allowed just one hit in that time with a 13/3 K/BB ratio. After just missing out on player of the week honors last week, Kimbrel secures his first player of the week this week by going 4-4 in save chances with eight strikeouts, zero walks and only one hit allowed.