Baltimore Orioles Player of the Week: Pitching dominates the week

The Orioles pitching staff was in control all week long.
Baltimore Orioles v Los Angeles Angels
Baltimore Orioles v Los Angeles Angels / Jayne Kamin-Oncea/GettyImages

The Baltimore Orioles are heading into their first off day in 10 days on a high note. They won three out of four games at home against the New York Yankees to start the week, then finished it by sweeping the Reds in Cincinnati. While the offense has drawn much of the attention this season, it was the pitching that shined this week.

The starting rotation was dominant. Six different starters took the mound for the Birds, allowing only five runs in 43.2 innings, while striking out 36 batters against just 11 walks. The Orioles finished with a 29-8 run differential for the week, and the best record in the American League to this point in the season.

Corbin Burnes, the unquestioned ace of the staff, pitched a quality start, going 6.0 innings, allowing two runs and six strikeouts against the Yankees, and he had arguably the least impressive start of the week. He did get saddled with the lone Orioles loss after giving up two runs because the O's offense couldn't muster any run support for him.

In his last start before going on the IL, Grayson Rodriguez showed no signs of injury while blanking the Yankees for 5.2 innings. If there was anything that was unusual about Rodriguez in his start, it's that he only recorded three strikeouts. GrayRod was able to begin a throwing program on Sunday, and we're all hoping for a speedy recovery for the breakout candidate.

Returning starters key massive week for Orioles rotation

The Orioles had two big returns this week, and both Kyle Bradish and John Means made their season debuts. After making just three rehab starts, Bradish made his season debut in the final game against the Yankees with the Orioles looking to win the series and keep a lead in the AL East. He was not able to make it out of the fifth inning, but Bradish held the Yanks to one run in 4.2 innings while striking out five. He threw a season high 85 pitches (rehab games included) and had good command of all of his pitches. No soreness has been reported since the outing, so Bradish appears back to full health.

As impressive as Bradish was, Means took his first outing to a different level. In the middle game in Cincinnati, Means stepped on a major league mound for the first time this season. Means struggled mightily in his first four rehab starts before putting together his first good outing this season in his final start in the minors. He was even better in Cincinnati. Means allowed just three hits in 7.0 shutout innings while striking out eight batters with zero walks. Means threw 85 pitches and looked like he could have gone longer, but there was no need to overdo it.

Cole Irvin continued his impressive run when he pitched his third consecutive scoreless outing in the series opener against the Reds. He held the Reds offense to two hits (both by Elly De La Cruz) while striking out four against zero walks, recording his third straight win. Irvin has been arguably the best pitcher in baseball over the last three weeks. In his last three starts, Irvin has pitched 20.0 innings allowing no runs, and has recorded more strikeouts (11) than hits allowed (10) while walking just two batters. Irvin would have won Player of the Week outright if two of these three starts had come in the same week.

Instead, that honor goes to Dean Kremer, who did have two starts in the week. His start came in Game 2 against the Yankees. The O's won the opener of the series and were looking to take control of the series and the division, and Kremer delivered. He allowed solo home runs to Austin Wells and Juan Soto, but gave the Birds 7.0 innings in a game where they desperately needed it. The bullpen had been taxed and Craig Kimbrel was unavailable, but Kremer's performance helped the O's to a 4-2 victory.

In his second game of the week, Kremer outdid himself. He pitched 6.0 innings of one-hit ball while striking out six batters and walking only one. Kremer looked as if he could have continued, but he'd thrown 93 pitches and, in an interesting turn of events, the bullpen seemed to be begging for more work after barely being used this week. In his two appearances, Kremer totaled 13.0 innings, a 10/5 K/BB ratio, and allowed five hits and two runs to earn the win in both games.

Five out of seven games saw the Orioles starter record a quality start, including three straight scoreless starts against the Reds. The Orioles hitters still did their part and scored the runs needed, but pitching was clearly the driving factor for the Birds this week. They finally get a day off before returning to action against the crosstown rival Washington Nationals on Tuesday in a two-game series. Burnes and Bradish are the expected starters for that series.