Orioles Riding Strong Starts from Call-Ups, Ever-Changing Rotation
After a couple of tough series against the Angels and the Indians where they dropped five of six contests last week, the 2nd place Baltimore Orioles (45-39) have rebounded nicely by winning 3-of-5 games keeping pace in the East.
However, even though they have strung together three victories, they still sit 6.0 games out of 1st place behind those home run-smashing New York Yankees (51-32). This afternoon, their four game series with the resurgent Los Angeles Angels continues as the Birds try to even up this four game series.
Today’s matchup is very important for the Orioles because they have struggled against the Angels and the rest of the West. If they are going to remain contenders in the East, they have to play each division just as tough; they have winning records against every other division, including the NL!
This season, even after the Birds took 2-of-3 at Seattle earlier in the week, they sport just a 7-11 record against teams out on the West coast. Although they have struggled against these teams, the Orioles sport a better record on the road than they do at home (22-20 at home, 23-19 on the road).
If you haven’t been paying attention to the Orioles over the last week or so, you’ve missed a lot.
The Birds have made a couple important and telling moves in their starting rotation. Jake Arrieta (3-9, 6.13ERA), Tommy Hunter (3-4, 6.11ERA) and Brian Matusz (5-10, 5.42ERA) were all sent down to the minors to get some work in and try and figure out what is wrong with their mechanics.
Arrieta struggled in his last outing against the Angels on Thursday night; he lasted just 3.2 innings, surrendered six earned runs on five base hits, including three walks and three strikeouts. His ERA rose to 6.13 for the year, and avoided losing his 10th game of the year as his offense bailed him out.
He will not spend too much time in the minors, and will probably return after the All-Star break.
Matusz was recently demoted to Triple A- Norfolk after his latest rough outing on July 1st against the Indians where he allowed four earned runs on seven base hits over four innings.
However, he regained some of his confidence after he tossed an impressive four-hit shutout against Charlotte in his return to the minors. The Orioles have always had high hopes for Matusz and it doesn’t seem as if they will ever give up on him; he needs to find his groove and maybe this is his chance.
After a horrendous relief appearance on Saturday afternoon against the Indians, the Orioles optioned Hunter back to AAA to work on his mechanics. He allowed five earned runs on eight base hits over just 1.2 innings of work.
So, three of their starting pitchers were recently demoted to the minor leagues, who has been taking there place with the big club? Well, a familiar face and a newcomer turned a couple of heads in their respective outings.
Chris Tillman (1-0, 0 ERA), a frequent recall from the minor leagues, and Miguel Gonzalez (1-0, 1.93ERA), who won his first major league game on Friday night, have been recalled to make a couple of spot starts.
Buck Showalter seems to be sending a message to the rotation: he is not scared to send players down to the minors to get their heads back on straight even if that means missing time at the major league level.
Left-handed sensation Zach Britton continues to progress at the minor league level, and will be back in the starting rotation after the All-Star break.
Tillman impressed everyone in his return to the major leagues on July 4th in Seattle; he tossed a career-high 8.1 scoreless innings, allowed just two base hits and struck out seven for his 1st win of the year.
He had not pitched in the majors since he surrendered six earned runs in 2.2 innings against the White Sox on August 11th of last year. In his career, he owns an 8-15 record with a 5.33 ERA.
Tillman debuted with the Birds in 2009 and has been up and down from Triple-A Norfolk and other affiliates frequently. Last year, he spent a majority of the season in the rotation.
After his impressive debut against the Mariners on Wednesday, I’m sure Showalter will keep him in the rotation as long as he continues to pitch well.
Another name that has come out of the rough is Miguel Gonzalez; he made his first career start at the major league level last night against the Angels. He tossed seven strong innings, allowed just one earned run on three base hits for his first career win in the MLB.
Gonzalez had made three relief appearances this season. In those contests, he recorded 11.2 innings and served up three earned runs on 10 base hits.
Even though some of the Birds’ starting pitchers have struggled as of late, other players have stepped up their game. That’s what a winning team does; they have the ability to win games even if their star players are not playing well.
Everyone goes into slumps, and if the Birds are going to make a run for the division and playoffs, they need people to step up their game. Once Britton returns to the rotation, with Chen and Hammel already in the mix, they will have a strong starting three at the top of the rotation.
Today, the Birds send arguably their best starting pitcher to the hill as they try and split the four-game series with those Halos. Wei-Yin Chen (7-4, 3.64ERA) is coming off an impressive outing against the Mariners in which he tossed 7.1 innings, allowed just two earned runs on two hits, while he fanned nine.
The southpaw is second on the team in wins, behind Hammel. However, he took the loss last night, so Chen could tie him for the most wins on the team heading into the break.
The Orioles have set their rotation for the first series after the mid-Summer classic. It will be Hammel, Chen and Tillman facing the Tigers next weekend. We’ll see if Gonzalez can stay in the rotation, and what the future will hold for Matusz, Hunter and Arrieta.
By: Alex Van Rees
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