Talking Behind Their Back: Rays
The Orioles closed out a five-game road trip with a surprising two-game split against the Tampa Bay Rays.
In the first game, (an 8-4 Orioles victory) Baltimore tagged Tampa Bay starter Scott Kazmir for six runs in 6 1/3 innings, dropping Kazmir to 7-9 all-time against the Orioles. The key to the game was the resurgence of Brian Roberts who had been mired in a 0-14 slump before busting out with a 2 for 3 day with two RBI, three runs, a stolen base and a walk while serving as the catalyst for a comeback that spanned the seventh and eighth innings.
Roberts continued to heat up in Tuesday's 6-3 loss, hitting his fourth home run of the season, a two-run job off of Matt Garza. Garza, unlike Kazmir, has dominated Orioles batters, as he is a perfect 6-0 against Baltimore. Lost in Garza's handcuffing of the O's was the fact that Koji Uehara pitched another impressive game but still couldn't get the win. Uehara who showed no ill effects of having taking a liner in the chest in his previous outing, gave up six runs, but only three were earned as his defense committed three errors.
Uehara seems to have taken the title of "Baltimore's hard-luck pitcher" away from Jeremy Guthrie so far this season. Uehara has given up three or fewer runs in all but one start yet is stuck at 2-2 on the season.
So if Uehara pitched better than Adam Eaton (Monday's starter), why did the Orioles win the first game but not the second? The answer seems to simply be the defense.
In Monday's win, Felix Pie made an impressive diving catch in left field to close out the game and save closer George Sherrill from himself. In Tuesday's loss, the O's had the aforementioned three errors.
Surprisingly, the bullpen stabilized, at least for two days in Tampa. In the mini-series against the Rays, the Orioles allowed just two hits and no runs in 5 1/3 innings of relief while facing 21 batters. Sherrill allowed one hit in the first game and the recently called-up Bob McCrory gave up the other.
So with the pitching and offense presently operational, what can the Orioles expect out of a short two-game set at home against the Minnesota Twins?
Baltimore should be able to score runs in tonight's series opener, as Kevin Slowey will be on the mound for Minnesota. Though Slowey is 4-0 on the season, he has allowed five runs in three of his five starts, he's just gotten tremendous run support as the Twins have not scored less than five runs in any of his starts this season. Unfortunately for the Orioles, the Twin may continue that trend, as Mark Hendrickson will be Baltimore's starter opposite Slowey.
Despite the return of Joe Mauer and the presence of Justin Morneau in the cleanup spot, this year's Twins aren't that much better than the Orioles, though they're trying to hold steady, stay positive and have a constructive summer.
Minnesota is a disappointing 13-14 and their pitching staff - typically the team's best asset - ranks 26th in ERA (5.34) and has given up the third most hits in the league (263). Of course it's worth mentioning that Baltimore gives up the most hits and is a couple rungs lower than the Twins in ERA. All of this is to say: expect to see some crooked numbers over the next couple days, assuming it stops raining.
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