Talking Behind Their Back: Mariners
Thanks to the team's first 1-0 victory since 2007, the Orioles were able to avoid a three-game sweep in Seattle. In Game 1 of the series Rich Hill looked like the guy projected to be one of the top left-handers in baseball just a few years ago to keep Baltimore's run of good starting pitching alive. With Hill's victory Monday, the team had won six of its previous eight games with five of those wins belonging to that day's starter.
This stretch came to an end in Game 2 of the series when David Hernandez went against an inspired and very good Erik Bedard. Bedard looked to be of the 2007 vintage Tuesday, allowing one run and four hits while striking out seven over 6 1/3 innings. Hernandez looked a bit more pedestrian, giving up five runs over 5 1/3 innings.
In the past, such a start out of an Orioles rookie pitcher would've been a cause for celebration in Baltimore, remember Adam Loewen and Hayden Penn (who was designated for assignment by the Marlins this week)? Now Hernandez looks like the possible odd man out of the rotation whenever Koji Uehara returns from the disabled list.
Though it was Hernandez who took the loss, the talk after the game was centered on struggling left-handed specialist Jamie Walker who gave up back-to-back home runs to left-handed hitters in the eighth inning. As a result, the O's were forced to release Walker today who had not been effective this year (5.11 ERA, 12 1/3 IP, 5 HR allowed) on the field but is considered a good teammate and clubhouse presence.
To replace Walker, the Orioles brought up left-hander Alberto Castillo who has a 3.09 ERA in 24 appearances with Class AAA Norfolk this year.
While the revamped pitching staff has now become the center of attention - in a good way, the Orioles' lineup has gone quiet. Over their last five games (four losses), Baltimore has combined to score eight runs. Some of that can be attributed to unfavorable pitching matchups: Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson for Detroit, Jarrod Washburn (took the loss against Hill) and Bedard for Seattle. But Game 3's 3-2 loss featured several base-running blunders.
Aubrey Huff got picked off in the sixth and thrown out in the ninth. Nolan Reimold was picked off in the fifth. Add to that the fact that Brian Roberts is mired in a 0-for-17 slump and you've got the makings for a rough stretch. During the Mariners series, the team was 2 for 17 with runners in scoring position.
Baltimore will look to right the ship this weekend against Oakland in a three-game series that starts tonight.
For all the talk about the Orioles' sudden youth movement, little has been made of the fact that the A's rotation consists of four rookies but, true to Billy Beane's standard for prospects, they're all pretty good.
Baltimore will face Dallas Braden (at 25, the old man of the staff) in the first game and rookies Trevor Cahill and Vin Mazzaro in the following two.
Braden is the only one of the three to have faced the Orioles and has always done well against them. The O's have faced Braden four times and have scored just four runs against the lefty while sporting a paltry .169 average and a .250 OBP.
Cahill is just 2-5 on the season but in 11 starts, he has only allowed more than two runs twice with those two outings being the only times he's gone less than five innings.
Mazzaro will be making just his second major league start when he faces the Orioles in Sunday afternoon's finale. In his one start, Mazzaro picked up the win by pitching 6 1/3 shutout innings and allowing only three walks against the White Sox on Tuesday.
All of this means that Orioles pitchers Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Berken and Rich Hill will have their work cut out for them unless the Baltimore bats can get going. Luckily for the O's pitchers, the A's rank next to last in the majors for team batting average (.239), 24th in runs scored, 25th in RBI and 28th in hits. So expect to see some low-scoring affairs in the cavernous McAfee Coliseum this weekend.
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