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Orioles Review and Preview: Red Sox and Royals

The Orioles have proven that they don't need to be on a West Coast trip to lose on the road. Baltimore returns home tonight after having gone 2-7 during a nine-game road trip that took them to Chicago, New York and Boston. While the series against the Red Sox did feature it's usual share of humbling moments, the Orioles can take away some positive things from their three-game stint at Fenway.

In Game 1, Brad Bergesen labored through six innings but couldn't pick up the win despite delivering another quality start for Baltimore in a 3-1 loss. Bergesen was far from sharp, throwing 107 pitches in his six innings while allowing nine hits and three runs but still gave the O's a chance to win. Unfortunately for the Orioles, their bats couldn't get it together against Boston starter Brad Penny who gave up just one run and five hits over 6 1/3 innings of work. Despite the loss, Baltimore provided the highlight of the night as Nick Markakis threw a strike to catcher Matt Wieters, gunning down Jacoby Ellsbury at the plate for Markakis's AL-leading 11th outfield assist of the season.

Boston's Jon Lester continued his dominance against the Orioles on Saturday night, striking out nine while allowing just two runs over 7 1/3 innings to improve to 9-0 in 11 career starts against Baltimore with a 7-2 victory. Lester received some early run support thanks to David Ortiz's three-run blast in the first inning off of Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie has now given up 23 home runs this season, the second most of any pitcher this season behind Josh Geer (San Diego) and Braden Looper (Milwaukee) who each have served up 24 homers.

Sunday actually provided some salvation for the Orioles as the team avoided a sweep by notching a 6-2 win over the Red Sox in the series finale. For the first time this season, Markakis served as the cleanup hitter, as Aubrey Huff remains mired in a slump, and went 2 for 4 with a home run, two runs scored and three RBI to lead the Orioles' offense. David Hernandez pitched seven innings of one-run ball to pick up the third win of his career. After scuffling through June, the 24-year-old rookie has gone undefeated (2-0) with a 2.45 ERA and four quality starts in July including back-to-back one-run outings against the Yankees and Red Sox.

With Kansas City coming to town, Baltimore will be host to the Ghosts of Pitchers Past, Present and Future.

In Game 1, the Royals will start Bruce Chen who spent three seasons with the O's and was arguably the team's most consistent pitcher during the snake-bitten 2005 season. After missing all of last season due to injury, Chen is a garish 0-5 with a 6.58 ERA for Kansas City. Sadly, he has the better ERA out of the two pitchers going tonight as the Orioles send out Rich Hill who sports an unsightly 7.64 ERA and hasn't won since June 19.

Clearly Hill's spot in the rotation is being examined, as is that of rookie Jason Berken, who will start for Baltimore Tuesday night. Berken has a 6.55 ERA and is still seeking his second win of the season after winning in his debut. Brian Bannister will be on the mound for Kansas City and despite a solid 3.76 ERA is just 6-7 on the season thanks to a fairly combustible Royals bullpen.

The starts of Hill and Berken effectively serve as final auditions for their present jobs as somehow, some way, one of these pitchers will not be a part of the rotation come Wednesday when the Orioles plan to call up Chris Tillman from Class AAA Norfolk to start. Tillman was acquired from Seattle as part of the Erik Bedard deal and is 8-6 with a 2.70 ERA this year in the minors. Unfortunately for him, the young right-hander will be faced against Zack Greinke who has a major-league low 2.04 ERA on the season and is easily the brightest spot during another disappointing Kansas City summer.

The finale of the four-game set will pit Luke Hochevar, who has improved in his return from a stint in the minors earlier this season, against Bergesen who will try to put his struggles in Boston behind him.

By CJ Holley  |  July 27, 2009; 4:15 PM ET
Categories:  Orioles , Red Sox , Royals  | Tags: Baltimore Orioles, Talking Behind Their Back, boston red sox, chris tillman, kansas city royals  
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