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Orioles Review and Preview: Royals and Red Sox

After squandering early leads in the first two of a four-game series against the visiting Kansas City Royals, the Orioles managed to claim the last two meetings while seemingly dodging a huge bullet.

Reports today seem to confirm that Baltimore rookie pitcher Brad Bergesen luckily suffered nothing more than a bad bruise (easy for me to say) after being hit in his left shin by a line drive in the seventh inning of his seventh win of the season Thursday. In an effort to protect the team's most consistent pitcher this season, Baltimore is erring on the side of caution and has placed the young right-hander on the 15-day disabled list.

The near loss of Bergesen came on the same day the Orioles actually lost their closer. Baltimore traded George Sherrill to the Los Angeles Dodgers after yesterday's matinee win against the Royals. In return, the O's got two minor leaguers that will report to Class AA Bowie: third baseman Josh Bell and right-handed pitcher Steve Johnson, a Baltimore native and son of former Oriole Dave Johnson. Both players were selected by the Dodgers in the 2005 draft.

To fill the void left by Sherrill's trade and Bergesen's injury on the roster, the team will call up relievers Kam Mickolio and Chris Ray from Class AAA Norfolk. Jim Johnson will move from his eighth-inning setup role into the closer's spot, which, as MASN's Roch Kubatko points out, involves more than just a later appearance in games.

It is worth noting that Johnson is the last Oriole to record a save, doing so in Baltimore's Wednesday night win over Kansas City.

The first three games against the Royals this week all began roughly the same, with Adam Jones hitting a home run in the first inning. In Game 1, Rich Hill went just 2 1/3 innings while fighting for his spot in the rotation before collecting a no-decision in a 5-3 loss.

After the game, Hill apologized for his performances and said that he had been dealing with tendinitis in his pitching arm for some time. Later Hill would also say he'd been pitching with a torn labrum, something Manager Dave Trembley was surprised to find out. Regardless of his injury (injuries?) Hill was placed on the 15-day disabled list.

Game 2 saw Jason Berken deliver a quality start but he still couldn't improve on his 1-8 record, giving up two runs over six innings of what became a 4-3 loss in 10 innings. Berken's solid start coupled with Hill's continuing implosion probably helped Berken keep his job as Hill's trip to the DL allowed the Orioles to call up pitching prospect Chris Tillman for Game 3.

In his major league debut, Tillman allowed three runs (all courtesy of solo homers) over 4 2/3 innings to leave without factoring in the decision. What makes his start and the Orioles' eventual 7-3 win more impressive is that it came against Kansas City ace Zack Greinke.

As earlier mentioned, Baltimore did manage to salvage a split with the Royals behind another solid performance out of Bergesen and a nice offensive display led by Aubrey Huff's three-RBI day in a 7-3 victory.

The Orioles hope their offense will come out to play as they face the Boston Red Sox for the second straight weekend. Boston currently trails New York by 2.5 games for the AL East lead. Baltimore's best hope of a win in this three-game series may be tonight (weather permitting), as Jeremy Guthrie will take the mound against John Smoltz. Smoltz is 1-4 with a 7.04 ERA since making his Red Sox debut midway through the season.

After Smoltz, the Orioles will face Josh Beckett who seems to be locked in and Clay Buchholz (assuming he isn't traded) who threw a no-hitter in his rookie season against Baltimore two years ago.

By CJ Holley  |  July 31, 2009; 3:09 PM ET
Categories:  Orioles , Red Sox , Royals  | Tags: Baltimore Orioles, Talking Behind Their Back, boston red sox, kansas city royals  
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