O's ending rough schedule stretch; Nats weather long rain delay

As what could be considered the roughest part of the Orioles' schedule comes to an end this week, the good news is that the Orioles are going to finish with at least a winning record in 15 games versus the Rays, Red Sox, Yankees and Rangers.

Even if they lose Monday and Tuesday at home to the Yankees, the Orioles are proving that they are an improved team, one that believes they can win, no matter the circumstances. The near-comeback win, a 9-8 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday, is a perfect example.

The Orioles have enough offense. Their bullpen is rock solid and one of the best in the American League. The only alarm is that going into Monday's game, the Orioles have had eight consecutive games without a quality start from their rotation.

Don't mean to harp on the obvious, but the bullpen and offense can only carry a team so far. The success of the Orioles depends on the stability of their rotation. A strong rotation takes pressure off the offense and keeps the bullpen strong.

Are the recent struggles a phase - all teams go through tough times - or a sign of what's to come the rest of the season?

Other thoughts:

* It's ridiculous that fans in Cincinnati had to wait out a rain delay of 3:36 only to watch the Reds and Nationals play a game in gloomy and drizzly conditions. The stadium was nearly empty when the Reds' Joey Votto hit his walk-off grand slam in a 9-6 win, his third home run of the day.

* The Orioles and Nationals will play their most meaningful interleague series this weekend in D.C., but it's still a tough call on whether interleague is good for baseball. Next season, when Houston moves to the American League West, there will be interleague games throughout the schedule, but no one knows details yet about how many will be played and how it will all work.

* There hasn't been a Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski of the Red Sox in 1967, but two strong candidates to win one some year are Votto and the Rangers' Josh Hamilton. Hamilton, 31 next week, goes into this week hitting .402 with 18 home runs and 44 RBIs, and the big question is whether the Rangers are going to sign him long-term. The question that is not answered is, how much fear do the Rangers have about Hamilton relapsing with his drug and alcohol addiction? Money shouldn't be an issue, given the Rangers' $121 million payroll and the fact that they gave $100 million to Yu Darvish, $80 million to Adrian Beltre and $75 million to Ian Kinsler.

* Maybe perfect games aren't such a good thing for every pitcher. The White Sox's Philip Humber has given up 21 runs in four games since late April when he became the 21st pitcher in history to throw a perfecto.

* Interesting that the White Sox are thinking about using former Nationals first baseman Adam Dunn in left field during interleague play this weekend in Wrigley Field. Dunn has 50 strikeouts in his first 35 games, but he's hitting .250 with 11 home runs. I don't imagine Nats fans are missing his lack of defensive range at first base.

* Congratulations to the Twins, who won Sunday to become a 10-game winner, the last of all teams to get into double digits for wins.

* How good are the Braves? Their pitching hasn't been as good as expected, but they are hitting well and they swept the Cardinals over the weekend in St. Louis. Are the Cardinals a true test? Maybe not. The Braves are one of three teams with a winning record the Cardinals have played this season.

Thanks for reading.