Looking ahead and back - way back

Could the Orioles be poised to make another roster move today?

Nick Johnson exited last night's game after one at-bat with soreness and weakness in his right wrist, the same one that's undergone multiple surgeries. We'll know more after the Orioles receive the results of his MRI.

If it's a DL situation, the Orioles could choose to bring back Steve Tolleson after optioning him yesterday. He might still be in Baltimore.

Tolleson was going to spend a few days at his South Carolina home before joining Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday.

I think it's fair to say this four-game series against the Indians that starts tonight is pretty huge. The Orioles are five games behind the Yankees in the American League East. They've lost six of their last eight. Even their best pitcher got lit up last night.

Jason Hammel's ERA climbed from 2.61 to 3.29, and his All-Star chances took a serious blow.

Now the Orioles could use a break.

Wei-Yin Chen takes the mound tonight, and he's 4-1 with a 2.82 ERA in seven starts at Camden Yards. Four of them have been quality starts.

The Orioles were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position last night, making them 2-for-47 in their last nine games and 5-for-58 in their last 11, but nobody really noticed because, well, they were losing 13-1.

The three errors last night increased the Orioles' total to 66, the most in the majors.

Bad pitching, bad defense and an offense that's scored two runs or fewer in seven of the last nine games. That's a toxic combination.

The Orioles will close the first half with a West Coast trip to Seattle and Los Angeles. Yes, they get the Angels again. The Indians are in second place in the AL Central, but they've lost five in a row. They're 2-8 against the East. The Orioles need to beat up on them before flying across the country. They need to get their swagger back.

Swagger, not stagger.

One guy in the lineup is on fire lately. Wilson Betemit went 3-for-4 last night to extend his hitting streak to seven games, and he's 17-for-34 in his last 11 games. He also committed his 11th error last night, but he's batting .265 with 10 home runs.

Maybe a little DH duty is in order.

palmer-jim-white-sidebar.jpgGoing back to Hammel, he failed to become the first Orioles pitcher since Jim Palmer in 1978 to shut out a team over eight innings or more in three consecutive starts in the same season.

Palmer won two of those starts by 1-0 scores. He outdueled the Tigers' Bob Sykes and the Yankees' Jim Beattie, the former Orioles executive who walked six batters in seven innings before Goose Gossage replaced him.

Andres Mora homered off Sykes in the seventh inning. The run off Beattie, who committed two errors, was unearned.

Mora started in left field, Larry Harlow in center and Carlos Lopez in right in the May 24 game against the Yankees, which was completed in 1:57. The Orioles defeated the Indians, 3-0, in Game 2 of a May 28 doubleheader despite going 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position. And Palmer held the Yankees to two hits in a June 1 game that lasted 2:12.

Paul Blair played right field for the Yankees, which pains me. I also noticed in the box scores that Rich Dauer replaced Doug DeCinces at third base in the late innings in all three games. I always associate Dauer with second base.

Rick Dempsey was behind the plate for all three of Palmer's complete-game shutouts.

"When Jim Palmer got locked in, there was really no pitcher that I ever caught who had as much control as he had," Dempsey said after I ambushed him in the MASN booth yesterday and tested his memory of those three games.

"He was a fastball/changeup guy, and when he threw his curveball, nobody could ever look for it. He had a good, rising fastball. And the changeup and the fastball delivery were exactly the same. You couldn't tell. I saw the ball real well out of his hand, so I told Jim if he ever wanted to throw a changeup, do it on his own because it never fooled me because his ball was so pure. I knew exactly where to look for the ball all the time.

"Three shutouts in a row didn't surprise me because when he got locked in, man, he was as good as they ever were. It was so much fun to catch him, because when he wanted to pitch off the plate, he could do it. You never really worried about him making bad pitches. It happened on occasion, but not very often. People would dink one on him, not hit it really good. He'd walk a guy or something and then a ground ball through the infield. When he was on his game, nobody could beat him. Nobody.

"He stayed focused. He was able to concentrate. From a hitter's second at-bat to his third at-bat to his fourth at-bat, he could change the way he pitched him and still get him out. He could get a guy out down and away one at-bat and get him out up and in the next. He'd look for an opportunity to throw his curveball in the dirt and strike a guy out. He would always vary his approach to hitters because he had the ability to do it."

I wonder if he's got one more comeback in him. The Orioles need a starter for Saturday.

They also could use another bat in the lineup. Anyone heard from Andres Mora lately?

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