Orioles are taking a left turn

After watching the Orioles for 95 games, I've come to the conclusion that the only thing they do consistently is fail to hit with runners in scoring position. Otherwise, they're all over the map.

The rotation is good, bad and good again. It's strung together five consecutive quality starts, which was unimaginable a week ago.

The bullpen has been outstanding for most of the season, but the starters' early exits had caused cracks to form in it. Remove the ninth inning yesterday, and the relievers have regained their effectiveness. And before anyone else jumps Luis Ayala, he retired the first seven batters he faced yesterday. He doesn't normally work a third inning. The most he's thrown is 2 2/3 on July 17, and that's the only time he exceeded two until yesterday.

It also should be noted that Kevin Gregg, a popular target around here, has posted a 2.49 ERA since April 18, with seven earned runs allowed in 25 1/3 innings. Four of those runs scored in 2 1/3 innings from June 12-26. He's sporting a 1.17 ERA - three earned runs in 23 innings - in the rest of those games.

The Orioles lead the majors in errors, but they've committed only three on this road trip and have gotten superb plays from the likes of Mark Reynolds, Chris Davis, Ryan Flaherty, J.J. Hardy, Nick Markakis and Tommy Hunter. Suddenly, they're flashing some serious leather.

Just when you think you've got this team figured out, it veers in another direction. And right now, with five wins in a row, the Orioles are clearly on the rise. Again.

The composition of the roster isn't ideal, but it's working at the present time.

The Orioles are heavy on the left side, and the scale tiled a little more on Saturday with outfielder Steve Pearce being designated for assignment. The other choice was infielder Steve Tolleson, who also bats from the right side.

Davis is getting a lot of starts in left field. The alternative, Endy Chavez, also is a left-handed hitter. That's no way to platoon, but Chavez works as a late-inning defensive replacement.

The Orioles added another left-handed hitting infielder, Omar Quintanilla, while continuing to retain Flaherty. That's no way to platoon at second base, but Quintanilla works as a late-inning defensive replacement.

I think it's too late in Jim Thome's career to experiment with switch-hitting. He's sticking to the left side.

Down in Triple-A, outfielders Xavier Avery and Nate McLouth also are left-handed hitters. However, that's not true of Lew Ford and LJ Hoes. You might want to keep that in mind.

The Orioles won't face a left-handed starter the next two nights - the Indians are sending Justin Masterson to the mound tonight, and the Rays are handing the ball to Jeremy Hellickson on Tuesday - but they'll be taking their swings against David Price on Wednesday, which could mean another start for Tolleson at second base or left field.

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