When will the Strop slump stop?

The Orioles are assured of posting a winning record for the first time since 1997, and it feels anti-climatic. It's been assumed for so long, the attention has shifted to whether the Orioles can win the division or a wild card berth.

Finishing above .500? Ho-hum.

Matt Wieters homered twice yesterday, Endy Chavez collected four hits for the first time as an Oriole, Robert Andino had two hits and Brian Matusz picked up his first relief win with two scoreless innings.

Almost lost in the victory was Pedro Strop's latest failure. He couldn't get the final out in the ninth inning, forcing closer Jim Johnson into the game.

Strop allowed one run and two hits in two-thirds of an inning, with one walk and one strikeout. He walked Brandon Moss with one out and gave up back-to-back singles to Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes with two outs. Johnson replaced him and retired Chris Carter on a ground ball to short.

Manager Buck Showalter talks about having a long memory with Strop, meaning he isn't going to forget how important the reliever has been to the Orioles' success. However, there's no ignoring the numbers.

Strop, the club's primary set-up man, has allowed seven runs and 13 hits in his last nine appearances covering 5 2/3 innings. He's walked seven and struck out six. And I'm not counting his Aug. 18 outing in Detroit, when he surrendered two runs and two hits in one inning.

For the season, Strop is 5-2 with a 2.31 ERA, 33 walks and 54 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings. His monthly ERA reads as follows: 2.08 in April, 0.66 in May, 0.96 in June, 1.64 in July, 4.09 in August and 8.31 in September, with a 3.23 WHIP in seven games.

Maybe it's a sign of fatigue. Maybe it's nothing more than a rough patch that will smooth out. Pitchers fall into slumps, too.

The bullpen is the No. 1 reason why the Orioles are in contention. It needs to hold up for the Orioles to hold onto a playoff spot. Showalter has other set-up options, including Luis Ayala and Darren O'Day.

Showalter has a long memory. Should the leash on Strop be getting shorter?


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