BOSTON - Call it a cliche or a tired expression or the foundation of winning teams, but it all starts with starting pitching.
Again last night, an Orioles starter fell short as the club fell further behind in the wild card race.
The Orioles’ rotation has posted a 4.65 ERA this season, ranking 27th in the majors. Only the Astros (4.67), Blue Jays (5.05) and Twins (5.11) are worse.
Last season, the Orioles’ starters posted a 4.42 ERA that ranked 21st.
Honestly, how many of you assumed that this year’s rotation had the higher collective ERA?
Chris Tillman wears the look of an ace, and he’s actually completed eight innings in four starts. He’s done it in two of his last four outings, and he’s allowed two runs or fewer in three of his last four.
The Orioles could use a few more of him.
Wei-Yin Chen had allowed more than three earned runs in only two of his first 16 starts. After last night, it’s happened in two of the last three.
Cause for concern?
In Miguel Gonzalez’s last five starts, he’s gone 4 2/3, 3 2/3, six, seven and 5 2/3 innings. His last two appearances have come in relief, and he’s starting Friday night’s series opener at Yankee Stadium.
Bud Norris, who takes the mound tonight, hasn’t gone more than six innings in any of his five starts with the Orioles. He’s lasted five, 5 2/3 and 4 2/3 innings in the last three.
In Scott Feldman’s last five starts, he’s worked five, 4 2/3, 5 1/3, 6 2/3 and five innings. He’s allowed two runs or fewer in each of the last three outings, but he’s not getting deep enough into the games.
Chen had to put last night’s outing - the worst of his career, as he called it - far behind him and not dwell on it. That’s how all of the starters much approach it. And they’ve got to get better.
“We’ve got no choice,” said center fielder Adam Jones. “This is the latter part of the year. This is what’s going to separate people in the division. It’s going to decide if we’re playoff-bound or not.
“Nobody’s 100 percent at this point in time of the year. We’ve got to suck it up, be ready to play and do the best that you can. It’s not easy. We all know that, but we’re here for a reason, so let’s play the game that we know how to play.”
We’ll find out today whether Chen is going to stay with the Orioles or make a brief stop in the Gulf Coast League. They seem inclined to recall Kevin Gausman from Triple-A Norfolk. Manager Buck Showalter has dropped some pretty strong hints.
Jones went 0-for-3 last night to snap his 11-game hitting streak against the Red Sox.
Danny Valencia is 6-for-12 with a double, homer, RBI and two runs scored against the Red Sox this season. He has three straight multi-hit games overall, his longest streak since July 2011.