The comparisons between the 2012 and 2014 Orioles are becoming more difficult to ignore.
I’m not predicting playoffs - the rotation remains a concern following Chris Tillman’s latest struggle yesterday in Milwaukee, and catcher Matt Wieters may need surgery on his right elbow - but the Orioles are winning the close games and in extra innings.
The bullpen, despite its revolving door, ranks among the American League leaders in ERA at 3.47 in 163 2/3 innings.
Any of this sound familiar?
The Orioles are 5-1 in extra innings and 11-6 in one-run games. The bullpen was sixth in ERA before yesterday, when Ryan Webb, Brad Brach, Darren O’Day and Zach Britton combined for 4 1/3 scoreless innings.
Tommy Hunter no longer is the closer or on the 25-man roster. Troy Patton was traded to the Padres. Brach, Preston Guilmet and T.J. McFarland are back. Josh Stinson is at Triple-A Norfolk. Evan Meek was here, gone, here for a day and gone again.
Whatever the combination, the Orioles will continue to rely heavily on their ‘pen to write a happy ending to their season.
Britton (0.65) and O’Day (0.90) rank first and second, respectively, in ERA among all AL relievers. Britton has 12 consecutive scoreless appearances over 12 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts.
Former Oriole Koji Uehara (0.92) is the only other reliever with an ERA below 1.00.
Shortstop J.J. Hardy doesn’t have a home run since Sept. 5, 2013, but his average is up to .304.
Hardy went 3-for-5 yesterday to extend his hitting streak to eight games. He’s 16-for-33 (.485) during that stretch, with two doubles, four RBIs and four runs scored. He has six multi-hit games in the last eight.
Hardy is batting .344 (33-for-96) this month.
Brewers right-hander Matt Garza is 9-1 with a 3.03 ERA in 12 career starts against the Orioles. He’s 2-2 with a 3.55 ERA in five starts at home this season and 0-2 with a 6.59 ERA in five starts on the road.
Opponents are batting .234 against Garza at Miller Park and .275 on the road.
Nick Markakis is 4-for-34 against Garza. Does he stay in right field and atop the order tonight?
Markakis had two more hits yesterday, including a double that tied the game 6-6 in the ninth inning.
Adam Jones is 8-for-21 with a double and two home runs against Garza. He’s reached base in 20 straight games since May 6, batting .360 (31-for-86) with four doubles, a triple, five home runs and 14 RBIs.
Chris Davis will rejoin the team after going on paternity leave for two days for the birth of his daughter. He’s 2-for-8 versus Garza.
The Orioles are expected to remove a catcher to make room for Davis, with Caleb Joseph the most likely candidate. Joseph leads the club in runners caught stealing with three in nine attempts.