To the fans who kept asking why Orioles manager Buck Showalter chose the "awful" T.J. McFarland to start last night, I'll challenge them to look up his June stats - since the ones I posted apparently went ignored - and to come up with a better solution at Triple-A Norfolk.
McFarland was fortunate to surrender only two runs, but the bottom line is he gave Showalter five much-needed innings and left with an 8-2 lead. He induced ground balls, as Showalter anticipated when he put Ryan Flaherty at third base and Chris Davis at first, and got two double plays.
Kevin Gausman wasn't a candidate on short rest. Steve Johnson and Suk-min Yoon are on the Triple-A disabled list. Eddie Gamboa is serving a 50-game suspension. Mike Wright is 1-7 with a 6.23 ERA at Norfolk. Randy Wolf isn't stretched out enough, and he allowed seven runs (five earned) and nine hits yesterday in two relief innings.
Josh Stinson started for Norfolk and was charged with five runs in one inning. He had been pushed back due to a strained lat.
Showalter must choose between McFarland and Gausman for Sunday's game against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Gausman is starting tonight at short-season Single-A Aberdeen and he's going to be limited in innings and pitches.
Showalter won't reveal how many. Not even to Gausman, who doesn't seem to respond favorably when he knows the length of his short leash.
"I know exactly how much he's probably going to go, but it hasn't worked out too good by telling him exactly, so we're not going to tell him," Showalter said.
It will be enough for Gausman to get in some work while still making him available to pitch on three days rest.
My guess is Gausman starts Sunday. McFarland is too valuable in the bullpen.
Bud Norris will throw a side session today to further test his groin. He played catch yesterday and seemed to be encouraged by his recovery.
Let's take a look at some month-by-month statistics.
The Orioles went 12-12 in March/April. They batted .265 with 17 home runs and averaged 4.5 runs per game. They had a 4.49 team ERA - 4.74 from the starters and 4.03 from the bullpen.
The Orioles were 15-15 in May. They batted .260 with 37 homers and averaged 3.9 runs per game. They had a 4.00 team ERA - 4.29 from the starters and 3.48 from the bullpen.
The Orioles went 16-12 in June. Anyone surprised that they were four games above .500? They batted .270 with 46 homers and averaged 4.45 runs per game. They had a 3.43 team ERA - 3.47 from the starters and 3.35 from the bullpen.
Anyone care to predict which Orioles will represent the American League in the All-Star Game?
Nelson Cruz should be voted in as the designated hitter. Adam Jones currently ranks fifth among outfielders, and while he's not likely to move into the top three, he has an excellent chance to be selected as a reserve.
Nick Markakis has never made it, and Jones figures to go ahead of him again this year. I can't imagine both of them being on the roster.
Closer Zach Britton, with a 1.49 ERA and 10 saves, has an outside chance. He's been scored upon only once in his last 13 appearances, and those four runs in New York upped his ERA from 0.72 to 1.64.
Steve Pearce has no chance because he's appeared in only 46 games games - the guy was out of a job for a while, as you may recall - but I'd love to count his write-in votes coming out of Baltimore.
Cruz and Rafael Palmeiro are tied for third place in club history for most home runs before the break. Davis set the record last year with 37, and Brady Anderson hit 30 in 1996.
Jonathan Schoop has three straight multi-hit games and is 6-for-12 in that stretch.
The Orioles have hit 14 home runs in the first inning this season, tied for their most in any inning.
The Orioles have homered in 11 straight games and 16 of their last 17. The 11-game streak is their longest since they homered in 13 straight on Aug. 1-16, 2013.