The pen has been mightier

During a weekend when the O's starters pitched to an ERA of 8.16, the performance of the Baltimore bullpen was a real key in the O's three-game sweep of Washington.

Here is the game-by-game rundown:

Friday: 4 2/3IP, 4H, 0R, 0B, 3K
Saturday: 5IP, 1H, 0R, 1B, 2K
Sunday: 3IP, 2H, 0R, 1B, 4K

Totals: 12 2/3IP, 7H, 0R, 2B, 9K.

That is 12 2/3 shutout innings over the last three games. Mark Hendrickson and Jason Berken pitched twice in the series while Alfredo Simon and Will Ohman pitched in all three games.

Simon got the win on Friday and picked up saves number eight and nine on Saturday and Sunday.

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The bullpen ERA for the season was reduced from 4.74 to 4.43 over the weekend.

It was not just the success they had, but how they did it.

Sunday, Jason Berken entered a tie game and recorded a 1-2-3 seventh inning on just 13 pitches. Ohman gave up two hits in the eighth, but David Hernandez came in throwing major heat and struck out Josh Willingham and Roger Bernadina on six pitches, all strikes. He was overpowering with his mid 90's fastball.

Over his last three games, Hernandez has fanned seven in just 3 1/3 innings. So that's seven of ten outs on strikeouts. He really has embraced the relief role and comes in throwing gas and going right at the hitters with no hesitation at all.

Simon had a second straight mostly drama-free save and is now 9 for 10 in save chances on the year.

Since he suffered his only blown save, giving up four runs on May 15 vs. Cleveland, Simon has pitched to an ERA of 2.79 over his last nine games, going 4 for 4 in saves in that time.

The O's have the makings of a good back-end of the pen. With Koji back and maybe a healthy Mike Gonzalez on the way, the outlook for the bullpen is suddenly much brighter.

It's no longer dicey every time the O's take a lead into the ninth inning.

The pen has been mighty. At least lately.

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