Tommy Hunter looking to get past those fifth-inning struggles

Tommy Hunter takes the mound tonight for the Orioles in Toronto. Hunter is 2-2 on the year over nine starts with an ERA of 5.07. He has recorded four quality starts.

Hunter has proven to be a very good pitcher at times - especially in the first four innings of his starts.

His ERA this year is 2.75 during the first four innings, but goes up to 9.47 from the fifth inning on. That is a clear trend, even though it is a small sample size of just nine starts.

Makes you wonder if he tires somewhat at that point or hitters get a better read on his pitches the second or third time through the order. It also could be that he loses some effectiveness with those pitches as the game wears on. It also could be a combination of all of the above.

No doubt Rick Adair and Buck Showalter are very aware of this stat and are making efforts to help Hunter get this turned around.

In four road starts this year, Hunter is 0-1 with an ERA of 7.43 and over his last four starts, he is 0-1 with an ERA of 6.17.

I guess you may not be overconfident about tonight's game when seeing these stats, but as they say, that is why they play the games. If the Blue Jays hitters get to Hunter tonight it won't be because the stat sheet said they would. And just because Hunter has these numbers on his record, it doesn't mean he can't or won't pitch a gem tonight at Rogers Centre.

Speaking of that stadium, when the Orioles took two of three at Toronto from April 13-15, it was their first series win there since June 2008. They lost the final game of that series or they would have had their first three-game sweep in Toronto since April 2005.

Maybe Rogers Centre is no longer a house of horrors for the Orioles and maybe Hunter will pitch well tonight after the fourth inning.

Other notes about the Birds:

* The Orioles are 10-5-1 in series play this year, but have now lost back-to-back series for the first time in 2012. They are 15-6 in road games this year and 6-1 in road series.

* Toronto has allowed 47 runs in losing five in a row. The Blue Jays were outscored 34-16 in getting swept over the weekend at Texas. Their starters pitched to an ERA of 18.33 and their bullpen was called on to pitch 18 2/3 innings in that series.

* The Orioles have now lost their last four games decided by two runs or less to fall to 16-8 in those games on the year.

* The Orioles have scored just five runs with 19 left on base the last two games, going just 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position Saturday and Sunday.

* Adam Jones takes an 18-game hitting streak into this series, a career best for him and the longest current active streak in the majors. Jones is batting .338 (25-for-74) during the streak with six homers and 14 RBIs.

* Over his last 20 games, J.J. Hardy is batting .360 (32-for-89) with seven doubles, a triple, six homers and 16 RBIs. He has reached base safely in 28 of his last 31 games.

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