The starting rotation takes a turn for the better (updated)

When Miguel Gonzalez gave up just one run over eight innings last night, it was the Orioles' latest good outing from a starting pitcher.

The starters have been inconsistent most of the year. Don't look now, but they have been on a recent nine-game roll.

Over those nine games - beginning with Kevin Gausman's outing where he allowed one run in six innings June 2 against Detroit - O's starters have produced seven quality starts over the last nine games.

In those seven games, the starters gave up two earned runs or less each time. The starters' ERA is 3.91 in that nine-game run, but in the two starts where they didn't get a quality start, the pitcher allowed 13 earned runs. Take away those two and the ERA is 1.97 in the other seven games.

The O's still have plenty of improving to do in this area. The starting pitching ERA has been reduced from 4.92 to 4.77 in that stretch. That still ranks only 12th in the American League. The AL average is 4.25.

But for this recent stretch, the starters are getting better and the ERA is trending lower.

Quality starts over the last nine games:

2-for-2 - Gonzalez and Chris Tillman
1-for-1 - Jason Hammel
1-for-2 - Gausman and Freddy Garcia

Hammel pitches today trying to improve on a home record of 1-3 with a 7.33 ERA in five Camden Yards starts. Hammel has been pitching better, allowing two earned runs or less in three of his last four starts.

From the minors: It was just a two-inning outing, but it was an important one last night for Bowie right-hander Oliver Drake, who pitched in a game for the first time since last May 28. Drake pitched two shutout innings of relief for the Baysox in his first game since having shoulder surgery last Aug. 20.

During spring training, Drake, who was once on the O's 40-man roster, explained the procedure he had done last August:

"They had to shrink, I think proper term is, they shrunk a capsule basically in my shoulder and they had to tighten it up. It was stretched out to be twice the size of a normal capsule. They had to shrink that because the tendon was moving around in there and aggravating it."

He had been rehabbing and pitching in extended spring training, but now his comeback continues with actual game action for Bowie.

Updated: Trying to get another quality start today, Hammel has allowed two runs over four innings and this game is tied 2-2 in the fourth. The Angels have hit several balls hard off Hammel so far, even some loud outs.

In the last of the third today, Nate McLouth was caught stealing, snapping a streak of 19 straight steals, the third-longest streak in O's history. Brady Anderson had a streak of 36 in a row and Luis Aparicio had 21 in a row.

McLouth beat the throw but was called out by Joe West as his foot apparently came off the bag. Buck Showalter argued, but he wasn't going to win that argument.

Too bad for McLouth. If that streak were going to end, it would have been more fitting to actually have a catcher that threw him out to end it.

Make it 3-2 now as Chris Davis hit his 21st homer in the last of the fourth. That snaps an eight-game stretch where Davis didn't have a homer or an RBI.

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