The Orioles offense looks good enough to make the playoffs. The bullpen, most nights, is good enough. The defense is plenty good enough. That leaves the rotation. Will the O's rotation be good enough?
The latest version of the O's five-man rotation - one that includes both Wei-Yin Chen and Scott Feldman - just completed its first turn Sunday, and the early returns were promising. There were four quality starts, a 4-1 record for the team and a starters' ERA of 3.82 for those five games. Had Jason Hammel not given up six runs, it would have looked even better.
At the All-Star break last season, the starting pitching ERA for the Orioles was 4.77 and the club went 45-40. This season, the starters' ERA is 4.79 at the break and the team is 53-43. Yep, almost identical first-half ERA stats for the starters.
But last season, the starters' ERA was 4.01 after the break and the Orioles went 48-29. From Aug. 1 on, O's starters worked to an ERA of 3.85 through the end of the regular season, going 38-20 in that time.
Could a similar improvement occur again? If it does, it's very likely the O's will be in the hunt to the end of the season.
Here are reasons to be encouraged:
* Chen missed two months, but now is back and gave up just one run in seven innings against Texas in his return. He has recorded six quality starts among his nine outings. Being out two months will ensure his arm is strong through the end of the year.
* Miguel Gonzalez is on a roll right now. He has recorded an O's season-high seven straight quality starts, pitching to an ERA of 2.49 in that time. He looks poised for another strong finish.
* Chris Tillman is 7-1 with a 3.54 ERA over his last eight starts. He has become a bulldog out there and his 2013 season has proven that his 2012 year was not a fluke.
* Feldman provided a second very good start among his three outings Sunday. He's excited to be back in a pennant race. He's comfortable on an O's team filled with some of his former Texas teammates and led by his first big league manager in Buck Showalter. I stand by my assessment the day this trade was made that he could be this year's version of Joe Saunders for the O's.
That leaves Hammel as the weak link. He needs to get his sinker back and start pitching better. It's getting late for him and he acknowledged that much after his last start.
But if the O's get four of their five starters going, well, that should be enough to make the playoffs, in my opinion. They got four quality starts in that last turn through the rotation and not surprisingly, went 4-1 in those games.
The ever-evolving O's rotation has now taken another shape. Will this one be good enough to get this team back to the playoffs?