O's get strong pitching on the farm Friday, but it's a different story for the big club

Well, let's start on a positive note this morning, and it comes from last night on the Orioles farm, where pitchers Kevin Gausman, Tyler Wilson and Hunter Harvey combined to pitch 16 2/3 shutout innings.

At Triple-A Norfolk, Gausman went 4 2/3 innings before leaving due to his pitch count reaching 71. He gave up three hits and two walks and had six strikeouts. Left-handed batters were just 1-for-10 with five strikeouts against Gausman, who now has put together a 13 2/3-inning shutout streak dating to last season at Norfolk.

At Double-A Bowie, Wilson went six scoreless on four hits with no walks and five strikeouts. At Single-A Delmarva, Harvey pitched six shutout innings on three hits and one walk with five strikeouts. Harvey picked up his first win at the pro level last night.

So that is 16 2/3 combined innings on 10 hits and three walks with 16 strikeouts. Not a bad night for that trio of pitching prospects.

Meanwhile, the big club is off to a rough 1-3 start. The starters' ERA is 7.20 on the year and the Orioles offense has produced just 11 runs with a team average of .214 with a .259 OBP and slugging percentage of .298. O's batters have walked just eight times and struck out 34 times.

So, yeah, this start is bad and not what anyone had in mind. But it is just four games. Now if the poor play lingers into 10, 12 or, say, 15 games or so, that would be a big problem. A 3-7 or a 5-10 start would be ugly and the Orioles would need some time to dig out of such a hole.

Since Chris Tillman gave up just one run on opening day, O's starters have pitched 15 innings over the past three games, giving up 26 hits, including four homers, and 15 runs for an ERA of 9.00.

The Tigers had scored just six runs on 14 hits in their first two games, but battered Miguel Gonzalez and the Orioles for 10 runs and 17 hits yesterday, and now have a 3-0 start.

On the year, O's starting pitchers have yielded a batting average of .375. Over the last two games, opposing hitters are batting .477 (21-for-44) off Wei-Yin Chen and Gonzalez.

Here is a startling stat: Through four games, no O's starter has recorded a single 1-2-3 inning. Four games, four starters and not one such inning. Yikes.

Sure, the O's haven't hit much yet, but the pitching is the bigger issue for me. I expect that this team will score plenty of runs eventually, but the starting pitching has always been the question. It looked better on paper when the season began, now it needs to look good on the field.

Gausman had a good outing last night. Is he already pushing for a spot on the big club? I would say yes, but I don't expect to see the O's pull the plug on any of their starters before we have even gone one time through the rotation.

Bud Norris will try to be a stopper this afternoon at Comerica Park. Last season, he went 4-3 with a 4.80 ERA in 11 O's games. He gave up a .298 batting average overall and an average of .333 with an OPS of .952 against left-handed hitters. If he doesn't come up big today, the O's could be looking at 1-4 and they'd have to beat Justin Verlander tomorrow to avoid a three-game sweep.

Is it too early to call this a big game today?

Meanwhile, getting back to the farm, Bowie routed Harrisburg 9-0 last night. The Baysox are 2-0 with 21 runs and 33 hits, including nine doubles. Micheal Ohlman is 4-for-7 and Christian Walker is 5-for-10. Garabez Rosa has started 4-for-8 with a homer and seven RBIs for the Baysox.

"He is swinging the bat really well," Bowie manager Gary Kendall said of Rosa. "He is a good fastball hitter and he is making strides to hit the breaking ball and off-speed pitches. He puts good swings on pitches and he has come a long way as a hitter. Down at the bottom of the order, we think we can get him some protection. He is kind of hidden down there."

For Single-A Frederick, which is 1-1, Creede Simpson is 4-for-10 with four RBIs. Glynn Davis is 3-for-8 with five runs, two RBIs and a stolen base. ForDelmarva, which is 1-1, Jeff Kemp has started 4-for-7 and Mike Yastrzemski is 3-for-9 with two RBIs.

Catcher Caleb Joseph had a two-run single to lead Norfolk to a 4-2 win over Charlotte last night. The Tides began the season going without a run in their first 16 innings until they scored four in the last of the eighth to get that win. Brad Brach was the winning pitcher in relief and Kelvin De La Cruz picked up the save.

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