Sunday's shutout was latest example of Orioles' improved pitching

Yes, there are concerns about season innings limits for several pitchers and yes there have been concerns about the O’s middle relief and getting rest for their late game bullpen flamethrowers.

But while those concerns are still out there and valid, the Orioles keep winning and their pitching staff seems to have hit a higher gear recently.

In taking two of three against the New York Yankees last weekend, the Orioles gave up three runs in their two wins. In taking three of four at Toronto, they allowed 10 runs in the series. In sweeping three from the New York Mets, they allowed six runs in the series and produced the season’s sixth shutout with Sunday’s four-hitter.

The O’s team ERA is 4.04 to rank eighth in the American League. That is respectable but they are trending up with their pitching as their team ERA is going down. The current mark is the lowest O’s team ERA since May 25.

In going 7-1 the last eight games, the team ERA is 2.15. In going 21-7 the last 28 games, their ERA is 3.23.

They’ve allowed seven runs during a four-game win streak and just 19 over the last eight games.

The O’s bullpen came up huge Sunday as Cionel Pérez, Cole Irvin, Shintaro Fujinami and Félix Bautista combined for 4 1/3 scoreless on one hit. Over the last eight games, the Baltimore bullpen has allowed one earned run in 25 1/3 innings for an ERA of 0.36. That could work.

Fujinami threw nine pitches, all strikes, in an overpowering eighth inning. He averaged 101.5 mph on his fastball and topped at 102.6 mph. Throwing at a slightly slower speed, lefty Cole Irvin preceded him with a 12-pitch inning in the seventh. Before that Pérez got four huge outs and got out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth. And then Bautista put a bow on all of that in the ninth recording his AL-leading 30th save.

Bautista is trying to become the first Oriole to lead the league in saves since Zack Britton did so with 47 in 2016. Jim Johnson holds the club record with 51 in 2012.

The O’s staff got a reinforcement recently as right-hander Jack Flaherty was acquired from St. Louis. He made a great first impression in Toronto and touched 97 mph for the first time all year. He also got 19 swings and misses in that game – his second most of this year. He will make his home debut on Wednesday night against Houston at Camden Yards.

Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez will pitch tomorrow night against Houston. And Grayson has an ERA of 3.57 in four games since his return to the big leagues.

In 10 starts before he was sent back to the minors, Rodriguez allowed a .956 OPS and gave up 13 homers in 58 innings. In the four games since his return, he has allowed a .517 OPS and no homers over 22 2/3 innings.

He is a different pitcher, more confident now with better command than earlier and has an ERA of 2.86 in five AL East starts. He is now looking like the hurler once ranked as the top pitching prospect in the sport.

The Orioles are now playing .625 ball (70-42) and that is a full year pace to win 101 games. They are meeting every challenge but there is always another one around the corner. The Houston Astros are next.

Minor moves: There was some farm movement Sunday night I reported via a tweet and here are the moves.

* Joseph Rosa, Bowie to Norfolk.

* Max Wagner, Collin Burns & Max Costes, Aberdeen to Bowie.

* Carter Young, Delmarva to Aberdeen.

Giving back to the community: After Sunday's game, rather than just head home for rest, some Orioles headed out to an event to help people in the Baltimore community. Here with more on that is a message from pitcher Kyle Gibson. Click here for that. 





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