Taking the rotation for another spin

BOSTON - Does everyone remember the Orioles’ magic number for winning the American League East?

Number nine, number nine, number nine, number nine.

Hope that helps.

Chris Tillman wasn’t particularly sharp last night - 108 pitches in five innings offered a clue - but he escaped a jam in the fifth and held the Red Sox to one run. Not a quality start, but a winning one.

Nice little rotation the Orioles have built for themselves.

chen pitching white sidebar.jpgFresh eyes may have been the slogan going into spring training, but fresh arms are carrying this team into the playoffs. Well, fresh arms and a bunch of home runs.

The five current starters have ERAs below 4.00. Tillman’s dropped to 3.36 after last night. He joins Wei-Yin Chen (3.69), Miguel Gonzalez (3.22), Bud Norris (3.92) and Kevin Gausman (3.83).

Manager Buck Showalter, pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti - the latter viewed as a second pitching coach in this organization - have done an outstanding job monitoring innings and making sure the pitchers are strong down the stretch. Gausman is full-go now, with no restrictions. Gonzalez and Chen appear to have full tanks due to the extra rest provided earlier in the summer.

Tillman was pushed back a day in back-to-back starts as a way to freshen him up. The schedule allowed it. And Showalter can maneuver around a schedule as well as any manager in the game.

Is the rotation good enough to take this team deep into October? That’s what I’m asked in every radio interview, every podcast, and every time I walk out of my house.

There’s no true No. 1 starter. No ace. No Kershaw or Verlander or King Felix or...

The Orioles pitchers hear it and largely ignore it. The front office’s attempts to acquire another starter at the non-waiver trade deadline wasn’t taken as an insult. The intent to upgrade was appreciated, but not deemed as necessary.

Going into last night, the rotation’s 3.75 ERA ranked sixth in the American League (the Mariners were first at 3.30, the Twins last at 5.09). And that’s including Ubaldo Jimenez’s 4.96 ERA, which pumps air into the collective total.

The 58 wins were tied for third in the American League, three behind the Tigers, who led the pack. The 40 losses were second-fewest behind the Angels (37). The 98 home runs allowed were third-fewest.

Appearing yesterday on MLB Network Radio, outfielder Nelson Cruz said, “We don’t have the ace other teams have, but we have the guys that compete, throw a lot of innings and throw strikes.”

Memo to the Rays: Working fast also is a plus.

Chen is 4-3 with a 4.61 ERA in 10 career starts against the Red Sox, and 2-2 with a 5.79 ERA in six starts at Fenway Park. The current group is batting .357 (51-for-143) against him.

Dustin Pedroia is the biggest problem, and not because he refuses to shave that beard. He’s 14-for-27 (.519) with five doubles and a triple against Chen.

Pedroia didn’t play last night because of left wrist/hand inflammation and he may be shut down for the rest of the season. Problem solved.

David Ortiz is 7-for-18 (.389) with a home run and five RBIs, Will Middlebrooks is 8-for-19 (.421) with two doubles, Daniel Nava is 7-for-13 (.538) with a home run and Jackie Bradley Jr. - he still sounds like a Martin Short character from SCTV - is 3-for-6.

Mike Napoli only has three hits in 17 at-bats, but they’re a double and two home runs.

Brandon Workman hasn’t allowed a run against the Orioles in 10 2/3 innings in five career appearances, including one start. He’s 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA in nine home games this season and 1-3 with a 4.54 ERA in eight games on the road. Opponents are batting .271 against him at Fenway Park and .226 on the road.

Current Orioles are 3-for-33 vs. Workman. Kelly Johnson has the most at-bats with six, and his one hit is a home run.

blog comments powered by Disqus