Notes on O’s pitching, Yovani Gallardo and Michael Saunders

Captain Obvious said the Orioles need to start giving up fewer runs against the Toronto Blue Jays. They have allowed 10, 11 and 13 runs in their last three games against the Blue Jays. They actually almost won one of those games, losing 10-9 last Sunday at Rogers Centre.

But the O’s are 3-5 this year against the Blue Jays and they’ve allowed 52 runs in those games. Over those last three games, the Orioles have allowed 34 runs, 40 hits and 10 homers against Toronto.

There has to be a concern for the Orioles that they have pitched poorly often this year against the two teams that are now just one game behind them for the division lead - Boston and Toronto.

O’s team ERA against AL East teams:
* 1.88 with 2-1 record versus Tampa Bay
* 3.44 with 4-2 record against New York
* 5.52 with 6-4 record versus Boston
* 6.46 with 3-5 record against Toronto

Go time for Gallardo: Right-hander Yovani Gallardo returns to the Orioles’ rotation today for the first time since April 22. While I would caution fans to give him four or five starts before judging him, I know better. Some fans will pronounce him a great addition or bust after one or two innings today and they will look only at radar gun readings. I think they will be missing a few things, but that is the nature of it right now. It is about instant reactions and judgements. These often prove wrong.

Before you think pitching Gallardo against Toronto is a recipe for trouble, let me point that last year Gallardo made two regular-season starts against the 2015 Blue Jays team that led the majors in scoring. He went 2-0 with an ERA of 0.00 in those games. Over 13 2/3 innings he allowed six hits (all singles) and Toronto hit .136 against him. He also beat the Blue Jays in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, allowing two runs over five innings. So that is two runs allowed over 18 2/3 innings in 2015 versus Toronto.

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Asking him to do that today is probably asking for too much. But it would be a good sign to see some of the late life and movement on the ball that Gallardo said he had in three rehab starts. A Gallardo pitching with late life and movement and solid command could and should look more like the pitcher that went 13-11 with a 3.42 ERA for Texas last season. The O’s rotation could use a pitcher like that right now.

The last five games, O’s starters have pitched 1/3, seven, three, eight and 3 2/3 innings. The O’s rotation has an ERA of 7.15 the past eight games. That won’t get it done, obviously. Can Gallardo return today and provide a lift?

Saunders sizzles versus the O’s: When fans look at the Toronto lineup they often worry about players like Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion. Those three are pretty good. But they have five combined homers this year against the Orioles. After hitting three last night, Michael Saunders has five homers by himself this year against Baltimore pitching.

In last weekend’s four-game series in Toronto, Saunders went 9-for-16 with two homers against the Orioles. On the season he has these remarkable numbers in eight games versus the Baltimore staff: A batting average of .545 (18-for-33) with six doubles, five homers and 12 RBIs to go with a slugging percentage of 1.182 and OPS of 1.749. Over his last three games against the O’s, Saunders is 9-for-13 with four homers and 10 RBIs.

Before you think they’ll never get this guy out, they will at some point. Hopefully more sooner than later. On May 31-June 1, Boston’s Mookie Betts hit five homers against the Orioles. In the four games since then he is 4-for-16 with no homers and one RBI against Baltimore pitchers.

So the Orioles are still 10 games over the .500 mark. But their lead over the Blue Jays and Red Sox is down to one game. They have played their last eight games against Boston and Toronto, going 3-5.

They could use a win today. They could use a well-pitched game this afternoon at Camden Yards.

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