O’s notes on the bullpen, the rotation and the team at the 54-game mark

The Orioles lost 6-2 to Boston on Tuesday night. They fell to 0-2 in a big four-game series and dropped to three games out of first place. They scored just four total runs Monday and Tuesday against the Red Sox.

Now three games and 31 runs later, the Orioles are back tied for first place. They are outscoring their opponents, winning those three games even though they allowed 21 runs in them to the Red Sox and Yankees

They are playing without shortstop J.J. Hardy. Now they will play for a time without eighth-inning reliever Darren O’Day. Their offense is inconsistent and their starting rotation is currently springing some leaks. Despite all that, the Orioles would be 32-22 with a win tonight at exactly the one-third point of this season. That would represent a 96-win pace.

So things are, overall, pretty good.

On their first night without O’Day, the Orioles bullpen pitched 3 1/3 scoreless in Friday’s 6-5 comeback win over the Yankees. Zach Britton picked up his 16th save in 16 chances. If some pitchers have to take on additional responsibility without O’Day, Britton said the Orioles relievers are ready for that.

zach_britton-sidebar_pitching.jpg“Absolutely,” Britton said. “Brad (Brach) is throwing the ball outstanding and he can do a bunch of different things, too. I’ve thrown multiple innings, so if some guy has to throw more innings than he is accustomed to, that is just the way it has to be. We have to win some of these games now, too.

“Mychal (Givens), he’s going to get the opportunity to throw in some maybe higher-leverage situations and he’s capable. (Dylan) Bundy is capable. Vance Worley has shown that he can throw the ball well in tight situations. We’ve brought up T.J. (McFarland). Brian Duensing has been around for a long time and he can do it. I’ve watched him do it against us. I think we are going to be okay. We hope Darren takes his time and it (his injured hamstring) heals properly so we can get him for the rest of the season.”

Catcher Matt Wieters talked about the bullpen’s scoreless night and ability to protect the late one-run lead.

“Big. Our bullpen, we’ve always felt, is a strength,” Weiters said. “No matter who is out there. Mychal did a great job tonight. Had to throw a lot of pitches to Alex (Rodriguez) to get him out but still was able to get him out. It was big for him to go three up and three down in that (eighth) inning so we could get Zach in there with the left-handers coming up.”

The Orioles trailed 5-2 after the top of the sixth last night. They tied the game in the last of the inning on Wieters’ two-run single and Jonathan Schoop’s RBI double. In the seventh, the Orioles pushed across the go-ahead run off right-hander Dellin Betances.

Adam Jones and Hyun Soo Kim singled to put runners on first and third with no outs and Manny Machado’s slow roller to third scored Jones for the 6-5 O’s lead that the bullpen made stand up. That put a loss on Betances’ record.

“He’s tough,” Wieters said. “That seventh, eighth, ninth for them is tough. Jonesey down 0-2 to Betances. He really had to stick his nose in there to get that hit. Kim just finding a barrel.”

And the Orioles finding another victory - one that puts them back into a share of first place in the American League East.

Going into last night’s game, Betances had a career ERA of 0.78 in 20 games versus the Orioles with a batting average against of .152. This season he was averaging 17.5 strikeouts for every nine innings. But now Betances has been scored on in three straight outings, raising his ERA from 1.93 to 3.04. Not only did he take the loss Friday night, but he has now thrown 44 pitches the last two nights, probably making him unavailable to New York tonight and maybe for Sunday’s game as well.

But we also know that the O’s pitching will need to tighten it up pretty soon. Yes, they have won three in a row while allowing 21 runs. Over the last seven games, the Orioles staff has given up 49 runs.

The O’s starting rotation has just one quality start the past nine games with an ERA of 7.89 in that span. Over the last 18 games, the rotation has produced just five quality starts with an ERA of 6.49.

Can the O’s starting pitchers turn it around? Can the O’s withstand O’Day’s injury? Can the O’s inconsistent up-and-down offense begin to have more ups than downs?

As the season reaches the 33-percent point today, the Orioles have a solid record and are contending for a division title. It will be fascinating to see how it all plays out in the remaining 67 percent of the 2016 season.

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