After being written off by some during the first part of July thanks to an extended slump, the Orioles have turned it on during the latter part of the month. As we all know, they have been plagued by problems with their starting rotation recently; however, over the past week, the Orioles have gotten four great starts in a row from the starting pitching, leading to a four-game win streak.
On Sunday, young southpaw Zach Britton continued that trend in only his second major league start of the year as the Orioles defeated the Cleveland Indians, 4-3. They have won five in a row and are now within only six games of the first-place Yankees. Well, in that regard, they still have a hill to climb to catch them, but they have been playing exceptionally well and took advantage of the Bombers getting swept over the weekend by the surging Oakland Athletics.
They are locked in a three-way tie for the two Wild Card spots with the aforementioned Athletics and Los Angeles Angels.
Britton was brilliant on the mound this Sunday, going six shutout innings and only allowed four hits, struck out five and walked two. Obviously, he did much better in this start than what we all saw in Minnesota and everyone saw a little bit of what him so promising last season. Britton had a tough first inning; however, he settled in and mowed down the Indians throughout the duration of his outing.
The Baltimore bullpen nearly erased they had built up by the ninth inning as they gave up three runs in the final frame. Luis Ayala, who had thrown two innings of scoreless relief before the ninth inning, allowed two runs, and Jim Johnson – who came in to pitch two outs – gave up another run before registering his 30th save.
The offense did enough to win on Sunday as J.J. Hardy plated in the three runs, plus hit 14th home run – a two run shot in the first inning. He has been struggling for most of the summer; however, it is nice to see his bat starting to pick up a little. The Orioles desperately need him to do his thing if they are going to hang in there. The top of the Baltimore lineup – slots one through five – really need to set the table and pick it up for the rest of the season.
Wilson Betemit – who had two hits – also plated in a run. Nick Markakis, who has done a good job in the leadoff spot, had two hits, both singles. I’m a little concerned about Nick and where his power has gone…
Let’s not overlook what Ryan Flaherty has done. He has been struggling with the Orioles as their Rule-5 pick; however, he hit two critical homers over the weekend to contribute to Baltimore’s victories. Although many have wondered why he is on the team, Flaherty has hit in the minors (Double-A), and now is maybe starting to get up to speed with major league pitching.
Baltimore goes for the four game sweep in Cleveland – for the first time since ’71 – on Monday.