Going into the All-Star break, the Orioles were playing well. That high level of play has continued as the Orioles have won each of their last three series.
Coming out of the All-Star break, the team swept the Texas Rangers. The offense has been as advertised and the starting pitching has stepped up in a big way. Each starter since the end of the All-Star break has gone 6 or more innings with Chris Tillman going 8 in a 4-2 win over the Texas Rangers on July 21st.
While the Orioles don’t have an ace, each member of their starting lineup is solid. They won’t blow anyone away. But when they are called upon, they give the Orioles a chance to win. Expect to see this formula throughout the rest of the season.
Although each starter gives them a chance to win, the rest of the season will see some struggles. Mainly, from Jason Hammel. In the only loss since the All-Star break, Hammel gave up ten hits. Those ten hits came over six innings, the shortest outing any starter has made in the last five games. Over those six innings, Hammel also gave up 3 earned runs and struck out 4 batters.
Although Hammel struggled, he played well enough for the Orioles to win. The offense just could not take advantage of Adam Jones reaching third base in the ninth inning.
This could become an issue late in the season. I don’t think the Orioles are a balanced enough team to make a deep run in the playoffs. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Orioles can make the playoffs but I am still uncertain of exactly how far they can make it.
The Orioles have also made an effort to improve their bullpen. Yesterday, the Orioles traded prospect Nick Delmonico to the Milwaukee Brewers for RHP Francisco Rodriguez. Last season, the bullpen was a strength of the team as they ranked fifth in the majors with a 3.00 ERA. This season, that ERA has dropped significantly to 3.68, good for 17th in the majors.
“K-Rod” will take over for the open spot left by Padro Strop. But K-Rod also has experience in a closing role. Because Jim Johnson’s job is safe, Rodriguez is an excellent option for late inning action.
With the starting rotation performing well and the offense the Orioles possess, the second half of the season will be a great one. The upcoming series against the Red Sox will be very telling of how far this team can go.