85 contests into the 2013 campaign and the Baltimore Orioles find themselves 3 1/2 games back of the Boston Red Sox. Although I’d rather see the Birds in 1st place as opposed to 2nd, it’s not the worst position to be in. Especially considering their record against the Division Leaders.
5-2 in 2013, 18-7 since 2012.
Now I’m no genius, but it would seem to me that if the Birds of Baltimore are only a few games back come the end of the season, getting a series against the BoSox could only be advantageous. Well what do ya know, we finish out the season with a 3 game homestand against those very chowderheads… Anticipate on the yard being just a little bit electric for that set.
As you watch this team you get the feeling that they could be serious contenders for an ALCS Crown, or dare we ever imagine, a World Series Championship. You only get that feeling on certain nights though. It just so happens to be the nights that 1 of 3 players are on the field.
Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, or Wei-Yin Chen.
Don’t get me wrong; every time Chris Davis, Manny Machado, and Adam Jones walk into the batters box you get the feeling as well, but when you have the three pitchers mentioned above on the mound this team looks close to unbeatable. In fact, when those same three pitchers are on the mound the team is 26-13.
So what is holding this team back from becoming a true World Series contender?
Hint: It’s not an acquisition from the Chicago Cubs of Scott Feldman (7-6, 3.43 ERA, 73 SO or if you like career numbers as a better barometer 46-50, 4.65 ERA, 506 SO)
It’s two starters you can trust handing the ball over to on the 4th and 5th game of a playoff series.
Right now Buck Showalter does not have that. Unfortunately, Buck doesn’t have a problem placing that trust in Jason Hammel. Lately that trust has been hard to attest for. Last years “ace” has lost his last 3 decisions and hasn’t been credited with a win since May 27th, against the Washington Nationals. Granted, in one of those losses he only allowed 2 earned runs in 6 & 2/3 innings, but without Wei-Yin Chen in the starting rotation and ????? ??????? as your fifth starter, this is the time when the Orioles needed Hammel to step up to his early 2012 caliber and he did not do it.
More of a problem than Jason Hammel, is the wishy washy assortment of bull pen/youngin’s vying for the 5th starting spot. TJ McFarland is an awful starter. He may become a solid bull pen guy, but I don’t want to see that guy starting a game EVER again (for the record can we get the mustache back please?) Steve Johnson seems like a legitimate option but injuries have held him back from having the opportunity. We don’t need to throw stones at the fragile head that is Jake Arrieta anymore, he’s just a “filthy stuff having” memory of our past that now resides in the Windy City.
Zach Britton and Kevin Gausman seem like the two most feasible options. Gausman struggled in his first few starts but then in his last 3 outings has gone 10 & 2/3 allowing just 2 earned runs. Buck obviously does not trust giving the starts to 22 year old at this point and it is being rumored that with Wei-Yin Chen’s return Gausman will be optioned back to the minors. Zach Britton on the other hand, in 16 innings through June has only allowed 5 earned runs.
My take on the whole starting pitching ordeal.
1. Chris Tillman 2. Miguel Gonzalez 3. Wei-Yin Chen 4. Jason Hammel 5. Scott Feldman
1-4 is a no-brainer in my opinion. Although Jason Hammel has had his struggles of late, to this point wearing the black and orange he has been solid for this team and I think he can get it back together.
While Wei-Yin Chen is getting his second rehab start down in Bowie give the former Cub Scott Feldman his chance and see if he can provide this pitching staff with a shot in the arm. Give Zach Britton the starts until he proves he’s not worthy of them or until Chen returns and get Kevin Gausman regular work in the minors.
Best case scenario for the O’s, Zach Britton pitches well, Wei-Yin Chen returns to form, and Scott Feldman enters the bullpen as a long reliever.
That being said, Buck Showalter has forgotten more about baseball then I will ever know and until we are no longer battling for a top spot in the AL East, IN BUCK WE TRUST.