May 27, 2012
Bullpen buoys Baltimore
By Mike Ganter, QMI Agency
A week ago the picture of the Baltimore Orioles seemed a lot rosier.
They were the top team in the American League, were riding some improbable performances from some unexpected roster players and were on top of the world.
A week later, the roof has not caved in, but the bloom has come off that rose.
The O’s with a loss Sunday to the Royals have now lost consecutive series for the first time this season.
Getting out of Baltimore and on the road against the Jays may be a good thing for them.
Baltimore has owned the Jays so far this season sweeping a two-game series at Toronto and then a three-game series in Baltimore, both in April.
Granted all five games were decided by three runs or less, but that is what the Orioles do this season, they win the close games.
A lot of it has to do with their vaunted, yet relatively unknown bullpen. Led by Jim Johnson — who has saved 24 consecutive games dating back to last August and is 16-for-16 this year — the O’s have held a huge advantage over its opponents from the seventh inning on.
Pedro Strop, Darren O’Day, Luis Ayala and Troy Patton have given Buck Showalter the kind of collective relief few managers in the Majors ever get to enjoy.
The Orioles are a full game back of the Rangers for the best record in the American League and now share top spot in the AL East with Tampa Bay after the Rays rallied in the ninth for a win in Boston on Sunday.
The hope in Baltimore is the glut of injured players that are on the verge of returning will help the team get back to the lofty heights they enjoyed earlier this season.
Second baseman Brian Roberts appears to have put his concussion problems behind him and is getting his work in right now with the O’s double-A team in Bowie. With Roberts in Bowie and headed for a return to Baltimore to join the O’s at some point in June is starter Zach Britton.
Britton, in his first rehab start Sunday, threw 88 pitches over five innings. He’ll require at least a few more tuneups before he’s ready to return. He was shut down in spring training with shoulder problems.
Mark Reynolds and Endy Chavez are also working their way back so Showalter should have some nice decisions to make in the not-too-distant future.
Right now his team could use a bit of a lift.
UP NEXT Baltimore Orioles
Monday, 7:05 p.m., RHP Tommy Hunter (2-2, 5.07) at RHP Drew Hutchison (3-2, 5.73)
Tuesday, 7:05 p.m., RHP Jake Arrieta (2-5, 4.87) at LHP Ricky Romero (5-1, 3.86)
Wednesday, 7:05 p.m., RHP Jason Hammel (6-1, 2.78) at RHP Brandon Morrow (5-3, 3.47)
.241 AVG .250
26th RANK .15th
63 HR 72
4th RANK 1st
.713 OPS .755
17th RANK 6th
3.89 STARTERS’ ERA 4.19
14th RANK T19th
4.29 PEN’S ERA 2.45
T23rd RANK 3rd
Hardy went into Sunday’s game having reached base safely in 27 of his past 30 games. Since the beginning of May he has raised his average from .185 to .262. In the month he has hit seven homers and driven in 18 runs.
Johnson did literally nothing for the Orioles offence in the month of April. He was 0-for-26 for the month. May has been another story. In 16 games this month, Johnson has been very productive hitting .317 with four homers and 10 RBI’s. His OPS for the month is a stunning 1.124. It was .113 in April.
Jones is in the midst of an American League best hitting streak in 2012. He stretched the streak to 18 consecutive games with a double in Sunday’s loss to the Royals. Over he course of the streak he is hitting .343 with 6 HR’s and 13 RBIs.
The O’s catcher came out of the gate very strongly but has been struggling of late. Since May 8th his batting average has dropped from .300 all the way down to .230. Worse the power numbers that was driving his success have all but fallen off. In April Wieters had six home runs. Almost through May now, he has only added two more.
Second baseman Adino was hitting a robust .342 on May 2nd. His average has fallen to .259 since then thanks to a 16-87 (.184) skid that has included all of four extra base hits. Suddenly that decision about making room for Brian Roberts doesn’t look so tough for Buck Showalter.
Two clubs that are both in a bit of a free fall at the moment. The O’s are coming off a disappointing homestand where they dropped consecutive series to the Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals. With the loss Sunday to the Royals, the O’s now own a home record of just a game over .500. The trip might be a welcome reprieve. Away from Camden Yards the Orioles are 15-6 and despite the series loss to the Red Sox in the first three games of the just-completed homestand, are more than holding their own against AL East competition. Dating back to Sept. 7 of last season, the O’s are 24-14 against their American League East divisional opponents. And the O’s are catching the Blue Jays are their most vulnerable right now. Coming out of Texas where the Rangers beat up on Jays starters Brandon Morrow, Henderson Alvarez and Kyle Drabek, the Jays will be looking to youngster Drew Hutchison to right the ship in the opener. Staff ace Ricky Romero has also struggled of late so the odds do not look to be in Toronto’s favour.
The O’s, even with their recent struggles still come into Toronto and get two of three. Normally with Romero and Morrow going in a series, you would like the Jays’ chances at the win and possible a sweep, but both are coming off rocky starts (Romero with control issues and Morrow having been pasted in Texas). We’ll give the visitors the edge in this one.