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Despite starting pitching woes, Orioles somehow stay in first

Despite starting pitching woes, Orioles somehow stay in first

Three starting pitchers have ERAs above six runs per game. Not a single starter has pitched to a batter in the ninth inning, and on Wednesday, manager Buck Showalter had a most distasteful choice of who to start. 

He could have picked Mike Wright, who a few days earlier was sent down to the minor leagues with a 6.12 ERA. Instead of looking at Norfolk, he could have picked Jason Garcia, who spent much of last year on the active roster as a Rule 5 draft pick. Garcia’s ERA at Bowie is 4.95. 

Odrisamer Despaigne could have been the choice. He had a 1-6 record at Norfolk before he was called up last week, but he was needed in relief on Tuesday night. 

That pretty much left Ubaldo Jimenez, who had been sent to the bullpen after a horrifying start in Toronto, where he retired only one batter, the shortest Orioles start in nearly five years. 

After Jimenez’s creditable start where he struck out the last four batters he faced, his ERA fell to a still unsightly 6.97. 

With all these unpalatable choices, it would seem remarkable that the Orioles are first place, two games ahead of Boston in the AL East. 

The halfway point of the season is nearing; the Orioles have played 71 games, but they’ve been in first place for most of the season. 

Not only are Jimenez’s and Wright’s ERAs cartoonishly high, but so is Yovani Gallardo’s. In his five starts, Gallardo has pitched to a 6.26 ERA.

Kevin Gausman, who the Orioles thought would be a breakout starter, has failed to win any of his 12 starts.

With all these issues, how are the Orioles in first place? 

Chris Tillman is a primary reason. The Orioles are 11 games over .500, and Tillman himself at 10-1, is nine over. 
Of course, the bullpen has been stellar. While missing Darren O’Day and enduring the occasional hiccup like that of Mychal Givens on Tuesday night, Brad Brach (1.11 ERA) and Zach Britton (21 of 21 successful save opportunities and a 1.17 ERA), have been remarkable. 

Dan Duquette, the Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations knows that the team has to add a starting pitcher if it wants to hold onto first place and be a factor in the postseason. 

The number of starting pitchers available is likely to be small, and what do the Orioles have to offer?

Other than Christopher Lee, who’s now on the disabled list at Bowie, they seemingly have few attractive young pitchers to deal for a veteran. Perhaps Trey Mancini or Christian Walker will be part of a package deal. 

A year ago when the Orioles needed a right fielder, they traded for Milwaukee’s Gerardo Parra, and the pitcher they dealt, Zach Davies, 

Davies, who was drafted in the 26th round by the Orioles in 2011, has a 5-3 record with a 3.62 ERA and 1.148 WHIP with the Brewers. 

While Duquette concentrates on adding an additional starter, there’s not much he has to do elsewhere. 

He could also pick up a tertiary bullpen arm, like the just injured Brian Duensing. 

Barring injuries to the position players, the Orioles look set there. 

The offense has been as good as many predicted. The Orioles lead the majors in home runs and are on pace for 253 homers.

They have six players who should hit at least 20: Pedro Alvarez, Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop and Mark Trumbo. 

Davis has the lowest average (.230), and is on track to surpass 220 strikeouts, but hasn’t truly gotten hot, and still projects to hit 37. 

A year ago, Davis had 15 home runs in 70 games, and finished with 47.

Jones, who was off to a shockingly poor start, has righted himself since Showalter moved him to the leadoff spot. He’s batting .282 with a .311 on-base percentage. Jones has eight home runs in the 24 games he’s batted leadoff. 

Schoop’s offensive excellence hasn’t been unexpected, but it’s still been pleasant. He’s now hitting .285 with 12 homers and 42 RBIs. While Schoop still doesn’t walk enough (11 in 275 plate appearances), his defense has been fine, and adds another power threat to the lineup. 

Duquette’s offensive pickups for this year have been noteworthy. Trumbo, who was acquired for Steve Clevenger, has strong numbers (21 homers, .283 average, .891 OPS). Joey Rickard, who provided surprising offense at the season’s start and Hyun Soo Kim, with a .417 OBP, have provided some diversity to the lineup. 

Pedro Alvarez, who started slowly, is batting .314 in 15 June games with a 1.032 OPS. 

If the Orioles’ starting pitching can improve at least somewhat in the next 91 games, then we’ll have a lot to talk about for the next four months. 

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Indians' 14-hit victory hands Orioles 8th loss in 9 games

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USA TODAY Sports

Indians' 14-hit victory hands Orioles 8th loss in 9 games

BALTIMORE — The Cleveland Indians figured it would only be a matter of time before their struggling offense provided some support to a solid starting rotation.

Jose Ramirez and the rest of the batting order finally got into a groove Sunday, and the result was a 14-hit attack that carried Corey Kluber and the Indians past the Baltimore Orioles 7-3.

Cleveland came into the game with a .211 team batting average and ranked second-to-last in the AL in runs scored. On this day, however, Ramirez hit a solo shot in the fourth inning and a two-run drive in the ninth, and Yan Gomes had three hits to lift his batting average 41 points to .261.

"When things are not going my way, I stay positive and work it," Ramirez said through a translator. "I know eventually I'm going to break out."

Ramirez has three homers in two games and a team-leading seven for the season.

"I try not to do too much," Ramirez said. "I just look for a good pitch and then I hit it somewhere."

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Kluber yielded two home runs to Manny Machado, but the Indians twice came from behind before tacking on three runs in the ninth.

"I thought we did a pretty good job," manager Terry Francona said. "When they came back, we came back at them. We kept pushing and took some better swings."

Kluber (3-1) allowed three runs and six hits over seven-plus innings. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner walked none and struck out four to move past Charles Nagy into sixth place on the Indians' career strikeout list with 1,238.

"It doesn't matter if you feel you pitched well or didn't pitch well. The goal is to end the game with more runs they do," Kluber said. "That's what we did."

Machado's third multihomer game of the season wasn't enough to prevent the Orioles from losing for the ninth time in 10 games, a skid that has dropped them 10 games under .500 (6-16).

"You know what? There's no excuse for what's happening," Machado said. "We need to play better overall. Nobody is in here pointing fingers. We are in here together, and we are going to ride or die together."

Andrew Cashner (1-3) gave up four runs and eight hits in six innings, walking two and striking out seven. He's 0-3 with 7.41 ERA in three lifetime appearances against the Indians.

After Machado connected in the first inning, Cleveland went up 2-1 in the fourth when Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso hit successive doubles following a leadoff homer by Ramirez.

Baltimore regained the lead in the bottom half. After Machado homered, Adam Jones doubled and scored on a single by Chris Davis.

A pair of walks and run-scoring singles by Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley put the Indians up 4-3 in the fifth.

"Once you get the lead, you can't give it up," Cashner lamented.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Indians: CF Bradley Zimmer was a late scratch with a mild right ankle sprain. He was replaced by Rajai Davis.

Orioles: LF Trey Mancini missed a second straight game with a swollen right knee. ... DH Mark Trumbo (strained right quad) will begin a three-game stint with Double-A Bowie on Monday, then play three games with Triple-A Norfolk later in the week, manager Buck Showalter said. He won't be rushed to return. "It's important we get it right the first time," Showalter said.

WELL RESTED

Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin threw a side session Saturday and is expected to start Tuesday against the Cubs. Francona opted to skip Tomlin's last scheduled start Wednesday to reset the rotation after Cleveland had two straight games postponed last weekend.

UP NEXT

Indians: Carlos Carrasco (3-0, 3.48 ERA) starts the series finale Monday night. The right-hander is 9-0 with a 1.75 ERA over his past 11 starts since Aug. 27.

Orioles: RHP Kevin Gausman (1-1, 5.57) makes his fifth start of the season after allowing 27 hits -- including six homers -- over 21 innings.

RELATED: WHERE DO THE O'S FALL IN MLB STANDINGS?

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Orioles bats stay silent against Cleveland

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USA Today Sports Images

Orioles bats stay silent against Cleveland

BALTIMORE -- Mike Clevenger pitched a two-hitter in his first career complete game, and the Cleveland Indians hit three solo homers off Chris Tillman in a 4-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.

Jose Ramirez went 3 for 4 with his team-leading fifth home run. Yan Gomes and Yonder Alonso also went deep for Cleveland, which came into the game ranked second-to-last in the AL in runs and last in batting average.

Clevenger (2-0) hardly needed the offensive support. Pitching on seven days' rest, the right-hander struck out three, walked two and allowed only one runner past first base.

The only two hits he allowed were singles by Manny Machado in the fourth inning and Chance Sisco in the fifth.

It was Clevenger's 35th career start. His previous longest outing was 7 1/3 innings, earlier this month against Kansas City.

While Clevenger is unbeaten in 11 starts since July 31, Tillman has experienced an opposite fate. This was his 22nd straight start without a victory, dating back to his first outing last season.

Tillman (0-4) gave up four runs, eight hits and a walk in six innings. The three home runs were one more than he yielded in his first three starts this season.

Michael Brantley hit a run-scoring groundout in the first inning and Gomes connected in the fourth for a 2-0 lead.

The Orioles put runners on the corners with one out in the fourth, their lone threat against Clevenger, who responded by retiring Tim Beckham on a short fly to left and getting Anthony Santander to ground out.

Ramirez led off the sixth with a drive to left, and Alonso hit a two-out shot that landed on Eutaw Street beyond the right-field scoreboard.