A big start from Wei-Yin Chen is essential to get the Baltimore Orioles off and running after the All-Star break. A solid outing from a typically solid pitcher in Miguel Gonzalez on Saturday would be a great help as well.
We need one from Chris Tillman on Sunday, too. If Orioles pitching can be top-notch against the Rangers in a time where AL East foes will be battling each other, the Birds have a real shot at seeing a shake up in the standings.
Let's take a look:
Rays @ Blue Jays
That's pretty convenient for the Orioles, who could use some losses from the Rays and Red Sox. Or the Yankees if things don't go as planned against the Rangers.
The aforementioned pitchers will likely be fine, but we need to make sure the rest of the pitchers begin to find their groove. Britton, Feldman and... Jason Hammel. Hammel has been downright bad lately. Every one of these guys are going to need to improve to keep the Orioles competitive for the rest of the regular season and the playoff race.
But, that's not the only area where the Orioles need to watch out for pitching woes. Jim Johnson, while the current saves leader, has blown more saves at this point than he did all of last year.
The Orioles have struggled against pitching, too. Yep, the Orioles strike out a lot, and it's kept them from making really key plays, always stranding runners. There are benefits to coming out swinging at the first pitch, but the drawbacks of aggression at the plate have arguably influenced their current standing. Patience will make the difference.
The Orioles are batting .197 at the DH spot, the worst since the 2010 Mariners DHs batted .194. That's where Henry Urrutia comes in. The Baltimore Sun (as of this morning) reported that they expect the Orioles to add the super-hitter to the 25-man roster, along with Danny Valencia before tonight's game.
How the Orioles handle pitching (in defensive and offensive respects alike) is going to make the difference should the Orioles remain in the playoff race. At third place, the Orioles trail Tampa Bay and Boston pretty closely, and need to have this in mind. They have to focus on ousting the Rays, for now. We're all Toronto fans for the next few days, as we trail Tampa by 2 1/2 games. Also, it'd be nice if New York could do us a few favors against the Red Sox this weekend.
Can the Red Sox remain competitive? I'm not sure that they will be quite as good in the second half, and this should prove beneficial for Baltimore in the battle for the AL East.
The O's have definitely been a solid team and show no signs of slowing. In fact, after last year's All-Star break, the Birds won 62% of their games in the second half. At that rate this season, Baltimore will have 94 wins. That's quite promising, but it'll take good pitching and patience at the plate to repeat that success. That's one more win than last year, which was good to make the playoffs. #StayHungry, Birdland.