Twelve games over .500 becomes six games over .500. Now all we are left to ask ourselves is whether the Orioles will win again before they reach, and then sink below, the .500 mark. This is natural pessimism brought on by a full turn through the rotation that's been mostly disastrous. When the O's were winning it was because the starters were giving them a chance to win. Since they have been losing it's mostly been because the starters have not been giving them a chance.
It's Brian Matusz who has to change the team's fortune tonight. That would be the same Matusz who enters tonight's game with a 4.82 ERA, who surrenders a home run every seven innings he pitches, and who has a WHIP of 1.55. What's good for Matusz is he's had quality starts (6 IP or more, 3 ER or less) in five of his past seven starts, which, as I am keen on mentioning, is five more quality starts than he had all of last year. He's held both New York and Boston to a run over 6.1 IP in that time. That doesn't suck.
The O's hitters will have to overcome Jeremy Hellickson, who's either the luckiest pitcher in baseball or the next big mystery of how pitching metrics such as FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) can completely miss on evaluating a certain player. Last year, Hellickson had an ERA of 2.89 and a FIP of 4.44; this year, he has an ERA of 2.83 and a FIP of 4.77. This made a bit more sense last year: the Rays defense in 2011 was rated by UZR as saving 55.2 runs. All pitchers are likely to look good in front of that kind of defense. So far this year, the Rays are being measured at -5.3 runs. And yet the Hellickson low-BABIP luck train rolls on. He doesn't get a lot of strikeouts, he doesn't have a great K/BB ratio and he's surrendered 10 home runs in 63.2 IP, but so far you can't really argue with his results.
Maybe the O's lineup can put up some argument today. That would be a lineup with Endy Chavez leading off, Chris Davis batting third, a still-slumping Matt Wieters in his usual fifth spot, a powerless Mark Reynolds, Wilson Betemit, and Ryan Flaherty. Even that lineup should scratch out a couple of runs against Hellickson somehow - solo home runs, knowing how this O's team rolls. Maybe J.J. Hardy or Adam Jones will deliver. Will that be enough? The rest would depend on Matusz and 2-3 innings of the bullpen to avoid the losing streak extending to seven straight games.
The 1983 World Series Champion Orioles had two separate losing streaks of 7 games - one in late May and one in early August. So even a seven-game losing streak need not be the end of all hope, but I'd much rather see the O's put this one to bed before it gets to that point. Wouldn't you?
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||TAMPA BAY RAYS|
|Endy Chavez - LF||Carlos Pena - 1B|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||B.J. Upton - CF|
|Chris Davis - DH||Ben Zobrist - RF|
|Adam Jones - CF||Luke Scott - DH|
|Matt Wieters - C||Sean Rodriguez - 2B|
|Mark Reynolds - 1B||Hideki Matsui - LF|
|Wilson Betemit - 3B||Drew Sutton - 3B|
|Ryan Flaherty - RF||Jose Lobaton - C|
|Robert Andino - 2B||Elliot Johnson - SS|