The Birds fly into Cleveland, Ohio today to begin a 3 game series against the Indians, the first road games being played under skipper Buck Showalter. The Indians are currently a [tied for] last place team who were an obvious ‘sell’ team at the trading deadline. With younger pitching and a rocky lineup, the Indians squad that these O’s will face looks a lot different than set rosters like the White Sox and Angels, both teams looking for playoff runs.
The Orioles have been the talk of the town lately. With no stories from Ravens camp about knocking out teeth and not passing conditioning tests lately, the Birds took advantage of the Baltimore sports lull with some stories of their own. With stellar pitching, a few walk-offs, and the new-found confidence the team has under Buck, the O’s just finished a 2 series home stand with a fantastic 6-1 mark. Sweeping the Angels (who have been over .500 all season until today) and taking 3 of 4 from the White Sox (have led in the AL Central for over a month, now tied with Twins) has satisfied one goal the Orioles set: Win some games to hurt other teams’ playoff hopes.
Heading into Cleveland, one of the biggest story lines to follow will definitely be pitching. In terms of the Orioles, it will be watching Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, and Kevin Millwood all attempt to continue the trend that the team has had at home recently with their starting pitching (7 straight quality starts, 1.89 ERA, .205 BAA). For the Indians, it will be about seeing the progression of some of their future stars. Past Justin Masterson, the Tribe will throw out two newer arms in Josh Tomlin and Jeanmar Gomez (combined 6 starts in MLB).
While Tomlin is 26, and took a while to develop the 2.68 ERA and 1.08 WHIP at AAA Columbus, Gomez is a bright spot in the Indians pitching staff of the future. Though he struggled with a 5.70 ERA and 1.55 WHIP in AAA ball, Gomez has made 3 starts in the majors, posting a 2-0 record with a 1.56 ERA and .222 BAA, not to mention his spot start call-up in July where he debuted with a 7 inning, 5 hit shutout of the Tigers. The two have combined in their 6 starts for an overall ERA of 2.21 and WHIP of 0.93.
For the Orioles, it will be about playing smart baseball all around the diamond. With these newer and lesser know arms coming at them, it will be important to take advantage of any opportunities on the base paths that they can get. With multiple blunders coming recently (Wigginton stalling between 2nd and 3rd, Scott going for 2nd on a single, Fox going for home with the ball staying in the infield), the Orioles coaching staff will need to get their guys to focus on going base by base, letting the mistakes be made by the less-experienced arms on the mound.
With Roberts back leading off, Pie finding his swing and getting great defensive reads in LF, Wigginton showing some top-notch defense and clutch hitting, and the rest of the lineup working hard to pick each other up day in and day out, the O’s have a strong chance at taking a W or 3 in Cleveland this week before heading down to Tampa on Friday.
Jeremy Guthrie, who was picked up by the Orioles after being designated for assignment by the Indians, does not get a start in Cleveland where he first played ball in the bigs.