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Inconsistent Orioles starters show signs of improvement

The Baltimore bats haven’t exactly been completely muted by opposing pitchers, but there have been some quiet nights the past couple of weeks for the Orioles, who boast one of the best offenses in the major leagues.

In the past 10 days, the Orioles have had a couple of seven-run outbursts and tied a season-high with 10 runs in Sunday’s 10-7 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. But they scored four runs or fewer in the seven other games.

The Orioles went 4-3 in those games, getting quality starts from the likes of Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez and Jason Hammel, who gave up two runs in 6 2/3 innings but still took the loss in Friday’s 2-1 loss to the Rays.

Those performances provide hope that the starting pitching, the team’s biggest weakness so far this season, might get better.

But then you look at Kevin Gausman's performance in Saturday's loss. Or Freddy Garcia getting rocked in Houston last Wednesday. Or Hammel's outing against the Detroit Tigers on June 1.

The consistency still isn’t there from the starting rotation, and the starters’ ERA has actually slightly risen -- from 4.85 to 4.88 -- since the last time I wrote at length about the rotation back on May 21.

You can’t expect a quality start every night, and there will be growing pains for Gausman if the team keeps him in Baltimore.

The Orioles might have to stick with the quintet they have for the time being, at least until Wei-Yin Chen is ready to return from the disabled list, as there are no better options in the minor leagues.

But Tillman has been very good, allowing three or fewer earned runs in nine of his past 10 starts. Gonzalez has been steady after returning from the disabled list. And Hammel, the leader of the staff, has rebounded from a tough stretch in the first half of May to allow two earned runs in three of his past four starts.

Recently, those three guys have usually given the team a chance to win, even when the Orioles bats have been relatively quiet. If they keep it up and Gausman and Garcia deliver quality starts more often, the Orioles won’t have to rely on their offense as much.

Even then, the rotation still might not be a strength. But at least it won’t be a liability as the Orioles try to climb the AL East standings.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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