With only Sunday’s game against the New York Yankees remaining before the All-Star break, the Orioles are guaranteed to begin the second half of the season atop the American League East division.
But Orioles manager Buck Showalter insists there is plenty left to fight for in the second half.
“We may be in first place now, but we still feel like we’re hunting something,” he said.
Showalter said the biggest key to the second half, which begins with 26 consecutive games against teams that currently have a winning record, will be the team’s pitching. Heading into Sunday's game, the club ranked 17th in the major leagues -- fifth in the AL -- with a 3.84 team ERA.
Having Kevin Gausman as a sixth capable starter, though, bodes well for an improvement. Gausman is 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA against the Yankees and has held New York to a .189 batting average.
“There’s a lot of unknowns,” Showalter said. “I’m looking forward to finding out. … It’s not going to be boring.”
Here are more pregame updates:
* The Orioles encouraged fans to wear orange for tonight's game, which will be shown on ESPN.
* Showalter said Triple-A Norfolk’s roster will change significantly over the next few weeks as some players return from injury and others are promoted from Double-A Bowie.
* Right-hander Steve Johnson will have “another start or two” for short-season Single-A Aberdeen before joining the Tides. He’s recovering after missing two months with a sore throwing shoulder.
* Suk-min Yoon, who was suffering from a right shoulder impingement, tossed a successful simulated game Sunday. He’ll join Norfolk in the near future, Showalter said.
* Infielder Alexi Casilla could play again this year for Norfolk, Showalter said. Casilla had surgery to repair a fractured hamate bone in his right hand on July 1.
Here are Sunday’s lineups:
Nick Markakis RF
Steve Pearce LF
Adam Jones CF
Nelson Cruz DH
Chris Davis 1B
J.J. Hardy SS
Manny Machado 3B
Caleb Joseph C
Jonathan Schoop 2B
Kevin Gausman RHP
Brett Gardner CF
Derek Jeter SS
Jacoby Ellsbury DH
Mark Teixeira 1B
Brian McCann C
Brian Roberts 2B
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Kelly Johnson LF
Yangervis Solarte 3B
Chase Whitley RHP