The last thing a team in a rut wants to come up against is a pitcher on a roll, but that's what awaits the Orioles tonight (7:35, HTS) in the person of Kansas City's Bret Saberhagen.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner has not lost since April 29, garnering five wins in seven starts. During that stretch Saberhagen has a 2.17 ERA and has thrown three complete games. In fact, if you throw out Saberhagen's only two rough outings of the season, against New York early in April and Seattle last month, his ERA falls to 1.44.
Up against those kind of numbers, what advice does Orioles hitting coach Tom McCraw have?
"The biggest thing when you face a pitcher of Saberhagen's caliber is that you can't be caught in between -- maybe curve, maybe slider. You have to get on one or the other and be positive with that pitch," McCraw said. "If you do that, somewhere in that AB you'll get a pitch you want to hit. There aren't going to be a heck of a lot of them, so you hope yours comes when there is someone on base and you can drive in a run."
Bob Milacki, who is on a modest roll of his own, gets the task of trying to stop the Royals, who teed off on Baltimore pitching for 16 hits last night. In his last two starts Milacki has had success against the AL East's top squads, beating the Blue Jays Friday night, and holding the Red Sox to one run in 5 2/3 innings two weeks ago.
"He has gotten better each time he's gone out there," pitching coach Al Jackson said. "He showed me in his last two starts he can maintain his velocity. And his control has gotten much better. When you have command of the strike zone, and maintain your velocity, you're going to have success."