Orioles have big division lead, but Cleveland offers its challenges

Just like Orioles manager Buck Showalter says, there's another challenge around the corner, and the Orioles' next challenge takes them to Cleveland.

The Orioles open their two-city, nine-game road trip to Cleveland and Chicago leading the Blue Jays by 7 1/2 games and the Yankees by eight games in the American League East.


The Orioles haven't gone into a game owning a division lead of 7 1/2 games or more since Sept. 13, 1997.

The Indians still have something to play for. They're 5 1/2 games out of the AL's second wild-card spot.

This series will be no cakewalk. The Indians are 35-23 at Progressive Field and their .604 winning percentage at home is the third best in the American League, trailing only the Athletics (40-21, .656) and Angels (41-23, .640).

Friday night, they will face Indians right-hander Corey Kluber, who is 13-6 with a 2.46 ERA and 187 strikeouts in 171 2/3 innings this season. He's 4-0 with a 0.68 ERA over his last five starts (45 strikeouts in 40 innings), holding opponents to a .158 batting average.

On May 24, he tossed seven shutout innings against the Orioles, allowing just seven baserunners (five hits, two walks) while striking out nine.

Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen will make his first start of the season working on eight days rest. He was slated to start Tuesday's rained-out game against the Yankees, but was skipped to keep Chris Tillman on regular rest.

In Chen's three seasons with the Orioles, the club has given him extra rest when possible, but this season the time off hasn't always benefitted the left-hander.

Chen is 5-2 with a 3.90 ERA in 11 starts on regular four days rest and he is 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA in three starts on one extra day of rest (five days).

But while Chen owns a 4-2 record in eight starts with more than five days rest, he is ERA in those starts is 4.70.

Over his career, Chen is 17-11 with a 3.73 ERA with extra rest and is 14-11 with a 4.30 ERA on regular rest.

While Showalter has said he'd like to get his starters in more of a regular routine down the stretch, Tuesday's rainout forced him to not only push back Chen, but also move Ubaldo Jimenez and Kevin Gausman back a day.

On Tuesday, Showalter will have another decision to make when Miguel Gonzalez is eligible to return from Triple-A Norfolk. Gonzalez threw just 27 pitches in a three-inning start on Wednesday, partially to keep him as an option in case they could bring him back early as part of a disabled list move.

Showalter has alluded to some lingering physical issues in the Orioles bullpen and at this point, Gonzalez could return as a starter or reliever. Showalter said he doesn't like moving pitchers between the rotation and bullpen, but Gonzalez would be a good fit in the 'pen if they need length there.