Breaking down the Orioles four-game stand against the Rangers.
Game 1: 8-1 loss on Monday night (June 29)
Game 2: 8-6 loss on Tuesday night (June 30)
Game 3: 4-2 win on Wednesday night (June 1)
Game 4: 2-0 loss on Thursday night (July 2)
What I liked:
1. Wei-Yin Chen’s start in Game 3 – Chen allowed two runs in eight innings, giving up just four hits and a walk. He has been the Orioles’ best starting pitcher this season, posting a 2.84 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 15 starts. And Chen has been at his best lately, allowing just four runs in 22 innings over his last three starts.
2. Kevin Gausman’s start in Game 4 – Gausman got another spot start, getting recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday and then recording seven strikeouts over 6 1/3 scoreless innings in just his second major-league start of the season. As I’ve written previously, Gausman is in a weird spot. He was the fourth overall pick of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, was used only as a starter at the major-league level last season (108 ERA+ over 20 starts) but had been used only as a reliever this season so as to limit his innings and preserve his availability for later in the year. Gausman now has made two major-league starts since spending nearly a month and-a-half on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis but, unlike after his first major-league start this year, isn’t immediately being sent back down to Norfolk. That’s perhaps an indication that the O’s are losing patience with Bud Norris (see below). The O’s need Gausman in the major-league rotation next season, as Chen and Norris are scheduled to be free agents this offseason and appear unlikely to be re-signed.
What I didn’t like:
1. The offense – The Orioles’ offense cooled off, batting just .217 (28-for-129) overall and going just 2-for-21 with runners in scoring position. The O’s totaled just three hits in Game 4.
2. Norris’ start in Game 1 – Norris struggled once again, giving up five runs in six innings on nine hits (including four homers). He now has a 6.79 ERA and 1.62 WHIP over 11 starts this season, during which opposing batters are hitting .311 against him. Most pronounced are his struggles against lefty batters, who have a 1.025 OPS against Norris this season off a .753 OPS in 2014. There is no obvious reason for his struggles. His velocity is where it has been. His strikeout and walk rates and BABIP have gone in the wrong directions but aren’t so egregiously bad that they explain his ERA being up by more than three gull runs. The bottom line is that arguably last year’s most pleasant surprise in the rotation has been arguably its biggest liability this year.
3. Miguel Gonzalez’s start in Game 2 – Gonzalez allowed six runs in 4 1/3 innings, giving up eight hits (including three homers) and three walks. Gonzalez now has allowed 10 runs in 9 1/3 innings on 16 hits over two starts since coming off the 15-day disabled list.
4. The bullpen – Orioles relievers had their first truly bad series since late May, giving up seven runs in 11 1/3 innings.
5. Delmon Young being designated for assignment – The O’s DFA’d Young on Wednesday to make room for reliever Tyler Wilson on the 25-man roster. Young was the Orioles’ lone significant offseason re-signing, getting a one-year contract reportedly worth $2.25 million. He is in theory more expendable than others because of his lack of speed and defensive prowess, but he did lead the O’s and was tied for third in the majors with eight outfield assists at the time of his being DFA’d.
Young was 10-for-20 as a pinch-hitter last season and had arguably the biggest hit in the history of Camden Yards, the pinch three-run double in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the Orioles’ ALDS sweep of Detroit. He was 3-for-9 as a pinch hitter this season but overall has struggled mightily, posting an OPS+ of 76.