J.J. Hardy wakes Orioles: Baltimore pushing .500
I really like what I’m seeing from the Orioles. The recent sweep of Seattle and taking two of three from first-place Tampa has this fan smiling. The young starters are keeping us in games, pitching deeper and helping the bullpen get its head together. The slumping lineup is suddenly awake since J.J. Hardy’s return, producing more runs and hopefully giving starting pitchers some breathing room.
Over the last five games, O’s starting pitching has a 1.42 ERA. We’ve hit .293 and scored 19 runs compared to nine in the previous five games. I’ve always called Brian Roberts the Orioles spark, but they’re 9-3 with Hardy in the lineup. The only loss in the stretch is when Jeremy Guthrie pitched a nine-inning, 3-0 loss to Tampa Bay’s young stud Jeremy Hellickson. During this stretch, as well, Adam Jones has been hot, going 10-for-24 with six RBIs and three walks.
A brief update on O’s off-season acquisitions: Vladimir Guerrero continues a steady increase in performance with his average climbing to .287. He gets criticized by fans for underperforming, but the truth is he gets a hit in almost every freakin’ game. To me, it’s really hard to complain about that. Derrek Lee has continued on his less than mediocre offensive performance. His defense, on the other hand, has been Gold Glove level. It doesn’t make up for the lack of hitting, but makes it easier to swallow. There’s still hope for his bat; he didn’t win the Silver Slugger award in 2005 by mistake. Hardy’s presence alone seems to be an asset. I don’t want to say too much, he’s only played in 12 games. I just hope he can continue what he started, offense and defense alike. Mark Reynolds, on the other hand, is kind of a mystery. He’s batting .183, his strikeouts are only slightly down and he only has four homers. The mystery is, we were eating Ks to get the long ball. We have plenty of strikeouts with four homers. Mark, swing and miss all you want; just hit some dingers please. He fits into the defense-plus category, along with Lee and Hardy. The O’s definitely boosted the gloves in the infield, there’s no disputing that.
Kevin Gregg has settled down a bit in this recent stretch. He did blow a save on the 10th, fortunately we won the game anyway. His earlier performances, along with some comments he made, lead me to beat on him pretty hard. I want Gregg to be our closer. His success is the O’s success. Please stop walking guys, Gregg, 10 free passes in 15 innings is unacceptable. You’re in there to get guys out, so wear your little safety glasses, or whatever they are, and throw strikes.
Brian Matusz and Alfredo Simon are on rehab assignments and will need roster spots very soon. It’s between Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen who returns to triple0-A for Matusz. I have to guess it will be Josh Rupe or Clay Rapada who makes room for Simon. I see no need for Simon to start, we certainly could use him in the bullpen.
And one final note of possible good news. Justin Duchscherer will throw a three-inning simulated game this week. I, for one, won’t get too excited, but I do have some optimism left for the Duke. How awesome would it be to have him healthy and throwing well? It would leave us starter-heavy, which would be a great problem.