Rough road for the O’s

The two most important Orioles right now: Adam Jones and Buck Showalter. (AP/Ted S. Warren)

The Orioles took five of six at home, then drop five of six on the road. In an earlier article, I mentioned things like antacids and other types of medication needed for the growing Orioles ulcer many of us are developing. It’s to be expected, with a young pitching staff and a lineup with no real identity; so stock up at your local pharmacy.

The team has made several recent roster moves, centering mostly on pitching. Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen where both optioned to triple-A Norfolk to make room for Pedro Viola and Chris Jakubauskas. Both pitchers are bound for the bullpen (which has been quite good recently) as the O’s will go with a four-man rotation for the time being, with Alfredo Simon making spot-starts when needed.

Another roster move was made for the long-awaited return of pitcher Brian Matusz. Jake Fox was put on waivers to make room for Matusz, who proved he was worth the wait. His first start came in Seattle, he lasted 5.2 innings, 1 earned run, 4 hits, 3 Ks and no walks. As rough as it may be to watch this young starting rotation (I find pitches in the strike zone with 0-2 counts the most disturbing), who isn’t excited at the same time? Matusz, Jake Arrieta and Zach Britton are all under 25 and pitching strong.  Jeremy Guthrie is pretty much nails, although regularly left out to dry by the offense. These guys are something to build around. If Justin Duchscherer (who is pitching four innings at extended spring training this week) can join the team sometime before the All-Star break, imagine the possibilities for the second half of the season. How great would it be to head into next season not wondering what our starting rotation is going to look like? Any progress made by Tillman or Bergesen at triple-A would just add to their trade value.  Hopefully, a trade for an offensive boost, preferably a super-charged twin-turbo boost.

To say our hitting is anemic is generous. Poor Arlo (Guthrie); he has to take the blame for losing 3-2. He gave up a home run in the eighth after committing an error against Seattle. If your pitcher allows three runs over eight innings, with nine strikeouts, wouldn’t it normally sound like a win? Great Brit (Britton) suffers from the same kind of run support, and the offense for Matusz has gotten off on a familiar foot by scoring a whopping two runs in his debut. Arrieta is the only one with run support and he’s in a bit of a funk watching his ERA climb to almost 5.00.

Adam Jones has been the only bright spot in the lineup. Jones has been tearing it up at the plate, going 37 for 108 in May, giving him a .343 AVG for the month.  His over the shoulder, Willie Mays style catch on Thursday night was the #1 highlight on ESPN’s top 10. He then hit a home run, providing the go ahead run, showing Seattle, his former team, maybe it was a bit too early to give up on him.

I don’t know what it’s going to take to motivate these guys to hit. Nick Markakis and Luke Scott appear to have lost their edge. Looking at pitches to hit, and then swinging at junk to try and save at-bats. I understand that Buck Showalter has some juggling to do, with Brian Roberts on the DL suffering from mystery concussion symptoms and Derrek Lee out with the dreaded oblique-a-sitis. But Showalter still needs to find a way to kick this lineup in the pants. The chances of Roberts ever being 100 percent are slim, and I have a feeling that Lee has the disabled list on speed dial. Jones has stepped up to provide that missing spark, and the rest of the lineup needs to get behind him.  Now is the time for our manager to earn his money. Showalter, pick this sad sack of an offense up by the ear, pour on some gasoline, sit them next to Jones and watch the blaze.


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