BALTIMORE, MD — Just five days ago, the Orioles’ chances of reaching the postseason looked bleak. Five wins later, Baltimore finds themselves just 2.5 games back in the American League Wild Card Race. The Birds handled business against the red-hot Royals, sweeping a team that won 10-of-11 prior to facing the O’s.

The struggles within the starting pitching staff define the Orioles thus far in 2017. With the starting pitching goes the team. With fans and media’s skepticism of buying Jeremy Hellickson at the trade deadline, the pressure mounted. Baltimore’s pitching staff responded this week, giving up just three runs against the Royals over three games.

The key to success for the Orioles remains in the starting pitching. If it’s good, we may watch the O’s play in the postseason. If more historically bad stretches ensue in the coming weeks, the Birds will watch the playoffs from their couches.

Starting tonight, Baltimore entertains the Detroit Tigers for a four-game weekend showdown.

Last Meeting: In a mid-may showdown, the Tigers took two of three from the Orioles.

The Birds outmatched Detroit in the 13-inning opener, 13-11. Detroit held an 8-7 lead going in to the ninth inning, but Mark Trumbo hit a go-ahead home run that sent the game into extras. Both teams scored three runs in the 12th inning. In the 13th, Trumbo got the rally going with a double. With two outs, Chris Davis hit his eighth home run of 2017; a two-run, go-ahead homer that would win the game for the O’s. Richard Bleir pitched the final 1.2 innings in high-pressure situations, allowing a hit and a walk with a strikeout.

The final two games of the series were one-run losses for the O’s, 5-4 and 6-5. Ubaldo Jimenez and Dylan Bundy struggled in their starts and all of Detroit’s runs got credited to them. Miguel Castro made his Orioles debut in this series, pitching three combined innings in the two losses. He recorded recorded a strikeout with three walks.

This series gave the Orioles six losses out of seven games, with all six losses decided by one run.

Standings Update: The O’s (53-54) may be just one game below .500, but they still occupy the fourth-place spot in the American League East. The Red Sox (59-49) sit up top in first place, with the Yankees (57-49) right on their tails. The Tigers (49-57) settle in fourth place within the AL Central Division. The defending AL-Champion Cleveland Indians (57-48) inhibit first place, followed by the Royals (55-51).

Game Times and Pitching Matchups:

Game 1Thursday, Aug. 3, 7:05 pm – Matthew Boyd (5-5, 5.30 ERA) vs. Chris Tillman (1-6, 7.65 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan.

Game 2Friday, Aug. 4, 7:05 pm – Justin Verlander (6-7, 4.29 ERA) vs. Kevin Gausman (8-7, 5.37 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan.

Game 3Saturday, Aug. 5, 7:05 pm – Michael Fulmer (10-9, 3.59 ERA) vs. Wade Miley (5-9, 5.60 ERA) – MASN 2, WJZ, 105.7 The Fan.

Game 4Sunday, Aug. 6, 1:35 pm – Anibal Sanchez (3-1, 5.83 ERA) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (4-7, 6.56 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan.

Notes on the Tigers:

  • Even though Detroit sits eight games below .500, they own a 10-9 second half record so far.
  • In the doubles department, Justin Upton’s 31 two-baggers marks him fourth place in the American League, and seventh in MLB.
  • While Miley leads the majors in walks, Verlander’s 60 puts him second in both the AL and MLB.
  • In the previous series against Baltimore in May, Victor Martinez went 3-for-11 with two home runs, two walks, and five RBI. The 38-year-old’s lifetime batting average against Baltimore is .294 with 14 home runs.

Notes on the Orioles:

  • Since the All-Star Break, the Orioles swept two of four series played at Camden Yards (July 17-20 vs. Texas, July 31-Aug. 2 vs. Kansas City).
  • Jonathan Schoop’s 78 RBI ranks him second in the AL and seventh in MLB. Nelson Cruz (80) leads the AL, and Nolan Arenado’s 95 RBI puts him first in the majors.
  • Miley ties with Tyler Chatwood of the Rockies for the most walks in MLB with 63.
  • In nine career starts against the Tigers, Tillman sports a 2.45 ERA in 58.2 innings.

Up Next: The Birds hit the road for their annual west coast trip. The O’s will play 10 games against three AL West foes – three competitions against the Los Angeles Angels, four contests against the Oakland Athletics, and three duals against the Seattle Mariners. The next time the\ O’s play at Camden Yards is Friday, Aug. 18 against the Angels.

Image Credit: Baltimore Orioles