Ro­ta­tion’s back end re­mains a li­a­bil­ity

Gal­lardo KO’d in 4th; come­back bid falls short; O’s lose ground to Bos­ton

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Ed­uardo A. Encina

The Ori­oles have the mak­ings of an en­tic­ing play­off start­ing ro­ta­tion — some­thing ev­ery con­tender needs to play deep into Oc­to­ber. But first they have to get there, and a pair of strug­gling vet­eran starters are mak­ing their chase for the post­sea­son ex­tremely un­steady.

One day af­ter get­ting one of their best out­ings from a starter this sea­son — righthander Kevin Gaus­man held the divi­sion-lead­ing Bos­ton Red Sox, the best-hit­ting team in the Amer­i­can League, score­less over eight in­nings — the Ori­oles re­ceived an ugly out­ing from right-han­der Yo­vani Gal­lardo against the worst-hit­ting team in the AL. The Ori­oles lost, 7-6, to the Tampa Bay Rays on Thurs­day night, miss­ing an op­por­tu­nity they might end up pay­ing for.

The front end of the Ori­oles start­ing ro­ta­tion is com­ing into form as the team hits the stretch run. Gaus­man is reach­ing new lev­els, post­ing a 0.82 ERA over his past five starts. De­spite some re­cent con­trol hic­cups and a con­tin­u­ing pitch­count limit, right-han­der Dy­lan Bundy’s tran­si­tion to start­ing has gone well. The con­tin­ued health of right-han­der Chris Till­man, who pitched a qual­ity start in his first game back from the dis­abled list Sun­day, gives the team its vet­eran an­chor back. And right-han­der Ubaldo Jimenez’s re­cov­ery from his de­mo­tion Tonight, 7:05 TV: MASN2 Ra­dio: 105.7 FM Game re­cap

to the bullpen has been one of the team’s most pleas­ant sur­prises of the sec­ond half of the sea­son.

In a post­sea­son se­ries, four starters are re­ally all a team needs. But in the mid­dle of a tight race for both the AL East and the AL wild cards, the Ori­oles must find a way to over­come a dis­turb­ing trend of short starts from Gal­lardo and con­tin­ued strug­gles from left­hander Wade Mi­ley to earn a play­off spot.

Against a Rays team that en­tered Thurs­day hit­ting .245 col­lec­tively, Gal­lardo lasted 31⁄ in­nings, al­low­ing six runs on seven hits and two walks. It was the sec­ond time in Gal­lardo’s past four starts that he’s failed to make it out of the fourth in­ning. On Aug. 26, Gal­lardo lasted a sea­son-low 11⁄ in­nings, yield­ing eight runs (seven earned) in a 14-4 loss to the New York Yan­kees.

Mi­ley’s strug­gles — he has an 8.41 ERA in eight starts for the Ori­oles — are more glar­ing be­cause he was ac­quired at the non­waiver trade dead­line to bol­ster a beleaguered ro­ta­tion. But he lasted 11⁄ in­nings in his last start Mon­day in Bos­ton, pulled af­ter al­low­ing nine of the 12 bat­ters he faced to reach base. He has failed to get out of the sec­ond in­ning in two of his past five out­ings. Mi­ley Wade Mi­ley, ac­quired to bol­ster the ro­ta­tion, has an 8.41 ERA in eight starts for the Ori­oles. was shelled for six runs on six hits over 12⁄ in­nings against the Hous­ton Astros on Aug. 19, af­ter his of­fense hit four homers for him in the first in­ning.

The Ori­oles’ in­con­sis­tent pitch­ing has placed them on a mo­men­tum carousel. In 16 starts made by Gal­lardo and Mi­ley since Aug. 1, the Ori­oles are 4-12. On Thurs­day, the Ori­oles — rid­ing high to be­gin an 11-game home­s­tand af­ter one of their best wins of the sea­son — en­tered the night with the chance to jump into a first-place tie in the divi­sion.

Mi­ley and Gal­lardo are Ori­oles ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent Dan Du­quette’s two most re­cent ro­ta­tion ac­qui­si­tions. Mi­ley was ac­quired July 31 in a trade with the Seat­tle Mariners for Cuban left-han­der Ariel Mi­randa, who has pitched con­sec­u­tive out­ings of six in­nings and no earned runs for the Mariners. Gal­lardo, who re­mained on the free-agent mar­ket into spring train­ing in part be­cause he was tied to draft-pick com­pen­sa­tion, signed a re­struc­tured two-year, $22 mil­lion deal af­ter an ear­lier one fell apart be­cause of con­cerns over his right shoul­der.

When Till­man’s re­turn Sun­day al­lot­ted the Ori­oles six start­ing op­tions, Gal­lardo’s turn through the ro­ta­tion was skipped, ap­par­ently only be­cause he has strug­gled against the Red Sox in his ca­reer.

And Gal­lardo was rusty in his re­turn. In his first start in nine days, Gal­lardo found him­self in trou­ble early. He walked the first two bat­ters he faced and then al­lowed a three-run homer to Evan Lon­go­ria. The Ori­oles pro­vided him with a one-run lead af­ter one in­ning, but Gal­lardo couldn’t hold that, al­low­ing three more runs on a to­tal of seven hits, in­clud­ing four for ex­tra bases.

PA­TRICK SEMANSKY/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ori­oles starter Yo­vani Gal­lardo walks off the mound Thurs­day night af­ter be­ing re­moved in the fourth in­ning. It was the sec­ond time in his past four starts he failed to make it out of the fourth.

NICK WASS/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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