Remember, early this season, when the Orioles lacked “pitching”?
With the magic number at three, the AL East crown is all-but inevitable. Thus the—for lack of better words—“looming” question is who will pitch the Divisional Round best-of-five-series playoff games?
Chen or Norris? Norris or Gonzalez? Chen and Tillman or Gonzales and Gausman? Five starters all capable and deserving of pitching in the playoffs—none of whom is anywhere near the pay-grade of Ubaldo Jimenez. Whodathunkit?
It’s tough to predict which direction O’s skipper Buck Showalter will go—he’s not always the pillar of textbook baseball practices. But an educated guess would allude to the idea that it’ll be a three-man turn, with something close to this:
Game 1 (in Baltimore)—Miguel Gonzalez
Game 2 (in Baltimore)—Wei Yin Chen
Game 3 (away)—Chris Tillman
Gonzalez, (9-8, 3.28 ERA) has been the team’s most dominant starter over the past few weeks. Since the All-Star Break, he’s (5-3, 2.12 ERA). The big difference between Gonzalez and Chris Tillman, who would be equally as deserving to be the Game One starter is that Tillman is (8-0) on the road this season. For some reason, Tillman just knows how to win in someone else’s house. Along with this, he’s (12-5, 3.29 ERA) on the season and (5-0, 2.01 ERA) in the second half; in addition, he’s had 19 straight starts allowing three-runs or less. It makes all the sense in the world to depend on him in Game Three, which would most likely be in Detroit or Kansas City.
Looking to game two, Wei Yin Chen has to be the guy. He’s (15-4) on the season and he’s been dominant in the second-half (6-1, 2.67 ERA). Perhaps the strongest argument for Gonzalez and Chen to lead the way is the fact that both have successful, albeit limited, post-season experience—something Chris Tillman lacks.
Alas, it’s Bud Norris and Kevin Gausman who’ll either be left off of the Divisional Round roster or be moved into a long-relief if-needed role. Norris, who has been terrific since the break (6-2, 3.43 ERA) and solid on the season (13-8), lacks the same consistency that has been shown by Gonzalez, Chen, and Tillman—even though Tillman can drive fans to drinking during his sometimes 30-40 pitch innings. Gausman on the other hand has been solid, but just isn’t at the level of the other four potential starters that the Birds could run with.
There was a time when the Orioles’ Achilles Heel was pitching. Now, in mid-September, the club has a surplus. And that’s a problem many other teams would love to have.