Jul 3, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles left fielder Steve Pearce (28) hits a RBI double during the fifth inning against the Texas Rangers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Can First-Place Baltimore Orioles Keep Winning?

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The Baltimore Orioles completed a four-game sweep of the Texas Rangers with a 5-2 win Thursday evening, completing a successful 7-4 homestand. With the Toronto loss to Oakland, the O’s are now a first-place team.

With a delayed start due to the weather, once again this season, the Orioles are faced with a difficult travel schedule to be in Boston for a 1:35 afternoon game on Friday. Who makes these schedules? More on that later.

UPDATE>>> The game today (Friday 7/4) in Boston has been postponed, with a double-header scheduled for Saturday.

The Orioles faced a last-minute change of starters as Yu Davish was pulled in preference of Scott Baker. The Rangers feared a long rain delay and thereby getting a minimal number of innings out of their ace. As it turned out, the weather was not a factor once the game got underway.

The incredible Steve Pearce was once again the offensive power for the Orioles, getting two of the team’s six doubles. Catcher Nick Hundley also contributed with a pair of two-baggers, while Nick Markakis and Ryan Flaherty had one each.

Unlike so many games earlier in the season, the Orioles made the most of their opportunities on this evening. They were 6-for-15 with runners in scoring position, while O’s pitchers held the Rangers to 0-for-8 in the same category.

The 8-9-1-2 portion of the Baltimore Orioles lineup with Flaherty, Hundley, Markakis and Pearce worked together to bunch hits, getting 10 of the 12 team hits between them.

Steve Pearce continued his torrid hitting streak by going 4-for-5 in the game – his first four-hit game ever. For the Texas series, he was 7-for-15 with two double and three homers. He knocked in a total of eight runs while scoring seven. His batting average now is .338 and Showalter told the press after the game he no longer has words to describe what is going on.

Showalter on Pearce: I’m running out of things to describe him; I’ll let you guys do it.

Wei-Yin Chen had a typically solid, though not glamorous outing. Over six innings he gave up two runs on six hits and two walks – a common sort of line for him. He allows hits and gets in trouble, but seems able to most often pitch his way out of it. This skill may serve him well as a reliever later in his career.

So will the Orioles be able to take this momentum to Boston and keep the streak going? That may be difficult, even though the Orioles have won 11 of their past 16 games. Remember, they just took four from a team who has now lost 14 of their past 16 games.

On the other hand, they are not running into a Red Sox team that is smoking hot. Over the same measure of the past 16 games, the Sox are 7-9. They also gave up a total of 16 runs Wednesday on 19 hits to the Cubs.

But the Orioles will be facing something quite different than the four mediocre to unknown pitchers as seen in the Texas series. Baltimore will have to battle Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Jake Peavy in that order this weekend.

Lester is proving himself to once again be a workhorse starter with 114 innings pitched. He has a record of 9-7 with a very good ERA of 2.92 and WHIP of 1.18. Lester has only given up four runs in his last 29.2 innings pitched.

The Orioles last saw him on opening day of this season where the Birds were able to beat him in that exciting close game. His career ERA against the Orioles matches his current 2.92, with a record of 15-4.

Among Orioles with good stats against Lester is Nelson Cruz, who is 11-for-24 with three home runs, two doubles and a triple. Adam Jones is 18-for-56 with three doubles, but never a homer. Hardy is 9-for-30 with a double, triple, and homer.
On the other hand, Chris Davis is just 3-for-27 with one home run. Markakis is 16-for-69 (.232) with six doubles and only one RBI in all those at-bats. Future Hall-of-Famer Steve Pearce is 1-for-8.

The Baltimore Orioles will send Miguel Gonzalez (4-5 / 4.56) out to the mound at Fenway. He has some decent numbers against the Red Sox, as the current roster only has a combined .218 average against him. Even Oriole killer Dustin Pedroia is only 2-for-8.

There is really very little on paper that favors the Orioles today, not with the travel problems, Lester on the mound, etc. Add to that is the dreadful weather forecast for Boston today. But this has been an entire season where the stuff on paper can be tossed out the window each night.

But life is good. It is July 4th and the Baltimore Orioles are in first place!

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