The Baltimore Orioles begin a three-game series against the Texas Rangers tonight at 8 p.m. The Orioles are sitting at 28-27, having lost 4 out of their last 7 games including a four-game split with the Houston Astros. Tonight's game features a struggling Ubaldo Jimenez (2-6) taking the mound for Baltimore against the Rangers' Joe Saunders (0-1).
Although the Orioles are one game over the .500 mark, and only 4.5 games behind the division-leading Toronto Blue Jays, there are some legitimate concerns about the Orioles offense and pitching. In their most recent game against Houston, in which the Orioles beat the Astros 9-4, there were signs that perhaps the offense is coming back to life. However, there have been spurts along the way that have never turned into any consistent offensive production. There are some exceptions to this trend, mostly regarding the bat of Nelson Cruz and his 20 home runs. However, Chris Davis continues to struggle mightily at the plate along with Jonathan Schoop, J.J. Hardy, and Manny Machado (Machado did hit a grand slam in the recent win over Houston.) The Orioles are faring no better in terms of their inconsistent pitching. Chris Tillman's status as the ace of the staff is now in question due to recent poor outings, but there are not many other options at the moment as the staff as a whole is unreliable.
Moving into June, the Orioles have a tough schedule. After facing Texas for three games, the birds will face Oakland, Toronto, Boston, Tampa Bay, New York, and Chicago. One senses that the next few weeks will be critical in determining whether the Orioles will be a legitimate playoff contender. Getting all of the gears of their offense working could potentially overcome some of their pitching woes and provide the Orioles organization with some time to work on possible trades over the summer.