The Orioles haven't had much to play for lately, but with 35 games remaining, the O's can (among other things): give their young pitchers more major league innings; take a look at Michael Aubrey; allow Felix Pie to get some regular at bats; evaluate Luke Scott at first base; and provide some more time behind the plate to Matt Wieters.
But besides the O's youth, Jeremy Guthrie is also trying to take advantage of the rest of the season -- at least when he's pitching against AL Central teams. After an ugly start on August 16 against the Angels when he allowed seven runs and 10 hits in 5.2 innings, Guthrie has pitched two impressive games in a row.
Last Friday he allowed one run and six hits over seven innings in a win over the White Sox, and yesterday he similarly gave up one run and six hits over seven innings in a win over the Twins. Guthrie struck out five and walked none -- his first start without walking a batter since June 10. With those last two starts, Guthrie has lowered his ERA from 5.66 to 5.26.
So what has changed? For one, Guthrie kept the ball in the ballpark better against the White Sox and Twins, allowing just a solo shot to Jim Thome. (Guthrie has allowed the second-most home runs in the majors (29).) Guthrie was also able to finish off some batters when he was ahead in the count, which is something he's struggled with the entire season.
I hope that Guthrie is slowly returning to his 2007 and 2008 form, but to continue his string of good starts he'll have to shut down the powerful Yankees offense at Camden Yards on Monday.