J.J. Hardy, Dustin Pedroia

The Baltimore Orioles won five of their last six games in the past week to move into first place in the American League East division. The Orioles swept the Texas Rangers in a four-game home series in Baltimore, and then split a double-header with the Red Sox in Boston on July 5.   The Orioles hold a 47-40 record, as of July 6.

June 30-July 3:Baltimore Sweeps Rangers in Four Games

Baltimore leaped to an excellent start this past week, easily beating the Rangers, 7-1, in Game One in Baltimore on June 30. Ubaldo Jimenez got the start at pitcher and lasted an impressive eight innings while giving up just one run, four hits with seven strikeouts. First baseman Steve Pearce was on fire at the plate, blasting two home runs; shortstop J.J. Hardy also hit a home run.

Pearce went the yard again the next day in Game Two of the series in an 8-3 win over the Rangers on July 1. It was Pearce’s 10th home run of the season. DH Nelson Cruz also showed off at the plate, nailing his league-high 26th home run of the season, and catcher Caleb Joseph hit a home run, too. T.J. McFarland was the starting pitcher for the Orioles, allowing seven hits and two runs in five innings pitched. Baltimore went four-deep into its bullpen for the remainder of the game with Zack Britton closing out the ninth inning.

Baltimore won Game Three of its series with the Rangers, 6-4 on July 2. The Orioles trailed, 4-0, early in the game after a slow start from starting pitcher Chris Tillman. Tillman allowed four early runs and was pulled from the mound in the sixth inning. But relief pitcher Darren O’Day came in to settle down the Rangers’ offense and Britton closed out the ninth inning for his 11th save of the season. Outfielder Adam Jones hit his 16th home run of the season and third baseman Ryan Flaherty also went the yard with a home run.

The Orioles closed out the series sweep over the Rangers with a 5-2 win on July 3. Wei-Yin Chen got the start at pitcher for Game Four and was solid, giving up two earned runs in six innings pitched. Britton picked up his 12th save of the season after closing out the ninth inning. Pearce led the game with four hits and two RBI.

July 5: Orioles Split Double-Header with Red Sox

Mookie Betts, Jonathan Schoop

Unfortunately for the Orioles, their four-game win streak came to an end with a 3-2 loss to the Red Sox in Boston on July 5 in Game One of a Saturday double header after the scheduled July 4 game was postponed by weather. Starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez lasted eight innings and had Baltimore in a 2-2 tie heading into the ninth inning. But McFarland blew the save in the final inning as the Red Sox stole the victory.

Baltimore, however, bounced back to beat the Red Sox, 7-4, in Game Two of the double header. Jimenez struggled as starting pitcher, giving up seven hits and four earned runs in just four inning pitched. But Baltimore’s bullpen settled the Red Sox’s offense down for the rest of the game and Britton closed out for his 13th save of the season. Cruz hit his 27th home run of the season and catcher Nick Hundley also hit a home run.

Next-up: Baltimore will close out its series with the Red Sox on Sunday in Boston and then will travel to Washington, D.C. to take on the Washington Nationals in a four-game series. The first two games of the four-game series will be played in D.C. on July 7-8 and the last two games will be played in Baltimore on July 9-10.  Baltimore will thereafter host the New York Yankees in a three-game series on July 11-13.

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor