First-place Orioles aim to extend Phillies' slump
(Sports Network) - The Baltimore Orioles have lifted eyebrows for their success this season and a first-place tag in the American League East.
The Philadelphia Phillies have done the same for opposite reasons.
Philadelphia and Baltimore will kick off three straight interleague games tonight at Camden Yards with the former trying to end a season-high six-game losing streak. The Phillies have been rattled with the injuries and inconsistent play at the plate. They hope some time away from home will cure the recent woes, as the Phils begin a nine-game interleague trek tonight against the Orioles, Twins and Blue Jays.
The Phillies, who are last in the NL East at six games off the pace, were just swept in four games by the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park. They suffered consecutive loss No. 6 with Thursday's 8-3 decision to L.A. and didn't get much help from current staff ace Cole Hamels, who suffered the loss for giving up four runs -- three earned -- in six innings.
"We get the lead and then we're giving it up," Hamels said. "That's kind of the frustrating part just for the fact that you see a win on one hand and see it kind of evaporate."
Mike Fontenot, starting in place of injured second baseman Freddy Galvis (back), had a team-high three hits and drove in a run. Hunter Pence went 2- for-5 with an RBI for the Phillies, who are now 0-23 when trailing after seven innings. Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco is bothered by a sore wrist and a cut to his left index finger, and did not play Thursday. Polanco could return tonight, but Ty Wigginton will most likely get the start if not.
Joe Blanton will handle the pitching assignment Friday for the Phillies and is 0-3 with a 10.98 earned run average in his last four starts. He previously took center stage in Sunday's 5-1 loss to Miami and was ripped for five runs and nine hits through six innings, falling to 4-6 in 12 games (11 starts) with a 5.27 ERA. He allowed two homers for the third straight outing and has been victimized by the long ball 11 times in his past five appearances.
Blanton is 1-4 as the visiting pitcher this season and 1-2 with a 5.09 ERA in six career starts against Baltimore.
The Orioles will take on both of Pennsylvania's ballclubs over the next six games with the Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates set to invade Camden Yards.
Baltimore has won three of five games since a six-game losing streak, but dropped a 7-0 decision at Boston on Thursday in the finale of a three-game series from Fenway Park. Brian Matusz was aiming to move over the .500 mark and was saddled with the loss, as he surrendered five runs, four of which were earned, on four hits and five walks in just two innings.
Matusz's counterpart, Clay Buchholz, recorded his first shutout in over two years. The Baltimore offense failed to get a runner past second in the setback and the club wrapped up a nine-game road trip at 3-6.
"His changeup was really good tonight and his breaking ball was there when he needed it," said Orioles designated hitter Chris Davis about Buchholz. "He did a good job of keeping us off balance and throwing strikes."
Davis had the lone extra-base hit with a double and slugging outfielder Adam Jones went 0-for-3. Jones, though, has still hit in 24 of his last 27 games for the Orioles, who are tied with Tampa Bay atop the AL East. New York is only one-half game off the pace.
Taking the mound for the O's tonight will be Jake Arrieta. Arrieta has struggled mightily lately with three straight losses and an 0-5 mark with a 7.96 ERA in his past six starts. He fell to 2-7 in 12 overall starts in Sunday's 8-4 loss at Tampa Bay and gave up four runs in 4 2/3 innings. He raised his ERA to 5.53 in the process.
Arrieta, a right-hander, is 1-4 in six trips to the Camden Yards mound this season and will face Philadelphia for the first time.
The Orioles swept the Phillies in three games back in 2009 at Citizens Bank Park and has won five of the last six matchups between the clubs. Baltimore, of course, defeated Philadelphia in five games to win the 1983 World Series.