05/16/10 12:38 AM ET
Indians, O's set to clash in winner-take-all finale
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
Oddly enough, Orioles starters have produced 19 quality starts in the team's 37 games this year, but the starting staff's record is 7-19. Perhaps even odder: The O's bullpen had actually been pretty solid lately.
Interestingly, the O's made a decision on Sunday morning to scratch David Hernandez and start lefty Mark Hendrickson in his place after it was learned that the winless Hernandez had been battling right shoulder discomfort.
In fact, both the Orioles' and the Indians' relief corps have pitched relatively well this season despite each club getting just three relief appearances from their closers. Heading into Saturday night's game, the Indians' 'pen had posted a 3.69 ERA that ranked sixth in the American League.
The Orioles, meanwhile, sported a 3.75 ERA that was eighth in the league despite the fact closer Mike Gonzalez and setup man Jim Johnson are currently on the disabled list. Before Saturday's ninth-inning meltdown -- when 11 Indians hitters carouseled to the plate -- the O's 'pen had given up just one run in 4 2/3 innings in a three-game winning streak.
So, perhaps it was more of an anomaly than a cause for concern?
"The better we can pitch as a bullpen, the better we can do as a team, and, likewise, the better the starters do," veteran left-hander Mark Hendrickson said prior to Saturday's game. "It seems like right now everyone's kind of starting to come around and pitch well together as a collective unit.
"I'm pretty confident we are headed in the right direction."
Each team will be gunning for a series win as they head towards the series finale at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Sunday. The Indians seek their fourth series win, while the O's aim for their third.
Indians: Nothing wrong with Sizemore
Indians manager Manny Acta said he doesn't think there's anything mentally wrong with center fielder Grady Sizemore as he battles through an early-season slump -- one that has his batting average at .206 after striking out as a pinch-hitter on Saturday. Acta believes what the 27-year-old lefty hitter needs to work on is patience at the plate and shortening his swing.
Sizemore has drawn just nine walks while striking out 35 times in 32 games this year.
"He's not walking as much as he used to," Acta said. "You're not going to hit seven or eight home runs, and you're not going to go from .200 to .300 in two at-bats. He's working on it. But I think we all want some more consistency."
Orioles: Hendrickson gets the ball
Hendrickson, who has 165 career starts, has worked exclusively out of the 'pen this season and will make his first start of the season on Sunday. He's struggled a bit in this role in 2010, allowing nine earned runs in 14 1/3 innings of work. Hendrickson has been effective at keeping the ball in the park though, allowing just one long ball this season.
Last year, the Orioles didn't notch their 19th quality start of the season until June 10. ... The Indians placed infielder Andy Marte on the 15-day disabled list because of a "non-baseball medical issue" and recalled outfielder Trevor Crowe to take his roster spot. ... Cleveland's win on Saturday put its record against the AL East at 1-4 this season. ... Gonzalez (shoulder strain) threw off the mound in the Orioles' Spring Training complex in Sarasota, Fla., marking the first time in his rehab he's thrown off the hill. ... O's second baseman Brian Roberts (herniated disk) has been cleared to participate in baseball-related activities. But, as manager Dave Trembley cautioned, "he's got a ways to go yet."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.