Recently, the Toronto Blue Jays might have been the first-ever postseason contender to lose three starters to the Disabled List in the space of four days.
Now, the Baltimore Orioles might be the first ever-postseason contender to send three starting pitchers to the minor leagues in the space of a week.
First, it was Tommy Hunter. Last weekend, Hunter and his 6.11 ERA were sent to triple-A Norfolk.
Then it was Brian Matusz's turn; he was dispatched to Norfolk after a Sunday start that bumped his ERA to 5.42 (and 8.42 in his last five starts, with more strikeouts than walks).
And Thursday night, Jake Arrieta made it three. Given a 7-3 lead over the Angels in the fourth inning, Arrieta couldn't hold it and the Orioles wound up losing the game, 9-7. Before that fateful fourth inning was over, Arrieta's ERA was 6.13. Before the night was over, Arrieta got the news that he'd be joining Hunter and Matusz in the International League.
Somewhat miraculously, if the season ended today the Baltimore Orioles would be in the championship tournament, just edging the Cleveland Indians for the second Wild Card.
Oddly, both the Orioles and the Indians have been outscored this season.
Well, it's not odd that both have been outscored. It's odd that two teams that have been outscored would be lining up for playoff spots. And of course this state of affairs almost certainly won't last. With the Angels looking like solid candidates for the first Wild Card, the numbers suggest the Orioles and Indians will both fall back, in favor of the Red Sox or the Rays.
There's always hope, though, and the Orioles just might be well-equipped to withstand the demotion, in short order, of three-fifths of their starting rotation.
Tillman just arrived from Norfolk; down there still are a number of starters with major-league experience, including Jason Berken, Brad Bergesen, and Zach Britton. Major-league veteran Dana Eveland's already been called up, made a spot start last weekend, and will probably remain in the rotation. Also in the rotation: 28-year-old Miguel Gonzalez, who pitched brilliantly earlier this season with Norfolk.
Granted, that was only 45 innings. And Gonzalez had never been remotely as good before.
But this is baseball, and baseball's about hope, and hope's about ... well, hope. The new three-fifths will probably pitch better than the old three-fifths. How could they not? But the other two-fifths, the good two-fifths, might well be due for a bit of regression, since Jason Hammel's never pitched this well and Wei-Yin Chen's an unknown quantity with an ERA better than the rest of his statistics.
Still. Hope. And luck. A lot of luck. Youneverknow.