The Baltimore Orioles are looking to maintain their dominance at Camden Yards and stay atop the American League East when they resume interleague play with a three-game series against the Colorado Rockies beginning Monday.
Yovani Gallardo takes the mound for Baltimore and was encouraged by his last start when he was able to pitch into the seventh inning, a season-high. Baltimore's starters have struggled much of the season going deep into games and manager Buck Showalter is hoping to reverse that trend.
The Rockies, meanwhile, are mired in third place in the National League West and could consider making some trades to add top prospects. Colorado will face a stern challenge from an Orioles' team that has the best home record in the major leagues at 36-14 and just completed a three-game sweep of the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians.
"We try to win every game home and away and it's worked out a little bit more at home this year and we're just trying to win more games than four other teams in our division," Showalter said. "Obviously, our fans are very supportive and create a good atmosphere, but we have a lot of fans on the road, too. We don't overthink it."
Gallardo, who spent more than a month on the DL with right shoulder bicep tendinitis, has shown better velocity since he returned to the team in June. However, his command has been uneven. In the last outing, Gallardo allowed four runs on five hits in the 5-0 loss to the Yankees. Still, Gallardo is looking to build on that performance.
"I was getting some early contact with the pitches, which means I was throwing the ball over the plate," Gallardo said. "I think I made the adjustment compared to the last start in Tampa. It's definitely a positive sign, and keep doing it. Try to stay consistent with that, and go deep in the ballgames as much as I can."
The Orioles got a boost Sunday when when right-handed pitcher and setup man Darren O'Day was reinstated from the disabled list. O'Day, who hadn't pitched since June 1, threw a scoreless inning and is 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA, two saves and 28 strikeouts in 23 games (21 innings).
"I did one rehab outing and you'd think that it'd be a game where we were down by a couple runs, just get your feet wet, but oddly enough I was more calm today than I usually am," O'Day said. "I think it's just being gone, being away from the guys and the competition, makes you appreciate what you get to do and to be in the moment and get to pitch in a big spot. There is guys standing out there in 90-something degrees and to be able to keep that going and perform in that arena I think it really helped me a lot."
The Rockies will counter in the series opener with Jorge De La Rosa (6-7, 6.07 ERA). The right-hander was roughed in his last outing, allowing nine runs (seven earned) in just four innings against the Tampa Bay Rays.
"You're in the big leagues and you make mistakes, they're going to hit you hard," De La Rosa said after the game. "That happened today."
The Rockies have a hard-hitting lineup and could take advantage of the friendly confines of Camden Yards. Trevor Story has already broken the National League rookie home run record for shortstops. Story offers hope for the future...this season and beyond
"I have nothing to say that hasn't already been said," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He's having a great year. It seems like he breaks another record every week or so. He just keeps clicking. He's having a dream season."