The Baltimore Orioles are aggressively making changes to get back to the playoffs.
The return of Wei-Yin Chen seems to have already bolstered their chances.
Chen looks to win a third straight start since returning from the disabled list while the Orioles attempt to re-establish themselves at the plate against the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night.
Baltimore (57-44) holds one of the league’s two wild-card spots and is third in the AL East, two games back of second-place Tampa Bay and 3 1/2 behind Boston for first.
The Orioles are already making moves ahead of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, acquiring reliever Francisco Rodriguez from Milwaukee on Tuesday in exchange for minor league infielder Nick Delmonico.
Baltimore has a proven closer in Jim Johnson, who leads the majors with 35 saves. However, Rodriguez gives manager Buck Showalter another veteran option late in close games.
Rodriguez converted all 10 of his save opportunities, compiling a 1.09 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings over 25 games.
“We like Franky Rodriguez’s experience, especially in pitching in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette told the team’s official website. “And he’s done it well. He gives us a little more depth to our bullpen. We really like his changeup, his signature pitch that has had success against left-handed hitters. And he’s a major league veteran.”
While Rodriguez adds depth to the bullpen, Chen’s return has boosted the rotation.
The left-hander missed nearly two months with a strained right oblique, but he’s allowed two runs in 13 1-3 innings while winning two starts – both against Texas – since coming off the DL.
Chen (5-3, 2.67 ERA) has won three of his last four starts on the road behind a 2.31 ERA, yielding one run in 19 1/3 innings during those victories.
He didn’t get a decision against Kansas City on May 7, allowing two runs and exiting with one out in the seventh of a 4-3 win.
Chen will now try to help the Orioles rebound from Tuesday’s 3-2 defeat to the Royals (46-51) that snapped their five-game win streak. Baltimore, which was held to five hits and went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position, batted .319 during its run.
The bats may be sparked by Matt Wieters’ expected return after the two-time All-Star catcher was given a day off. He’s 11 for 22 with four doubles, two homers, four RBIs and six runs during a six-game road hitting streak, which includes a single and a double in Monday’s 9-2 win to open this four-game set.
The Royals are scheduled to turn to Ervin Santana (6-6, 3.18), who is looking to build on perhaps his best performance of the season. Another strong effort could also make him an attractive option for a postseason contender this month.
The right-hander dominated one of those teams Friday, limiting Central-leading Detroit to two hits in 7 1/3 innings of a 1-0 win.
“Everything was working, especially my location. Everything was down,” said Santana, who is 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA over his last four home starts.
He allowed three runs in six innings opposite Chen on May 7, giving up an RBI double to Wieters and two hits to Manny Machado.
Mike Moustakas is 7 for 16 over the past four games, getting two doubles while driving in a run Tuesday. He’s 2 for 6 with a double off Chen.