The Baltimore Orioles' bullpen should be in tip-top condition going into the weekend -- unless there's a rust element.
The Orioles have used just one reliever in the past three games combined, and that was to record one out.
Strong rotation work has helped Baltimore to a three-game winning streak heading into a Saturday night game against the visiting Houston Astros.
The pitching production has been incredible as the Orioles (79-71) have recorded back-to-back shutouts after giving up one run in the game before that.
Jordan Lyles threw a complete game on Wednesday in an 8-1 win over the Detroit Tigers. Kyle Bradish came an out away from doing the same against Houston on Thursday in a 2-0 win, and then Dean Kremer fired a four-hit shutout in a 6-0 victory over the Astros on Friday.
"I guess they noticed what Jordan did and tried to follow suit," Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said.
The Astros (99-53) haven't scored in the first two games of the series. They had won four consecutive games and 10 of 11 before showing up in Baltimore.
"We don't like it," said Astros manager Dusty Baker, whose team clinched the American League West earlier in the week. "We're not happy about it. ... They've pretty much taken it to us the past couple of days."
The Orioles are 4-1 against Houston this year, with games Saturday and Sunday remaining in the season series.
The consecutive shutouts have made an impact across the Baltimore clubhouse.
Despite all the mound success, the Orioles are adjusting going into the weekend. They scratched their scheduled Saturday starter, Tyler Wells, a right-hander who hasn't won a major league game since July 3. He is experiencing right shoulder soreness that will keep him out for the rest of the season.
In his place, the Orioles will go with right-hander Mike Baumann (1-3, 4.29 ERA), who will make his second career start and 15th appearance. He hasn't recorded a victory in the major leagues since April 11. Baumann has never faced the Astros in his two major league seasons.
Baltimore brought back Spenser Watkins from Triple-A Norfolk, and he could be ready to fill in for an extended stint out of the bullen.
The Astros changed plans as well after arriving in Baltimore. Left-hander Framber Valdez (16-5, 2.57 ERA) was pushed back to the Saturday game as he tries to win in his third consecutive start. He is 7-1 with a 2.05 ERA since the beginning of August.
A victory for Valdez would pull him into a tie for the team lead for victories with Justin Verlander, who threw in Thursday night's series opener.
Valdez made history while beating the Oakland A's on Sunday, when he gave up two runs on four hits in six innings. It was his 25th consecutive quality start, breaking the all-time, single-season record.
With another quality start on Saturday, Valdez would match longest such streak ever, a mark shared by the St. Louis Cardinals' Bob Gibson (1967-68) and the New York Mets' Jacob deGrom (2018-19).
Valdez has no decisions and a 1.93 ERA in two career appearances (one start) against the Orioles. He hasn't faced Baltimore since 2019.
The Orioles have other unresolved issues. Infielder Ramon Urias was scratched from the Friday game because of neck and shoulder discomfort.
The Astros had good news on the injury front after second baseman Jose Altuve returned from a one-game absence and posted two of the team's four hits on Friday. He sat out Thursday night after he was hit on the left elbow by a pitch in the Wednesday game at Tampa Bay.
"He wants to play," Baker said, suggesting the decision on whether Altuve is in the lineup will depend on the infielder's preference.
--Field Level Media