Worley's gig: Veteran cementing starting role

Right-hander allows two runs over seven innings to set up walk-off

Worley's gig: Veteran cementing starting role

BALTIMORE -- Vance Worley has spent most of his first season with the Orioles as a member of the bullpen, so he knows first-hand how tough it was to watch the starting rotation routinely struggle to go deep in outings.

But Worley has moved into the rotation since the All-Star break, and part of the responsibility to keep the 'pen rested now falls on him. Like his fellow starters have done this past week, he went deep Sunday to continue a strong second half for the Orioles starters in a 5-3 walk-off win over the Indians to complete a series sweep.

Worley's season-high seven innings, in which he allowed two runs on five hits, marked the fourth time in the past five outings an Oriole starter tossed seven innings. It's a trend they are hoping continues in the second half of the season.

"Coming from the bullpen, I know how those guys feel," said Worley, who exited to a standing ovation. "We ate up a lot of innings early on and all the way up to All-Star break. By us starting to go deep out there, it's going to help them in the long run."

At the All-Star break, the Orioles had multiple question marks in the rotation. Since moving 23-year-old Dylan Bundy and Worley from the 'pen into starting roles, though, they've looked like a renewed group.

Orioles starters allowed three earned runs in their past four starts, good for a 1.04 ERA. And in their past 12 games, the O's rotation has a 2.90 ERA.

Worley was the latest to shut down the opposition, retiring the final 11 batters he faced. Even with him already at a season-high 90 pitches through six innings, manager Buck Showalter sent him back out for the seventh.

"I asked [catcher] Caleb [Joseph] after the sixth inning, I was contemplating about letting him go back out for the seventh. I go, 'What have you got?'" Showalter said. "And he goes, 'He's got command of everything still.' He had command of three pitches. He was down consistently."

Entering Sunday, the Orioles had the fourth-best bullpen ERA in the majors (3.10). They leaned on the group heavily in the first half of the season, and it usually delivered, but that's a tough formula to follow for a 162-game season.

For now, at least, the starters are giving the 'pen a welcome rest.

"Our starting pitching has been awesome the last few days here and they make it a lot easier on the bullpen," righty Darren O'Day said. "You can't talk about the game without talking about Vance."

Ryan Baillargeon is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.