BALTIMORE -- Injuries and illness have crippled the Baltimore Orioles in recent days, and life will not get much easier when they face the American League Central-leading Cleveland Indians on Friday night at Camden Yards.
The Indians send out right-hander Trevor Bauer (7-3, 3.36 ERA) against rookie right-hander Dylan Bundy (2-2, 3.70), making just his second start. Bauer is one of four strong starting pitchers who have given the Indians a big lead in the AL Central early in the second half of the season
Cleveland last played on Wednesday and Tyler Naquin belted two homers and finished with six RBIs as the Indians hit five homers in an 11-4 victory over the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals. The Indians held a 7 1/2-game lead over Detroit before the Tigers played Thursday night.
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The solid starting pitching could give the power-hitting Orioles trouble in this series. Cleveland.com reported Thursday that the Indians rank second in the AL in strikeouts, something that has been a problem for Baltimore at times this season.
MLB.com reported that Naquin has hit all 12 of his homers since coming from the minors on June 2 and that he's hitting .327 in 113 at-bats and giving the Indians plenty of punch.
"I believe that if you put in the right work, if you work for something and it happens, you shouldn't be surprised at all," he said on MLB.com.
Home runs were an issue when Bundy made his first start last weekend against the Rays. He gave up three in 3 1/3 innings in a loss to Tampa Bay after turning in several longer relief appearances.
It's doubtful that Bundy would make it past five innings as 3 1/3 innings is his longest effort this season. The Orioles turned to him as they're desperately looking for a starter to give some solid early innings and then they could turn it over the bullpen while Bundy would eventually stretch himself out as time goes on.
What makes everything even tougher is that the Orioles have been hit with a number of injury and illness issues in recent days, a big reason they slid out of first place after losing Wednesday. They ended a four-game slide with a 4-1 victory over the New York Yankees on Thursday afternoon.
A stomach bug/virus is working its way through the clubhouse and has sidelined Chris Davis (three games), Manny Machado (Wednesday, but he came back Thursday) and manager Buck Showalter (out Wednesday, back Thursday).
It also hit closer Zach Britton and Matt Wieters last week, but they didn't miss any time. A few coaches also got knocked down by with the virus.
As for the injuries, Hyun Soo Kim got put on the disabled list earlier in the week. Adam Jones (back spasms) missed Thursday's game as did fellow outfielder Joey Rickard (thumb injury). Matt Wieters (sore foot) sat out for a third straight game but might return Friday, if all goes well.
"Wieters is close. I'm hoping it's kind of day to day," Showalter told MASN.com after Thursday's win. "Adam, I'm hoping it's not very long. I'm hoping he can play tomorrow, but he had some back spasms. It was toward the end of the game last night.
"He actually felt it a little bit early. Chris worked his way through. He knew we were short. We only had 10 players."