Royals, Vargas face Hellickson in his Orioles debut

BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Orioles were criticized for not being sellers at the non-waiver trade deadline.

They are determined to prove their detractors wrong and get back in the playoff race.

Baltimore can complete a three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals with a victory Wednesday. While Kansas City (55-50) still holds the second American League wild-card spot, Baltimore (52-54) is only 3 1/2 games behind the Royals.

The Orioles finally are getting some productive starts from their beleaguered rotation. On Monday, Ubaldo Jimenez held the Royals to one run over seven innings in a 2-1 victory. The following day, Dylan Bundy was even more impressive, throwing a career-high eight innings, allowing only one unearned run in a 7-2 win.

"We've got a lot of guys with a track record of pitching well," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "A couple more days and I might start looking at the standings again, so we'll see. So far, so good. Until we take care of our business, it doesn't matter where we are in the standings. Those are some good signs."

The Orioles have won four straight, pulling to within two games of .500 for the first time since July 3.

Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson makes his Orioles debut Wednesday after being acquired from Philadelphia on Friday. He went 6-5 with a 4.73 ERA in 20 starts for the Phillies this season.

Hellickson has traditionally struggled at Camden Yards, where he is 3-2 with a 5.01 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts). He allowed nine home runs in those outings.

Nonetheless, he is prepared to help the Orioles make a playoff push.

"I'm ready to help," said Hellickson, who will be pitching on 10 days of rest. "Didn't really follow the American League too much over there. So I got traded and looked at the standings and saw we're only five games back, 5 1/2, whatever. So still two months of baseball to play. I've been part of teams that came back from nine back in a month, so it's definitely doable.

"It is always fun to come back to and do things people say you can't do. Will be a fun two months."

Hellickson is 2-2 with a 4.85 ERA in eight career appearances (seven starts) against the Royals.

The addition of Hellickson creates a potential logjam in the rotation. If Showalter doesn't go with a six-man rotation, then one of the starters might be used out of the bullpen.

The manager is still mulling his options.

"It's a possibility, but there are some ways," Showalter said about a six-man rotation. "I'd like to get to a four-man bench. You can't burn two players with one move with a three-man bench. There are a lot of dynamics involved in that. The game changes how you manage according to your bench."

Kansas City will look to avoid the sweep behind left-hander Jason Vargas, who had a seven-game winning streak earlier in the season.

Vargas (13-4, 3.00 ERA) picked up a win in his last outing Friday at Boston, allowing only one run and five hits over six innings. It was his only win in four July starts.

"I was just able to command a few more pitches this time," Vargas said. "I threw some changeups wild early, but then I had better command of it."

Vargas is 2-3 with a 1.94 ERA in eight career starts against Baltimore. All three of those losses came at Camden Yards, where he has still managed a 2.76 ERA and a complete game in four appearances.