Originally written on The Baseball Page  |  Last updated 7/17/12

The Baltimore Orioles are currently searching for a way to make the playoffs for the first time since 1997. They are quickly running out options after a cruel twist of fate further crippled a pitching staff that was already teetering. The Orioles fell 4-0 to the Detroit Tigers, but the most crucial blow of the day came from off the field in the training room.

It was announced today that Orioles starter and staff ace Jason Hammel will be undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Monday on his right knee that will put him out of service for at least a month. Hammel left his start on Friday in the fourth inning after landing awkwardly on his right leg. All of the Orioles faithful had hoped the injury wasn't major, but the Birds will in fact without their best pitcher for at least a month. Hammel's numbers this season have been exceptional from the start. He has turned in only two bad outings all season, but Hammel has been fighting through discomfort in his right knee for the last month and Friday the pain became too much to endure. He is winless since June 22 but remains the Orioles leader in wins and strikeouts.

Hammel said "It's a decision that had to be made. It's not easy because I could rest for maybe a week and it might go back to where it was. But then you run the risk of it happening every time I go out there."

It could be the final blow to an Orioles rotation that has been all over the map so far this season. With Hammel doing to the DL, the only pitcher from the starting rotation on opening day that is still on the active roster is Wei-Yin Chen who has been excellent this season in his own right. The Orioles starters for the upcoming four game series against the Twins are projected to be Chris Tillman, Zach Britton, a starter to be named this week, and Chen. In summary, a pitcher making his second major league start of the season, another making his first, an open slot that could be filled by just about anyone right now, and Chen.

On to today's game, the Baltimore Orioles ran into a buzz saw today in Justin Verlander. Verlander went eight innings striking out eight in a dominant performance. Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez did a great job of keeping the Birds in the game but the offense couldn't solve Verlander and finished with just four hits. Jim Thome picked up three of the four hits and is showing signs of coming on for an Oriole offense that is otherwise struggling. Another injury occurred in the top of the sixth inning when starting second basemen Robert Andino went down with a shoulder injury and had to leave the game.

The loss of Hammel makes it even more apparent that unless the Birds make some serious moves at the trade deadline to improve the starting pitching staff, they will likely fall out of the playoff picture all together. For now, it's off to Minnesota for four against a Twins team that is just 36-52 on the year. They were swept by Oakland in their first post All-Star break series and are losers of seven of their last eight games.

A chance to get back on track awaits in Minnesota and hopefully the Birds can remain healthy enough to do so.

Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.

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