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Best Pitching Streak Since 1974 Orioles Snapped

HOUSTON—The Astros 7-5 loss to the Twins on Sunday snapped an 11-game stretch during which they matched a feat last accomplished 41 years ago by the Orioles rotation of Mike Cueller, Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, and Ross Grimsley (see comparison below).

Orioles 1974 RS RA Astros 2015 RS RA
at Rangers 6 2 vs Rays 3 2
at Royals 9 2 vs Rays 3 2
at Royals 3 2 vs Rays 0 1
at Royals 7 1 vs Dodgers 3 0
vs Red Sox 1 0 vs Dodgers 3 1
vs Red Sox 1 0 vs Dodgers 3 2
vs Red Sox 6 0 at Yankees 0 1
at Indians 2 0 at Yankees 15 1
at Indians 1 0 at Yankees 6 2
at Indians 3 2 at Twins 0 3
at Indians 4 7 at Twins 4 1
Aug 29-Sept 8 4 1 Aug 18-Aug 29 4 1

Beginning with a game I attended on August 18, the Astros became the first team since 1974 to hold nine straight opponents to fewer than three runs. The streak was barely broken in a 3-0 loss to the Twins Friday, but the Astros bounced right back for a 4-1 win against the Twins Saturday to remain comfortably in first place in the AL West.

The Orioles No. 4 starter Ross Grimsley beat the Rangers 6-2 on August 29, 1974, and then ace Mike Cuellar, Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, and Grimsley rotated through to hold opponents below three runs for 10 straight games.

September 2, 1974 may have marked the greatest day of pitching in regular season history, as Grimsley outdueled Luis Tiant 1-0 on a Bobby Grich home run in the first game of a double header.

In the nightcap Cuellar won a second 1-0 game when Paul Blair knocked in Enos Cabell off Boston’s Bill Lee. The Orioles made it five straight shutouts before Grimsley won 3-2 to make his record 3-0 during the 10 days as did Cuellar, while Palmer and McNally went 2-0.

On September 8, Palmer finally got touched up to end the 10-game streak in a 7-4 loss. The streak helped the Orioles edge the A’s for home field advantage in the AL playoffs, but after splitting two games in Oakland the Orioles lost two incredible pitcher duels in Baltimore.

Sal Bando’s home run was the only score in a classic Vida Blue vs. Palmer 1-0 duel in Game 3 and in Game 4 the A’s managed only one hit but scored when Cuellar walked four straight batters in what would be a 2-1 loss. The A’s went onto win their third straight World Series.

As balanced as the Orioles rotation was, none of their four starters finished with a sub-3.00 ERA.

Four Astros playoff starters could have sub-3.00 ERAs:

1. Ace Dallas Keuchel boasts a 2.28 ERA, including wins of 3-2 and 15-1 during the stretch.

2. Former A’s pitcher Scott Kazmir won 3-1 and lost 0-3 (2.64 ERA).

3. Former Brewer Mike Fiers won 4-1 on Saturday to follow-up his no hitter against the Dodgers to give him one earned run allowed in his last 27 innings for the Astros (0.33 ERA).

4. The Astros rested Lance McCullers (3.12 ERA) for a month, and he responded by battling Clayton Kershaw close enough that the Astros rallied for a win.

Scott Feldman and Collin McHugh both had two strong outings during the stretch. The Astros now face the option of who they want to keep in the rotation due to the two new acquisitions and a rested McCullers.

Ironically, during their 11-game streaks above, both the Astros and the Orioles averaged winning by a score of 4-1.

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