Arthur Rhodes could take the biggest step forward in his career tonight in the last game before the expected strike.
Although Rhodes, the current American League Player of the Week, is aiming for a club record-tying third consecutive shutout tonight against the Boston Red Sox, he will settle for a quality start at Camden Yards. That would allow him to chase his ongoing pitching problems at home.
His two shutouts in consecutive starts showed exceptional progress, but they were at Milwaukee and Minnesota. Those clubs rank as two of the three worst home run-hitting teams and are in the bottom half of nearly every offensive category.
However, the true test won't be the slightly better-hitting Boston Red Sox, who begin what is expected to be a one-game series against the Orioles tonight. Rhodes' major challenge will be pitching at Camden Yards, where no one has pitched a shutout this year.
Rhodes is 1-2 with a 7.91 ERA at home this season. He also has won only one of his past seven decisions at Camden Yards. For his career, he is 7-11 in Baltimore.
Except this may not be the Rhodes of old. Besides moving to the left side of the rubber, Rhodes now has some substance to back his overflowing confidence. After his two shutouts, Rhodes said, "You can't do any better than that. And I'll do it again, too."
Before this impressive stretch, Rhodes had given up 34 runs and 39 hits in 34 2/3 innings. He averaged just 4 1/3 innings per start to earn a demotion.
Rhodes then went 6-3 for Triple-A Rochester, and has pitched nearly flawless ball for the Orioles since his return. In addition to getting his first win since April 26, Rhodes' ERA has dropped from 8.83 to 5.81 and he now has more innings (52 2/3 ) than hits allowed (51).
Rhodes faces Aaron Sele (8-7, 3.83), who shares the same
success rate on the road as Rhodes.
Sele is 3-2 with a 3.40 ERA on the road, and is 5-5 with a 4.11 ERA at Fenway Park. On Saturday, Sele defeated Cleveland at Fenway.