It might not be all that surprising if the Orioles-Cubs matinee on Saturday at Wrigley Field turns into a pitchers' duel. Baltimore righty Bud Norris, fresh off one of his best starts of the season, will get the ball opposite Chicago rookie Kyle Hendricks, who has turned in six straight quality starts.
The game will carry greater big-picture significance for the O's, who had their four-game win streak snapped by a 4-1 Chicago win on Friday. Baltimore will look to further pad its American League East cushion toward double-digit territory as they face the cellar-dwelling Cubs all weekend.
Norris is charged with that task on Saturday. He, like most of the Baltimore rotation, has been rolling of late, earning a 2.87 ERA and 1.21 WHIP over his last 10 starts.
On Monday, Norris beat the White Sox, allowing two runs over seven innings to outduel Chris Sale before the Orioles' offense broke it open late. Norris allowed just one baserunner through the first six innings and issued no walks for the first time since his first start of the season.
Hendricks, meanwhile, has been a recent bright spot for the Cubs, as he's ventured into waters uncharted by a first-year Cubs pitcher since a young Kerry Wood tossed seven straight quality starts (twice) in 1998.
During Hendricks' streak, not only has he met the requirements for a quality start -- at least six innings, no more than three earned runs -- but he's cruised past them. The 24-year-old righty has lasted a minimum of seven innings in five of those six games and allowed no more than one earned run in all six, posting a 0.84 ERA and 0.89 WHIP in that span.
Nearly two-thirds of all of Hendricks' pitches this month have been sinkers, according to brooksbaseball.net, and it's worked out just fine for him. Opposing batters are hitting .224 with a .293 slugging percentage against the sinker.
Hendricks' most recent gem came Monday against the Mets when he allowed one run in seven innings for his fourth consecutive win. A Lucas Duda homer was the lone blemish on his ledger.
"I know it's a short snippet, and [Hendricks has] been very, very good, but he is [Greg] Maddux-like in his execution and approach," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said afterward, referencing the former Cubs pitcher and recent Hall of Fame inductee.
Orioles: Machado likely done for season
Manny Machado is eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list Wednesday. He won't.
In fact, his season is likely over. The 22-year-old is expected to undergo right knee surgery by Dr. Neal ElAttrache within the next week, MLB.com confirmed on Friday.
Machado, diagnosed with a right knee ligament sprain earlier this month, has been traveling with the team, but information about his injury has been closely guarded. The team never released which ligament was injured or the grade of the sprain, and manager Buck Showalter said before Friday's 4-1 loss to the Cubs that he was hoping to be able to give reporters a more concrete answer on Machado's timetable this weekend.
It will be the second consecutive season-ending knee procedure for the young All-Star, who suffered a season-ending left knee injury last September at Tropicana Field and missed the first month of this season recovering. ElAttrache also performed Machado's left knee surgery.
Cubs: Myriad of strikeouts part of growing process, Renteria says
The Cubs strike out -- a lot. They entered play Friday second in the Majors with 1,127 punchouts, trailing only the Marlins (1,129). They also tied Miami with a 23.4 percent strikeout rate that's tops in the big leagues.
According to Renteria, though, it can at least in part be chalked up to the Cubs' many young position players still finding their way at the Major League level. Arismendy Alcantara and Javier Baez, for example, had struck out in 27. 3 percent and 40.5 percent of their plate appearances, respectively, and although they are only relatively recent callups, the since-optioned Mike Olt (39.6 percent) and Junior Lake (33.4 percent) also did their fair share of swinging and missing.
"For some of the young guys who just arrived, it's still a learning process, it's still trying to get comfortable at the Major League level," Renteria said. "It's also getting comfortable understanding there's a lot of information out there, and the opposition can dissect every single thing about a particular batter's approach and attack it and use anything they can against that particular hitter. They're in a learning curve and trying to understand both sides of it.
"You have to break down young men having the at-bats and see what their thought process was during the at-bat. By the same token, you still want guys to have the aggressiveness they have."
• Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones said Friday he isn't sure whether he will go with the team of MLB players headed to Japan for a five-game exhibition series in November. Jones was one of four players selected to the team earlier this week.
• Righty Jacob Turner pronounced himself ready should the Cubs opt to give him the start Tuesday against the Reds in place of the injured Edwin Jackson. Turner threw 34 pitches in two innings of relief Thursday, and he last started -- for the Marlins, also against the Reds -- on Aug. 3.
• In a combined 61 plate appearances against Norris, the Cubs own a .167/.246/.278 slash line. The Orioles have never faced the rookie Hendricks.
Tim Healey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.