Orioles vs Royals Preview 5/24-5/26

The Baltimore Orioles are riding the high of their exciting 2-1 victory that ended in a strike-them-out-throw-them-out double play (and a save to Mr. Erratic Kevin Gregg). Now they take on the Kansas City Royals, who, like the O’s, are just trying to stay within striking distance in their division. There are some pretty good pitching match-ups, including tonight’s battle of the talented rookies.  With the help of Michael Engel at the Kings of Kauffman blog, here is a preview of the upcoming series:

Orioles Record  21-24 (5-5 in last 10)

Royals Record 22-24 (3-7 in last 10)

Tuesday 5/24

Danny Duffy LHP   (0-0, 4.50)  vs  Zach Britton LHP  (5-2, 2.14)

Duffy made his major league debut on Wednesday the 18th and while he only went four innings, at times he looked every bit the top tier pitching prospect the Royals expected to see.  He said after the game he was “amped up” and that explains some of his wildness.  He mixed a fastball that ranged from 91-96 mph with a curve that sat around 77mph and improved as he went on in the game.  Problem is, that adrenaline caused him to overthrow a lot and he missed spots, walking six batters, and drove his pitch count up to 94.  He still struck out four and limited the Rangers to four hits.  He should be more composed this time out in his second start.

Britton continues an excellent rookie season, but is starting to become a victim of lack-of-run support. In his last outing  he went seven innings and only allowed one (unearned run). But the O’s scored no runs in return and Britton received a no decision.  In 59 innings, Britton has a microscopic 1.04 WHIP and is currently riding a 19+ no earned runs allowed inning streak.

Weds  5/25

Luke Hochevar RHP (3-4, 4.36) vs  Jake Arrieta RHP (5-2, 4.75)

These pitchers had the opposite outings their last time on the mound. Hochevar pitched his longest game of the season, going 8 2/3 innings allowing the heavy hitting Rangers only one run. Meanwhile, Arrieta has a terrible last start (the beginning of the DC Massacre), going only 3 2/3 innings giving up six runs, three walks and six hits.

Thurs  5/26

Jeff Francis LHP (1-5, 4.23)  vs  Jeremy Guthrie RHP (2-6, 3.45)

Francis finally got his first win as a Royal on Friday, combining with Aaron Crow and Joakim Soria to shut out the Cardinals.  In his start prior to the interleague game, he threw a complete game (of eight innings in a loss to Detroit) and held the Tigers scoreless in the last seven, so he’s working on a streak of 14.2 scoreless innings.  He’s struck out 10 in his last two starts and walked just three.  With no real velocity, Francis’s game is all about command.  If his pitches are working and he’s hitting the corners, he gives the Royals a chance to win.  If not, he walks people and gets hit hard.

Guthrie finally got some run support in his last start, and was able to get the allusive W. On Saturday Guthrie pitched seven innings, giving up only two unearned runs. 

Who’s Hot – Orioles

Nick Markakis RF – Markakis is batting .346 (9 for 26) in his last 6 games.  Nick is starting to regain his 2010 form – which the Orioles will need in the long division stretches ahead. 

Vlad Guerrero DH – Vlad is hitting a scorching .444 (slugging .630) in his last 7 games.  Guerrero is starting to become the clean-up hitter the Orioles were hoping for when they signed him this off-season.  

Jeremy Guthrie RHP – Not only did Guthrie pitch eight innings without giving up an earned run against the Nationals on Saturday, he also pitched one inning of relief work in the most recent Yankee massacre.

Zach Britton LHP – The rookie pitcher leads the team in ERA at 2.14 holding opponents to a .210 batting average.

Who’s Hot – Royals

Eric Hosmer 1B – Hosmer went 10 for 30 last week including a homer off Neftali Feliz to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth on Wednesday against the Rangers.  It was his first homer in Kauffman Stadium since coming up on May 6th. 

Luke Hochevar RHP – in addition to his great last outing, Hochevar has 34 strikeouts in his last 10 games (to only 17 walks).

Alcides Escobar has gone 7 for his last 22 in the last week, showing signs of life with his bat to go along with a Gold Glove caliber defensive display.

Who’s Not – Orioles

Michael Gonzalez LHP  – with an 11.57 ERA in his last 3 games, Gonzalez is not spelling relief for the O’s. Michael has been way too streaky so far this season and not someone the Orioles can count on for important outs against power righties in the lineup.

Mark Reynolds 3B – the hitting struggles continue for Reynolds, who is batting .256 in the last 10 games  – which isn’t too bad except for the 12 strikeouts in 35 at-bats and the lack of power (only 2 homeruns).

Who’s Not – Royals

Billy Butler’s struggled, but it’s more bad luck than anything.  He’s hitting line drives right at people and they aren’t falling for hits.  He went 5 for 25 last week, but walked three times and doubled twice on Sunday against the Cardinals.

Injuries – Orioles

Brian Roberts 2B – B-Rob is still having headaches and won’t return to the lineup as scheduled. His status is up in the air.

Derek Lee 1B – Lee is still on the DL with a left oblique strain. He is looking at a early June return, but these types of injuries can be tricky.

Cesar Izturis IF – this is a long-term injury that will require surgery. Don’t look for Izzy back any time soon.

Brian Matusz P – Matusz has made minor league starts and is expected to be back in the rotation before the end of the month.

Justin Duchscherer P – still on recovery assignment. Could be back in June.

 Injuries – Royals

Bruce Chen P – Left lat strain. Due back in late May.

Kyle Davies P – Right rotator cuff inflammation. On the 15-day DL, due back at the end of the month.

Jason Kendall, C – has been on the DL since the start of the season with right shoulder surgery.

Tags: Baltimore Orioles Jake Arrieta Jeremy Guthrie Kevin Gregg Nick Markakis Vladimir Guerrero Zach Britton