Game Preview 06/20: Orioles vs. Pirates

Instead of doing series previews like I have been, I’m going to try something different and do single game previews. This will allow me to take more time on each game and pitching match-up and it will also give you guys less information to take in at one time which I’m sure makes it difficult to remember. So we’ll see how this way works out.

Tonight the Orioles head to probably the best park in baseball that is PNC Park in Pittsburgh, PA to take on the better-than-expected Pirates. The Pirates are 35-36 and 4th in the NL Central. In their last 10 games, they’ve gone 5-5 including a 4-game series split with the Mets, a sweep of the Houston Astros (who the O’s may very well be playing every year in the AL soon), and most recently, getting swept by the Indians in Interleague Play. In case you’ve been busy, the O’s have also gone 5-5 including, most recently, a series loss to the Nats. Tonight, it’s surprise righty Jake Arrieta vs. the also-great Salt Man Charlie Morton. These guys numbers are actually pretty similar and they both sort of came out of nowhere.

I’ll tell you a bit about Morton and his background. The righty is 6’5” and 230 pounds and was drafted by the Braves in 2002 out of high school. He made his first start with the Braves in 2007 where he also got his first win going 6 innings giving up 3 runs. He was traded to the Pirates in 2009. Last season, he was anything but good finishing the season with a 2-12 record and a 7.57 ERA (this included losing all 5 starts in April). However, last season doesn’t matter too much. This season, he’s 7-3 with a nice ERA of 3.21. His most recent start came against the Houston Astros where he went 5 innings giving up 9 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, and 3 strikeouts. He also reminds me of Arrieta a lot because the start he had before this was against the Mets where he only went 4 innings and gave up 9 hits and 7 runs. He can have a really bad start every once in a while (like Arrieta) but typically pitches a decent outing in order to keep his team in the game, which is exactly what Arrieta does. As for what Morton throws: he relies on a sinker close to half the time, resulting in a lot of ground ball outs. He doesn’t strike out a lot of batters and he does walk quite a few.

Let me give a little background on Arrieta as well. He was drafted by the Brewers in 2005 but decided to go to TCU instead. He was then drafted by the O’s in 2007. His first start came on June 10, 2010 against the Yankees where he went 6 innings giving up 4 hits and 3 runs and striking out 6 to get his first win. This season, he’s 8-4 with a 4.45 ERA. His last start resulted in a loss (even though if he had run support, it was a great start) where he went 6 2/3 innings giving up 9 hits and 3 runs, including 2 homers, and 2 walks while striking out 5. Funny, those are very similar numbers to Morton’s last outing. We know Arrieta is a high-strikeout pitcher which also results in him walking more batters than most pitchers and also in getting his pitch count up earlier. This match-up looks to be fantastic.

As to how the O’s fare against Salty, only a few have seen him before. J.J. Hardy has gone 2 for 6 against him with a double and an RBI. Derrek Lee has gone 3 for 6 with a walk and 2 RBIs. Mark Reynolds has gone 2 for 6 with a walk and 4 strikeouts.

I can’t tell you how Pirates play against Arrieta since he’s never faced them before so look for these few players to do damage because they’re hot: Garrett Jones (.320, 8 for 25, 3 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB in 7 days), Neil Walker (.356, 9 for 26, 3 R, 1 3B, 6 RBI, 3 BB in 7 days).

Here’s the line-ups for tonight’s 7:05 start:

Orioles
J.J. Hardy SS
Nick Markakis RF
Adam Jones CF
Derrek Lee 1B
Matt Wieters C
Mark Reynolds 3B
Felix Pie LF
Robert Andino 2B
Jake Arrieta P

Pirates
Jose Tabata LF
Josh Harrison 3B
Andrew McCutchen CF
Garrett Jones 1B
Neil Walker 2B
Xavier Paul RF
Ronny Cedeno SS
Michael McKenry C
Charlie Morton P

Tags: Adam Jones Derrek Lee Felix Pie J.J. Hardy Jake Arrieta Mark Reynolds Matt Wieters Nick Markakis Robert Andino

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