The Baltimore Orioles return to play in the American League East tonight as the Tampa Rays come to Oriole Park at Camden Yards for a three-game weekend series. Given my background in radio I’ll start by giving you a “programming note;” tomorrow’s 4 PM late afternoon start will be televised by FOX on a regional basis. (You can visit www.the506.com to see if you live in an area that will be getting the O’s/Tampa game.) Given the Orioles’ struggles against San Diego and the fact that some teams in the division are starting to play well, this is a series that could have some bearing as we move forward.
Tampa comes into the series following a “Mother’s Day Massacre”-style meltdown at home last night, ironically against those same Boston Red Sox. Tampa went to the ninth inning with a two-run lead but closer Fernando Rodney gave up three runs in the top of the inning. That withstanding, Tampa’s an organization that’s become known for good pitching among other things, and they’ll send Jeremy Hellickson to the mound tonight against the O’s at the yard. Hellickson’s been somewhat of a hard-luck starter of late, pitching with leads in his last four starts but not winning any of them.
Jason Hammel will oppose Hellickson on the Orioles’ side, coming off of a lackluster four-inning outing last Friday in Minnesota. I’ve been asked questions all week regarding Hammel, and whether or not that Minnesota game indicates that he isn’t what he was last year. Let’s put it this way; the Minnesota start indicates that about as much as a perfect game or a no-hitter would indicate that he’s a step above last season. You have to take the good with the bad in sports, and all coaches and athletes will tell you that. The same goes for the Orioles’ previous series against San Diego as well.
Here’s an interesting question though; are the O’s catching Tampa at the right time? Losses such as the one they had last night are the type that could linger around a clubhouse for awhile and send a team into a bit of a tailspin. Personally I think that Joe Maddon‘s too good of a manager and a motivator to allow that to happen in total, but the fact is that losses like that sting. So in that sense the Orioles are seeing Tampa at a good time. However on the other hand one could submit that luck is due to flip back over the other way as well. They had a tough loss, and now maybe they’re due for a win or two. Incidentally, Tampa could probably say the same thing about the Orioles given their recent sweep at the hands of San Diego. Ultimately the Orioles probably have a bit of an advantage given that they’re at home, had an off day yesterday, and Tampa had to travel late at night to get to Baltimore.
With all of that said, Joe Maddon teams are always prepared well, just as Buck Showalter teams are. One way or another Hellickson vs. Hammel is a pretty decent pitching matchup. It’ll be interesting to see how Hellickson pitches Manny Machado, who’s obviously raking the ball right now. If he continues to get on base, good things will continue to happen for the Orioles.