Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles vs. Chicago White Sox (4/29-5/2)


After a 4-5 homestand including a sweep by the Yankees and a 2-1 series win against the Red Sox, the O’s travel to the southside of Chicago to take on the also faltering White Sox. They’ve gone 3-7 in their last ten games. This series should be a good one for both teams (I’m smelling a split here) since they both are bottom-of-the-divison teams. I worked with Riley over at “a href=””> Southside Showdown on this preview so make sure to check out his site for the lodown on the other Sox team.

 Baltimore Orioles:
2011 Regular Season Record: 10-13, 5th in AL East (4.5 GB)
88 Runs Scored/105 Runs Allowed

Chicago White Sox:
2011 Regular Season Record: 10-16, 4th in AL central (7 GB)
103 Runs Scored/115 Runs Allowed

Friday April 29: RHP Jake Arrieta (2-1, 4.94 ERA) vs. LHP John Danks (0-3, 3.27 ERA)
Danks was first a victim of his bullpen but has become a victim of his offense. The White Sox have supplied Danks with just one run of support in his last two starts. Four of Danks’ five starts have been quality starts and he has done a good job of keeping the ball in the park thus far.

Arrieta’s gem of a game against the Twins last week helped lead the O’s to the 11-0 shutout that ended their 8 game losing streak. Unfortunately, he earned a loss against the Yankees this week after only giving up 3 runs on 5 hits with 9 strikeouts due to a terrible top of the 11th defensive showing by the team. All of the O’s starters have gotten undeserved losses due to the O’s offensive struggles so far this season and Arrieta is no different.

Saturday April 30: RHP Chris Tillman (0-2, 6.16 ERA) vs. RHP Philip Humber (2-2, 3.20 ERA)
Jake Peavy’s replacement has glued this rotation together, if only for the time being. Humber held the Yankees to one hit through seven innings of work in his last outing. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2004 draft, Humber be figuring some things out under the tutelage of pitching coach Don Cooper.

Tillman missed his last few starts due to a sore groin but is fully expected to start Saturday. He’s another victim of the loss due to no run support. He lost to the Twins in his last outing giving up 3 runs on 6 hits in 6.2 innings with 5 strikeouts.

Sunday May 1: LHP Zach Britton (4-1, 2.84 ERA) vs. RHP Gavin Floyd (3-1, 3.60 ERA)
Floyd has been susceptible to the long ball at times this year, but when he’s good, he’s good. He struck out 10 Yankees in his last outing and only yielded two solo homers at Yankee Stadium, a respectable number these days.

So far, Britton has been really good and the most consistent starter on the team. He has yet to go less than 6 innings in a game this season. He’s also become the first starter in O’s history to win 4 games in April. In his last outing he gave up 5 hits but only allowing one run in 6 innings with a 1.50 ERA for the game. He has really stepped it up to prove he belongs and has really been who the O’s can count on.

Monday May 2: RHP Jeremy Guthrie (1-3, 2.53 ERA) vs. LHP Mark Buehrle (1-3, 5.12 ERA)
Buerhle has been the least consistent of all the White Sox starters. He’s given up a bunch of hits but can still pop out of the woodwork and throw eight innings of two-hit ball from time to time.

Guthrie is really starting to get back on track after battling through pneumonia. He faced the Red Sox on Wednesday and pitched 6 innings of 7-hit shutout ball with 6 strikeouts. It’s definitely good to see the O’s current ace getting back to quality starts like he had in the beginning of the season, the team definitely needs that.

Baltimore Orioles:
Vladimir Guerrero: the DH is the closest on the team to a .300 batting average (he’s at .284 now). In the last three games he’s done something good. He went 3 for 4 agains the Red Sox Tuesday, got the game-winning RBI single in the 8th against the Red Sox Wednesday, and hit the game-tying homerun against the Red Sox in Thursday’s game. He’s gone 4 for 21 (.190) against Danks, just 0 for 1 against Humber, 4 for 21 (.190) against Floyd, and 12 for 33 (.364) against Buehrle.
Brian Roberts: He seems to get on base a good amount of the time and smacks RBIs often, though this has begun to dwindle with the bottom of the line-up declining. He has 16 RBIs and 3 HR on the season with a .253 batting average. Against Danks, he’s 7 for 19 (.368). He’s also just 0 for 1 against Humber and 4 for 17, or .235, against Floyd. Against Buehrle, he’s hitting .333 going 13 for 39.

Chicago White Sox:
Paul Konerko (9 for last 25, 2 HR 6 RBI): Paulie carried the team on his back during April and May of last year, and he’s struggling to find help again these days, other than the occasional Carlos Quentin home run.
Sergio Santos (11 2/3 IP, 0 ER, 14 K): The only surefire extinguisher in Ozzie Guillen’s bullpen early this season. From a sixth or seventh-inning guy on Opening Day, Santos is now the most trusted arm out there and earned two saves at Yankee Stadium, preserving 2-0 and 3-2 leads.

Baltimore Orioles:
Mark Reynolds: He’s hitting just .171 with only 2 HR on the season. He does have 13 RBIs but 23 strikeouts and he never seems to stay hot when he does get a few hits a game or an RBI or two.
Nick Markakis: Only batting .211 with 2 HR and 6 RBIs, Nick is not performing offensively at all. My point is kind of moot after I looked stats up and see that he’s on a 5-game hit streak right now BUT he always gets out at very inopportune times (like with RISP). He has done well against the White Sox pitching in his career. Against Danks, he is batting .381 going 8 for 21. He’s only faced Humber twice and has gotten a hit in one of those at-bats. He’s gone 4 for 14 against Floyd, batting .286. Finally, he’s very successful against Buehrle, with a .435 batting average, going 10 for 23.

Chicago White Sox:
Gordon Beckham (5 for last 51, 12 KO 1 BB): Beckham’s stellar start quickly turned downward and continues to plummet as days off grow into removal from the No. 2 hole, which could turn into whispers about minor league duty with Brent Lillibridge showing up to work.
Alex Rios (.158 avg., 0 HR 4 RBI): Rios hasn’t been able to get things started this year. He flourished in the No. 3 spot in front of Paul Konerko last year, a position that now belongs to…
Adam Dunn (.172, 2 HR 10 RBI): Pair an emergency appendectomy with an unfamiliar role as designated hitter and there are plenty of excuses to make for Dunn, who just isn’t hitting the ball. He has struck out in 16 or 18 games so far and has yet to help bring much credibility to a very dangerous lineup.

Injury Updates for the O’s:
Brian Matusz says he’s taken a big step forward following the bullpen session he had on Thursday. His return is expected mid-May.

3 on 3 Questions:
Baltimore Orioles:

1. What are reasonable expectations for Mark Reynolds this year?
a) Mark Reynolds is definitely not performing like the O’s expected him to so far. He has a very low batting average and only 2 homeuns. Luckily, he is getting some RBIs but he really needs to up these numbers up. On the birght side, his strikeout percentage is down from 42% last year to 31% this season so that’s definitely a sign he’s improving on the area he’s infamous for.

2. Which starting pitcher is most important to the O’s rotation at this point in the season?
a.) Without a doubt the answer is Zach Britton. He’s won 4 games so far this season and is by far the best adn most consistent on the team even though he’s supposed to be in AAA-Norfolk right now. Besides his first away game start in Cleveland, he has been a forced to be reckoned with at the mound and he will be a very good asset for the O’s for many years to come.

3. How does having a healthy Brian Roberts change this lineup?
a.) With Brian Roberts being healthy, the team is definitely better as a unit. Not only is a great defensive 2nd baseman, he is also one of the best lead-off hitters out there. He’s been with the O’s for the longest of all the players and just knows how to get on base or how to get players off base and across home plate if he has the opportunity.

Chicago White Sox:
1. With Alex Rios not playing too well, do you think the team would be better offensively is the line-up was changed around a little? Say moving Rios back to 3rd and moving Dunn to another spot?
a.) A lot of the offensive pressure the White Sox create comes from the top of the lineup. When Juan Pierre and Gordon Beckham get on base, the team scores a lot of runs. Without them on base, Adam Dunn won’t see any good pitches and that’s 1/3 of the lineup already neutralized. I think Rios just needs to find his groove and he’ll settle into the No. 5 or 6 spot soon enough.

2. With the entire bullpen, besides Santos, not pitching well, what do they need to do to stop giving up runs and leads? What do you think the problem has been?
a.) The bullpen has actually calmed down quite well. The offense has become the problem. Jesse Crain only has a few blemishes and Chris Sale/Matt Thornton/Will Ohman disasters have really settled down to manageable levels. The real weak spot is Tony Pena.

3. Which starter do you think has the best advantage to win in this series? Who do you think has the least likely chance to win the game they start? Are there any hitters you see playing big against the O’s in the series? Who?
a.) John Danks has the best chance to win his game because he’s been pitching very well, regardless of his record. He has four pitches that he throws for strikes on a regular basis and the offense owes him some runs. The way he’s pitched, it would be a tragedy if he went the entire month without a win.

The least likely to win is Mark Buehrle. He’s been hit around in most of his starts and I just see Vladdy and the Baltimore righties feasting on him.

In this series we will begin to see Alex Rios and Adam Dunn both break out of their shells. They just played a tight series in New York and they can certainly use it as momentum after a ending a brutal losing streak.

Make sure to watch this 4-game series this weekend (as you also watch the draft and the NHL playoffs). It’s sure to be a good one, and hopefully, a positive sign for the O’s. Let’s hope they take advantage of a struggling team.