Orioles vs. Rays Series Preview
The Orioles have started to even out after a strong start then a horrible stretch that saw them fall back to familiar territory in last place in the AL East. The Orioles are now just a couple games under .500 going into their series with the Rays.
The Orioles are still looking for their bats to wake up, while their young rotation has been showing potential. With J.J. Hardy, Brian Matusz, and Alfredo Simon’s returns on the horizon help seems to be on the way. In the meantime the Orioles will continue to try to find ways to win despite a struggling offense.
(Thank you to the Rays Colored Glasses writer Ben Ice for helping collaborate on this series preview)
2011 Regular Season Record: 14-16, 3rd in the AL East (3.5 GB)
121 Runs Scored (10th in AL)/ 142 Runs Allowed 10th in AL)
Tampa Bay Rays:
2011 Regular Season Record: 17-14, 2nd in the AL EAST (1 GB)
Friday, May 6th, 7:05pm ET, Camden Yards- RHP, James Shields (2-1, 2.14 ERA) vs. LHP, Zach Britton (5-1, 2.63 ERA)
Zach Britton has been the Orioles ace after not even making the opening day roster. Britton arguably has the highest upside of all the Orioles young starters and he has already shown he is most productive. In just his first month in the majors Orioles fans are coming to expect a quality start from Britton every time out. This is just one of the many signs Britton has shown of becoming the Orioles ace of the future.
Saturday, May 7th, 1:10pm ET – RHP, Jeremy Hellickson (2-2, 4.31 ERA) vs. RHP, Jeremy Guthrie (1-4, 3.00 ERA)
Jeremy Guthrie seems to be getting better. Last season Guthrie proved to be a quality middle of the rotation innings eater. Now, this season Guthrie is taking it to another level in carrying the Orioles rotation along with Zach Britton. Out of his 6 starts, Guthrie has just one start where he was knocked around. He has shown to be a gutsy pitcher who will battle even when he doesn’t have his best stuff.
Sunday, May 8th, 1:35pm ET – RHP, Wade Davis (3-2, 2.77 ERA) vs. RHP, Brad Bergesen (0-3, 4.88 ERA)
Brad Bergesen is one of the question marks in the Orioles young pitching staff. Bergesen, along with Tillman and to a lesser extent, Arrieta have all been up and down during the season. Bergesen’s young career has followed this pattern so far. At times, Bergesen gets hit around like a batting practice pitcher. With his below average stuff, it seems he loses confidence and gets hit around. Other times, he works fast, pounds the strike zone with his two seamer, and gets ground balls. Which Bergesen shows up is a question mark for the Orioles and their fans.
Zach Britton and Jeremy Guthrie have been pitching extremely well all season long and look to continue their strong starts. Kevin Gregg got off to a shaky start resulting in fans calling for a change at closer, but has since recorded his last 5 save chances and now posts a strong 2.70 ERA.
The Orioles hitting has been terrible all season but recently Luke Scott has been hitting. Scott has always been a streaky hitter and is on one of his hot streaks. However, he has had some shoulder pain that could result in him taking a game or two off this series.
Since striking out 3 batters in 1 1/3 innings in his first appearance, Clay Rapada has been getting rocked. He has allowed runs in every one of his appearances since and now has a 15.75 ERA. He is in danger of getting sent back down to the minors.
In his last 4 1/3 innings (4 appearances) Jim Johnson has allowed 5 earned runs. At times he seems unhittable then he will go into funks where he makes too many mistakes and gets hit hard.
The entire Orioles offense as a whole has been cold since the start of the season.
J.J. Hardy – 15 day D.L.
Brian Matusz – 15 day D.L.
Justin Duchscherer – 60 day D.L.
Alfredo Simon – Restricted List
3 on 3 Questions
Ben: After a 6-1 start the Orioles have struggled, going 8-13 since. Realistically where do you expect them to be when the season is over?
Scott: Realistically I expect the Orioles to win around 75 games. I think they are a greatly improved team with the moves they made in the offseason in addition to the overall attitude under new manager Buck Showalter. Since 2007 the Orioles haven’t won 70 games and they only won 66 games last season after a major turnaround under Showalter. Despite the additions in the offseason and Showalter’s presence the Orioles still have to compete in the toughest division in baseball and that will end up costing them games. I still hold out hope the Orioles can break 80 wins this season, but that is the fan in me talking. Realistically, I expect the Orioles to win 70 to 75 wins this season.
B: The Orioles starting rotation is young and inexperienced but with some very talented arms. Do you expect them to bolster the squad around the break or sit pat with what they have? Who do they have in the minors that might be called upon if needed?
S: I would be surprised if the Orioles made any trades to acquire talent this season. I expect them to either stay pat and try to put together a competitive season or trade some of their veterans at the trade deadline. There has been some talk about adding Kevin Millwood to their rotation, but in my opinion that is a waste. Brian Matusz will be coming back along with Alfredo Simon and Justin Duchscherer providing the team with enough pitching depth to get through the season. As far as what they have in the minors there isn’t much in the way of pitching. The Orioles best pitching talent is at the major league level right now. The Orioles do have a few bats down at Triple A that may be called up midseason like Josh Bell, Brandon Snyder, and Nolan Reimold but after them the majority of the team’s young talent is already on the major league roster.
B: The Orioles made several big splashes during free agency, bringing in Vladimir Guerrero, J.J. Hardy, Kevin Gregg, Derek Lee and Mark Reynolds. How has this turnover changed the attitude of the team?
S: The biggest change with the Orioles team as a result of the offseason additions they made is the lack of panic. To be honest, their hitting has been horrendous. It was supposed to be a strength going into the season with all the additions they made, but no one on the team has been hitting. However, since they brought in veteran hitters with proven track records the team doesn’t seem to be panicking like they would in the past. Their busy offseason has definitely brought the team more confidence in themselves this season.
Scott: The Rays have some players who have really stepped up (Farnsworth, Fuld, Joyce, etc.) and taken over for the former Rays who left via free agency. Which player has been the most pleasant surprise for Rays fans this season?
Ben: Fuld is unquestionably the biggest surprise of the season. Thanks to his massive popularity in social media there are numerous campaigns to “get out the vote” for him. Farnsworth with his sub 1.0 ERA and WHIP to go with 6 saves in 7 tries has to be a close second.
S: Fans tend to panic if their team gets off to a slow start. The Rays were swept by the Orioles to begin the season and started the season with a 1-8 record. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the most worried) how panicked were you over the teams slow start?
B: I was honestly a bit shocked. I feel like I’m a pretty good judge of how teams are put together, and while the blog name Rays Colored Glasses is meant to mirror my homerism, I didn’t understand how they could play so poorly. However, in a discussion with some Rays fans one of observations I made has rung true…had they gone on a six game losing streak in the middle of the season we’d be talking about how the team is scuffling. Having one at the beginning of the season, well, the media was already throwing dirt on them.
S: The Rays have played much better since Manny Ramirez decided to retire. Do you think him retiring had anything to do with the Rays turnaround?
B: Absolutely. I wrote just the other day that Manny retiring was the defibrillator the team needed to jumpstart then, and Fuld was the power source. Once they stopped waiting for Manny to lead the way (and Johnny Damon really stepped up at that point as well) the team shook the dust off and started playing like I expected them to play.