Orioles vs. Rays Series Preview (6/10 to 6/12)
The Orioles go into the weekend series coming off an off day and a series sweep of the Oakland Athletics. There seems to be very few constants for the Orioles this season. They have had various injuries throughout the season and have been on a roller coaster of a season. They stand at 2 games under .500 but are still within a respectable range of the rest of the AL East. This time last season the Orioles were a long ways a way from being in range of anything.
After every four or five game losing streak, just when fans seem to reach their wits end with the Orioles, they pull together a three game sweep like they did against the A’s. Which team are the Orioles? That remains to be seen, but if you go by this most recent series you have to like what you see. When the Orioles are winning they look just like the team that ended the 2010 season so strongly. They get strong starting pitching, timely hitting, and there bullpen consistently holds leads. It sounds so simple, but the Orioles can’t seem to keep that formula going for too long. This weekend the Orioles will see if they can keep the formula of success going a little longer to fight their way back to .500.
2011 Regular Season Record: 29-31, 5th (Last) in the AL East (5.5 GB)
240 Runs Scored (10th in AL)/ 278 Runs Allowed (10th in AL)
Tampa Bay Rays:
2011 Regular Season Record: 33-29, 3rd in the AL East (2.5 GB)
256 Runs Scored (9th in AL)/ 242 Runs Allowed (4th in AL)
Friday, June 10th, 7:05pm ET, Camden Yards- RHP, Jeremy Hellickson (7-3, 2.64 ERA) vs. RHP, Jake Arrieta (7-3, 4.93 ERA)
Jake Arrieta leads the Orioles in wins despite having a 4.93 ERA. Matt Wieters recently said that Arrieta has the best stuff of anyone on the Orioles staff. Now only if Arrieta can continue to improve his command while becoming more efficient with his pitches, he should continue to become a part of an impressive Orioles rotation. Arrieta has 13 starts this season, but it has been three really bad outings that have made his ERA look worse than it should be. Of the remaining 10 starts, Arrieta pitched 6 innings 8 times! Even though that means he has been consistently solid, it also means he has only gone more than 6 innings once.
Jeremy Hellickson has been fantastic this year for the Rays. Going beyond the 7 wins and sub 3 ERA, Hellickson has allowed just 52 hits in over 71 innings. He also doesn’t walk too many batters averaging 3.5 batters per 9 innings. He also has allowed just 1 earned run in his last 2 starts over 14 plus innings. The Orioles are going to need to hope for an off game from the young right hander.
Saturday, June 11th 7:05pm ET – LHP, David Price (7-5, 3.35 ERA) vs. RHP, Jeremy Guthrie (2-8, 3.71 ERA)
Jeremy Guthrie continues to be the solid veteran ace of the Orioles staff. He has gotten horrible run support all season leading to an ugly 2-8 record, but he continues to give the Orioles innings and chances to win each time out. With that said, Guthrie was hit hard his last start against the Blue Jays, giving up 6 earned runs in 5 innings. This may actually be good for the Orioles because Guthrie is probably more determined to come out and pitch a solid game against the Rays.
Price is one of the nastiest left handed pitchers in baseball. Like Hellickson, his numbers are exceptional. He has allowed just 78 hits in 91 1/3 innings this season. He has 83 strikeouts and just 14 walks for a 1.007 WHIP. Like Hellickson he has been dominant as of late.
Sunday, June 12th, 1:35pm ET – RHP, Wade Davis (4-5, 4.71 ERA) vs. LHP, Brian Matusz (1-0, 2.45 ERA)
Brian Matusz is making just his third start after spending the first two months of the season on the D.L. Matusz has pitched well in his first two starts, but has been causing some concern around Baltimore with his lack of velocity. Not known for his high velocity, Matusz is pitching just in the mid to upper 80’s. Although this is a concern, fans shouldn’t worry just yet. If Matusz is still pitching in the 80’s in August then maybe fans can be worried. He is just back from a long stint in the minors and it may take a little while for him to build his arm strength back and feel completely comfortable pitching in major league games again. Fans should be more encouraged by the fact that Matusz has shown the ability to pitch solid games without his best stuff.
Just another great young pitcher for the Rays. This is the reason the Orioles should be following the Rays model for winning. The Rays can lose all their hitters if they continue to produce young pitching like they have the past few years. Davis is an impressive looking young pitcher, but he has struggled as of late. In his last 3 games he has pitched 15 2/3 innings and given up 16 earned runs. This may be the pitcher the Orioles need to hit early and often.
The Orioles bullpen has been fantastic recently following a disastrous stretch. It seems like everyone in the bullpen is filling into their intended roles and doing their jobs. Johnson is bridging the gap from the starters to Uehara in the 8th and Gregg in the 9th. Don’t be fooled by Rapada’s 7.71 ERA. Since Showalter has used him exclusively against left handed batters, Rapada has pitched 5 1/3 innings while allowing just one earned run. On the season, Rapada has held left handed batters to just a .103 batting average and no home runs in 29 at bats. Rapada has fit in nicely as the Orioles left handed specialist.
Other Orioles who are hot….
J.J. Hardy – Hitting .429 with 3 home runs over his last 7 games.
Adam Jones – Starting to look like the potential superstar center fielder the Orioles were hoping for.
Mark Reynolds – It seems like just a week ago I was hoping for the Orioles to just trade him away and make room for Josh Bell. Now he is belting home runs and driving in runs. Yes, his batting average is unsightly, but he is starting to do exactly what the Orioles expected. He leads the Orioles with 10 home runs and is tied for the team lead with 32 RBI’s. He is on pace for over 30 home runs and around 100 RBI’s…forget the trade…I will take it.
Tampa Bay Rays:
Evan Longoria – Hitting .364 over his last 5 games.
Johnny Damon – 10 hits in his last 29 at bats.
Kyle Farnsworth – 3 for 3 in save chances in his last 5 games.
Ryan Adams – I put him on this list because he can’t seem to find any playing time (and rumor has it he will be sent down soon to be replaced by a more prototypical utility infielder). Over the last week Adams has just 4 at bats and one hit.
Vladimir Guerrero – He hasn’t been horrible, but he also hasn’t been driving in runs in the cleanup spot. He has no home runs and just 2 RBI’s over his last 6 games.
Tampa Bay Rays:
Matt Joyce – Just 5 hits in his last 26 at bats.
BJ Upton – .182 average over his last 6 games
Cesar Izturis – 60 day D.L. – He is not expected back in Baltimore until August. My guess is after all is said and done, it won’t be until rosters expand in September until Izturis is brought back.
Justin Duchscherer – 60 day D.L. – Had another setback in a throwing session where he felt discomfort in his hip. Fans should just forget the idea of him pitching for the Orioles this season and if he does make it back look at it as a pleasant surprise.
Brian Roberts – 15 day D.L. – Has been told by a concussion specialist to hold off on baseball activities for another two weeks. Showalter has said there is a chance he could return before the All Star break, but I wouldn’t hold out hope on that. My guess is it will be quite a while before we see Roberts back in Baltimore…he will probably be brought back very slowly.
*Derrek Lee will be leaving the team this weekend for his grandfather’s funeral. He won’t be playing at all during the Rays series. Look for him to return after the Rays series.
Tampa Bay Rays:
Elliot Johnson – 15 day D.L.
Jeff Niemann – 15 day D.L.