The O’s continue a rough early season schedule with yet another divisional matchup, this time with the Tampa Bay Ray. This will be the third of five conecutive series against division foes for the Orioles, and the end of a home stand as they travel to Boston for 4 games at Fenway later this week.
All five teams in the AL East are fairly close in terms of standings at this point, with no one team going on a hot streak (or cold streak) to start the season. As such, it will be important for the O’s to continue battling other AL East teams to keep themselves in good position in the division. After all, a win in April still counts in September, so the games are already mattering.
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Tampa Bay is getting it done in a familiar way this season. Their 7-5 record leads the AL East, and once again they are doing it with pitching. Of the Rays 13 games, only four have seen them score 4 or more runs. In those three games (on consecutive days) Tampa Bay scored 20 runs. Their other nine games have combined to yield just 11 runs. Over the past seven days the Rays have won games twice by a score of 1-0, and a third game 2-1. Their pitching keeps them in games much longer than their offense often deserves, and that gives them time to drive in a few key runs to win the game.
If the O’s want a series win, they’ll need to jump on the Rays pitching early.
That’s easier said than done though for an offense that hasn’t exactly performed to expectations early in 2014. The O’s are scoring just over 4 runs per game, but their feast or famine offensive trend seems to be making it difficult for the team to capitalize on good pitching when they get it. Case in point is Chris Tillman’s excellent 8 inning start ruined by to unearned runs. The O’s offense scored zero runs against Dustin McGowan who notched his first win since July 8th, 2008. For reference, George W. Bush was President of the United States the last time McGowan won a Major League Baseball game. On Friday, April 11th, he blanked the O’s offense for six and a third innings.
The O’s will face a mixture of young starters from Tampa Bay. They range from Chris Archer who threw about 2/3 of a season as a starter last year, to David Price who’s a perennial Cy Young candidate. Baltimore’s rotation will need to keep them in the game so the offense can grind out some runs against Tampa Bay’s solid pitching.
Matchup to Watch: O’s Sluggers vs. Price
Nelson Cruz has handled David Price exceptionally well over his career posting a triple slash of .360/.407/.760 against the left-handed ace. That’s the fifth best OPS among players with at least 20 at bats against Price.
Sixth best on that list is Oriole catcher Matt Wieters who has hit .368/.415/.605 against Tampa’s best starter. Typically the right side is where Wieters excels, so it’s great to see him have such success over a strong lefty like Price.
Adam Jones on the other hand has struggled against Price hitting just .220/.238/.293 in 42 plate appearances. He’s not the only Oriole that Price has owned. Chris Davis has yet to get an extra base hit against Price, posting a triple slash of just .267/.353/.267 against him.
Matchup to Watch: Ryan Flaherty vs. Tampa Bay
With Machado still on the shelf, the O’s will rely on Ryan Flaherty throughout this series. Unfortunately his overall stats against the Rays are a disappointing .077/.100/.103 in 41 plate appearances. Granted, Flaherty has performed better against Tampa Bay in Camden Yards than Tropicana Field (in 24 plate appearances he’s hit .043/.043/.087 against the Rays in their home ballpark), but it’s not much better here at home.
Flaherty will have to turn his early career woes against Tampa Bay around as the O’s figure to rely on the young infielder throughout this series, and this season.
Archer in 2013: 9-7, 128.2 IP, 7.06 K/9, 2.66 BB/9, 1.05 HR/9, 3.22 ERA, 4.07 FIP
Chen in 2013: 7-7, 137 IP, 6.83 K/9, 2.56 BB/9, 1.12 HR/9, 4.07 ERA, 4.04 FIP
Odorizzi in 2013: 0-1, 29.2 IP, 6.67 K/9, 2.43 BB/9, 0.91 HR/9, 3.94 ERA, 3.89 FIP
Gonzalez in 2013: 11-8, 171.1 IP, 6.30 K/9, 2.78 BB/9, 1.26 HR/9, 3.78 ERA, 4.45 FIP
Price in 2013: 10-8, 186.2 IP, 7.28 K/9, 1.30 BB/9, 0.77 HR/9, 3.33 ERA, 3.03 FIP
Tillman in 2013: 16-7, 206.1 IP, 7.81 K/9, 2.97 BB/9, 1.44 HR/9, 3.71 ERA, 4.42 FIP
The Opponent (wRC+ for 2013)
C- Ryan Hanigan, 53 WRC+
1B- James Loney, 118 wRC+
2B- Ben Zobrist, 115 wRC+
3B- Evan Longoria, 133 wRC+
SS- Yunel Escobar, 100 wRC+
LF- Matt Joyce, 112 wRC+
CF- Desmond Jennings, 112 wRC+
RF- Wil Myers, 131 wRC+
DH- David Dejesus, 103 wRC+
BENCH- Molina, Forsythe, Guyer, Rodriguez
ROTATION- Price (LHP), Cobb (DL), Archer, Odorizzi, Moore (DL), Bedard (LHP)
BULLPEN- McGee (LHP), Gomes, Ramos (LHP), Bell, Balfour, Lueke, Peralta, Beliveau (LHP)
Batting Average- 12th
Home Runs- 11th
Batting Average- 10th
Home Runs- 1st