From a series against a team in wild card contention to a series against a team in control of its division. There is no relief for the Orioles. They have to keep winning if they want to stay in their place. It doesn't matter who they play. They have to win some games. Tonight it's the Texas Rangers. We haven't seen them for a while, and the last time we saw them, we were glad that we wouldn't be seeing them for a while. In four games, they outscored the O's by a 36-15 margin. That's no joke. Then again, 22 of those runs were scored against players no longer on the Baltimore major league club. Does that mean anything? I don't know.
One thing I do know is the Rangers, as a team, bat .276/.340/.441. That doesn't suck. How can you feel good about Miguel Gonzalez, a fly ball pitcher, in a hitters park on a hot night? You can't feel good. Texas has hit 139 home runs and they figure to hit more in this series. Maybe Gonzalez can mystify them. That would also be okay.
Another thing that could happen is Gonzalez could have a bad game but so could Ryan Dempster, the Rangers' trade deadline acquisition who has so far had several not-good games. He has an 8.31 ERA as a Ranger, but of course, that's a small sample size. It'd only take one dominant performance to bring his ERA closer to sane levels. For all the improbable comebacks they've pulled off this season, the O's are still fully capable of being dominated by any pitcher on any given night. Dempster's short time as a Ranger has been marked by a number of home runs. Maybe the O's can take advantage of that tonight.
After all, the same conditions that Rangers hitters will get will work in the favor of the O's hitters. Though a power lefty like Josh Hamilton probably has the biggest advantage. Perhaps former Ranger Chris Davis can crush some home runs and remind the franchise what they gave up on when they traded him. Revenge is a powerful thing. Sadly, talent and skill are even more powerful. Then again, power is powerful, and Davis has a lot of power. We know this well. I'm not sure where I was going with this.
There's no J.J. Hardy in tonight's lineup. MASN's Roch Kubatko notes that Hardy was both due for a rest and is 2-for-27 lifetime against Dempster. Is the 27 enough to make any strong statements about Hardy vs. Dempster? Hardy hasn't faced Dempster since 2009, so I don't know. But one of the things that surprised me when I read Weaver On Strategy is how much importance Weaver placed on a batter's numbers against a specific pitcher. I think the Earl would have looked at his stat card and made the exact same decision.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||TEXAS RANGERS|
|Nick Markakis - RF||Ian Kinsler - 2B|
|Robert Andino - 2B||Elvis Andrus - SS|
|Nate McLouth - LF||Josh Hamilton - CF|
|Adam Jones - CF||Adrian Beltre - 3B|
|Matt Wieters - C||Nelson Cruz - RF|
|Chris Davis - DH||Michael Young - DH|
|Mark Reynolds - 1B||David Murphy - LF|
|Omar Quintanilla - SS||Geovany Soto - C|
|Manny Machado - 3B||Mitch Moreland - 1B|
Not for the first time and probably not for the last, I wonder how a team that fields this lineup is in anything resembling playoff contention.