Here begins four games against a first-place team. In fact, eleven of the next fourteen games the Orioles play will be against first-place teams - since they also have seven against New York in this stretch. This is the test. The voice of Andrew proclaims, "They're all tests, Mark!" And he's right. They're all tests. The Orioles have mostly passed so far, and it's only going to take one failure at this point to knock them down in the chase. It won't make the whole season a failure, especially relative to preseason expectations, but now that we've gone and gotten our hopes up, it'd make it feel like a failure.
Tonight will be Francisco Liriano vs. Wei-Yin Chen. Liriano was a mess in Minnesota, which is why they finally gave up on him. He is a bit less of a mess in five starts for the White Sox, with a 4.39 ERA, and an absurd 10.13 K/9 - so that's always a bad thing to see the Orioles lineup facing. Baseball Reference tells me that Adam Jones is 4-12 off Liriano and three of the hits are home runs. That probably doesn't mean anything, but Jones needs every last advantage he can get to try to get over the apparent hump of being stuck on 99 home runs. Maybe he's pressing too hard for it, maybe he's secretly hurt, who really knows. But he's batting cleanup tonight.
What about Chen? No, really, what about him? I don't know. He saw the White Sox all the way back on April 17, earning the win after a 5.1 IP, 2 ER outing in which he scattered six hits. That probably doesn't matter either. Sometimes I just tell you things that are true without any attempt to read more into those numbers. I like numbers. You like numbers. Everybody likes numbers, just sometimes the numbers they like are RBI and pitcher wins.
So, here's another number. The White Sox have homered 169 times this year. That's more home runs than the Orioles have hit, and also fewer than Orioles pitchers have surrendered - I was surprised by this. They've got four guys with more than 20 home runs - Alex Rios, A.J. Pierzynski, Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn. Chen has surrendered 20 home runs. Two of those guys are lefty hitters and two are righties - and actually, Chen's numbers this year have RHB with a lower slash line, so his platoon splits in his young MLB career are reversed. Watch out for Dunn and Pierzynski tonight, Chen! Watch out for the rest of the lineup, too.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||CHICAGO WHITE SOX|
|Nick Markakis - RF||Dewayne Wise - CF|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||Kevin Youkilis - 3B|
|Adam Jones - CF||Adam Dunn - 1B|
|Matt Wieters - C||Paul Konerko - DH|
|Lew Ford - DH||Alex Rios - RF|
|Mark Reynolds - 1B||A.J. Pierzynski - C|
|Nate McLouth - LF||Dayan Viciedo - LF|
|Manny Machado - 3B||Alexei Ramirez - SS|
|Robert Andino - 2B||Gordon Beckham - 2B|