Both the Orioles and Rays have identical records heading into the weekend series - and both are 1.5 games out of the second wild card spot. It's early August, so you can't say any game is a must-win game, but for a team that wants to stay in contention, every game is should-win. Every win is one in the bank - and in this series, each win sends a direct competitor farther down the standings while potentially springing the team higher up as well.
The Five Runs All Earned Story will get another chapter tonight. Yes, that's right, Tommy Hunter's still a major league starter. The frightening thing is that when you consider the options available internally and the low-hanging trade fruit that was declined (like Joe Blanton of the Phillies, who today was traded to LA (NL) for a PTBNL or cash) may actually be worse options than Hunter himself. How could someone who gives up five runs earned be a better choice? Well... you saw how bad Matusz and Arrieta were looking at the big leagues. There's nothing about Hunter to salvage. He is what he is. There are hopes to fix the others - though they probably won't, because this is the Orioles we're talking about.
O's hitters will be facing Matt Moore, last year's October sensation. Does this count as a sophomore slump? Probably not, since he only pitched in three games last regular season. This year, he has a 4.01 ERA - which we'd sure like to see in the Baltimore rotation. Many strikeouts and many walks - 112 K in 119 IP, but also 57 walks.
Some good news for Hunter is that the Rays offense has an even worse batting average than the O's do - the Rays sporting a .231 average as a team where the Orioles have a .244. Of course, the Rays beat the O's in OBP (.314 for TB vs. .306 for the O's). The Rays have more speed but less power, and somehow this mostly evens the two out on runs scored. The O's have outscored the Rays by seven runs over the same number of games. Of course, the Rays have allowed 89 fewer runs over the same number of games. That's a big difference in pitching and probably also defense.
Our old friend Luke Scott is on the disabled list, so we might see him in the dugout but not in baseball games. Scott was batting .225/.279/.438 before hitting the DL. Turns out it's probably for the best that the Orioles let him go without offering him arbitration. Rolling the dice on a contract the size that Scott would have gotten from arbitration is something Dan Duquette only does when the continent of Asia is somehow involved.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||TAMPA BAY RAYS|
|Nick Markakis - RF||Desmond Jennings - LF|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||B.J. Upton - CF|
|Adam Jones - CF||Matt Joyce - RF|
|Matt Wieters - C||Ben Zobrist - 2B|
|Chris Davis - DH||Carlos Pena - 1B|
|Mark Reynolds - 1B||Jeff Keppinger - DH|
|Lew Ford - LF||Ryan Roberts - 3B|
|Omar Quintanilla - 2B||Jose Lobaton - C|
|Robert Andino - 3B||Elliot Johnson - SS|