The biggest news of this series is, without question, the call up of O's prospect Manny Machado. He'll be starting tonight at third base, and while he's played just two games there in his minor-league career, the word on the street is that he's been practicing there quite a bit.
Manny aside, this has the potential to be a big series for the Orioles. They just swept the Mariners, have won five in a row, and are nine games above .500. After their four-game series with the last-place Royals, the Orioles move on to a tougher schedule as they play the Red Sox, Tigers, Rangers, Blue Jays, and White Sox to finish out the month of August. Banking at least three wins this series could go a long way.
So we all know that the Orioles have had troubles with their starting pitching, but compared to the Royals they are in pretty good shape (I was going to say they were the late-90s Braves, but let's not run away with things). Royals starters are averaging just 5/3 innings per start, which is dead last in the AL. O's starters are averaging 5.8, which is just about league average. The Royals' starting staff has a combined ERA of 5.28, second-worst in the AL to the Indians. The Orioles rotation has a smelly 4.65 ERA.
Much like the Orioles, though, the Royals have a good bullpen. In fact, if you go by fWAR, the Royals have the best bullpen in the American League so far this season. Of course, they've pitched the most innings of any bullpen in the AL as well. But they have an impressive 3.19 ERA and 3.56 FIP.
As for their hitters, they're lead by DH Billy Butler and his hitting line of .299/.369/.501, and the young catcher Salvador Perez is doing quite well for himself. But Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have been disappointing at the plate.
His name is Will Smith, but really he's just a doofy white guy. He's a 22-year-old rookie who has made seven big-league starts, two of which have been decent. He doesn't strike out many guys, he walks too many for his strikeout numbers, he gives up a lot of hits, a bunch of which have been home runs. His minor-league numbers were better but not outstanding, and he's always given up a lot of hits.
Wei-Yin Chen continues to be awesome. He's coming off of a great game against the Tampa Bay Rays in which he pitched seven shutout innings, AND it's his t-shirt night! Chen is the rock of the Orioles rotation, and every time he pitches I'm glad.
Friday: Luke Hochaver vs. Miguel Gonzalez
Hochaver is not good. His FIP has been about a run lower than his ERA, which is currently 5.04, and he just gets knocked around a lot. He's capable of pitching a gem, and he's done so a few times this season, but he can't ever put together a string of good starts.
Does Miguel Gonzalez have more Orioles Magic up his sleeve? That's how he's staying good, right?
Chris Tillman! My favorite! Seriously, guys. Other than Wei-Yin Chen, my favorite pitcher is Chris Tillman. I don't even recognize myself. If there's one thing Chris Tillman has done since being promoted, it's shut down crappy offenses. Tilly!
Luis Mendoza is the second Royals pitcher (to Will Smith) that I know nothing about. But it's a good thing he's a pitcher with that last name. Much like his partner in anonymity, Mendoza walks too many and doesn't strike out enough. You could probably swap him with Tommy Hunter and not really notice, except you'd be like, "When did Tommy Hunter stop giving up so many home runs?"
Sunday: Bruce Chen vs. TBD (it'll be Tommy Hunter)
Speak of Tommy Hunter and he shall appear! I'm gonna be my kid's college fund that Billy Butler hits a homer off of him. (I don't have a kid or a college fund. Ha!)
After putting up two average-ish season in KC, Chen has regressed and currently sports a 5.51 ERA. He's getting hit hard, to the tune of 10.5 hits per nine innings, and while his homer rate isn't quite Hunter-esque, it's up there. I like Bruce a lot, but I'm sure glad we have the other Chen instead.
You'll note that the Orioles don't face Jeremy Guthrie in this series. One on hand that's a shame because it'd be nice to see him and I'd like to give him a cheer. On the other hand, at least I don't have to root against him individually and he had a great game against the White Sox last night, pitching 8 shutout innings.