As tonight's action takes place in Toronto, we will also be watching thousands of miles to the south where in the dangling appendage that limply hangs off the North American continent, the Orioles' two big divisional rivals will be taking one another on. One of them must lose tonight. If the O's win tonight, they gain a game on somebody - but only if they win.
To do that, they will have to beat the Blue Jays, who will have Carlos Villanueva starting for them. He has not sucked this year. In 33 games, 11 starts, he's got a 3.10 total ERA. As a starter it's 3.03, which we'd sure like to see in the O's rotation. What does he do? Only strike out a batter per inning, no big deal. He had a higher walk rate as a reliever than he does as a starter, but is still occasionally prone to the long ball. He throws with his right hand, but maybe Mark Reynolds doesn't care about that.
Zach Britton returns from the minors to make this start. I had forgotten he was sent to the minors, which may be because, in essence, he wasn't. He was optioned to make room for a few days and since the AAA season is now over, he can be recalled in defiance of the 10-day rule. Later there will be finagling if they want to get him onto the playoff roster. I still think it's kind of awesome that we have to worry about who will be on the playoff roster.
Can Zach do well against this Blue Jays lineup? I don't know, man. Stacey and I talked last night about how the only good player they have hitting right now is Edwin Encarnacion, so there's the one guy you don't want to beat you. But if Bad Zach shows up there's plenty of players capable of capitalizing on mistakes, and that even includes the likes of Jeff Mathis, who homered during the Baltimore series immediately after I had finished explaining to my aunt how much he sucks. "You said he wasn't any good!" she exclaimed after a pitch landed in the Orioles bullpen. "He's not!" I protested. But even bad MLB players have their good moments.
If the same Zach who whiffed ten White Sox batters shows up tonight, that should be a good sign for the O's, however. As we also discussed on the podcast last night, the O's have 19 quality starts over their last 36 games and they have a 17-2 record in those games. Give the hitters and bullpen a chance, Zach, and they will probably find a way to win, even against Villanueva. I'm still not used to being able to state that with some confidence. I may never get used to it - and just because it's true doesn't mean it will apply tonight. It might, though, and down in the land of senior citizens, a baseball team full of senior citizens might lose, and then, well...
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||TORONTO BLUE JAYS|
|Nick Markakis - RF||Rajai Davis - LF|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||Colby Rasmus - CF|
|Nate McLouth - LF||Edwin Encarnacion - DH|
|Adam Jones - CF||Adam Lind - 1B|
|Matt Wieters - C||Yunel Escobar - SS|
|Chris Davis - DH||Kelly Johnson - 2B|
|Mark Reynolds - 1B||Moises Sierra - RF|
|Manny Machado - 3B||Jeff Mathis - C|
|Robert Andino - 2B||Adeiny Hechavarria - 3B|