Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles @ Chicago White Sox, 2-4 July 2013

Thanks for carrying the offense through June, boys. - USA TODAY Sports

The O's closed June with a 5-2 homestand, a memorable sweep of the Yankees, and a solid 16-12 record overall. This week, they head on the road, first to Chicago, for a three-game set against the struggling White Sox.

Off-days immediately following sweeps of division rivals are the worst, man. You just want to see the team go back out there and continue kicking butt, yet you have to find something else to do that day. Of course, the baseball season is a rough, long ride, so I imagine that the players are always grateful for a break. Anyway: Can the Orioles make it back-to-back sweeps? As Han Solo advises, don't get cocky, but facing the last-place team in a mediocre division is a good opportunity.

Tuesday, 2 July: Jason Hammel @ John Danks
Career Numbers Hammel vs. White Sox Danks vs. O's
IP 24.2 61.1
ERA 3.65 4.26
FIP 4.84 4.37
Slash Line (Past Teams) .258/.324/.452 .243/.288/.402
Slash Line (Current Players) .347/.390/.639 .226/.257/.346

Jason Hammel's probably not going to pitch like the 2012 version again, except perhaps in brief spurts, but he's looked a lot better for his last several starts. He's gone at least six innings in six of his last seven, and has a passable 4.36 ERA in that span. Unfortunately, he's been rather homer-prone in that time, with an above-average HR/9 even if you take out that brutal three-homer, three-inning start against Detroit on 1 June. The silver lining is that with this team's offense and defense, they can win a lot of games even if Hammel's just a serviceable mid-rotation guy going forward.

I love pitchers with good control, but John Danks is having one of those years that makes even me think there's something to the notion of throwing too many strikes. He's only made seven starts thanks to a shoulder injury, so small sample size and all that, but he currently has a 0.85 BB/9 (Koji Uehara, career: 1.85) to go with a 2.13 HR/9 (Chris Tillman, 2013: 1.61). The Orioles have a great offense this year, but Danks is a lefty that current O's have had a lot of trouble with in the past. Maybe Brian Roberts can help set the table in this one (career .440 OBP vs. Danks, 25 PA).

Maybe hot: J.J. Hardy (1.228 OPS, 20 PA); Adam Dunn (1.238 OPS, 16 PA), Paul Konerko (1.273 OPS, 11 PA)

Likely not: Adam Jones (.122 OPS, 25 PA), Alexi Casilla (.269 OPS, 19 PA)

Wednesday, 3 July: Miguel Gonzalez @ Hector Santiago
Career Numbers Gonzalez vs. White Sox Santiago vs. O's
IP - 2.0
ERA - 9.00
FIP - 13.60
Slash Line (Past Teams) - .250/.333/1.000
Slash Line (Current Players) .100/.182/.100 .125/.300/.500

Everyone's been applying the #stafface label to Chris Tillman, but Miguel Gonzalez is certainly playing the part as well. The quality start isn't the best metric - three or fewer runs in six innings is a pretty low bar, since that comes out to a 4.50 ERA - but MiGo has had just four non-quality starts all year, and in two of those he fulfilled either the innings or runs requirement. He's gotten better as the year's gone on, too: in June, he delivered nothing but quality starts and posted a 4:1 K:BB ratio. Gonzalez has never pitched against the White Sox, and that slash line above is all of eleven plate appearances by Jeff Keppinger.

Hector Santiago has seen the O's in just a couple of relief appearances, both coming last year. He's something of a swing man, having been mostly in relief in the past, but has started more regularly this year, with nine starts and eleven relief appearances thus far. Santagio strikes a lot of guys out (9.31 K/9), but also gives up a lot of walks (4.52 BB/9). The Orioles don't walk a lot, to put it mildly, so we'll have to see whether they change their approach and try to take more free passes.

Thursday, 4 July: TBA @ Jose Quintana
Career Numbers - Quintana vs. O's
IP - 3.2
ERA - 12.27
FIP - 10.46
Slash Line (Past Teams) - .389/.421/.944
Slash Line (Current Players) - .471/.474/1.000

"TBA" this time around seems to merit a bit less snark than usual, as he will probably turn out to be either Kevin Gausman or Zach Britton. Gausman pitched very well his last time out, a scoreless, walkless, four-strikeout relief appearance of 4.1 innings. Britton, meanwhile, has walked a fine line between serviceable and painful to watch since being recalled in mid-June. He's been unable to complete six innings in any of his three starts, and has walked three batters in each without getting many strikeouts, but he's also allowed only six runs over those sixteen innings. Perhaps Buck will give Britton another chance, while keeping Gausman ready for an extended relief outing, much like he did when starting T.J. McFarland on Friday.

Jose Quintana has seen the Orioles once and gotten pummeled. I'm trying to find something interesting to say about him, but I've really got nothing; he doesn't throw particularly hard, has very mundane, average-to-slightly-below peripherals, and in general seems like a fringy 4/5 guy. He's still pretty young, though, at 24, and has increased his K/9 from 5.35 last year to 6.48 this year, so he may be making strides.

What made Brooks Robinson so outstanding was that he got to the ball fast, had wonderful hands, and made his throws to first extremely quickly. ...Another aspect of Brooks's greatness was that he played the bunt better than anyone I have ever seen and probably better than anyone who has ever or will ever play the game. ...Others have tried to copy Brooks, but it's never worked. It's simply great instincts and great ability, and it's part of what made Brooks Robinson unique. - Earl Weaver

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