Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles @ Kansas City Royals, 22-25 July 2013

USA TODAY Sports

After a fun All-Star Break and a sweep of the Rangers, the Orioles head to Kansas City for four games.

It's weird how these Royals series feel like mini-reunions. Bruce Chen? Miguel Tejada? Jeremy Guthrie? No time for nostalgia, though; there are games to win.

Monday, 22 July: Scott Feldman vs. Wade Davis
Career Numbers Feldman vs. Royals Davis vs. O's
IP 58.1 78.0
ERA 3.24 3.92
FIP 4.14 4.65
Slash Line (Past Teams) .239/.293/.360 .254/.328/.420
Slash Line (Current Players) .243/.277/.346 .282/.333/.430

Feldman's last start was a solid three-run, 7.1 IP outing against Toronto, quite a relief after the Rangers knocked him around for seven runs in 5.1 IP in his previous start. It's amazing how much better the rotation looks now that Wei-Yin Chen is back and Feldman is the team's fourth starter, even if on a contending club, you'd love to have someone better in that role.

Wade Davis has been pitching a bit better than his ugly 5.89 ERA would suggest, as he has a 4.39 FIP and 4.02 xFIP. He's giving up a lot of walks, though - 3.90 per nine innings. The O's don't exactly draw a lot of walks, but a little patience here could go a long way.

Maybe hot: Alexi Casilla (1.056 OPS, 12 PA), Alex Gordon (1.038 OPS, 16 PA)

Likely not: Billy Butler (.573 OPS, 25 PA); Nick Markakis (.641 OPS, 36 PA), Brian Roberts (.619 OPS, 24 PA)

Tuesday, 23 July: Jason Hammel vs. Bruce Chen
Career Numbers Hammel vs. Royals Chen vs. O's
IP 24.2 33.0
ERA 5.11 5.18
FIP 5.57 4.94
Slash Line (Past Teams) .242/.327/.453 .281/.368/.407
Slash Line (Current Players) .237/.270/.339 .343/.387/.529

Oh, this sure looks like a slugfest. Here's hoping Hammel can get the second half off to a good start and make us all (mostly) forget about his first half. If he doesn't, at least the O's are facing Bruce Chen, who has only made one other start this season, spending most of the year in the bullpen. He somehow has a 2.04 ERA so far, but his peripherals (3.83 FIP, 4.96 xFIP) and the return to the rotation point to some scary regression happening any time now.

Maybe hot: Danny Valencia (1.421 OPS, 21 PA), Nick Markakis (1.454 OPS, 19 PA), Adam Jones (.984 OPS, 19 PA)

Likely not: Miguel Tejada (.689 OPS, 23 PA)

Wednesday, 24 July: Wei-Yin Chen vs. Ervin Santana
Career Numbers Chen vs. Royals Santana vs. Orioles
IP 17.0 82.1
ERA 5.82 5.36
FIP 4.33 5.03
Slash Line (Past Teams) .338/.351/.563 .263/.317/.474
Slash Line (Current Players) .339/.355/.559 .269/.315/.539

Too bad we just missed a Chen vs. Chen matchup. Since coming off of the disabled list, Wei-Yin has picked up right where he left off, with consecutive one-run outings in which he's pitched over six innings. His 2.67 ERA for the season is stellar, but I'm a bit concerned about his low strikeout rate (5.04 K/9, while league average is 7.53) and luck on fly balls (3.6 HR/FB%, while league average is around 10%). He's shown the ability to get more strikeouts, as his rate last year was 7.19 K/9, so perhaps it's just a small sample size issue, but opposing hitters aren't swinging and missing as much (5.8%) as last year (9.1%), either.

Meanwhile, Ervin Santana has been quite good for the Royals this year, averaging close to seven innings per start with a 3.18 ERA and solid peripherals. He got roughed up by the Yankees two starts ago, but then two-hit the Tigers over 7.1 IP in his last start.

Maybe hot: Brian Roberts (1.058 OPS, 32 PA), Nick Markakis (.973 OPS, 37 PA), J.J. Hardy (1.077 OPS, 13 PA), Billy Butler (cycle + extra homer in 9 PA)

Likely not: Matt Wieters (.580 OPS, 17 PA)

Thursday, 25 July: Miguel Gonzalez vs. Jeremy Guthrie
Career Numbers Gonzalez vs. Royals Guthrie vs. O's
IP 8.0 6.0
ERA 1.13 1.50
FIP 3.85 5.76
Slash Line (Past Teams) .222/.250/.370 .304/.385/.478
Slash Line (Current Players) .231/.310/.346 .197/.258/.262

Gonzalez has made just one start against the Royals so far, and it was a gem, in which he allowed just one run over eight innings last year. He's on a serious roll in 2013, with a streak of eight consecutive quality starts and allowing just one run in each of his last three. His peripherals (.257 BABIP, 79.7% LOB) make me nervous about regression, but his consistency is astounding.

Guthrie made his first start against the Orioles earlier this year, and gave up just two runs over six innings despite allowing ten baserunners. He's been struggling of late, only managing two quality starts over his last seven outings.

I don't like outfielders to play shallow. For the most part, it's asking for trouble... The shallow outfield gives up a double or triple in the hope of cutting off a bloop single. To me this doesn't make much sense. - Earl Weaver

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