Series Preview: Orioles vs. Royals, 25 - 27 April

The Orioles can congratulate themselves on another series win - Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles return home to take on the Royals in a three game weekend series. Jimenez, Chen, and Gonzalez for the Orioles. Ventura, Guthrie, and Shields for the Royals. See YOU at the Yard.

Friday, 25 April (7:05pm) - Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Yordano Ventura
2014 Stats Jimenez (0-3)
Ventura (1-1)
IP 21.1
17.0
ERA 6.75
2.65
FIP 6.35
2.79
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .314/.410/.535
.190/.271/.317

Game notes:  Ubaldo Jimenez gets the ball for the O's in the first game of the series.  He's still looking for his first win of the season through four starts.  He continues to struggle with his command, walking over five batters per nine innings, and has seen just thirty percent of contact on the ground.  Jimenez has had significant problems against RHB, who are currently slugging .711 (as opposed to .396 for LHB).  Even more worrisome is the recurrence of the velocity issue, as Jimenez continues to sit well below his career average velocity.  From the opposing dugout, Yordano Ventura will make his first career start against the Orioles.  He has yet to face anyone from the current Oriole lineup.

A reason to watch:  Jimenez is going to a win sometime - you might as well be watching that game.  His most recent start was something of an improvement even if he did give up the home run.

Scouting Report: Yordana Ventura is a 22 year old flamethrower with just 32 innings of MLB experience.  While just 5'11, he throws mid to upper 90s with relative ease.  In 2013, he threw the hardest recorded pitch by a starter, coming in at 101.9 MPH.  Ventura is essentially a two pitch guy who uses his blistering four-seamer about 75 percent of the time and occasionally mixing in a curveball or change.  He also throws a cutter, but not often.  Somehow, he still manages to strike guys out and has racked up about 10 per 9 innings early in 2014.  It might have something to do with the 10 MPH difference between his fastball and changeup.  He generates lots of swings, yet his contact rates are low.  The swinging strike rate on his changeup is north of 20 percent.

Maybe hot: Eric Hosmer (2 HR, 6 RBI, 4 BB, 26 PA, 1.098 OPS)

Maybe not: Alex Gordon (6 K, .497 OPS, 25 PA)

Saturday, 26 April (7:05pm) - Wei-Yin Chen vs. Jeremy Guthrie
2014 Stats Chen (3-1)
Guthrie (2-1)
IP 22.0 25.0
ERA 4.91 4.68
FIP 2.75 5.70
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .330/.361/.440 .278/.339/.495

Game notes: Chen is coming off of a win in his previous start, although he finished with a line similar to Jimenez's, minus the home run allowed.  He doesn't see left handed hitters very often - just 26 in 22 innings - but they've accounted for 5 of his 12 earned runs.  Chen does not have good career numbers against the Royals.  In four starts (three at home) and 24 innings, he's allowed an .860 OPS.  Meanwhile, Guthrie has just two games against the Orioles, even though it's been a while since he was a member of the staff.  Only three players have any "significant" time against him, but the Orioles do have a number of power hitters in the lineup which plays well against Guthrie.

A reason to watch: Jeremy Guthrie.  How can anyone dislike him?  He was so homer-prone when he pitched for the Orioles, but he couldn't be a nicer guy!  You can't help but root for guys like him.  It'd be great if this game ended something like 1-0 Orioles.

Scouting report: Guts is a pretty well known entity around these parts, given he spent 5 season in an O's uniform.  He throws a number of pitches, but all seem to have equal opportunity to leave the park. His fastball sits around 92 MPH, which he combines with a change, curveball, sinker, slider, and cutter.  The fastball, slider, and changeup get the most work, but Guthrie spreads around pitches rather evenly.  He often uses the slider as his strikeout pitch, but he's had some problems keeping it in the park when batters do make contact.

Maybe hot: Billy Butler (2 HR, 2.00 OPS, 12 PA)

Maybe not: Delmon Young (.392 OPS, 29 PA), Alcides Escobar (.500 OPS, 12 PA)

Sunday, 27 April (1:35pm) - Miguel Gonzalez vs. James Shields
2014 Stats Gonzalez (1-1)
Shields (2-2)
IP 20.0 33.0
ERA 5.40 1.91
FIP 6.10 3.00
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .291/.371/.570 .210/.267/.337

Game notes: Miguel Gonzalez makes his fifth start of the season. He's been hurt by the walks and the long ball this season. He's walking lefties like it's going out of style, but righties are doing the most the power damage.  Gonzalez has allowed a homer in three of his first four starts, but the strikeout numbers are starting to pick up.  James Shields enters this game allowing a sub-.700 OPS in day games.  He's better when those games are at home, but he's been solid all around when the sun is shining.

A reason to watch: The offense might finally be kicking in.  The Orioles have racked up 6 or more runs in four of their last seven games (two series' worth).  They've exploded for 10+ runs in their last two games.  Heck, even Chris Davis has multiple homers now!  Who would have guessed?

Scouting report: James Shields has been throwing 200+ innings since the Devil Rays were still a team. Now he's in Kansas City and up to his usual tricks. He was pretty stellar in his first season as a Royal, putting up a 4.5 WAR campaign. Shields isn't overpowering, but sits comfortably in the 90s.  In addition to the four-seam fastball, he throws mostly cutters and changeups, but he mix in the slider and curveball. Very similar velocity on the slider/cutter, but PITCHf/x shows different character.  Shields generally sports decent control and is adept at getting the strikeout.  The ability to use all of his pitches to get the strikeout makes him a particularly effective pitcher, but his change stands out among his secondary pitches.  It's regularly a plus pitch and generates plenty of swinging strikes.  The swing rate against the change this season is down 10 percent from his career average, as he's not throwing it for strikes at his usual rate.

Maybe hot: Nick Markakis (2 HR, 5 2B, 9 BB, 75 PA, .856 OPS), Adam Jones (5 2B, 1 HR, 40 PA, .940 OPS)

Maybe not: Nelson Cruz (1 XBH, 0 BB, 7 K, .616 OPS, 20 PA)

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