The Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles kick off a four-game series tonight that starts with a day-night doubleheader. The two teams have played each other eight times this year with the Rays managing just one win. The Rays were last in Baltimore on April 14-16 and the two teams owe their doubleheader to a rainout in that series.
The Rays, at 32-48, are tied with the Chicago Cubs for least number of wins in baseball. It's surprising to many that the Rays season has turned out this way so far, but regardless, these are the kinds of teams that a contender should beat. And despite the way it sometimes feels for Orioles fans, the Orioles are currently a contending team.
June 27th, 1:05 PM - Alex Colome (RHP) vs. Kevin Gausman (RHP)
Alex Colome has been tabbed to start game one of the doubleheader for the Rays, just his second game of the season. The 24-year-old made three starts for the Rays in 2013 and was named the Rays' #5 prospect by both DRaysBay.com and Beyond the Boxscore prior to the 2014 season. On March 24, 2014 it was announced that Colome would start the season with a 50 game suspension due to steroid use, and as such has only appeared in eight games in the minors. Ian Malinowski over at DRaysBay wrote up a PITCHf/x scouting report on him after his appearance earlier this year. It's only based on four innings, so take it for what it's worth, but it's pretty informative. Per FanGraphs, his fastball averages about 94 mph, his change up about 85. He also throws a curve ball.
As for Gausman, as long as he continues to pitch as well as he has been, he isn't going anywhere. Since his ill-advised start against the Tigers on May 14th, Gausman has put together three straight good games against the A's, Blue Jays, and Rays. That's two good hitting teams and the Rays. This will be his first time this season seeing a team for the second time, so it will be interesting to see if the Rays will make adjustments after Gausman pitched six shutout innings against them on June 18th.
No Orioles have ever faced Colome, and no Ray has more than seven plate appearances against Gausman.
June 27th, 7:05 pm - Jake Odorizzi (RHP) vs Chris Tillman (RHP)
Jake Odorizzi started the only game this season in which the Rays beat the Orioles this season, and the 5-4 final score made it look closer than it was. Odorizzi limited the Orioles to just two runs, but as is so often the problem with his starts, he threw too many pitches to be able to get deep into games. He is averaging just a touch over five innings per start. According to PITCHf/x, Odorizzi throws a ton of pitches, but sticks mostly to fastball (52.7%), splitter (17.4%), and slider (11.5%). His fastball averages just about 90 mph, so he'll probably tie the Orioles up all night.
Since getting knocked out of the game after just one inning against the Texas Rangers on June 5th, Chris Tillman has put together three strong starts against the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Yankees. By strong, I mean that he pitched reasonably deep into the game and didn't give up a lot of runs. He still struggled with walks, giving out seven over the three game span, and he only struck out five in 20 innings. Those aren't promising numbers, but it's better than what he had been doing earlier in the season.
No Orioles have faced Odorizzi more than eight times, but in small sample size theater, Nick Markakis is 3-for-8 with a home run, and Adam Jones is 4-for-6 with a walk and a double. On the Rays side, Evan Longoria has owned Tillman over 30 plate appearances with 11 hits including two doubles and five home runs. He's also walked five times. Matt Joyce has an OPS of .987 in 25 plate appearances with two homers, a double, and a triple. And Ben Zobrist has only had six hits against Tillman in his career (.188 BA), but three of them are home runs.
June 28th, 4:05 p.m. - Erik Bedard (LHP) vs. Wei-Yin Chen (LHP)
It's our old friend Bedard! Our favorite surly Canadian is exactly who you know him to be. He doesn't go more than 5ish innings, and he doesn't throw many more than 100 pitches. In 14 starts for the Rays, he has pitched six innings three times, never more. His strikeout numbers aren't what they used to be, but he can still rack up a few on occasion. Twice this year he's gotten eight. Man, remember that game in 2007 when Bedard pitched a complete game two-hitter against the Rangers with 15 strikeouts? Good times. Bedard faced the Orioles earlier this month and could only pitch four innings. He gave up five runs and a home run to Chris Davis. I wouldn't mind seeing that Bedard again.
Like Bedard, Wei-Yin Chen tends to operate on a pitch count. He will pitch more than five innings, though, as long as he can do it in 100 pitches or less. The thing that I like about Chen is that you generally know what you're going to get. He won't pitch a complete game, but he won't get blown up in the first few innings either. He'll probably give up a home run or two and between 1-3 runs.
Look for a lot of righties in against Chen, as they reach base a bit more often against him (.303 OBP vs .314 OBP), but hit for power quite a bit higher (.407 SLG vs .466 SLG). It's not as cut and dry with Bedard. He doesn't have a big platoon split, although in his career lefties reach base more and righties hit for more power. This season lefties have actually owned him, hitting .286/.351/.486 against him, although that's in just 78 plate appearances
While not many Orioles have racked up a lot of at bats against Bedard, many have hit him very well in limited action. Adam Jones is 6-for-13 in his career, Chris Davis is 4-for-10, Nick Markakis is 5-for-12, and 7-for-23 with two home runs. On the flip slide, Delmon Young is just 2-for-22 in his career against Bedard and J.J. Hardy is 1-for-10. Of the five Rays with double digit plate appearances against Chen, only Ben Zobrist (10-for-31) can claim success. Desmond Jennings, Evan Longoria, Yunel Escobar, and Sean Rodriguez all have an OPS against Chen between .501-.610.
June 29th, 1:35 p.m. - Alex Cobb (RHP) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (RHP)
After a great 2013 season, Alex Cobb spent time on the disabled list this season with an oblique strain, and he's still trying to get back to form. He's put up a 5.13 ERA over seven games since returning from the DL, as in three of those seven starts he gave up six or seven runs. He looked pretty good against the Orioles on June 18th as he gave up just one unearned run over seven innings, but he did walk four in that game. In his most recent start against the Pirates, Cobb was knocked out after allowing six runs in five innings. It's hard to say what Alex Cobb the Orioles will be this weekend.
Miguel Gonzalez may have only given up three runs in his last start, but he was probably lucky to do so. And in the start before the light hitting Rays got to him for four runs in five innings. Gonzalez is averaging just over 5 1/2 innings pitched per start, and went just five in his last two. Hopefully MiGo will get back to his May form soon, when he averaged six innings per start and had an ERA of 3.34. If he doesn't, he might find himself headed to the bullpen when Bud Norris returns from the disabled list.