Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles vs. Texas Rangers, 30 June - 3 July 2014

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

A disappointing 3-1 series loss to the Rays behind them, the O's get another four-game set at home against the Rangers.

Monday, June 30, 7:05 ET: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Joe Saunders
Jimenez Saunders
Stat 2013 YTD 2013 YTD
IP 182.2 88.0 183.0 34.2
ERA 3.30 4.70 5.26 5.19
FIP 3.43 4.74 4.72 5.09
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .239/.317/.367 .255/.363/.391 .311/.365/.507 .356/.424/.517

Jimenez had mediocre results in his last start, surrendering four runs in 6.1 innings, but his peripherals looked better than they have in about a month, as he struck out six while walking just two. He's still given up the most walks of any pitcher in the majors, but if he can limit them to two or three per game for a while, rather than five or six, maybe someone will pass him before the year is up.

Saunders faced the O's (and Jimenez, in fact) earlier in the month and managed to allow just two runs, despite getting knocked around for ten hits in six innings. He's struggled in his last two starts, giving up thirteen runs (ten earned) and walking eight in 8.2 IP. The lefty's fastball sits in the upper 80s, and he doesn't get very many strikeouts. He throws fastballs more than anything else, mostly sinkers, though righties will see more four-seamers than lefties. Saunders will go offspeed with a slider against lefties and a changeup against righties, and he'll also drop in the occasional curveball against both.

Maybe hot: Adam Jones (.900 OPS, 25 PA), Adrian Beltre (1.255 OPS, 22 PA)

Likely not: Nick Markakis (.561 OPS, 33 PA), Alex Rios (.403 OPS, 21 PA)

Tuesday, July 1, 7:05 ET: TBA vs. Nick Martinez
TBA Martinez
Stat 2013 YTD 2013 YTD
IP - - - 62.0
ERA - - - 4.65
FIP - - - 5.54
AVG/OBP/SLG Against - - - .304/.375/.490

Birdland's favorite starter TBA makes not one, but two reappearances this week. It's really anyone's guess who will start this game, with Bud Norris's DL trip and the doubleheader on Friday messing with the rotation. Perhaps T.J. McFarland will get a spot start - his only other major-league start was on June 28 last year, though he only made it through 2.2 innings.

Like Saunders, Martinez also faced the O's earlier this month. The latter did not fare as well, though, as he gave up six runs (four earned) over 5.1 IP. Martinez is not having a very successful rookie year - he's struck out fewer batters than he's walked, and his very low groundball rate (31.5%; league average: 45.3%) means he's also vulnerable to the long ball. The righty throws mostly fastballs, even though the pitch only sits around 91 mph. He's used his slider quite a bit against righties, showing some faith in it as an out pitch, while against lefties, he uses a changeup occasionally in all counts and a curve at times when he's ahead.

Wednesday, July 2, 7:05 ET: Chris Tillman vs. Nick Tepesch
Tillman Tepesch
Stat 2013 YTD 2013 YTD
IP 206.1 99.0 93.0 44.1
ERA 3.71 4.18 4.84 3.65
FIP 4.42 4.60 4.19 4.55
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .241/.303/.427 .253/.326/.407 .272/.330/.427 .254/.326/.420

Tillman's last four starts have been quite good results-wise, as he's allowed just five runs over 28 IP. The question is how he's been doing that, since he's walked more than he's struck out over that span (8 BB, 7 K). Perhaps he's figuring something out, and is managing to induce poor contact for now, but a sub-.200 BABIP in his last two games suggests he's been getting lucky. Tillman hasn't struck out more than three batters in a game in over a month now, and that can't last - either he'll start getting more whiffs, or opponents will start knocking him around again.

This will be the Orioles' first look at Tepesch; the only one who's faced him before is David Lough. The righty's having a good sophomore season, though his strikeout and walk rates suggest he's getting a bit lucky ERA-wise. Tepesch throws fastballs the majority of the time to both right- and left-handed batters; lefties see more sinkers than four-seamers, and vice-versa for righties. Offspeed-wise, he turns to his slider most often, though against lefties he'll also throw changeups to get ahead in the count and a curve unless he's behind.

Maybe hot: Elvis Andrus (1.117 OPS, 14 PA)

Likely not: Carlos Pena (.607 OPS, 13 PA)

Thursday, July 3, 7:05 ET: TBA (Wei-Yin Chen?) vs. Yu Darvish
Chen(?) Darvish
Stat 2013 YTD 2013 YTD
IP 137.0 92.1 209.2 104.1
ERA 4.07 4.19 2.83 2.42
FIP 4.04 4.39 3.28 2.64
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .272/.321/.440 .287/.318/.479 .194/.277/.334 .222/.292/.323

Chen got pummeled on Saturday, allowing five runs and three homers in 3.1 IP, the shortest start of his career. He's also walked five batters over his last three starts, after walking four batters over the previous eight. We're probably seeing some inevitable regression with Chen - it's tough to nearly cut your walk rate in half from one season to the next - but we should see some positive regression, too, as he's been a bit unlucky with home runs this season, and his strikeout rate could bounce back a little.

Darvish is having his best season yet ERA-wise, and advanced stats only question his HR/FB rate, as his xFIP is 3.14, a half-run higher than his FIP. The righty's repertoire contains eight separate pitches according to Brooks Baseball, but his pitch selection is fairly conventional when you come down to it, using fastballs to get ahead and breaking pitches to finish batters off.

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