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Game 61: Rays (33-29) @ Orioles (29-31), 7:05pm

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After a feast on punchless Oakland, it's gut check time for the Orioles. The Rays are coming to down, and that means it's time for another AL East battle for the ages, or something like that.

Starting for the Rays in the series opener is Jeremy Hellickson, who as far as I can tell is also going to be in the Rookie of the Year conversation at the end of the season. Hellickson is sitting on a 2.64 ERA over 11 starts, including a complete game shutout the last time he came up against the Orioles. In a second game against Hellickson this season he only went five innings but the O's still failed to score a run. He has a low BABIP (.229 against a league average of .287) and gives up a lot of fly balls, but not a lot of home runs. Being as it's his rookie season it's hard to make a determination whether he is lucky or whether this is a repeatable skill. (Examples of fly ball pitchers who outperform their peripheral stats include Jeremy Guthrie and Matt Cain.)

Hellickson and the O's starter, Jake Arrieta, have identical records at 7-3, but that's where the similarities end. Arrieta walks more batters and gives up more home runs, and predictably does not go as deep into games, averaging only 5.1 IP per start. He's walked at least three batters in his last six starts, and that includes a start each where he failed to make it out of the third and fourth innings. He has a 4.93 ERA on the season. In his one 2011 start against the Rays, he went six innings, giving up four hits, three walks, two runs and striking out seven. The O's would take that from Jake every time out, but it may not be enough to beat a pitcher like Hellickson.

Believe it or not, the Orioles have a higher team batting average and OBP than the Rays. The Rays outslug the Orioles, with Matt Joyce (4th in the AL with a .987 OPS) and Ben Zobrist having higher slugging percentages than any Oriole. Johnny Damon, Evan Longoria and Casey Kotchman (yes, really) are out-hitting the non-Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy portions of the O's lineup. On a hot, humid Baltimore night, the ball could be flying out of Camden Yards, and that's not a good matchup for the O's on this night.

Without a doubt the Orioles have won less favorable matchups this year, though. Maybe tonight will be one of those nights. Go O's!