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Series Preview: Rays @ Orioles

Tampa Bay Rays (20-12, T-1st AL East) @ Baltimore Orioles (20-12, T-1st AL East)

Okay, so that last series didn’t go as planned. Texas is an outstanding team, boasting the American League’s best run differential at +68, but you kind of hoped there would be at least a series split. Now the Orioles have to weather yet another series against a top AL team as the Rays come to town for three games. The winner of this series will grab sole possession of the top spot in the AL East (Because they are tied. For first. But you can read that.)

Obviously, the pitching was really bad. The Texas offense is great, but allowing six home runs to one guy (Josh Hamilton) in one series, including four in one game, is just bad. At least it wasn’t 30-3. Just 14-3. Halfway there. Of course, Jason Hammel missing his start due to a sore knee didn’t help, but it just further defines the O’s lack of pitching depth. Among the struggles were Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter, Jason Berken, and Zach Phillips. Two of the four are no longer with the team. Go figure. Wei-Lin Chen got that lone win for the Orioles, helped out by back-to-back-to-back home runs by Ryan Flaherty, J.J. Hardy, and Nick Markakis. First time that has ever happened in the American League. Pretty cool. Something else cool? The last team to hit homers in their first three at-bats? The Milwaukee Brewers. You know who was on that team (and one of the home run hitters)? J.J. Hardy. A little trivia for you – info to use a cocktail parties or something. Meanwhile, Tampa is cruising along even without the services of hard-hitting 3B Evan Longoria.

The first two games are at 7:05pm on Friday and Saturday. Sunday’s game will be at 1:35pm. Scheduled to pitch for the Orioles are Dana Eveland, Brian Matusz, and Jake Arrieta. The Rays get to face Dana Eveland. Good for them. Tampa’s scheduled starters are Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, and James Shields. Not good for us.

Game 1 (Friday @ 7:05pm):

Probable Pitchers:

TB – Jeremy Hellickson (RHP, 3-0, 2.75 ERA)

BAL – Dana Eveland (RHP, 0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Scouting Report:

Lots of strikeouts in the minors, but his K rates in the majors have been a lot less sparkling. Walk numbers have been pretty high as well. Throws a fastball, curveball, changeup, and cutter. Low-90s velocity on his fastball. Sees more lefties than righties (probably since they hit better against him). Right-handed hitters have struggled mightily (.187/.245/.330 slash line) over 127 innings and 494 total batters faced.

Key Stats:

Hellickson has held the Orioles to just 19 for 82 (.232) in his short career. J.J Hardy, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis all have home runs, but Markakis is just 3 for 18. Mark Reynolds is 2 for 10 with 4Ks. Hardy and Wieters have both been walked 3 times. Dana Eveland is making his first start of the season and his first as an Oriole. Could possibly be his last too, since the Orioles would have to DFA him to get him off of the 25-man roster.

Game 2 (Saturday @ 7:05pm):

Probable Pitchers:

TB – Matt Moore (LHP, 1-2, 5.71 ERA)

BAL – Brian Matusz (LHP, 1-4, 5.91 ERA)

Scouting Report:

Sure we’re all aware of the Matt Moore story. Came up from the minors, made one regular season start then proceeded to dominate the Rangers in consecutive playoff starts. He is, however, experiencing some growing pains this season. Nice K numbers, but his control has been extremely erratic. Throws a fastball, slider, and changeup. Has a curveball, but doesn’t throw it often and never to lefties. Pretty hard thrower, as his fastball gets into the mid-90s. Drops a good 10 MPH off of the change. Rarely seems to face lefties, but they’ve tagged him over the sample.

Key Stats:

The current Oriole lineup has but 5 ABs against Moore. Matt Wieters and Chris Davis both have hits. Wieters’ hit was a 2-run home run. Ben Zobrist and B.J. Upton both have four hits against Matusz. Zobrist has the lone Rays home run. Evan Longoria knows how to double off of Matusz, but luckily, he’s out of the lineup. His usual replacement, Sean Rodriguez, is 2 for 10 with just 1 double.

Game 3 (Sunday @ 1:35pm)

Probable Pitchers:

TB – James Shields (RHP, 5-1, 3.23 ERA)

BAL – Jake Arrieta (RHP, 2-3, 4.23 ERA)

Scouting Report:

Solid start to the 2012. Getting groundballs nearly 60 percent of the time with solid strikeout numbers. Throws a fastball, slider, curveball, changeup, and cutter. Something to note is his decreased use of the four-seamer this season. Throwing far more changeups and sliders than in previous seasons. All seven home runs allowed this season have come from left-handed batters.

Key Stats:

The current Oriole lineup has actually hit James Shields pretty well (58-211). Adam Jones is 12-31 (.387) with 5 doubles, a triple, a home run, and 4 RBI. Nick Markakis is 17-59 (.288) with 4 doubles, 2 home runs, and 5 RBI, but has struck out 9 times. Nick Johnson is 3 for 7. Mark Reynolds is 1-5 with 3Ks. Jake Arrieta has held Tampa to just a .208 BA. Ben Zobrist is 0-5 and B.J. Upton is 2 for 11 (although he does have a home run). As a side note, Tampa has a guy named "Will Rhymes" on the roster. He’s 1-2 against Arrieta.