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Game 38: Orioles (23-14) @ Royals (15-20), 8:10pm

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If Tommy Hunter ever wants to prove that he doesn't suck, he's going to need to start tonight with a good game against the Royals.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
If Tommy Hunter ever wants to prove that he doesn't suck, he's going to need to start tonight with a good game against the Royals. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
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The Orioles need to stick it to the Royals in the same way that Texas stuck it to the Orioles. They have emerged on the far side of the 15-game tough stretch with a few scratches, still far better than I anticipated. Now they have to keep their collective foot on the accelerator, because the injury-plagued Royals need to have their Duke-blue butts beaten silly by a team that has designs on emerging as a power in the AL East, or at least as a decent baseball team.

In order to accomplish this, someone who has thus far had a lackluster 2012 is going to need to step up his game. That player's name is Tommy Hunter. He's the Orioles starter tonight. He's given up like a million home runs. That was an exaggeration; Hunter has actually given up ten home runs in his 42 innings, still a fairly absurd total. Of fly balls that opposing batters have hit against Hunter, slightly over one in five have been home runs. Keep it on the ground, Tommy! No, that's just not your game. You are a contact pitcher and some of it is hard contact. So at least stop walking guys. Tommy's sporting a 2.79 BB/9 which is the highest of his career.

The O's have three players with 8 or more home runs. The Royals do not have a player with more than 6 home runs. That doesn't mean that hitters like Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas will not crush mistakes. Also be on the lookout for Eric Hosmer, who's only batting .182 but also only has a .175 BABIP. His luck could start to even out.

Starting for the Royals is Felipe Paulino. He has made two starts in MLB in 2012 and thus far has not sucked, managing a 3.09 ERA. Paulino's struck out over a batter per inning - and this is not a significant departure from his career K/9 of 8.32. His walk rate is also down substantially, which may not be a problem for a team that doesn't walk much, like the Orioles. Paulino hasn't given up a lot of homers since the 2009 season in Houston, a sign that he may have evolved as a pitcher. But of course if he's prone to give up some bombs tonight, the Orioles have more than a few batters who will be glad to send balls into deep and unplayable territory.

Paulino is right-handed, so against him the Orioles are sending out members of the "sucks against lefties" contingent like Nick Johnson, Wilson Betemit and Chris Davis. All of those three fellows could stand to pump up their stats with a breakout game. Whether they are capable of having one against Paulino tonight is something we will find out.

This is a game the team needs to win if they want to maintain their position in the standings for more of the season.


Lineup

BALTIMORE ORIOLES KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Xavier Avery - LF Jarrod Dyson - CF
J.J. Hardy - SS Eric Hosmer - 1B
Nick Markakis - RF Billy Butler - DH
Adam Jones - CF Alex Gordon - LF
Matt Wieters - C Jeff Francoeur - RF
Nick Johnson - DH Mike Moustakas - 3B
Wilson Betemit - 3B Alcides Escobar - SS
Chris Davis - 1B Chris Getz - 2B
Robert Andino - 2B Humberto Quintero - C