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Series Preview: Rangers @ Orioles

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Texas Rangers (18-10, 1st AL West) @ Baltimore Orioles (19-9, 1st AL East)

After a sweep of the Boston Red Sox, the Orioles sit atop the AL East with the AL West-leading Rangers coming to town. Pretty big road swing for the O’s, as they took two of three from the New York Yankees before the sweep in Boston (in somewhat dramatic fashion). Not a bad way to start a fairly brutal stretch of the schedule. Only negative from that sweep is that the bullpen got plenty of work which isn’t so great considering the next off day isn’t until May 24th.

You probably don’t need a recap of any of the events from the weekend in Boston, but it was great. The bats were fairly lively and the pitching was, for the most part, exceptionally solid. Only one run allowed by the bullpen, which includes two innings from Chris Davis (pretty remarkable strikeout on Adrian Gonzalez). Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, and Mark Reynolds all pitched in with a number of solid ABs as well. Texas also brings a number of solid bats, plus, they’re fresh off of a series loss in Cleveland, so they’ll be looking to rebound from that. Josh Hamilton is still hitting .381 at the heart of a lineup that also includes Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre, Michael Young, and Elvis Andrus.

All four games will be at 7:05 (Monday through Thursday). Pitching for the Orioles will be Matusz, Arrieta, Chen, and Hammel. Also note that Stu Pomeranz will be called up as an extra arm for the bullpen. He’s not currently on the 40-man roster. Harrison, Feliz, Lewis, and Holland are expected to pitch for Texas.

Game 1 (Monday @ 7:05pm):

Probable Pitchers:

TEX – Matt Harrison (LHP, 3-2, 5.40 ERA)

BAL – Brian Matusz (LHP, 1-3, 4.67 ERA)

Scouting Report:

After spending most of 2010 in the Ranger bullpen, Harrison broke out as a solid starter in 2011. Throws a fastball (four seam and two seam), cutter, curveball, and changeup. Dropped the slider when he moved into the starter role last season. Pretty solid velocity (lower-90s fastball, lower-80s changeup). Doesn’t throw the changeup often to lefties, but when he does, he keeps it in. Sees mostly right-handed batters, who hit fairly well off of him. Lefties (obviously very small sample size) have been held to a .191 BA.

Key Stats:

Only Nick Markakis has reached double-digit ABs versus Harrison. He’s just 3 for 13. Adam Jones is 4 for 9 with a home run. J.J. Hardy’s lone hit was a homer. Texas hitters are 21 for 58 against Matusz. Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler are both 4 for 7. David Murphy is 5 for 9 with a home run. Oddly enough, Josh Hamilton is 0 for 7 with 3Ks.

Game 2 (Tuesday @ 7:05pm):

Probable Pitchers:

TEX – Neftali Feliz (RHP, 1-1, 3.81 ERA)

BAL – Jake Arrieta (RHP, 2-2, 3.52 ERA)

Scouting Report:

Served as the Rangers closer last season before making the transition to the rotation this season. Primary throws a fastball, slider, and changeup. Has a curveball, but doesn’t use it often (pitch f/x has yet to record a curve this season). Throws fairly hard. Fastball velocity is down to about 94 from 96 in previous seasons, but his slider is now into the low-80s (up from the upper 70s).

Key Stats:

As he used to be the closer, Feliz hasn’t faced the Oriole lineup much. They are 1-17 against him. Adam Jones recorded the only hit: a single. Wilson Betemit is 0-6 with 3Ks. Texas is 16 for 50 against Arrieta. The usual boppers (other than Hamilton) have the home runs: Beltre, Kinsler, Napoli, and Moreland. Michael Young is 0-7 with 3Ks.

Game 3 (Wednesday @ 7:05pm)

Probable Pitchers:

TEX – Colby Lewis (RHP, 3-1, 2.97 ERA)

BAL – Wei-Yin Chen (LHP, 2-0, 2.76 ERA)

Scouting Report:

Throws a fastball, slider, curve, and changeup. Does have a cutter that he used sparingly last season, but has yet to throw it (as far as pitch f/x is concerned) this season. Soft-tosser keeps the fastball in the upper-80s (approximately 88 MPH). Not much difference between the fastball and changeup velocity-wise, as the changeup hangs in the mid-80s.

Key Stats:

Nick Markakis (1 for 10) and Nick Johnson (1 for 4) each have a hit against Lewis….home runs. Mark Reynolds is 3 for 6 with 2 homers. Overall, the Orioles are 19 for 68 against Lewis. Obviously, Rangers have yet to face Chen, but they currently have the league’s best average against lefties at .301. Leading the way is Brandon Snyder, who’s currently hitting .429 against left-handed pitching.

Game 4 (Thursday @ 7:05pm)

Probable Pitchers:

TEX – Derek Holland (LHP, 2-2, 4.43 ERA)

BAL – Jason Hammel (RHP, 4-1, 2.09 ERA)

Scouting Report:

Throws a sinker, slider, curveball, and changeup. According to pitch f/x, the sinker is new this season and sits around 93 MPH. Has been using the changeup rather sparingly this season and uses it almost exclusively against right-handed hitters. Uses the curveball more often against righties as well. Lefties don’t hit him particular well when they actually do face him (he’s got over 300 career innings vs. right-handed hitters, but just 100 vs. lefties).

Key Stats:

Holland has been extremely solid against the Orioles over a small sample. The O’s lineup is just 6 for 37 (.162) lifetime. They do not have a home run. Ronny Paulino has the lone extra-base hit (it was a double). Holland does have a 5.11 ERA at Camden Yards. Jason Hammel has similar success against the Texas lineup. They are 7 for 34 (.206) off of the Orioles right-hander. Three of those hits, however, were for extra bases. Michael Young has the lone home run.