The Pirates came into Baltimore winners of five straight series. Regardless of what happens in tonight's game, they will leave Baltimore the losers of one straight series. That's good. A sweep by the Orioles would be better, and they'll be looking to do just that tonight. Of course, the O's are looking to win every night, as is every team. This isn't other professional leagues we might name where there's open talk by commentators of teams tanking for draft picks, nor open talk by executives about rigged lotteries. The question on any given night is: what are their chances?
Not to say that their chances, on paper, are a determination of anything other than that. The O's, as we have ourselves seen, have won many a game this season where they were not the favorites, on paper. They have won games that you just knew deep down they were going to lose. Still, even in this wild season, it's a starting point.
Sure enough, this is another one of those games that doesn't look promising for the Orioles, if only because they will be facing a competent starter - our old friend Erik Bedard (BUH. DARD.), apparently grown out of his surliness - and sending out Tommy Hunter in return. We must give this to Hunter: he has the right attitude about his struggles this season. Yesterday he was quoted in the media as saying, "Don't get bitter. Get better." He's coming off a seven-inning outing against Philadelphia where he only gave up three runs, though they were all solo home runs. As has been mentioned in every other game of this series, the Pirates have the worst offense in MLB. This is a team to get right against.
Hunter will need to get right and have a strong outing, because the O's facing off against Bedard could be a bad matchup - a tough lefty who gets strikeouts. Though we are used to the O's being terrible against lefty starters, they actually have a 10-6 record in such games this year. And though Bedard has 61 strikeouts in his 62.2 IP, he also has 28 walks. That'll inflate the pitch count in a hurry, and for the year Bedard's only averaging 87 pitches per game started, which has only gotten him through slightly less than 5.1 IP, on average, per game.
O's hitters have had 28 hits in their last two games - this with a lineup featuring names like Steve Pearce and Ryan Flaherty. Bedard should be a tougher challenge than the other pitchers the O's have faced, and even if he exits in the 6th inning, Pittsburgh's bullpen is second only to the Orioles in ERA. Theirs is also very good. So, basically: Tommy Hunter, please don't suck tonight.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||PITTSBURGH PIRATES|
|Brian Roberts - 2B||Alex Presley - LF|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||Neil Walker - 2B|
|Chris Davis - DH||Andrew McCutchen - CF|
|Adam Jones - CF||Garrett Jones - DH|
|Matt Wieters - C||Casey McGehee - 1B|
|Mark Reynolds - 1B||Pedro Alvarez - 3B|
|Steve Pearce - RF||Jose Tabata - RF|
|Steve Tolleson - LF||Rod Barajas - C|
|Robert Andino - 3B||Clint Barmes - SS|