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Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles vs. Tampa Bay Rays, 16-18 April 2013

The Orioles kick off an uninterrupted three-week stretch of games with a nine-day homestand against the Rays, Dodgers, and Blue Jays. Will they work their way above .500 before departing on a rough eleven-game West Coast road trip?

Matt's not phased. Why are you?
Matt's not phased. Why are you?
Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Returning to Camden Yards for what will feel like the first "real" homestand of the year, the Orioles sit at .500 after an up-and-down six-game road trip. They start off with a series against the Rays, who currently sit at the bottom of the AL East. With the O's seemingly at a disadvantage in each pitching matchup, can their starters surprise and the offense rebound from Sunday's shutout?

Tuesday, 16 April: Jake Arrieta vs. Roberto Hernandez
Career Numbers Arrieta vs. Rays Hernandez vs. O's
IP 33.2 84.0
ERA 5.88 3.64
FIP 5.29 4.52
Slash Line (Past Teams) .234/.333/.419 .280/.347/.441
Slash Line (Current Players) .281/.373/.469 .272/.312/.417

The Orioles managed to beat Hernandez last time they met, but that wasn't with Arrieta pitching for them. Arrieta has struggled with command and therefore efficiency in both of his starts this year, lasting only five innings in each. Perhaps he'll take a step forward today and save the bullpen an inning or two, but if not, at least the offense may pick up the slack. Hernandez hasn't been great this year, either, allowing ten runs (nine earned) in 13.1 IP, so look for the bats to decide this game.

Maybe hot: Chris Davis (1.198 OPS, 14 PA); Matt Joyce (1.217 OPS, 15 PA), Yunel Escobar (1.063 PA, 17 PA)

Likely not: Nick Markakis (.591 OPS, 26 PA)

Wednesday, 17 April: Chris Tillman vs. Matt Moore
Career Numbers Tillman vs. Rays Moore vs. O's
IP 37.2 21.0
ERA 4.78 2.57
FIP 6.36 4.71
Slash Line (Past Teams) .243/.329/.529 .279/.374/.430
Slash Line (Current Players) .257/.366/.586 .321/.406/.500

If you put any stock in small pitcher-vs.-team sample sizes, this looks to be a another slugfest. Tillman has allowed nine home runs and 17 walks in 37.2 innings against the Rays, while Moore has allowed three homers and 13 walks in his 21 innings. Of course, Moore has allowed three hits and zero runs this year, while Tillman's given up seven runs in nine innings across two starts. Moore did stuggle with his control last time out, walking six Rangers, so there's some reason to hope there, but like Arrieta, Tillman needs to get more pitch-efficient to avoid overworking the O's bullpen.

Maybe hot: Matt Wieters (2.102 OPS, 2 HR in 11 PA); Evan Longoria (1.850 OPS, 3 HR in 15 PA)

Thursday, 18 April: Miguel Gonzalez vs. David Price
Career Numbers Gonzalez vs. Rays Price vs. O's
IP 28.1 87.1
ERA 3.49 2.27
FIP 4.90 2.69
Slash Line (Past Teams) .220/.339/.330 .214/.268/.300
Slash Line (Current Players) .200/.304/.313 .230/.276/.326

Didn't we just leave this party? Yes, the O's get to face David Price again. At least we won't have to hear about how no Oriole has homered off of him this time, since Matt Wieters did on 2 April--apparently Reynolds's two HR in one game in 2011 didn't count. Gonzalez did pretty well against the Rays last time out (6.1 IP, 2 R, 5 H, 2 BB, 4 K), but struggled with control in his last start in New York. He'll need to regain that to give the O's a shot at winning this one.

Maybe hot: Matt Wieters (.892 OPS, 32 PA)

Likely not: Nolan Reimold (.351 OPS, 24 PA)

Weaver's Third Law: The easiest way around the bases is with one swing of the bat.