When the Baltimore Orioles began their last series with the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday, June 21st, the Jays were on an eight-game winning streak and the hottest team in baseball. They swept the Orioles in embarrassing fashion to run their win streak to 11, go over .500 for the first time in the 2013 season, and put them in a virtual tie with the Tampa Bay Rays for fourth place in the A.L. East.
Since then, the Blue Jays have gone 6-11 to go back under .500 and are now firmly in last place, 5 1/2 games behind the fourth place New York Yankees. But they are sending Steve Delabar to the All Star Game, so that's something!
The first game of the series is tonight and will pit Chris Tillman (10-3, 3.92 ERA) against Mark Buehrle (5-5, 4.50 ERA)
Buehrle vs. Tillman
Buehrle is one of my favorite baseball players. At least, he was when he played for the Chicago White Sox. I lost track of him somewhat when he went to the National League last year and this season he's a Blue Jay and therefore a division rival.
Buehrle is the kind of soft-tossing lefty that gives the Orioles fits, and he has for years. His fastball has never been above the mid-80s and this season it's averaging 84.3. He doesn't strike out a lot of guys, but he also doesn't walk a lot (although that number is up a tick this season). He's averaging a bit over six innings per start this season, which is down from his career average of over 6 1/2. It's hard to say what has made Buehrle's ERA jump his mark of 3.81 from 2001-2012 as most of his other stats are the same. He's a groundball pitcher so perhaps the Blue Jays' 18th ranked defense (per FanGraphs) isn't helping him.
|Tillman vs. Blue Jays||Buehrle vs. Orioles|
This is the first time in 2013 that Buehrle will face the Orioles. He should look out for Nick Markakis, who is hitting 13-for-31 (.419) with 3 walks, 2 home runs, and 3 doubles. Alexi Casilla has gone 6-for-20 (.300) with 4 walks against Buehrle, so maybe he'll find his way into the lineup tonight. Buehrle against all current Orioles.
Tillman has faced the Blue Jays twice this year. On April 22nd he pitched 6 2/3 innings and gave up just one run on four hits and three walks. The O's won, 2-1. On May 24th he pitched just 5 innings and gave up 3 runs, although he did strike out 7 and walk none. The Orioles won that game10-6.
Tillman is coming off of a rough outing against the Yankees, but he's had a great June and hopefully will continue to force us to discuss who is really the staff ace of the O's. Shockingly, Tillman hasn't been great against Jose Bautista in his career. In 15 career at bats Bautista is 6-for-15 with 2 homers, a double, and two walks. Tillman against all current Blue Jays.
Over the past ten games, spanning three series, the Orioles have faced six left-handed starters and will do so again tonight with Buehrle. Against lefties this season the Orioles are batting .248/.295/.411. That's not very good. If you look at 2013 splits, the ONLY Oriole batting better against lefties than righties is (surprise!) Nate McLouth. McLouth has a practically identical OBP against lefties (.001 difference) as righties and is slugging almost 100 points higher. And even with that, it's a small sample size for a guy who historically is awful against lefties, so it's not something you can count on.
Thankfully after tonight the Orioles will face right-handed pitchers over the final two games of the first half.
|Baltimore Orioles||Toronto Blue Jays|
|Brian Roberts - 2B||Jose Reyes - SS|
|Manny Machado - 3B||Jose Bautista - RF|
|Nick Markakis - RF||Edwin Encarnacion - 1B|
|Adam Jones - CF||Adam Lind - DH|
|Chris Davis - 1B||Colby Rasmus - CF|
|Matt Wieters - C||Rajai Davis - LF|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||J.P. Arencibia - C|
|Nate McLouth - LF||Mark DeRosa - 3B|
|Nolan Reimold - DH||Munenori Kawasaki - 2B|