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Game 103: Orioles (57-45) @ Royals (47-51), 8:10

The Orioles need to salvage a series split against the Royals on Thursday night. They'll be up against old friend Jeremy Guthrie, with Miguel Gonzalez getting the start for the O's.

Ronald Martinez

It's really not funny any more, this whole losing to the Royals thing. The opportunity for at least extra innings was there each of the last two nights, but this year's Orioles are not last year's Orioles, and they do not come through in the key situations where they did last year. The clutch hitting and the clutch bullpen, these are largely absent. Wasting a rare game - though there've been three since the All-Star Break - where the starter pitches into the eighth inning is really a shame.

Our old friend Jeremy Guthrie is the nemesis tonight. The Orioles have put themselves in the position where they need to beat him just to salvage a split of this series against the lowly Royals. A series loss would be, well, let's not say disaster, because there's still a lot of baseball left, but it would be sub-optimal for sure.

Guthrie should be the kind of pitcher that the lineup will do well against: as we well know, he gives up lots of home runs. Despite the fact that only seven of the 22 homers he's surrendered were allowed at home, Guthrie actually has a higher ERA at home (4.61) than on the road (4.24). Doesn't make any sense when you break down the batting lines either. They're hitting .240/.316/.372 off Guthrie at Kaufman, which doesn't sound like high-4 ERA territory, but it is.

He hasn't been getting a ton of strikeouts this year, which surely won't stop the Orioles hitters from challenging his season high (nine, the first game he pitched in April). Maybe they'll get some homers, or at least some doubles, or at least some singles strung together? Lefties are batting .299/.367/.509 off Guthrie this year, so Chris Davis, it's your show. Or maybe Matt Wieters, who is sort of vaguely heating up since the break, although I hesitate to apply the words "heating up" to someone whose season OPS is .742. A few more good games and he might be a league average hitter until his next slump!

Miguel Gonzalez pitches for the Orioles for tonight. This is fitting because Gonzalez is similar, in a peripheral sense, to Guthrie in his time with the Orioles. There were three years where Guthrie outpitched his FIP - 2007, 2008, and 2010. Gonzalez is working on his second straight year of doing the same. He strikes out more batters than did Guthrie, but their numbers aren't far apart otherwise. You don't always know how Gonzalez succeeds. He just does, or at least he has thus far.

Even with the mess Jason Hammel left on the mound the other night, the Orioles have had a quality start by the starter every game since the break. Can that pattern continue tonight? If so, they should have a great chance of winning the game, unless the hitters get completely shut down by Guthrie. Which could happen, of course. But hopefully it won't.

Nate McLouth - LF Alex Gordon - LF
Manny Machado - 3B Eric Hosmer - 1B
Nick Markakis - RF Billy Butler - DH
Adam Jones - CF Salvador Perez - C
Chris Davis - 1B David Lough - RF
Matt Wieters - C Mike Moustakas - 3B
J.J. Hardy - SS Alcides Escobar - SS
Henry Urrutia - DH Chris Getz - 2B
Brian Roberts - 2B Jarrod Dyson - CF