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Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles vs. Houston Astros, 30 July - 1 August 2013

After losing back-to-back series, the O's will try to get their homestand back on track against the Houston Astros.

Greg Fiume

I'm starting to think I'm just not cut out to root for a contending ballclub. Despite all their recent struggles, the O's are still ten games over .500 and in line for the second Wild Card, yet I'm awfully pessimistic about their chances if things don't turn around real quickly. It is, however, undeniably frustrating that just as the starting pitching has stabilized a bit, the lineup's RISP performance has plummeted.

Perhaps having had yesterday off will help the bats break out of their funk. Or perhaps facing the Astros will do the trick. On to the matchups!

Tuesday, 30 July: Wei-Yin Chen vs. Bud Norris
Career Numbers Chen vs. Astros Norris vs. O's
IP - 7.0
ERA - 3.86
FIP - 1.52
Slash Line (Past Teams) - .300/.323/.367
Slash Line (Current Players) .000/.333/.000 (3 PA) .263/.282/.316

Chen's been solid since his return from the disabled list, allowing just five runs over 20.2 innings in three starts. Any time he pitches at Camden Yards, it's hard not to be a little worried about his rather extreme flyball tendencies and lack of strikeouts, but he at least limits walks and hits enough that the homers he does give up are usually less damaging than they could be.

Norris pitched pretty well against the O's back on 6 June, going seven innings with as many strikeouts and giving up three runs. He's also having a pretty good year overall, though a pair of recent starts against the Mariners and Cardinals brought some inevitable regression to his ERA, which is now merely decent at 3.93. His strikeout, walk, and groundball rates are all below average to varying degrees, and he isn't a lefty, so hopefully Chen won't have to throw a perfect game.

Wednesday, 31 July: Miguel Gonzalez vs. Erik Bedard
Career Numbers Gonzalez vs. Astros Bedard vs. O's
IP 6.0 26.0
ERA 1.50 5.54
FIP 1.26 3.60
Slash Line (Past Teams) .250/.273/.300 .283/.372/.434
Slash Line (Current Players) .375/.444/.500 (10 PA) .309/.397/.471

Gonzalez got roughed up in his last start, but had given the team eight straight quality starts prior; even now, his ERA is still a solid 3.69. He opposed Bud Norris in that game on 6 June, striking out seven over six innings while allowing just one run. I'd certainly take that again, and it's hard to feel too worried about Gonzalez going forward, even if he's still outperforming his peripherals.

Aside from one start in 2009, the always-nonchalant Bedard has not had a lot of success against his former club. As an Astro, he's only lasting about five innings per start, and he's walking a batter every other inning while allowing lots of balls in the air. Between those facts and some Orioles' numbers against him (yeah, yeah; small sample size), this is another matchup I don't feel too bad about.

Maybe hot: Matt Wieters (1.629 OPS, 2 HR and 1 2B in 13 PA), Adam Jones (1.238 OPS in 14 PA), Nick Markakis (.944 OPS in 12 PA)

Thursday, 1 August: Chris Tillman vs. Jordan Lyles
Career Numbers Tillman vs. Astros Lyles vs. O's
IP 7.0 -
ERA 1.29 -
FIP 3.95 -
Slash Line (Past Teams) .174/.269/.304 -
Slash Line (Current Players) .231/.333/.462 (15 PA) .667/.667/.667 (3 PA)

Tillman faced the Astros back on 4 June, giving up one run (a solo homer) over seven innings with eight strikeouts. The O's owe Tillman for their only win against Boston, an even better start, in which he allowed just five baserunners over seven shutout innings, also striking out eight. Tell you what, Chris: if you want to just retroactively earn that All-Star trip over the second half, I think Camden Chat will promise not to snark about it anymore. With their three best starters taking the hill at home, it'll be awfully disappointing if the Orioles don't at least win this series.

Lyles has never faced the Orioles, and he's one of those unfortunate pitchers who has underperformed his peripherals thus far in his career. He only strikes out about six batters per nine innings, but walks about half that many, and gets an excellent 51% groundball rate. That's not a recipe for an ace, but successful fourth starters often follow that formula, so it's hard for a non-Astros fan to guess as to why he's struggled thus far in the majors. (His raw stuff is supposed to be pretty decent, too, though most of the scouting reports I could find were a couple of years old.)

A catcher needs the agility to be able to shift his weight quickly right or left to catch pitches. He also needs courage. More than any other player, he cannot be afraid to put his body in front of the ball to block it. Stopping a 90-mile-an-hour fastball in the dirt takes some guts... He has to be fearless. - Earl Weaver