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Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles vs. Texas Rangers, 8-11 July 2013

After salvaging a still-disappointing road trip with a win off of Mariano Rivera, the O's return to Camden Yards for their final week of games before the All-Star break, starting with a four-game series against the Rangers.

Jim McIsaac

You can do a lot worse than a 2-4 road trip, but it was awfully frustrating to fall back into the pack in the division while Boston gained a couple of games. The Rangers aren't looking as intimidating as they often do, though, with a rookie and a TBA starting this week. Perhaps the O's can start their last homestand before the All-Star break with a series win.

Monday, 8 July: Scott Feldman vs. Derek Holland
Career Numbers Feldman vs. Rangers Holland vs. O's
IP 7.0 25.1
ERA 0.00 3.55
FIP 2.67 3.25
Slash Line (Past Teams) .087/.125/.087 .216/.306/.320
Slash Line (Current Players) .127/.169/.200 .206/.280/.279

Scott Feldman's second start as an Oriole will be against the team with which he's spent most of his career. He's faced the Rangers once already this year, and he acquitted himself quite well, with seven shutout innings. The O's would certainly take that again.

Holland has had some success against the O's in the past, and he's having the best year of his career so far, posting his lowest ERA yet (3.13), career-best strikeout and walk rates, and averaging over 6.5 IP per start. He's also a lefty. I suspect that Feldman's going to have to pitch well for the O's to have a shot at winning this one.

Maybe hot: Nick Markakis (1.007 OPS, 13 PA)

Likely not: Adrian Beltre (.406 OPS, 21 PA); Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy (each with a .200 OPS in 10 PA)

Tuesday, 9 July: Wei-Yin Chen(?) vs. Martin Perez
Career Numbers Chen vs. Rangers Perez vs. O's
IP 7.2 -
ERA 1.17 -
FIP 2.18 -
Slash Line (Past Teams) .207/.233/.276 -
Slash Line (Current Players) .200/.200/.450 .000/.000/.000 (4 PA)

Zach Britton is currently listed as the starter for this game, but all indications are that Chen will be activated for Tuesday or Wednesday. Maybe everybody after Feldman will get moved around a day, rather than knocking Britton out of the rotation, but that seems unlikely, especially since the All-Star break shortly after this series will be giving all the pitchers several days' rest. Chen could prove to be a tremendous boost to the rotation if he's completely healthy; he had a 3.04 ERA before getting injured, though I'd feel better about his peripherals if he started striking more people out. That's nit-picking, though; the guy might immediately be the O's best starter upon activation.

Martin Perez will start this one for the Rangers. He's a 22-year-old lefty who gets groundballs at a solid clip and is currently sporting a 1.85 ERA after four starts. Perez has a very low strikeout rate (4.44 K/9) and a very high line-drive rate (32.1%), though; much of his success comes from a very high left-on-base percentage (82.8%; league average is 73%) and a low home run rate (5.9% HR/FB; league average is ~10%). Best guess is that he'll have to find some strikeout stuff to have success against the O's, because you don't want a team with their kind of power to be hitting lots of line drives.

Wednesday, 10 July: Miguel Gonzalez vs. TBA
Career Numbers Gonzalez vs. Rangers -
IP 5.0 -
ERA 7.20 -
FIP 4.70 -
Slash Line (Past Teams) .381/.462/.476 -
Slash Line (Current Players) .467/.550/.600 -

Miguel Gonzalez faced the Rangers once last year and struggled, giving up eight hits and three walks in five innings. That probably doesn't mean much, of course. His last two starts have been strange: against the Yankees, he gave up just one run in six innings with five walks to four strikeouts, but against the Indians he allowed three runs over 6.2 IP despite walking none and striking out nine. Baseball's a funny game sometimes, but I'll take my chances with the nine-strikeout-zero-walk start and bet on fewer balls falling in for hits.

Opposing Gonzalez will be TBA - yes, other teams have him too, from time to time. Supposedly, this will be either Ross Wolf or Josh Lindblom, neither of whom has ever pitched against the Orioles (or accumulated more than a couple of PA against any current O's hitter). Wolf is a thirty-year-old journeyman who's appeared in the majors in 2007, 2010, and 2013 and has just 52.1 career innings, most as a reliever, while Lindblom is a few years younger and has more innings, but also has most of his major-league experience in the bullpen.

Thursday, 11 July: Chris Tillman vs. Yu Darvish
Career Numbers Tillman vs. Rangers Darvish vs. O's
IP 20.0 -
ERA 3.60 -
FIP 4.40 -
Slash Line (Past Teams) .205/.256/.356 -
Slash Line (Current Players) .261/.320/.500 .333/.333/.333

Tillman couldn't carry his June success over to his last start, as he was singled to death by the Yankees and gave up five runs in 5.1 innings. He's done okay against the Rangers in the past; the slash line for current players is a bit concerning, but it's about what you'd expect from Tillman against a team like the Rangers: slightly low OBP, lots of homers. There's a glimmer of hope on that front: Chris has been much less homer-prone since the end of May, with no multi-homer games and an overall HR/9 of 0.85. He seems to have traded throwing meatballs over the plate for a greater willingness to walk batters during that time, with a rather high 3.83 BB/9. If that's an improvement, it seems a bit like "out of the fire, into the frying pan," to reverse an idiom.

Darvish has never made a start against the O's in the regular season (that line above is Alexi Casilla's one hit in three PA), but did pretty well against them in that memorable Wild Card game last year, despite taking the loss. He's even better this year than he was last year, striking out more and walking fewer, though he is a bit more homer-prone. Basically, if the O's were to win the first three games of this series but fail to sweep, I would not complain one bit in this instance.

No one can explain what Paul Blair had that gave him the ability to run and run and then know exactly where the ball was coming down. That's something that can't be learned... But some things can be learned. The outfielder's first responsibility is to get to the ball. Don't take it easy and then try to reach back and make a catch over your shoulder... The good outfielder runs hard until he's under the ball, plants his feet, and makes the safe catch. - Earl Weaver