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Series Preview: Orioles vs. Blue Jays, 11-13 April

The O's return home for a three-game set vs. the Blue Jays after a six-game road trip. Tillman, Norris, Jimenez for the O's. McGowan, Hutchison, Buehrle for the Jays. See YOU at the Yard!

Chris Tillman looks to keep rolling against the Jays
Chris Tillman looks to keep rolling against the Jays
Leon Halip
Friday, 11 April (7:05pm) - Chris Tillman vs. Dustin McGowan
2014 Stats Tillman McGowan
IP 13.1
ERA 1.35
FIP 4.29
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .231/.259/.385

Game notes: Chris Tillman gets the ball for the O's, fresh off of his dominant performance against Detroit on Sunday. That start has his numbers at Comerica Park down to a solid .647 OPS against. He's traditionally not as good at Camden Yards, where he tends to get more homer-happy. Tillman has yet to exceed 6 innings per start at home, but that number has been trending in a positive direction of late. Meanwhile, SS J.J. Hardy expects to play in this game.

A reason to watch: Tillman, of course (were you expecting something different?). Obviously, it's still early on, but Tillman has been pretty much everything the O's have needed him to be so far. He's the number one guy and he's definitely shown he's got the ability. The question is how long that will last. Over his relatively short career of 5 seasons (not including 2014), April has been his best month of the season. In May, his OPS against jumps 100 points to .832. Last year, however, he struggled in May as usual, but really honed in during the later months, so this is promising.

Scouting Report: Dustin McGowan is 32 and in his 7th season, all with Toronto. He missed both the 2009 and 2012 seasons due to injury. He returned last season and pitched exclusively from the bullpen, but is back in the starting rotation early this year. We have to go all the way back to 2008 to get a good look at his pitch arsenal, which generally consists of a fastball, slider, curve, and change. Historically, his slider has been his best whiff-inducing pitch. When he's on, he can be a strikeout guy, but much of that looks to be enhanced by all of his relief outings (and likewise for his control). Like Norris, he's had significant issues against lefties, enough that the Yankees went to a lefty-only lineup during his first start of 2014. The result? Eight hits and four runs allowed over 2.2 innings.

Maybe hot: Jose Bautista (2 HR, 1.103 OPS, 21 PA)

Maybe not: Delmon Young (1-12, 3K), Brett Lawrie (.231/.231/.462, 13 PA)

Saturday, 12 April (7:05pm) - Bud Norris vs. Drew Hutchison
2014 Stats Norris Hutchison
IP 5.0 8.2
ERA 9.00 6.23
FIP 5.04 4.85
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .391/.391/.609 273/.400/.455

Game notes: Bud Norris will take the hill for the Orioles in this game after a pretty rough outing against Detroit. He tends to struggle against lefties, yet saw mostly right-handed hitters in that game. The righties hit him hard - the lefties, not so much. Norris has faced Toronto just once in his career and did not fare very well. That outing came last season at Camden Yards (his last start of the year), which is also a place where he struggles.

A reason to watch: The struggles of the Oriole starting rotation (regarding those not named Chris Tillman). Miguel Gonzalez went from awful in his first to okay Wednesday, so maybe they'll start to settle in (we're only in the second turn through the rotation!), but it's been pretty ugly so far. Norris probably has the most to lose (or gain) since he's the least accomplished, at least in an Oriole uniform. On paper, Toronto seems like a nice team to recover against, since they came in 22nd in the league last year for offense and sit at 23rd this year (side note: they're currently posting an OBP under .300). Just watch out for Jose Bautista. His wrist is healthy (for now) and he's got 4 homers already.

Scouting report: Hutchison will make his third start of the season for the Jays. He did not pitch in the majors last season, so he'll be making just his 14th career start and third against the O's. He combines a slider and change with his low 90s fastball. The slider is his standard out-pitch and he's had some success with it (.600 OPS against). The slider has produced 50 percent of his strikeouts this season and 45 percent of his career whiffs. He has dominated the O's in two career starts, holding the team to just two earned runs in 12 innings of baseball. Both of those runs came in a game at Camden Yards. Current Orioles have produced just a .449 OPS against, although Nick Markakis is 3-6 with a double. Hutchison's minor league numbers show that he can strike guys out at a pretty solid rate and he's managed to continue some of that in the majors. He's pretty good at keeping the ball on the ground and excels when his hitters do just that.

Maybe hot: Josh Thole (1.082 OPS, 15 PA)

Maybe not: Colby Rasmus (4 hits, 2 Ks, .659 OPS, 24 PA)

Sunday, 13 April (1:35pm) - Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Mark Buehrle
2014 Stats Jimenez Buehrle
IP 10.2 14.0
ERA 6.75 0.64
FIP 6.33 1.67
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .310/.431/.476 .240/.264/.320

Game notes: The start of the season has been a rough one for Jimenez, who inked a 50 million dollar contract with the Orioles during the offseason. He's walking batters like it's his job and hitters are teeing off when he actually does find the plate. One would hope that .367 BABIP is luck related, but considering where he has been leaving his pitches, it's hard to imagine that's the case. His control needs to improve significantly for him to have success. He has put up some pretty high walk numbers (4 per 9 innings) in his career, but the Jimenez of 2014 has just been all over the place.

A reason to watch: Jose Bautista. It's probably not best to say that here, since he has abysmal numbers against Jimenez, but he's about as healthy as he's been in a couple of years and that appears pretty clear. He's off to a phenomenal start. He's hitting homers, taking walks, and getting on base all around. That .464 ISO number is pretty frightening. His possible Achilles? Camden Yards. He's a career .172 hitter at OPACY, which is amazing considering the pitchers he's sure to have seen in his 42 games at the park.

Scouting report: Buehrle is off to a hot start in 2014. He's 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA (1.67 FIP) over 14 innings. His walk numbers are similar to his career norms, but for now, he's striking out hitters as well. Since becoming a full-time starter back in 2001, Buehrle has never thrown fewer than 200 innings and he's nearing 3000 for his career. Amazing for a guy who throws an average fastball of 85MPH. That velocity is down even more this season (83MPH), but he's still getting it done, mixing in a curveball, change, and cutter. Buehrle is certainly not a strikeout pitcher. He pitches to contact and has solid numbers with most of his offerings, the two-seam fastball the lone exception. He also threw a slider years ago, but abandoned it, as it was quite hittable. He throws all of his pitches for strikes and doesn't tend to rely on any one to get guys out. Control is Buehrle's calling card. He hammers righties (as much as you can hammer with an 85MPH fastball) outside with his fastball, then comes down and in with his secondary offerings. Most teams go right-heavy with their lineups, but it hasn't seemed to matter much. His numbers are pretty similar against hitters from both sides of the plate.

Maybe hot: Nick Markakis (17-38, 1.211 OPS), Delmon Young (3 HR, .982 OPS, 44 PA), Colby Rasmus (.968 OPS, 26 PA)

Maybe not: Nelson Cruz (0-14, 1 BB), Jose Bautista (1-19, .205 OPS)