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Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles vs. Tampa Bay Rays, 14-16 April 2014

After a disappointing series loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, the Orioles will try to finish their first six-game homestand on a better note, as they face the Tampa Bay Rays.

Brian Blanco

Another series, another loss. 5-7 really isn't an awful start to the season, but it doesn't feel very good right now. It's still early, though, folks, and the team's been without Manny and has young starters waiting in the minors. The losses have been frustrating, but there's plenty of reason to hope for better to come.

Monday, 14 April: Wei-Yin Chen vs. Chris Archer
Chen Archer
Stat 2013 YTD 2013 YTD
IP 137.0 10.2 128.2 13.0
ERA 4.07 6.75 3.22 1.38
FIP 4.04 2.90 4.07 2.42
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .272/.321/.440 .412/.412/.549 .226/.292/.368 .217/.275/.239

Chen has struggled in both of his 2014 starts, lasting less than six innings and giving up four runs in each. I haven't been able to sit down and watch either game, but his peripherals suggest some poor luck: over 10.2 innings, he's walked none and allowed one homer while striking out eight. He has, however, allowed twenty-one hits. It's hard for that to be entirely attributable to luck, so expect Chen's eventual results to fall somewhere between those two cherry-picked stats. That's about what we would've expected from him before the season started, anyway.

Archer's begun the season strong, following a six-inning, two-run effort in his first start with seven shutout innings in his second. While he's less than two hundred innings into his major league career, Archer has established himself as a promising young pitcher who's pretty good already, and the Rays locked him up through 2021 with an extension just after the season started. The righty throws about 60% fastballs (a mix of four- and two-seamers) to batters regardless of handedness, using his slider most of the rest of the time, especially as a strikeout pitch. He'll also mix in the occasional changeup against lefties.

Maybe hot: Ben Zobrist (1.067 OPS, 25 PA)

Likely not: Desmond Jennings (.325 OPS, 19 PA)

Tuesday, 15 April: Miguel Gonzalez vs. Jake Odorizzi
Gonzalez Odorizzi
Stat 2013 YTD 2013 YTD
IP 171.1 9.1 29.2 11.0
ERA 3.78 9.64 3.94 5.73
FIP 4.45 9.18 3.89 4.00
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .243/.300/.413 .400/.455/.775 .252/.311/.432 .302/.354/.419

After an awful beginning to the season against Detroit, Gonzalez battled through a quality start in New York, giving up three runs over six innings, but allowing two homers. That's an improvement, but not much of one, so it'd be reassuring to see one of those routine, solid outings we got so used to Gonzalez providing over the last couple of years. Maybe this will be the one.

Odorizzi got knocked around in his second start, allowing ten hits and seven runs in five innings in Kansas City. His first game this season was much better, as he threw six scoreless innings against the Rangers at Tropicana Field. Odorizzi has fewer than fifty major-league innings to his name, but in that time, he's shown himself to be a 2:1 fastball:slider guy against righties and a 4:1 fastball:changeup guy against lefties. He also has a curveball, and supposedly a recently-developed split-change, both of which he uses sparingly.

Maybe hot: Desmond Jennings (1.070 OPS, 23 PA)

Likely not: Ben Zobrist (.348 OPS, 21 PA)

Wednesday, 16 April: Chris Tillman vs. David Price
Tillman Price
Stat 2013 YTD 2013 YTD
IP 206.1 21.1 186.2 21.2
ERA 3.71 0.84 3.33 2.91
FIP 4.42 3.42 3.03 2.77
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .241/.303/.427 .188/.217/.288 .252/.281/.379 .238/.262/.350

How about Chris Tillman so far this year? While he labored through five innings on Opening Day, he's allowed just one earned run over 16.1 IP since. With as much as some of the other pitchers have struggled, Tillman's been pitching like the staff ace he is, giving the O's a great chance to win when he's on his game and keeping things close when he isn't.

Price is awfully familiar to us by now, and he's started this year strong, though his overall numbers benefit from an early interleague start. He tends to overpower lefties with his sinking fastball, throwing it more than two-thirds of the time, mixing in other fastballs for another 18-20% of his pitches to same-handed batters and only occasionally tossing a curveball or changeup into the mix. Against righties, he doesn't use the sinker as much - though it's still his most-used pitch against them, he'll throw changeups much more often, especially when behind in the count, and ramps up the use of his cutter as he approaches a strikeout.

Maybe hot: Nelson Cruz (1.167 OPS, 27 PA), Evan Longoria (1.481 OPS, 27 PA)

Likely not: Adam Jones (.531 OPS, 42 PA), James Loney (.464 OPS, 16 PA)