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Series Preview: Orioles @ Astros, 29 May - 1 June

The Orioles remain on the road - jetting down from Milwaukee to face the Houston Astros in a four game series. Jimenez, Gonzalez, Tillman, and Chen for the O's. Peacock, Oberholtzer, Keuchel, and Feldman for the Astros.

Will it be high-fives or heads down after a four-game set with Houston?
Will it be high-fives or heads down after a four-game set with Houston?
Mike McGinnis
Thursday, 29 May (8:10pm) - Ubaldo Jimenez @ Brad Peacock
2014 Stats Jimenez (2-6)
Peacock (1-4)
IP 56.0
ERA 4.98
FIP 4.23
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .267/.358/.380

Game notes:  Jimenez's previous start looked much more like his April outings than those from May.  He'd gone nearly a month without walking more than 2 in a game, but had 5 on Saturday against the Indians.  He made it through just 4 innings and allowed 5 earned runs.  If he can get back to limiting the walks, he should be fine, especially since he's been better away from Camden Yards this season.

A reason to watch:  The Orioles will see top prospect George Springer for the first time in this game.  He got off to a pretty slow start, but is starting to come around, including a recent stretch of four straight games with a home run.

Scouting Report: Brad Peacock has been struggling with his command, but will get the start in Thursday's game.  He has 10 appearances this season, six of them starts.  While he has racked up 44 strikeouts in 45 innings, Peacock has issued 30 walks, as well.  He sits 92-93 with his fastball and combines that with a knuckle curve, slider, and changeup.  The low 80s slider, which he began throwing at the MLB level last season, tends to be his best pitch and generates a swinging strike rate of 16.2 percent.

Friday, 30 May (8:10pm) - Miguel Gonzalez @ Brett Oberholtzer
2014 Stats Gonzalez (3-3)
Oberholtzer (1-6)
IP 51.2 44.0
ERA 4.35 5.32
FIP 4.61 3.71
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .267/.342/.447 .299/.348/.398

Game notes: Gonzalez will start game two fresh off of two straight wins.  Over the 12 inning span, he allowed just 4 earned runs and struck out 11 hitters.  He's still struggling to get the consistent ground ball out, but he's slowly improving that stat (although he remains under 40 percent for the season).  He's also pitching to a pretty big platoon split.  Right handed hitters have had some great success through 52 innings.

A reason to watch: Might we see Nick Markakis get his SLG% above .400 for the first time in, well, forever?  It's a possibility!  Kind of makes you sad just thinking about it.  That's worth picking up his option for, right?

Scouting report: 24 year old lefty Brett Olberholtzer will oppose Gonzalez on Friday night.  He tosses both a four and two seam fastball (both sitting right at 90), along with a knuckle curve, and changeup.  Most opposing teams load up with right handed hitters and for good reason:  RHB slug .519 against Oberholtzer, exactly two hundred points better than LHB.

Saturday, 31 May (4:10pm) - Chris Tillman @ Dallas Keuchel
2014 Stats Tillman (4-2)
Keuchel (6-2)
IP 63.1 70.2
ERA 4.97 2.55
FIP 4.61 2.65
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .256/.330/.439 .221/.263/.324

Game notes: After an excellent start to the season, Tillman has faded in his last two starts thanks to a nagging groin injury.  Whether or not that's what has been killing his control is anyone's guess, but he's been issuing a ton of walks over his recent starts.  He has one start against Houston this season - a 5-2 loss.  Tillman took the loss in that game and allowed 3 ER in 5 innings (5 walks).

A reason to watch: Dallas Keuchel.  He's in his third season for the Astros and has really found success early this season.  If the Tillman we saw in KC a few weeks ago shows for this game, it will be a solid pitching matchup.  Keuchel has demonstrated outstanding control over his 70 innings and has generated a whopping 67% ground ball rate.

Scouting report: Fun fact for the day - Keuchel was born on New Year's Day (1988).  Twenty-six years later, he's surged to the top of an MLB rotation and sits 9th in the league among qualified SP with 1.9 WAR.  The lefty relies heavily on a two-seam fastball that isn't overpowering, but shows good movement to induce the ground ball.  He usually combines that with a slider and changeup.  Keuchel also has a curveball and cutter, but he throws them far less often than his other offerings.  PITCHf/x has logged just one curve in 70+ innings this season.

Sunday, 25 May (2:10pm) - Wei-Yin Chen @ Scott Feldman
2014 Stats Chen (5-2)
Feldman (3-2)
IP 58.0 47.2
ERA 4.50 3.02
FIP 3.75 4.14
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .300/.331/.468 .260/.328/.370

Game notes: Chen will pitch game 4, facing our old friend Scott Feldman.  He had a solid start against Houston at home in early May, although he's coming off a start in Milwaukee in which he allowed 3 homers.

A reason to watch: This could be a telling series for the Orioles.  They're coming off a series loss against one the better teams in the league, but need to rebound against Houston (the Astros are, incidentally, in the midst of an 11-6 stretch).  The pitching staff might be drained after a long series and no off days, so it wouldn't be unexpected to see a few roster moves this weekend.

Scouting report: Former Oriole Scott Feldman continues to get by without striking out anyone (4.15 per 9 innings), but he has certainly kept the ball in the park.  He previously had a solid outing against the Orioles earlier this month, allowing 2 ER on 5 hits.  In three starts since that point, he's allowed 10, 9, and 8 hits and 9 earned runs, albeit in front of some questionable defense.

Maybe hot: Nick Markakis (3 2B, .818 OPS, 25 PA)

Maybe not: Adam Jones (4 K, .269 OPS, 19 PA)