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Series Preview: Orioles @ Athletics, 18 - 20 July

The Orioles open the second half of the season on the road against the MLB-best Oakland Athletics. Tillman, Chen, and Gausman will start for the Orioles against Samardzija, Hammel, and Gray.

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Gausman goes toe-to-toe with another of the league's best young pitchers in game three on Sunday
Gausman goes toe-to-toe with another of the league's best young pitchers in game three on Sunday
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Friday, 18 July (10:05pm) - Chris Tillman @ Jeff Samardzija
2014 Stats Tillman (7-5)
Samardzija (3-8)
IP 118.1 123.0
ERA 4.11 2.78
FIP 4.50 3.10
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .251/.326/.395 .233/.295/.361

Game notes: Tillman got off to a hot start, but really seemed to get derailed while dealing with the groin injury in May.  He came around towards the end of the first half - will he regain the focus during the second half and return to the ace form we saw early in the season?  He'll need to work on his control to do that, but the talent/ability is certainly there.  Tillman's success in the second will likely have a huge impact on where the Orioles end up going forward.

A reason to watch: The O's will largely see the business end of a solid Athletics rotation.  They were solid already, then went out and anchored further with the additions of Samardzija and Hammel.  The first game of this series features the best pitching matchup - Tillman vs. Samardzija.  On the O's side, Tillman had a nice finish to the first half.  If he continues that success through this game, it could easily be a pitching dominated contest.

Scouting report: Samardzija will make his third start for the Athletics.  He's 1-1 since his move to the AL with 15 IP and 4 ER allowed.  He's a power pitcher who regularly tops out in the mid to upper 90s.  Samardzija splits between a two-seam and four-seam fastball, mixing in a slider, cutter, and splitter.  His two-seamer has been a plus pitch this season and he's made good use of the slider and splitter.  Time will tell if that same success will translate to the American League with the DH involved.

Saturday, 19 July (9:05pm) - Wei-Yin Chen @ Jason Hammel
2014 Stats Chen (9-3)
Hammel (8-6)
IP 104.0 113.2
ERA 4.15 3.01
FIP 4.43 3.33
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .282/.320/.482 .223/.277/.360

Game notes: Chen starts game 2 on 8 days of rest thanks to the AS break.  He's currently on pace to have the fewest strikeouts in his Orioles career, as well as the most homers allowed.  Much of his success this season, however, can be attributed to a large increase in ground ball outs.  Chen is generally a fly ball pitcher, but he's up to 43% grounders this season.

A reason to watch: Jason Hammel makes his first start against his former team.  He spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons as a member the Orioles.

Scouting report: Hammel will make his second start for the Athletics in game two of this series.  In his first start, he allowed 2 ER in 5 innings.  He started using the two-seam fastball as his primary pitch in 2012 as a member of the Orioles - it has since stuck.  He also mixes in a slider, curveball, and changeup.  The slider has been his best pitch this season, as it has in several of his non-injury plagued seasons.  The contact rate on that pitch is generally among the lowest in his arsenal.

Sunday, 20 July (4:05pm) - Kevin Gausman @ Sonny Gray
2014 Stats Gausman (4-2)
Gray (10-3)
IP 38.1 125.2
ERA 3.29 2.79
FIP 3.56 3.27
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .245/.314/.340 .224/.296/.313

Game notes: Gausman opens his second half in game three of the series.  His line from the first half is nothing to scream about - just 6 K/9 and over 3 BB/9, but he looked solid in nearly 40 innings (7 starts).  He should be a fixture of the O's 2nd half rotation unless he really implodes.  His slider has a long way to go and he doesn't use it often, but it's sure nice to have a 10 MPH delta between fastball and changeup.  That alone will get him a long way and hopefully he'll become more comfortable with the slider so he can better mix his pitches.

A reason to watch: We once again look to the pitching matchup.  In this one, you'll see two of the best young pitchers that the MLB has to offer.  One is already making his name as a star (Gray), the other (Gausman) will start getting plenty of attention for himself if he continues to pitch as he did following his latest recall.

Scouting report: The Orioles have seen Gray once this season at Camden Yards in what might have been Gray's worst start this year.  In the first half, he was death to lefties, allowing a slash line of .212/.289/.294.  He's primarily a two-pitch (fastball/curveball) pitcher, but that's possible when your curveball is as good as Gray's has been.  Gray's curveball generates the most swings out of any of his pitches, yet contact rate is the lowest.

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