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Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles @ Washington Nationals, July 7-8 2014

After taking two of three at Fenway Park, the O's return for their traditional two-home-two-away set against the Nationals.

Jim Rogash

Since the Orioles still haven't announced either of their pitchers for the two home games, we're splitting this preview into two parts. Expect the second half on Wednesday morning.

Monday, July 7, 7:05 ET: Chris Tillman @ Stephen Strasburg
Tillman Strasburg
Stat 2013 YTD 2013 YTD
IP 206.1 104.2 183.0 112.1
ERA 3.71 4.21 3.00 3.53
FIP 4.42 4.60 3.21 2.80
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .241/.303/.427 .255/.330/.406 .207/.281/.307 .264/.307/.394

Tillman broke a streak of four straight quality starts in his last outing, giving up four runs (three earned) in 5.2 IP against the Rangers. He's fortunate it wasn't worse, as he walked four and only struck out two. There's not much new to say about Tillman over the last month or two: he's only struck out more than three batters in a game once since May 1, and he's walked more than he's fanned over that span. It's improbable that he can somehow coast by through the regular season without fixing that, and it's even harder to imagine him being effective if the O's make it to the postseason.

Strasburg's ERA isn't terribly impressive, but his peripherals are outstanding, with a 27.8% strikeout rate (league average: 20.3%) and 5.1% walk rate (league average: 7.9%). It's hard to feel good about this matchup. The righty is basically a three-pitch guy and approaches batters similarly regardless of handedness. He throws a mid-90s four-seam fastball 57% of the time, plus an even mix of curveballs and changeups to righties, while he throws the latter about twice as often as the former to lefties.

Tuesday, July 8, 7:05 ET: Wei-Yin Chen @ Doug Fister
Chen Fister
Stat 2013 YTD 2013 YTD
IP 137.0 98.1 208.2 70.2
ERA 4.07 4.12 3.67 2.93
FIP 4.04 4.43 3.26 3.96
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .272/.321/.440 .284/.317/.478 .281/.329/.381 .253/.275/.405

After a couple of rough games, Chen got back on track against the Rangers, giving up two runs over six innings last Thursday. Back in an NL ballpark, Chen will get to swing the bat a couple of times, and perhaps we'll be treated to something like this again:


Despite missing over a month at the beginning of the season, Fister is having a good year, even if his peripherals suggest that he and Strasburg should swap ERAs. His strikeout rate isn't what it was in the AL, dropping from around league-average to well below that, but his walk rate has dropped enough to more or less compensate. Still, he's benefiting from some good fortune, with a .262 BABiP (career: .295) and a high strand rate (80.8%; league average: 73%). The righty throws mostly sinkers, especially to same-handed hitters. He'll use cutters, curves, and splitters in equal proprortion to round things out against righties, while lefties see a few more splitters and fewer sinkers.

Maybe hot: Nick Markakis (1.134 OPS, 20 PA)

Likely not: J.J. Hardy (.490 OPS, 23 PA)