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Series Preview: Orioles vs. Cardinals, 8 - 10 August

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The Orioles topped the Blue Jays 2-1 to cap their 5th straight series win. They'll return home to face the St. Louis Cardinals over the weekend.

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Caleb Joseph is all smiles about the Orioles current series win streak
Caleb Joseph is all smiles about the Orioles current series win streak
Tom Szczerbowski
Friday, 8 August (7:05pm) - Chris Tillman vs. Justin Masterson
2014 Stats Tillman (8-5)
Masterson (5-6)
IP 143.0 104.0
ERA 3.78 5.63
FIP 4.26 4.04
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .245/.312/.383 .281/.387/.425

Game notes: Tillman will start game one of the series following a dominating performance against the Seattle Mariners in his previous start.  He went seven innings and allowed just four singles.  Only three rostered Cardinals have faced Tillman before (he's making his first career start against St. Louis) and just two - A.J. Pierzynski and Jhonny Peralta - have more than ten plate appearances.  August has typically been a good month for Tillman - he allows a career low OPS against and has posted his best monthly SO/BB ratio.

A reason to watch: At five games, the Orioles have the largest division lead in the MLB.  Odd-makers have them at 80 percent for a little October baseball.  I know, I know....never tell me the odds....

Scouting report: Matching up against Tillman is familiar face Justin Masterson, who recently came over from the American League's Cleveland Indians.  The statistics shown above represent a combination of both AL and NL numbers.  He has top-of-the-rotation stuff, but has suffered from control issues this season and significantly diminished velocity.  Masterson uses a sinker-slider combo, but also throws a standard four-seam and a changeup.  Even throughout his struggles, the slider has been a punishing pitch, generating a 16.4% swinging strike rate and a rather low contact rate.  Over his career, Masterson has absolutely dominated Nick Markakis.  He's OPSed just .437 in 31 career plate appearances.

Saturday, 2 August (4:05pm) - Ubaldo Jimenez vs. John Lackey
2014 Stats Jimenez (3-8)
Lackey (12-7)
IP 99.2 144.1
ERA 4.52 3.55
FIP 4.70 3.58
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .250/.359/.387 .256/.294/.407

Game notes: Jimenez will return from the DL to start tomorrow afternoon's game.  A separate roster move will need to be made before the game, but it hasn't been announced yet, as far as I know.  Considering Ubaldo spent so much time in the National League, Pierzynski and Peralta once again lead as far as plate appearances are concerned.  Peralta has absolutely dominated Jimenez - 6 of his 9 hits have gone for extra bases and he's walked 5 times (1.147 OPS).

A reason to watch: He may not be a member of the Red Sox anymore, but one has to imagine the Orioles would love to beat Lackey once again.  Of course, who knows how Jimenez will perform.  Hopefully sitting for a spell has calmed his control.

Scouting report: Familiar foe John Lackey will start game two for the Cards.  Like Masterson, he's a recent addition and the stats above represent both American and National League numbers.  Lackey has been short of dominating this season, but has still put up very good numbers.  His average fastball velocity is at it's best since pitchf/x started tracking in 2007 (92.1).  He favors a fastball combination that includes a four-seam, two-seam, and cutter.  He mixes in a curveball and a very, very occasional changeup at times.  Most Orioles with greater than 20 PA against Lackey have done well.  J.J. Hardy has struggled to a .468 OPS, but Nick Markakis is flying high at .847.  Adam Jones may have a .737 OPS, but he does have 3 homers in 53 PA to go along with 7 RBI.

Sunday, 3 August (1:35pm) - TBD vs. Lance Lynn
2014 Stats TBD
Lynn (11-8)
IP - 140.0
ERA - 2.89
FIP - 3.22
AVG/OBP/SLG Against - .239/.309/.345

Game notes: With the return of Ubaldo Jimenez, the Orioles will have to make a decision on how to handle the rotation going forward.  They have yet to announce a starter for this game.  Candidates will include Kevin Gausman or Bud Norris.  While it would be Gausman's turn, Norris would be on normal rest, so it might mean Goose will get skipped.  Stay tuned.

A reason to watch: Solid production from the catcher spot these days....that Matt Wieters must be lobbying for a contract extension.  Er, wait, it's.....Caleb Joseph??  He's got homers in four straight appearances.  The streak might not be alive by the time this game rolls around, but that's still impressive.

Scouting report: Lance Lynn will pitch game three for the Cards (not too sad about missing Adam Wainwright's turn....).  Lynn is former first round pick (39th overall) and has been a three-win pitcher in his short career.  While he picked up 2.8 WAR in 2012, Lynn struggled against lefties and might have been considered something of a fluke.  He improved those numbers in 2013 and has again (even more drastically) in 2014.  He's better inside the confines of Busch Stadium, but his overall numbers do not suffer too much away from St. Louis.  He throws a pretty standard arsenal (four-seam, two-seam, slider, curve, change), but has cut back on using the change in favor of the slider.

Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $18,000 Fantasy Baseball league for tonight's MLB games. It's $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. Jump in now. Here's the FanDuel link.