If the Orioles win two games in this series, they clinch the American League East in this series. That's all there is to it. Their closest competitors, the Blue Jays, are in town, and the magic number is only three. One of the three games in the series (not tonight) will feature a starting pitcher matchup of Ubaldo Jimenez and Drew Hutchison, so you can pretty much write that off. But maybe tonight they can set up a chance to clinch the division on Wednesday.
RHP Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays
2014: 23 G, 18 GS, 114.2 IP, 3.61 ERA, 97 SO, 26 BB, .245 BAA, 1.16 WHIP
Last start (vs. Cubs): 9 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 SO
Any time a pitcher is coming off of a complete game shutout with no walks, that's impressive, all the moreso when it came against the Cubs, who swept these first place Orioles. The 23-year-old rookie has made a good show of it this year, thanks largely to a 2.76 home ERA and roughly 70% of his innings coming at home. On the road, he's got a 5.73 ERA and allows a .304 batting average. It's not because he gives up more home runs on the road or anything, either.
They hit him for about the same amount of power, just a much higher average. Perhaps that has something to do with the performance of Stroman's fielders on real grass instead of on carpet? He gets a 55% ground ball rate, according to Fangraphs, which I might think would lead to worse performance at home since carpet tends to be fast. But maybe his fielders are used to playing the carpet and less used to the grass. If the Orioles don't strike out a million times, that could matter tonight.
Stroman has yet to pitch against the Orioles since being called up in May.
LHP Wei-Yin Chen, Orioles
2014: 28 GS, 168 IP, 3.59 ERA, 123 SO, 31 BB, .262 BAA, 1.21 WHIP
Last start (at Red Sox): 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 HR, 0 BB, 4 SO
Chen is averaging exactly 6 IP/GS for the season. That is not great, but it will do. He's been on a good streak of starts recently, going at least six innings in seven of his last nine starts and lowering his ERA in that time from 4.21 to its present 3.59. One of those shorter starts was against the Blue Jays back on August 6, when he gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks in five innings.
That was in Rogers Centre, so perhaps Chen's home park will be friendlier to him. At the very least, there will probably not be a man in white signaling anything to hitters from center field.
|TORONTO BLUE JAYS||BALTIMORE ORIOLES|
|Jose Reyes - SS||Nick Markakis - RF|
|Jose Bautista - CF||Alejandro De Aza - LF|
|Edwin Encarnacion - DH||Adam Jones - CF|
|Danny Valencia - 1B||Nelson Cruz - DH|
|Dioner Navarro - C||Steve Pearce - 1B|
|John Mayberry - RF||J.J. Hardy - SS|
|Steve Tolleson - 3B||Kelly Johnson - 3B|
|Kevin Pillar - LF||Ryan Flaherty - 2B|
|Ryan Goins - 2B||Caleb Joseph - C|
|Marcus Stroman - RHP||Wei-Yin Chen - LHP|