Every time the Orioles have played the Rays this season, I have looked at the pitching match ups for the series and thought, "Oh no. HOW are the Orioles going to win?" And yet, the Oriole have gone 11-5 against the Rays so far this year, so they're doing something right.
This weekend they again face three tough pitchers, including Drew Smyly, who dominated them when last they met. Two of the three games are also day games, which doesn't bode well for the O's.
As you know, the Orioles are pretty good at scoring runs. They average 4.4 runs per game, which is 6th in the AL. The Rays...not so much. Their 3.86 runs per game is dead last. The Rays are a lot more patient than the Orioles, with 467 walks on the season, good for 4th in the AL. The O's are are in 13th with just 338. They make up for it with a SLG of .424 (2nd in AL) compared to the Rays' .368 (14th). In terms of offensive WAR, the Orioles rank first in the AL (and in the majors, in fact) at 24.9, while the RAys sit at 7th at 17.8.
WAR doesn't like the O's pitching quite as much. FanGraphs ranks them at 10th in the league at 12.8, while the the Rays are third at 15.9. The results don't show on the field though, where the two teams are nearly equal in runs allowed per game. The O's are giving up 3.78 (3rd) and the Rays 3.82 (4th)
Friday, September 5th, 7:10 pm: Wei-Yin Chen (LHP) vs Alex Cobb (RHP)
The Orioles have faced Alex Cobb three times this season and have won twice. The game they lose was actually the game in which they hit him hardest, because that's baseball (/Markakis). Cobb only walks 2.6 batters per nine innings, and yet he's walked seven Orioles in just 16 innings. Go figure. In two of his three starts, Cobb held the Orioles to just 1 or 2 runs, though in one outing he had to come out after four innings due to pitch count.
Chen has somehow faced the Rays four times already this season, and after a good start in April, he has struggled. It's no secret he gives up the long ball a little too often, and that's been the case against the Rays as he has surrendered 5 HR in just 22 innings. Chen is coming off of a strong start against the Twins in which two of his runners scored after he left the game in the eighth inning.
Saturday, September 6th, 1:05 pm: Kevin Gausman (RHP) vs Drew Smyly (LHP)
Drew Smyly is pitching, so you might as well put this one in the loss column. Seriously, Smyly is good, but he's not as good as the Orioles seem to think he is. In five career games (two starts) the Orioles have gone 9-for-72 with a hitting line of .128/.182/.236 against Smyly. In 21 innings he has 21 strikeouts and a WHIP of .0667. That's small sample size territory, of course, but it's also totally ridiculous.
As for Gausman, he's been a little troubled of late. His last start against the Twins was doomed by a bad defense, but he's been quite hittable over the last month. In three starts against the Rays this year he's given up seven runs in just fifteen innings pitched. That does include one start in which he pitched six shutout innings, so he has had some success. Gausman has now pitched 134.2 innings in 2014, up from 129.2 in 2013.
Sunday, September 6th, 1:40 pm: Bud Norris (RHP) vs Jeremy Hellickson (RHP)
Hellickson has only made nine starts since coming off of the disabled list, but they have for the most part been pretty good. His last two starts, against the Orioles and Blue Jays, weren't so hot though. The Orioles got to him for eight hits and four runs in 4 1/3 innings, and the Jays put up five runs in just 3 1/3 innings pitched. Aberration or start of a trend?
Norris went through a tough stretch in August but got his September started in nice fashion with six shutout innings against the Reds.