Interleague play begins for the Orioles on Tuesday night, when they'll travel to the other stadium in New York for a two game series against the Mets. This will be the first time they've played the Mets since 2012. They lost all three games they played against the Mets that year. In fact, they haven't beaten them since 2009 when the Mets traveled to Baltimore for three games.
This will not be the first AL matchup for the Mets this season, who have already played three games against the Yankees. The Mets are having a suprisingly good season thus far, posting a 16-10 record and have a 3.5 game lead over the Nationals in the NL East. Before the season, I think a lot of people picked the Mets to maybe be a dark horse in the wild card race, but certainly not a team who could compete with Washington for the division. Their record was boosted by an 11 game win streak in April, though they played some bad teams in their division during that span, beating the Phillies, Braves, and Marlins. Since then though they've gone 3-7.
The opposite is true of the Orioles of course, who have turned things around since that five game losing streak, winning five of their last six games.
Tuesday, May 5th: Bud Norris vs. Bartolo Colon
Bud Norris hasn't pitched in more than a week, his last outing being the 18-7 beatdown of the Red Sox last Sunday. After a disappointing start to the season, he pitched much better in that game going 6.2 innings and only giving up three runs. I'm a little worried about this matchup though. For his career starting games on six or more days of rest, he has an ERA of 5.20. He doesn't have a great record at Citi Field either, going 0-1 in two starts with a 6.17 ERA. Fortunately, the bullpen is pretty well rested at this point after a day off and a string of good starts by the Orioles rotation. Normally I like to see the starters pitch efficiently, go deep into the game, and limit runs. Based on Norris' numbers here and his shaky season so far, going five innings while only giving up 1-2 runs may be considered good enough to let the bullpen take over.
Bartolo Colon is nothing short of incredible. He's in his age 41 season and still holds down a spot in a rotation on a competitive team. He's even pitching well this year with a 4-1 record and 3.31 ERA. More than that, he's got 25 strikeouts to go with one (read: ONE) walk on the season. Combine that with the Orioles being bad at drawing walks and I'd probably take the under on walks he gives up in this game if you set the O/U at 0.5. Not many Orioles have a track record against him, but Adam Jones is 8 for 26.
Wednesday, May 6th: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Jacob deGrom
If you've been paying attention to the Mets' season so far you should have just breathed a sigh of relief - the Orioles won't have to face Matt Harvey in this series. deGrom is one of the young stars of the Mets rotation, and he certainly has a pretty high ceiling. In only his second year, he's been decent so far. He's 2-3 with a 3.34 ERA with 23 strikeouts to go with 7 walks. Again, though - the Mets have played some bad teams. His last two starts have been losses against an improved Nationals team and the Yankees, who I really hope are going to slow down soon, but so far are just winning. Of course he has no record against the Orioles, though Travis Snider did see him last year when he was on the Pirates - but he went 0 for 3. Oh well, small sample size.
So is it OK to like Ubaldo Jimenez now? Last year was so bad, its hard. He hasn't exactly been lights out this year, but he has obviously been much better. He's done enough at least that he's no longer my biggest concern on the roster, which was hard to imagine a month ago. He's pitched well in Citi Field - in two starts he has a 2.57 ERA and has only given up one home run over 14 innings. He's been the best starter on the rotation so far, leading it in ERA, FIP, SO/W, and home runs given up. That may not last all season, but good for him on the strong start.
- Interested in seeing Orioles pitchers bat? Me either. For the record though, Jimenez has a .113 career BA with no extra base hits. Bud Norris has a career .150 with five doubles. Both guys spent multiple years in the NL though, so at least they have experience.
- The Mets lineup is probably unfamiliar to most Orioles fans. They don't have any great hitters. Their best hitter, Travis d'Arnaud is currently on the DL. Next best might be Lucas Duda, the first baseman, who has a .304/.398/.457 line this season with two home runs. Juan Lagares, their center fielder is also out there. He's posted a .324/.376/.373 line but has no home runs this season. As a team, they've posted an 88 OPS+. The Orioles have a 118+ rating.
- Citi Field currently ranks 18th on ESPN's Park Factors list when ranked by runs. Last year it ranked 28th. This is not a hitters park.
- Adam Jones continues to be among the major league leaders in batting categories, ranking 2nd in BA and 4th in OPS. This could be a tough series for him against two good pitchers in a pitcher-friendly park, so it will be interesting to see if he can keep up his hot start.
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I'm predicting a split series here, though it wouldn't be hard to imagine either team winning both. It'd be nice to see the Orioles build off their recent series wins over Boston and Tampa Bay (that White Sox series is still TBD), but splitting the series and avoiding the sweep should put them in a good position when they follow this up with a trip across town for a four game series against the division leading Yankees.