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Orioles vs. Astros: Series Preview

The Orioles get back on the road to play a four game series in Houston

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Story So Far:

I'm starting to write this only about an hour after that last Rays game ended. I'm not in a particularly good mood and am not optimistic about this road trip. I suppose dropping two of three to the Rays isn't terrible in a vacuum, but it was kind of the way they did it and when. They were kind of lucky to get that win on Friday night, and then completely failed to take advantage of a bad pitcher in Ramirez on Saturday. Sunday's game featured quite a few home runs, but they were still 0 for 4 w/ RISP. And obviously giving up nine runs is bad, the most they've given up since they gave up 10 at Toronto. But in the bigger picture, they've fallen to three games under .500. After finishing up their last series against Tampa Bay at the beginning of the month, they were 12-11, then they lost four in a row in New York and haven't been back above .500 since. Of course you could say this is very similar to where they were at the end of May last year and that at least the rest of the division is playing poorly too, but I feel like we shouldn't have to be making excuses. This team is not doing well and to me seems more like the team projection systems thought they would be than the team that won a division last year.

Since their trip to Baltimore, the Astros went back to Houston for a three game series against the White Sox, dropping two of three to them as well. They're 31-20 overall and still hold a pretty good lead in the AL West.

Pitching Matchups:

Monday: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Brett Oberholtzer

2015

W/L

IP

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

SO/W

Jimenez

3-3

51.2

126

3.17

1.181

3.36

Oberholtzer

0-0

3.0

149

3.11

2.333

1.50

Jimenez continues to be a pretty dependable pitcher, raising my hopes it isn't just a fluke. He just saw the Astros on Wednesday and gave up four earned runs, but still got the win. He may want to think about just intentionally walking Colby Rasmus if he sees him. Before that game last week, Rasmus was 10 for 27 against Jimenez and only added to that on Wednesday with a 3 for 4 performance.

Oberholtzer is being added into the rotation after Scott Feldman was placed on the DL. Apparently Feldman suffered a torn meniscus fielding a ball last week at Camden Yards and had to have orthoscopic surgery. He's out until after the All-Star Break. Oberholtzer's numbers don't mean much, he's barely seen any time this year. But he did pitch 140+ innings last year and was 5-13. You know what that means - 10Ks and eight innings against the Orioles.

Tuesday - Mike Wright vs. Collin McHugh

2015

W/L

IP

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

SO/W

Wright

2-0

19.1

286

3.83

0.828

4.00

McHugh

5-2

63.2

94

3.86

1.241

4.73

After two very good starts, Wright had a slightly bumpy outing in Game 2 of the double header last week. Obviously he was going to give up an earned run at some point, but he's looking good and if it can continue the Orioles will seriously have to consider keeping him in the rotation, That's going to get harder when Norris and Gausman come back, but if he keeps showing he belongs they need to find a way to keep him up.

McHugh just faced the Orioles last week and didn't do well. He lasted six innings, but gave up four earned runs, including two homers to Pearce and Davis. It would be nice if Adam Jones is back in the lineup by then - he's 3 for 6 including a home run off McHugh. And even though Jimmy Parades cooled off in that Rays series, he's 3 for 5 including a double against him.

Wednesday: Miguel Gonzalez vs. Lance McCullers

2015

W/L

IP

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

SO/W

Gonzalez

5-3

62.0

113

4.43

1.161

2.27

McCullers

1-0

15.0

169

2.31

1.333

3.00

After two bad outings in a row, Gonzalez righted the ship Friday night against the Rays. It seems more impressive in hindsight, after seeing what the Rays lineup did in the final two games of that series. Along with Jimenez, he's been the steady guy this season. Someone he should look out for on the Astros though is Jason Castro, who's 4 for 10 including three doubles and a home run to go along with two walks against Gonzalez...although all that did happen in 2013. Last year he was 0 for 5 against him.

Lance McCullers just made his major league debut in mid-May. He's started three games and got the win in one. In the other two he got a no decision but the Astros lost both of them. Overall though he's pitched OK. With someone this inexperienced, it's anyone's guess how the game turns out.

Thursday: Wei-Yin Chen vs. Dallas Keuchel

2015

W/L

IP

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

SO/W

Chen

1-4

61.2

123

4.54

1.168

3.20

Keuchel

7-1

81.2

226

2.89

0.906

2.86

This will be the only matchup of the series featuring starters who have gotten regular work all season. Chen didn't pitch great against the Astros last week, but the O's still got the win. His 1-4 record on the year is deceiving...he's gotten a lot of no decisions in games the team actually won (four). He continues to have problems giving up home runs...he's only failed to give one up in his two of his ten starts so far. If he can avoid doing so in Houston, he's going to set the team up for win.

As for Keuchel, the Orioles handed him his lone loss of the season last week. On one hand it was a good outing - he pitched only 98 pitches in eight innings of work. Unfortunately for him he gave up two two-run home runs to Joseph and Pearce that would cost him the game. I suggested in my preview for that Astros series that Chris Davis should sit to let Steve Pearce play 1st base. Much to my surprise, Buck did exactly that and it worked out. But since then Davis has been hitting much better, including getting two home runs last Wednesday to help beat the Astros. I still think it would make sense to bench Davis for the same reasons I had last week, but I kind of doubt it would happen after the week Davis had. Maybe J.J. Hardy can improve on his 3 for 9 (including a double) record against Keuchel.

Other Notes:

- What happened to Jimmy Paredes? He's got one hit in his last 20 at-bats. Is he regressing to the player we all expected him to be? Maybe, but considering most of the rest of the O's lineup couldn't do much in the last five games, I'm not going to write him off yet.

- The Astros are slightly worse at home than on the road this year (16-11 at home and 15-8 on the road) and actually have a negative run differential at Minute Maid Park. In 2013 and 2014 the Orioles have averaged more than four runs per game there. It's true the Astros are a different team than they were the last two years, but I like the O's ability to score runs in that ballpark.

- Regardless of who's pitching the Orioles need to look out for DH Evan Gattis, who's hit 7 of his 11 home runs in Houston this year. His BA  is .230, so this may be a Chris Davis situation, but still - Orioles pitchers seem especially prone to giving up the long ball and you can't like a guy who seems to have found something about his new home he likes.

- In the aftermath of Sunday's drubbing at the hand of the Rays there was some good news - Matt Wieters may make his season debut on Thursday as the team's DH. It's been a while obviously since Wieters was part of the lineup, but I remember him having a pretty good start to last year. It'll be nice to see him behind the plate again, but a DH appearance would (I think) mean him, Chris Davis, Manny Machado, and J.J. Hardy could all be in the same lineup for the first time since 2013.

- Is it too late in the summer for the roof to be open? Given the weather in Houston lately it'll probably be closed, but I don't remember watching a game there with it open.

Prediction:

I don't even remember the last time I got this right (I think it was that last Toronto series), so part of me wants to say they'll lose 3 of 4 so I can be wrong again. Even though I started off this post saying I wasn't feeling good about this road trip, after looking at the matchups and the Astros' record at home, I think I'm feeling better about it. On paper I like their chances to win two, maybe even three games. I doubt they get lucky against Keuchel again, but neither of their filler guys nor Collin McHugh really scare me. Their bullpen is just as good as it's been, but their lineup hardly lit up the Orioles' staff a week ago. And the one game the O's did lose was with Tillman on the mound, who's only not the worst starter this year because of Bud Norris. I don't usually get the chance to push on the series, so I'm going to take the easy route out and call that this time around, but with the calendar finally turning over to June a breakout by this team is not going to surprise me.