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Orioles vs. Blue Jays: Series Preview

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The Orioles road trip continues to Toronto where they're playing in what may be their most important series of the season.

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Story So Far:

Even though they lost their fourth game to the Phillies, their recent winning (eight of the last ten) has the Orioles right in the thick of the division race. With the exception of the Red Sox though, every other team is near or at the top as well. The Blue Jays have been just as hot as the Orioles lately, making this a critical series. The last time the Orioles were in Toronto, they were swept in three games. If that happens again, it would be a real setback to the O's recent progress. On the other hand, if the Orioles could find a way to sweep Toronto, they could finish the weekend in first place. It's getting closer to the All-Star break and the Orioles have done a lot lately, but this may be the most important series of the season yet.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: Mike Wright vs. Marco Estrada

2015

W/L

IP

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

SO/W

Wright

2-2

28.1 96 4.73 1.200 2.57

Estrada

4-3

57.1 92 4.38 1.273 2.47

Mike Wright is still looking to get back the success he found when he first debuted. His last three starts have been shaky, and I'm a little nervous about him making a start against the Blue Jays, who's offense still ranks higher than the Orioles'.

Much like the Orioles, the Blue Jays have an impressive offense and have been winning with it, despite a less than stellar pitching staff...Estrada fits into that. There's little about him to worry about. Estrada did lose in his only start against the Orioles this season, but has won three straight - though that may mostly have to do with all the run support he's been getting. It probably doesn't matter who starts in these games - it's going to take at least five or six runs to win.

Saturday: Kevin Gausman vs. Mark Buehrle

2015

W/L

IP

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

SO/W

Gausman

1-0

12 89 4.36 1.333 2.60

Buehrle

7-4

85.1 97 4.48 1.277 2.35

Kevin Gausman is making his first start of the season and his first appearance since May 6th, after which he went on the DL. Obviously Gausman showed a lot of potential when he was finally able to become a regular part of the rotation last year - will we see that again? He wasn't great in his innings out of the bullpen before he got hurt and he didn't get too many rehab outings. He had one start against the Blue Jays last year, which he won while only giving up one earned run.

I think Buehrle has been kind of lucky against the Orioles this season. He's won all three starts he's had against them, but hasn't pitched very well. He doesn't really dominate them with strikeouts (7 in 18.0 innings), and each of those starts he's given up multiple earned runs. But as they do, the Blue Jays scored a lot in those three starts - 35, in fact. But the Orioles have started scoring a lot more lately and they have a couple guys with a good track record against Buehrle. Adam Jones is 16 for 39 including two home runs and Delmon Young is 22 for 59 with four home runs.

Sunday: Chris Tillman vs. Scott Copeland

2015

W/L

IP

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

SO/W

Tillman

5-7

71.0 70 4.80 1.549 1.36

Copeland

1-1

14.0 154 2.82 1.286 2.50

On the one hand, Tillman's season stats still aren't great, but he's gotten a win in his last three starts. He needs to be getting more strikeouts, but has done a good job limiting home runs - he's only given up two in his last six starts. The last time he got through seven innings the Orioles lost the game...but I think if he were able to in this game the O's would have a pretty good chance.

Copeland, a former Orioles draft pick, made his major league debut earlier this season. He's made two starts so far, with mixed results. Much too small a sample size to tell how this one's going to.

Other Notes:

- The Orioles have scored 65 runs in their last ten games, which has been helped a lot by all the home runs, but also by their average with runners in scoring position. Over those ten games they're .365 in those situations, compared to .303 in the games before that.

- The Blue Jays lead the AL in runs scored (by a lot) with 369. A big part of that could be all their walks (219, 2nd in AL). Get people on base and then hit home runs - sounds like a winning formula. To win this series, the Orioles will need to limit those walks.

- It's a good thing the Orioles have been hitting so much - the rotation hasn't been as strong. Since things turned around in that last game against the Astros, only one starter has made it through seven innings (Chen, in his last start). It would be good to get that turned around before the bats cool off.

- The Orioles are 3-6 against the Blue Jays this year, the only divisional opponent they have a losing record against.

Prediction:

The Orioles have been playing much better lately, but they seem to have problems with the Blue Jays, especially in Toronto. Both teams are playing their best ball of the season, but I'm going to give the advantage to the home team. O's win one of three.

All stats taken from Baseball Reference