clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Orioles vs. Rangers: Series Preview

New, 3 comments

Your 1st place Orioles welcome the 3rd place Rangers to Camden Yards for a four game series.

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Story So Far:

2014 flashbacks anyone? The Orioles have been playing tremendous baseball lately. They're now at a season high seven games over .500 and in a tie for first place in the division Tampa Bay (though ahead of them in the loss column). Their latest accomplishment was a three game sweep of the Indians in which they outscored them 16-3. If you go back to when things really started to turn around for them during their first series against the Indians in Cleveland, they've now won 17 of their last 22 games. They did the same thing last season between August 25th and September 16th, and that run was enough for them to clinch the division. This time, it's enough for them to take a share of first place. Perhaps most impressive is the way they've been winning, increasing their average run differential per game from -0.07 to +0.72. It's hard to complain about any of that.

The Rangers have not been playing well lately. They're 2-8 over their last ten, but still find themselves in 3rd in a surprisingly weak division. Houston is still leading it, the Mariners and A's have been very disappointing, and for a team that (like the O's) clinched their division with about two weeks left to go last season, the Angels are just kind of hanging around in 2nd. They currently have a 38-38 record.

Pitching Matchups:

Monday: Bud Norris vs. Wandy Rodriguez

2015

W/L

IP

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

SO/W

Norris

2-6

49.2

58

4.80

1.611

1.94

Rodriguez

4-3

68.2

99

4.12

1.383

2.08

Norris' early season struggles continue to drag down his numbers. Maybe we should look at his stats since coming off the DL?

W/L

IP

ERA

SO

BB HR

Norris

1-2

22.1 2.82 17 5 3

That's not terrible. Of course, that ERA is artificially low because he wasn't charged with any earned runs in his last start against the Red Sox, even though anyone who watched that game knows that's misleading. But he did look good in the first four innings of that game. He may do OK in this game too. The Rangers best hitter, Prince Fielder, is only 6 for 23 lifetime against him, including just one home run. Still though, I think its only a matter of time before Norris finds himself in the bullpen to make room in the rotation for Kevin Gausman. Most starters tend to struggle as they face the lineup for the 2nd or 3rd time, but this is especially true of Norris, likely making him better off the bullpen.

Rodriguez is in his first year with the Rangers. Even though his 4-3 record isn't that impressive, the Rangers have won the game in 8 of his 12 starts. His last start was pretty bad - he gave up eight runs in four innings to the A's. He's given up at least one earned run in every appearance this season and hardly has a dominant strikeout ratio. If I had to guess, I'd say the Rangers are winning in his starts overall because he's been able to limit home runs - he's only given up seven in 12 starts, and three of those have come in his last two. He's only pitched in one game in Camden Yards previously, but he did give up four earned runs in that one. It's hard to see the Orioles having much trouble against him.

Tuesday: Miguel Gonzalez vs. Colby Lewis

2015

W/L

IP

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

SO/W

Gonzalez

6-4

78.0

109

4.60

1.154

2.63

Lewis

7-3

94.1

98

3.46

1.198

3.55

Gonzalez didn't do well in his last start in Boston, giving up four earned runs in five innings. He's definitely had a very up and down, but continues to outperform his FIP in record setting fashion. Last year he led the majors in difference between ERA and FIP at -1.66 and so far this year it's at -1.02. That's probably more in line with with a lot of starting pitchers right now, but it's not like he's dropped all the way down to only a few tenths of a point. Proving he can keep it up will go a long way to letting him keep his position in the rotation going forward. For anyone who thinks it could be in question - remember Gausman and Bundy are almost certainly locks to be added in next year, Jimenez and Tillman will still be around, and none of those guys pitch left-handed - and the Orioles are going to need at least one lefty...and I don't see Gonzalez magically becoming one over night.

As for Lewis, that 7-3 record is kind of misleading. It mostly has to do with getting 5.78 runs per game in support. He's still been one of the better starters for the Rangers this season, who are missing Yu Darvish to a season long injury. He has been on kind of a roll too...since giving up nine earned runs in 2.2 innings to the Indians at the end of May, he's made five consecutive quality starts. Most of the Orioles have seen him a fair amount and J.J. Hardy leads the way with a 5 for 15 record, including two home runs.

Wednesday: Wei-Yin Chen vs. Nick Martinez

2015

W/L

IP

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

SO/W

Chen

3-4

87.0

134

4.13

1.149

3.62

Martinez

5-4

90.1

118

4.60

1.384

1.58

Maybe you don't put much stock in W/L, ERA, or FIP for a pitcher - fair enough. But look those WHIP and SO/W for Martinez...those are bad for a guy who's pitched 90 innings this season. He is a young guy, having only made his MLB debut last season. But based on how that low SO/W he seems to have command issues, and that's backed up by the fact that he's already hit 12 batters this season. In his last five starts, he's been charged with 20 earned runs. Ouch.

So Chen got optioned for one start, didn't seem too happy about it, but then came back and pitched six pretty good innings against the Indians last Friday. Chen's biggest problem this season (other then getting low run support from the offense) has been his split against righties. His OPS and SO/W against righties drops a little as opposed to lefties, but he's given up 11 home runs to the righties. This is definitely happening at a higher rate than his career numbers. Fortunately, the Rangers feature five lefties in their starting lineup.

Thursday: Yovani Gollardo vs. Kevin Gausman

2015

W/L

IP

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

SO/W

Guasman

1-0

17.0

94

4.22

1.235

2.33

Golardo

7-6

96.0

147

3.47

1.156

2.50

The Orioles haven't officially announced Gausman as the starter for Thursday, but the speculation on Sunday was that he would be brought up since none of their regulars would have enough rest due to the double header. He's only made one other start this season (against the Blue Jays) but he did OK, going five innings and giving up two runs. Like I said before, I expect Gausman to make his way into a regular spot in the rotation at some point this season, and he showed last season he can hold his own. That said, everyone expects that at some point he'll do more than that and be the dominant starter the Orioles have been lacking for a while. Not sure how this start will go, the Rangers score a lot of runs and have some good hitters. It'll be appointment viewing for any Orioles fan though.

Making it harder on Gausman will be going up against the Rangers best starter in Golardo. Again, don't look at his win/loss record. His ERA has been very good to go along with a pretty decent FIP, and that WHIP is pretty good too. Like the other Rangers starters, he's been good about limiting home runs, but that may have to do with their home park in Texas, which has the 18th lowest HR factor per ESPN. But no one on the Orioles has recorded a home run off of him and it's anyone's guess how he'll do at Camden Yards, this will be his first career start here.

Other Notes:

- The double header on Sunday was impressive, not just because the Orioles shut out the Indians, but because Tillman and Jimenez combined for 15 innings, 13 strikeouts, and 0 walks. Coming into Sunday, only in one other game this season has an Orioles starter gone seven innings and then they do it twice in the same day. And coming into the weekend, the Indians led the AL in walks. If the starting pitching keeps that up and the offense continues playing the way it has, the sky's the limit for this team.

- The high strikeout numbers may continue for Orioles pitchers, the Rangers are 2nd in the AL in that category.

- In my last preview I suggested Manny Machado might be in the running for MVP. Against the Indians he went 4 for 12 including a home run. Not a bad series.

- Now that Prince Fielder his healthy, he's having a very good year in Texas, hitting .349/.416/.539 and his by far their best hitter. Another guy to lookout for might be Mitch Moreland, but otherwise they have a collection of decent, but not great hitters.

- The Orioles would do well to run the Rangers starters out of the game early - their bullpen has the worst ERA in the AL, and 2nd worst in MLB. Their closer, Shawn Tolleson, isn't bad but the rest of the bullpen probably isn't anything to worry about.

Prediction:

The Orioles have been playing so well lately it's hard to pick them to lose any one game, but over the course of four games you have to figure they'll lose at least one - it's very hard to sweep a team in four games. But I think that's the worst they'll do - they win three of four.