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Orioles vs. Indians: Series Preview

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Matt Wieters makes his return in Cleveland as the Orioles take on the Indians for a three game series

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Story So Far:

The Orioles avoided the sweep in Houston after Adam Jones hit a late inning home run to break a tie and win the game. It was Jones' first home run since May 11 and couldn't have come at a better time. The Orioles still have a lot of work to do to get to where they want to be, but winning that game was pretty important. They're currently 24-29, but are still in the race for the AL East title because the division is terrible. After this series against the Indians they get back to playing division rivals New York and Boston giving them the chance to make up some ground. But first, they need to take care of business in Cleveland.

The Indians are another team who came into the season with a lot of expectations, but are also struggling. I'm writing this before they completed their game on Thursday night, but going into that game they were 25-27. Of course, the Indians play in the much better AL Central where they have to compete with the Tigers, Royals, and surprisingly good Twins. Again, prior to their game Thursday night they had won five of their last seven and a couple games before that had a six game winning streak (something the Orioles could only dream of at this point). In mid-May they were 14-23 so they've done a good job lately of making up ground.

Pitching Matchups:

Friday: Chris Tillman vs. Shaun Marcum

2015

W/L

IP

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

SO/W

Tillman

2-7

53.0

66

4.99

1.642

1.46

Marcum

2-0

19.2

74

6.32

1.271

2.33

Tillman has fallen pretty fall from 2013 when he was elected to the all-star game. Some have suggested that is not because Tillman has really gotten any worse, it's just that luck stopped working for him. I see the argument for that...some of his numbers are in line with where they have been the last few years (mostly FIP), but more of his numbers are worse than they've been before and if you watch him pitch you see a guy who's just not the same. Maybe he won't be an All-Star again, but I think he can be better than this. Since missing a start after dealing with an injury, he's been OK. There was that rain-delayed game that cut him out early, and then he pitched well against Houston despite getting the loss. But that last start against Tampa Bay was pretty bad. Which Tillman will we see on Friday? Well, he's 2-2 with a 5.19 career ERA against the Indians, so...it's not looking good.

Fortunately, Tillman's opponent Shaun Marcum is hardly anyone to write home about. He had some good seasons a few years ago, but went 1-10 with the Mets in 2013 then missed almost the entire 2014 season due to a shoulder injury (he only pitched in some minor league games). He's only made four starts for the Indians this season, one of which was against the Rangers where he gave up seven runs in 2.2 innings...something that feels very Tillman like. I hope that Jones home run was a sign he might be getting back to being the hitter he was in April...he's 8 for 21 against Marcum including a triple and a home run.

Saturday: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Danny Salazar

2015

W/L

IP

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

SO/W

Jimenez

3-3

57.2

126

3.28

1.162

3.44

Salazar

5-1

54.2

106

3.52

1.171

4.44

Jimenez has come down a bit after his strong start this season. He's still doing better than some of the other guys though and is doing much better than in 2014. One of his biggest problems in 2014 was giving up too many walks and he's thankfully kept that in check this season (only 2.5 per nine innings). Prior to 2014 of course, Jimenez was with the Indians, where his strong second half in 2013 earned him his contract with the Orioles. In Progressive Field he's 13-13 with a 3.72 ERA. His SO/W there though is 2.26, better than Camden Yards or Coors Field (his other previous home).

Salazar started off 2015 very well, but has also kind of cooled off over the last month or so. He's got one win in his last four starts with three no decisions. He was pretty lucky to avoid getting a loss in those games though...he didn't pitch six innings in any of them and gave 5, 3, and 3 runs. The thing Salazar does do though is get strikeouts...he's had three games with double digit strikeouts this season (again, all in his first five starts), but his strikeouts per nine innings of 11.7 leads all of MLB. No one on the Orioles has much of a track record against him, so there's no telling how this is going to go.

Sunday: TBA vs. Carlos Carrasco

2015

W/L

IP

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

SO/W

Norris

1-4

27.1

40

5.35

1.866

1.38

Wright

2-1

24.1

134

4.68

1.027

4.00

Carrasco

7-4

64.1

102

2.57

1.166

4.93

So as I write this, the Orioles haven't announced a starter for Sunday. The word is it will either be Mike Wright or Bud Norris. I know Wright hasn't been quite as sharp as his first two starts recently, but wouldn't we rather see him? I mean look at those lines - Wright is already a better pitcher this year than Norris was. Of course, the Orioles aren't paying Wright $8M this year so they probably want to see if they're going to get anything out of Norris. That and I'm pretty sure Norris is out of options while Wright is not. So...ugh.

Carlos Carrasco is 7-4 because he's gotten a decision in every start this season, which is kind of odd. His last three starts have been especially good, going 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA. Like the other Indians starters, he gets a lot of strikeouts. I mean, I haven't even talked about Corey Kluber in this (the O's will miss him, thankfully). The bad news for the Orioles, who are trying to break out of their offensive slump, is that Carrasco has only given up two home runs at home this season. I couldn't even find an Oriole who's ever hit a home run off him. Great.

Other Notes:

- Wieters is back! Hey everyone, Matt Wieters is back! That'll fix everything, right? Let's see - he's making his first major league start in more than a year in a park where he's a career .212 hitter. And it's against three right handed pitchers, so Wieters will presumably be batting from the left side of the plate where he's decidedly worse. Should be fun.

- The Orioles are also starting three right handers, and the Indians lineup is packed with lefties and switch hitters. Still though, I'm assuming these guys have seen a lot of RHP and they've only got four guys with an OPS+ above 100. (The Orioles have seven). Of course, you know who else has a lineup full of batters who can hit left-handed? The Yankees - and we know how well that's gone this year.

- Ubaldo Jimenez will be seeing his old team, and the Ryan Webb will be seeing his. Remember Ryan Webb, the guy the Orioles basically sold to the Dodgers for a couple of nothing prospects while somehow giving up a draft pick in the process? Well, the Dodgers quickly cut him and then he signed with the Indians. He's only pitched 15.1 innings out of their bullpen, has an ERA of 1.17 a SO/W of 2.00. You could compare him to Brian Matusz, who's pitched 18.1 innings this year, except he has an ERA of 3.44 and a SO/W of 1.27. He's also surrendered more home runs. Did I mention the O's pay Matusz more than Webb is earning this year? But every team needs a LOOGY and he's ours (in theory), so I guess that's that.

- The Orioles have seen some good bullpens and lately and that's not really going to change against the Indians. Their bullpen is very similar to the Orioles actually, ranking just above them in ERA, strikeouts, and BAA.

- Despite missing some of the games against the Astros, it actually seems like J.J. Hardy is going to be OK and be able to play in this series. Mostly this is good because it means Evereth Cabrera should stay on the bench, but an infield of Davis, Flaherty, Hardy, and Machado might be one of the best infields defensively in all of MLB. If the Orioles aren't going to score runs, it will at least help to have the great defense they've enjoyed the last few seasons. Now only if Delmon Young could stop playing in the outfield so much...

Prediction:

Even when the Orioles were good, they didn't have a winning record against the Indians. From 2012-2014 they're 10-12 against the Tribe. If Tillman can have a good outing, I kind of like our chances to have GIF party on Friday night vs. Marcum, but I think this is going to be another losing series where they get 1 of 3.