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Orioles vs. Rays: Series Preview

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The Orioles hit the last stop of their road trip for a weekend series against the Rays.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Story So Far:

The Orioles teased us by winning two of three against Detroit coming out of the break, making us think their July slump might be turning around. Nope. After getting swept out of New York, the Orioles are now 46-48, seven games behind the Yankees and in fourth place in the division. (As I write this, some of Thursday's night games have not concluded, so that exact position may still change). Regardless, this may be the low point of their season.

The Rays haven't been much better. After showing some fight early in the season, they've now fallen below .500 as well. This series will likely decide who gets to stay in third in the division, which is hardly anywhere either team wants to be.

Pitching Matchups:

Friday: Chris Tillman vs. Chris Archer

2015

W/L

IP

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

SO/W

Tillman

7-7

98.0

78

4.14

1.449

1.90

Archer

9-7

128.2

140

2.69

1.010

4.94

Tillman's last start was his best of the season. It would be great to see him repeat that on Friday - this team could use a boost. This will be his third start in Tampa Bay this season, and the previous two, including Opening Day, were both pretty good.

Archer is coming off his first All-Star appearance. That's probably because at one point this season he went four straight starts without allowing an earned run to lower his ERA to 0.84 after five starts. In his games since then his ERA is 3.36. Still pretty good, but maybe not the stuff of legend. Recently against Kansas City he allowed nine runs in six innings.

Saturday: Miguel Gonzalez vs. Erasmo Ramirez

2015

W/L

IP

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

SO/W

Gonzalez

8-6

98.1

92

4.95

1.271

2.34

Ramirez

8-3

84.0

109

3.73

1.095

2.69

Not sure what there is to say about Gonzalez at this point. His trend downward continues. True, he's won two of this last three starts, but the Orioles also scored nine runs in both of those games. In mid-May his ERA was 2.93, now its 4.21. In his first eight starts this season he gave up six home runs. In his last nine, he's given up 11. I don't think that FIP-ERA difference will be so quite so great this season.

In contract, Ramirez's strength seems to be keeping the ball in play. He's only given up seven home runs this season and his ERA has been steadily declining all season. Maybe that won't matter - the Orioles have lost three games this season when hitting home runs - I don't think it helps them quite as much as it used to.

Sunday: Wei-Yin Chen vs. Matt Moore

2015

W/L

IP

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

SO/W

Chen

4-6

116.1

135

4.09

1.117

3.72

Moore

1-1

18.2

54

5.21

1.875

1.10

If nothing else, Chen is reliable. He's turned in six quality starts. Even his last non-quality start against Boston he still won the game. His last loss in a non-quality start was May 20th vs. Seattle. He's also making his third start at the Trop this season - both non-decisions, but the team won the game.

Moore is just coming back from Tommy John surgery last season. This will be his fifth start since coming back, none of his first four were very good. He likely hasn't pitched more than 90 pitches because the Rays are trying to ease him back in, but in those shorts outings he's still given up 15 earned runs. He's got a decent 4-3, 3.86 ERA in his career against the O's.

Other Notes:

- I was out of town this week and missed all the Yankee games (I know, lucky me) so I went back and looked at the box scores. How were the Orioles again hitless with a runner in scoring position? How does that happen? It's not like they didn't have chances. I wonder when this bad luck is going to reach historical lows, if it hasn't already. Despite all that, they still have the 2nd fewest number of men left on base this season, only two more than the leaders, the Twins.

- As a team, the Rays have an OPS+ of 90, putting them with the likes of Twins, White Sox, Red Sox, and Mariners. They only have two players with double digit home runs, and only one guy hitting above .290 (Joey Butler). Not a potent offense. With the way the Orioles have been playing lately, expect these to be low, low scoring games.

- Tampa Bay's bullpen ranks 23rd in the majors in bullpen ERA at 3.87. The Orioles' bullpen ranks fifth with an ERA of 2.81. At least we have that.

Prediction:

When was the last time the Orioles really impressed you with a series win? Was it against Detroit? A game where Tillman pitched well, but only slightly better than David Price - and if Miguel Cabrera had been there, would the result have been the same? You probably have to go back to their sweep of Cleveland at the end of June for a really impressive series win. That wasn't that long ago, but it was at home. This team is completely different on the road, where their win percentage is more than 200 points lower. Not sure how you can bet on that anymore. O's win one of three.

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