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Series Preview: Orioles vs. White Sox

The Orioles travel to Chicago, where they hope to re-gain some momentum after that terrible Rangers series

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Story So Far:

Last year when the Rangers came to Baltimore, the O's swept them in four games. Almost exactly a year later it was a different story. There are probably a lot of reasons they lost three of four- Bud Norris pitching, Mitch Moreland hitting home runs with the ease of a single, the offense struggling against average pitching, going 2 for 21 with RISP...the list goes on. Fortunately, the rest of the AL East struggled this week as well and the Orioles still find themselves in a tie for first place in the division. A series in Chicago with the White Sox may not be the easiest way they could look to get things right again, but its pretty close.

The White Sox had high hopes coming into this season but things just haven't worked out for them. They're 34-42 and 10 games behind in a tough division. What's worse is that record is actually an over-performance - their pythagorean expectation is only 30 wins. Of course, they did just beat the Cardinals in two games in St. Louis and took two of the three from the same Rangers that just beat down the O's. Baseball is weird.

Pitching Matchups:

Friday: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. John Danks






















After a few shaky outings, Jimenez went out in his last start against the Indians and dominated: 8 IP, 7Ks, 0 BBs, 0ER. You can't really ask for more. The great thing here is that not only is Jimenez pitching well, he's pitching about as well as he has his entire career. His FIP of 3.12 is very close to what it was in 2010 when he was a finalist for the Cy Young (3.10). His SO/W would be the highest he's ever had for a season if he keeps that number up. He's also giving up home runs at a lower rate than he has since his last season in Colorado. He's got a 5.79 career ERA at US Cellular Field in six starts, but most of those came when he played on the Indians and wasn't pitching very well, so maybe it doesn't mean much.

So John Danks is having a terrible season. His numbers aren't good and he's coming off four consecutive losses. They've been bad losses too - 17 earned runs in four games. He's probably not looking forward to this matchup. Danks is a lefty, and right-handers this season have an OPS against him of .932. And you know what the Orioles have? Right-handed power. J.J Hardy, Matt Wieters, and Nolan Reimold all have home runs off him in their careers.

Saturday: Chris Tillman vs. Jeff Samardzija






















It must be weird to be Jeff (if you think I'm typing that last name again, you're wrong). This time last year he was regarded as a great up and coming pitcher. Oakland gave up a lot to the Cubs because they thought he'd be a solid addition to their rotation as they made their playoff run. That didn't work out, and so the A's traded him to the White Sox, who also thought he'd be a key piece they needed as they made a push to get back to the playoffs. That's not working again, and so now there's talk he could be traded AGAIN since he's coming up on free agency and the White Sox don't want to lose him for nothing. He could play for his fourth team in two years. His numbers this year aren't terrible, though he does lead the league in hits allowed with 123. He's probably also not looking forward to meeting up with the Orioles again. In two starts against them (one in Oakland last season, the other this year in that no crowd game) he's got an 8.25 ERA in 12 innings pitched. Manny Machado might be hitting better than he ever has before, so he may only improve on his 5 for 6 including two home runs record against Jeff.

OK, Tillman. Let's put it all behind us. 2015 started for you on Sunday against the Indians. You don't need to repeat your 7 IP, 6Ks, 0BBs, 0ER performance. Give me six innings, one run (or less) and more strikeouts than walks. The White Sox have some hitters in their lineup, but this still a bad team. You can do it.

Sunday: Miguel Gonzalez vs. Chris Sale






















Something not good is happening with Gonzalez's season and I don't like it. In his first eight starts this season, he was 5-2 with a 3.24 ERA with 42 strikeouts. Since then he's 1-3 with a 5.29 ERA and only 22 strikeouts. He's also had two games in his last four where he's given up three home runs. He's never pitched in the south side of Chicago, but has two starts against the White Sox, one in each of the last two seasons. 2013's start was good, 2014's wasn't. Hopefully he can at least do enough to keep the O's in it, because the offense may struggle in this game...

Chris Sale might be the best pitcher in baseball right now. Since his last start against the O's in Baltimore (where he was dominant with 12 Ks in 7.2 innings), he's only gotten better. In his last six starts, he's got 75 strikeouts while only giving up eight walks and two home runs. The O's actually played pretty well against him last year, so maybe they have a chance in this one. Adam Jones is probably your best bet - he's 4 for 11 including a home run off Sale.

Other Notes:

- The White Sox have been much better at home this season - their winning percentage there is .545. The O's meanwhile have a road winning percentage of .432.

- The White Sox don't have a great lineup, but there are some dangerous spots in there, with Jose Abreu, Adam LaRoche, and Melky Cabrera.

- The White Sox have the 26th ranked bullpen by ERA in MLB, so the Orioles would do well to chase the starters early. Of course, the Rangers bullpen is ranked 28th and didn't seem to matter much. The problem in that series though was the O's lineup couldn't put any pressure on the Rangers starters in order to get to the bullpen. They may struggle with Sale, but they have a good chance of doing that against Danks and Jeff.

- Two of these games have early afternoon start times, and in those games (anything that started before 4pm) the O's are 14-8 this season.


I hope my whiff on predicting the Rangers series isn't a sign my jinxing ways are back. If they weren't facing Chris Sale, I'd like the Orioles to get the sweep. But he's been pitching really well lately and a win doesn't seem likely. Still, I like them to get two out of three. June was a great month for this team and came after a terrible May. The calendar's flipped to July and they're in first place. The All-Star break is coming up soon, and then it'll be time to make a run to securing the title again. For now though - two out of three to start this road trip would be a good first step.