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Orioles vs. Twins: Series Preview

The Orioles' road trip continues in Minnesota, where they'll look to avoid losing their third straight series.

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Story So Far:

After winning on Sunday, the Orioles are 43-39 and in second place, one game behind the Yankees. That's not a bad place to be considering how they've been playing lately. They've lost five of their last seven to some mediocre-at-best teams in Texas and Minnesota. I'm going to throw it out there though that bad stretch could have been due to some bad luck. If you go back to their first series against Cleveland when the team when on an impressive streak of winning seven straight series, they were 67/198 or .338 with a runner in scoring position. During these last seven games though they were 6/45 or .133 with RISP. Couple that with a drop in their run differential from +54 to only +50, and losing five of seven seems to have been more fluky than anything.

The Twins have not been playing quite as well as when the season started. At the end of May they were 30-19 and half a game up in the division. Since then though they've gone 13-20 to fall to 43-39 and 4.5 games back of Kansas City. That's the same record as the Orioles, but the Twins' run differential is only +5 indicating they aren't nearly as strong of a team. This will be the first meeting between the two teams this season.

Pitching Matchups:

Monday: Wei-Yin Chen vs. Phil Hughes






















Chen has finally started catching some breaks with wins since June. In May he got tagged with three losses, though all three of those games were decent performances. Since June he's 3-0 with two non-decisions. His WHIP and SO/W are both decent, even though his FIP remains high. He's been a pretty steady pitcher all season - he gives up more home runs than you'd like, but he's the most likely to go out for long outing (only four starts less than six innings). He's got a good record at Target Field - 2-1 with a 2.65 ERA. A lot of the guys on the Twins have 10+ at bats against him with decent averages, but only two career home runs against him in their lineup.

When Hughes left New York for Minnesota last year he had what could likely be called a career year. Perhaps most impressive was his league-leading 11.63 SO/W, which is very high for a season total. It was also the first time he pitched more than 200 innings. This season he's come back down a little, but is still doing a great job of limiting walks. His problem has been home runs, he's already given up 19 this year. When you're giving up more home runs than walks, something is off. Because of his time with the Yankees, the Orioles lineup has a lot of experience of him. Adam Jones is only .157 in his career, but has two home runs. Chris Davis is .259 with a home run.

Tuesday: Kevin Gausman vs. Kyle Gibson






















Gausman seems to have finally made his move into a position with the rotation for the season. This means someone had to go, and that someone was Bud Norris to which I think we can all say "Finally". His last start was pretty good - no earned runs over 6.1 innings with seven strikeouts. Since coming on last year, Gausman has been good to very good, but probably not great. I keep looking forward to seeing him pitch, hoping he can become great and maybe for once the Orioles can have a pitcher that other teams worry about having to face. That would be nice.

Gibson is coming off a very strong performance against the Royals, where he pitched eight innings and didn't give up a run. Looking at his stats, he seems like a decent pitcher, but nothing is there that's going to really stand out, good or bad. Consistency seems to be his big thing, which is sometimes all you need. His first start of the year was the only one less than five innings, and one of only three starts where he's given up more than three earned runs. Left-handers seem to do slightly better against him, so look for Davis, Parmelee, and maybe even Flaherty to get in the lineup (assuming Flaherty is still around while Reimold is on paternitiy leave, which was the plan being reported this weekend).

Wednesday: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Tommy Milone






















Jimenez may have made his best start of all 2014 in his last trip to Target Field, going 7.1 innings, walking one, and striking out ten while giving up no earned runs. Based on what we've seen this year, he could repeat that too. He had won four straight decisions before that last start in Chicago where he pitched well but received zero runs in support. You'd probably have to go back to Miami in May for his last really bad start. The best thing about this season has been his ability to not give up home runs - he's only given up eight on the year, and only one start where there were more than one. Like the White Sox, his time in Cleveland means the Twins have seen him a decent amount, but only Kurt Suzuki has a home run against him.

Milone spent some time on the DL this season, so his innings are low, but since coming back he's pitched very well with a 1.95 ERA in six starts - likely aided by the fact that he's given up no home runs in those games. He could be a pretty tough matchup, but look for Manny Machado to do well - he's hitting .625 against Milone including a home run.

Other Notes:

- As I mentioned before, the latest Duquette spin of the roster wheel resulted in Flaherty being optioned for Jonathan Schoop to come off the DL, but only for one game while Reimold is on paternity leave for a few days. What they'll do when Reimold comes back on Thursday is anyone's guess.

- Despite playing in a decent hitters park (6th in the AL per ESPN's HR factors), the Twins rank 13th in the AL in home runs this season. They do have three players in double digits in that stat (Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe, and Torii Hunter), but that's countered with everyone else having five or less.

- The Orioles got no starters in the All-Star game. Was anyone deserving? You could very likely argue for Manny Machado, but otherwise it's hard to point at anything really egregious. Adam Jones was on his was through the first month of the season but has really cooled off at the plate. Chris Davis has been better, but not sure anyone even in Baltimore felt particularly inspired to vote for him. No - despite them being maybe the third or fourth best team in the AL, it's a team of collective contribution rather than standout players. So now that the voting is over, let's all cheer for the American League so the Orioles will get home field advantage in the World Series :)


Do I think the Orioles are a better team than the Twins? Yes. Do I think they can win two or three games in Minnesota? Yes. Does that mean they will? No. The Orioles are also arguably better than the Rangers and White Sox, but we saw how that went. They seemed to break out of their collective offensive funk on Sunday, so maybe that will carry over, maybe it won't. I think I will say that if they lose this series too, it will likely be because of the offense - the pitching lately has been very good and I expect that to continue against a weak Twins lineup.