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Orioles vs. Angels: Series Preview

The O's west coast trip continues with a three game series against the Angels in Anaheim.

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Story So Far:

And with one swing of the bat, the Orioles season has new life. It's kind of amazing isn't it? Imagine that grand slam Davis hit didn't go out...maybe it fell short a few inches. The Orioles score no runs and in the bottom of that inning someone on the A's hits home run to win the game. Instead of winning two of three and being 55-52, they'd have lost the series and been 54-53 and tied with Texas for 2.5 games behind the second wild card. The entire attitude surrounding this team would be different right now. But of course Davis did hit the grand slam and it was enough to win the game. It's often said that football is "a game of inches". Is baseball any different? By the way, since being swept out of New York the Orioles are 9-4 and six back in the division.

Coming out of the All-Star Break, the Angels won six in a row and had pulled ahead of the Astros for the division lead. But since then they've gone 3-10 and have fallen back to second place in the division. So now they have the first Wild Card spot, which is what the Orioles need to focus on right now. If the Orioles can somehow sweep the Angels, they'd potentially take over that spot (depending on what the Blue Jays do and they're playing the Yankees this weekend, so if the Orioles win they'll be making up ground on someone).

Pitching Matchups:

Friday: Kevin Gausman vs. Andrew Heaney

2015

W/L

IP

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

SO/W

Gausman

2-2

47.2

101

3.93

1.133

3.33

Heaney

5-1

45.2

187

3.05

0.898

4.86

Kevin Gausman continues to be the most intriguing pitcher the Orioles have. Will he be a future Cy Young contender or will he be yet another Orioles pitching prospect bust? So far, he's looking a lot like the former. His last two starts have been great as he's combined for 14.2 IP, 2ER, 11Ks, and 1BB. I don't think there's any doubt this guy belongs in the rotation and while I don't wish Bud Norris any ill will, if him being DFA'd is what needed to happen to get Gausman in the rotation, so be it.

The Angels have their own future star pitcher in Andrew Heaney. First, look at those stats. That's insane, small sample size or no. He's done a good job limiting runs in each start, preventing walks and home runs. But something bugged me looking over his stats, namely that while his SO/W to ratio is good, that has more to do with the limited walks than it does a high number of strikeouts. So if he's not getting a lot of walks but he's limiting runs, maybe he's getting a lot of ground balls? Nope - his ground-out to air-out ratio is 0.72, below the league average of 1.11. (The higher the ratio the more ground-outs you're getting). What about BAPIP? There it is. He's currently enjoying a .238 BAPIP against, compared to league average .298. Last year in just over 29 innings that value was at a nice average .295 for him. So it certainly seems to me like he's been getting lucky this year, but maybe he's good at inducing the kind of contact that results in a lower BAPIP. At 75 career innings its far too early to tell, but something to look out for when he's pitching.

Saturday: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Garrett Richards

2015

W/L

IP

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

SO/W

Jimenez

8-7

118.0

98

3.89

1.339

2.82

Richards

11-8

130

106

3.81

1.177

2.32

Ugh - I don't really need to write about Jimenez do I? It wasn't that long ago I looked forward to it...he's turned it around! 2014 was a fluke! He's having a career year! It's amazing how quickly he undid all that in four starts. Anyway...his last start against the Angels when they visited Baltimore earlier this season was actually pretty good. He went seven innings, giving up two runs and striking out six with no walks. The Orioles lost that game, but that was more because of the bullpen and a lack of offense. But that was good Ubaldo - who will show up on Saturday? Well, his career record at Angels Stadium is 0-2 with a 9.82 ERA. Not great, Bob.

Richards has hardly been an ace himself lately. While he did strike out 11 in his last outing, he also gave up for earned runs. He also gave up four in the start before that and three in the one before that. That said, his 3.46 ERA is respectable and not that far below his FIP. Still, the Orioles beat him when he was in Baltimore this season - that was the game Mike Wright started. Adam Jones hat two hits in that game and is 4 for 11 including a home run in his career against Richards. Matt Wieters is 3 for 5 including a home run.

Sunday: TBA vs. TBA

So far neither team has announced a start for Sunday. If I had to guess on the Angels, I'd guess Matt Shoemaker since I think its his turn in the rotation. If so, the Orioles have a decent shot, Shoemaker is having a bad year.

For the Orioles, there's some speculation Chris Tillman could start. After rolling his ankle in his last start, he missed his last start (Tyler Wilson filled in admirably). He threw a bullpen session the other day, which seems to have gone well - but as usual the Orioles are staying quiet about when he might pitch again. I hope he comes out. He's been ridiculous for the last month. After the rough start to the season he had, I'm not sure at what point you say he's turned around vs. just having a good stretch, but I think we're almost there.

Other Notes:

- So how can you not talk about the Angels without talking about Mike Trout and Albert Pujols? The weird thing is that as good as Pujols has been (133 wRC+, bolstered by his 30 HRs), Trout has been way, way better (180 wRC+, 32 HRs). The closest the Orioles have to Trout is Manny Machado with his 140 wRC+.

- I started this post talking about Chris Davis and there's certainly been a lot of chatter about him lately. Has he really been that much better? If you split games played since the beginning of July, the answer is yes. In the first fourteen games of July, he batted .237/.270/.356 with 2 HRs. Since then he's gone .314/.407/..843 with 8 HRs. But what if we just split his season? His first 53 games produced .220/.308/.473 with 12 HRs. Since then, .275/.352/.560 with 16 HRs. Yeah, OK - he's been playing a lot better.

- After a lot of lineup experiments throughout the season, has Buck found something he likes? Parra in RF, Snider/Reimold in LF, Manny leading off. Personally I'm a fan of keeping Davis at 1B. Subjectively, it seems like a good way to go.

Prediction:

The Orioles got two of three in Anaheim last year, but the Angels took two of three from them earlier this season. The Orioles seem to be playing hot right now, the Angels...not so much. I'm going to make a conditional prediction - if Tillman starts on Sunday, O's win two of three. If not, they only get one win. If it's not Tillman, I think it would be Gonzalez who starts, and I just don't trust him right now.