The Story So Far:
In a long season of baseball where most teams don't make the playoffs, you sometimes have to stick in there for the moments. You know what I mean. Those moments that are so great that they make you forget even for a second that this season has gone horribly, horribly wrong.
When Chris Davis hit that huge walk-off home run in the 11th inning on Wednesday to end a six-game losing streak, that was a moment. But still, the reality is this team is now 64-69 and trying desperately to avoid falling into last place in the division. They would need to go 17-12 over the rest of the season to finish at .500. At this point, that seems like a good goal.
The Blue Jays, who have assembled nothing short of an All-Star roster, are leading the division by 1.5 games over the Yankees and are second to the Royals in the overall AL standings. It doesn't look like they're going to run away with the division title like the Orioles did last year, but breaking that long playoff drought seems all but certain at this point. But the games must still be played - maybe the Orioles could make it a bit tougher for them.
Friday: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Drew Hutchison
Jimenez continues to look like it was the beginning of this season that was the deviation, rather than last season. What are the Orioles going to do with this guy? There's no way they can trade him, and releasing him in the offseason wouldn't seem to make much sense. He's too expensive to go to the bullpen...I think you have to hope that the Orioles find four guys better than him in the rotation, pushing him to the fifth spot. Buck doesn't seem to do a lot of skipping guys when there's an off day, but that could be one way to limit how many innings he sees. I mean, if he's going to be bad whether he's had four days off or seven, why not skip him when you can? Anyway, he's got a career 4.10 ERA against the Blue Jays. This will likely be ugly.
Drew Hutchison was actually optioned to the minors for a brief stint last month, before being recalled again at the end of August. Hutchison was mentioned recently on Hot Takedown podcast on FiveThirtyEight.com, where Neil Paine used him as an example of how some basic pitching stats can be misleading. For example, even though Hutchison sports an impressive 13-2 record this season, his ERA is 4.87 and his FIP is 3.84, indicating he's not nearly as good as his record and has benefited from some good run support from the Blue Jays potent offense. This all may be true, but it's also true Hutchison has a history of simply dominating the Orioles and I'm sure that will continue to be true on Friday.
Saturday: Mike Wright vs. David Price
The Orioles have not announced a starter for Saturday, but Miguel Gonzalez is hurt and Roch Kubatko reported on Twitter that Wright was set to join the team on Saturday. Wright had a couple hot starts for the Orioles to begin his time with the team this season, then came back down to Earth before being optioned. He was hurt during his time in the minors and is just coming back from that. He pitched for Norfolk on Tuesday, so this will be a little bit of a short rest situation for him. I like this move - good to see now if Wright has the stuff to be a starter for next year.
Price, of course, was acquired by the Blue Jays at the trade deadline. He faced the Orioles once before this season, when he was with the Tigers, and was hit with the loss even though he went seven one-run innings with 12 strikeouts. That was the game where Tillman went eight innings and gave up no runs, besting a solid effort by Price. He also turned in a strong performance when the O's saw him in last year's ALDS...but still lost the game. It likely doesn't matter how he pitches this time around, its hard to see him losing to this team again.
Sunday: Chris Tillman vs. Mark Buehrle
I remain a big fan of Tillman's, despite his recent struggles. I think overall his time in Baltimore has been pretty good and while it's hard to say he's going to turn into any kind of dominant, #1 pitcher...it's not unfair to consider him a solid mid-rotation guy. The problem of course if the Orioles don't really have anyone better that would move ahead of him. Unfortunately, his career 5.68 ERA against the Blue Jays leaves a lot to be desired, and since this Jays team is likely the best one he's ever faced its hard to see him improving on that in this matchup.
Like Hutchison, I think at this point Buehrle is a mediocre pitcher being helped a lot by a great Jays' offense. He's gotten 6.54 runs per game in support in his starts. That's ridiculous. The Orioles have faced him four times previously this season, and the Jays have won three of those starts. The one the O's took was back in mid-June when they were beating everyone. You can usually count on the Orioles to get two or three runs off Buehrle though, so if Tillman is on his game he could give them a shot to win. We'll see.
- I mentioned before the Blue Jays still had basically an All-Star roster. Yes, it's easier to say that after they acquired David Price and Troy Tulowitzki. But let's not forget they also got Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson before the season started, to say nothing of the fact that they already had Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. And then you have guys like Kevin Pillar, who somehow has more defensive bWAR (2.5) than Manny Machado (2.0). It's kind of depressing really.
- Toronto's bullpen ranks sixth in MLB in ERA, just below the Orioles' bullpen ERA of 2.88.
- I remember a lot of talk at the beginning of the season about the infield turf at Rogers Centre. I went looking online to see what the latest was, but it doesn't seem much has been made of it lately. Mostly every time a team goes to play there for the first time someone does a report about how terrible it is and that's it. I'm not saying it's not a big deal, but it doesn't seem much has changed recently.
Since sweeping the A's in four games, the Orioles have won three games - two on walk-off home runs and one 8-5 game against the Royals where they somehow managed to beat up on Johnny Cueto. The point is - it hasn't been good. The Blue Jays are very good and the Orioles have not played well in Toronto this year, or against the Blue Jays in general. They're going to get swept and it's not going to be fun. Sorry.