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Orioles vs. Rangers: Series preview

The O's will face their toughest test of the young season in Arlington against a playoff team with a slew of left-handed starters.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

After winning the first three series of 2016, the O's will travel to Arlington to try to make it four in a row against the 5-5 Rangers. That'll be a tough proposition: it's a four game set, and this is the first time the Birds are facing a team that had a winning record a playoff team from 2015.

Times and Pitching Matchups:

Thursday, 8:05 PM: Chris Tillman vs. Cole Hamels

Tillman (2 starts, 7 IP, 1.29 ERA) has had a weird year so far, with his Opening Day start cut short due to rain and his next start on short rest. In his limited innings he's looked really good - his velocity is up and he's struck out ten batters while walking only two. Hamels (2 starts, 13 IP, 2.08 ERA) has been his typical self so far this year and should be an especially tough matchup since he's a lefty. Then again, so is David Price.

Friday: 8:05 PM: Vance Worley vs. Martin Perez

Worley (1 start, 4.2 IP, 3.86 ERA) had a shaky but passable Orioles debut, keeping the O's in the game against the Rays on Sunday. The left-handed Perez struggled through last season with a 4.46 ERA, but his 3.40 FIP indicated there's probably a better pitcher hiding behind those numbers. This year has been the opposite so far; he's gotten the results (2 starts, 12.1 IP, 3.86 ERA) but the peripherals have been ugly, especially his strikeouts (3) and walks (9).

Saturday, 8:05 PM: Yovani Gallardo vs. Colby Lewis

After a solid first start, Gallardo (2 starts, 10 IP, 5.40 ERA) was knocked around against Boston on Monday. His velocity was way down in that start, too, so it'll be interesting to see how he bounces back on Saturday. Lewis, who seems like he's been pitching in Texas since Nolan Ryan was in the rotation, has kicked off the season with two straight quality starts (2 starts, 12 IP, 3.00 ERA).

Sunday, 3:05 PM: Mike Wright vs. Derek Holland

Wright struggled in his first start of the year on Tuesday - four runs in five innings is nothing to be proud of, and an ERA over 7.00 will get Wright sent back to Norfolk if he keeps it up. Like Worley, though, he was at least able to get through some innings and keep the potent Orioles offense within striking distance without crippling the bullpen. He'll be facing off against yet another lefty starter in Derek Holland, who seems to finally be healthy after two lost seasons. It's too early to say that 2013 Holland is back, but he's looked pretty good so far (2 starts, 11.2 IP, 2.31 ERA).

Other notes:

  • Shin-soo Choo has landed on the DL with a calf strain, and the Rangers have replaced him with 20-year-old Nomar Mazara. The rookie has impressed, going 6-16 with a home run in his first few games. Mazara's arrival has been awaited by Rangers fans for a while; he was signed in 2011 for a $4.95 million signing bonus, which was a record at the time for a non-American prospect.
  • Catcher Robinson Chirinos was raking (.913 OPS) through 5 games, but fractured his forearm and will be sidelined for a few months. This is a big blow to the Rangers, with backup Chris Gimenez still working his way back from an ankle injury. In the meantime, the Rangers will have to rely on former Tigers backup Bryan Holaday and 27-year-old rookie Brett Nicholas.
  • Speaking of raking, Adrian Beltre isn't showing any signs of aging yet; he's hitting .308/.357/.590 with two home runs. The guy is just unbelievable and so fun to watch - I have a bad feeling he may get snubbed, but to me he's a clear Hall of Famer.
  • Closer Shawn Tolleson has an ugly 22.50 ERA, but that's all a result of his implosion against the Mariners last week in which he allowed 5 earned runs without recording an out. He hasn't given up a run in his other three appearances and his job is safe for now, but a few more bad outings might change that. Keone Kela had a fantastic 2015 season, and he or Sam Dyson could take over the 9th inning responsibilities if Tolleson falters.

This series should be a tough one, and I imagine any O's fan would probably take a 2-2 split if it was offered right now. We probably would've taken a 5-3 start to the season too, though, so what do we know? That's why they play the games.