The O's are headed to C-Town for a 3-game set against a Cleveland team that was a popular pick to win the AL Central. After a 10-12 start to the season, they've been playing much better as of late, and are currently sitting a half game behind the White Sox at 25-20. Here are your matchups:
Friday, 7:10 PM: Mike Wright vs. Trevor Bauer
Wright hasn't been great so far this year, but he hasn't gotten shelled back to Norfolk like some expected, either. He's gone at least five innings in each of his seven starts, so while his 4.97 isn't ideal, he's at least been mostly getting deep enough to hand the game to the back end of the bullpen. Bauer hasn't been the pitcher that Cleveland hoped they were getting when they acquired the former #3 overall pick in the Shin-Soo Choo trade, but he's been decent so far in 2016. After making his first six appearances out of the bullpen, he was moved back into the rotation and currently has a 4.31 ERA heading into his sixth start.
Saturday, 4:10 PM: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Danny Salazar
This one looks like quite a mismatch. Ubaldo has struggled mightily this year, and Salazar has been the complete opposite. After a very good 2015 season (3.45 ERA, 9.49 K/9 in 30 starts), Salazar has been even better in 2016. He's sporting a 2.32 ERA and a 11.10 K/9, and has the 7th-highest average fastball velocity among major league starters.
Sunday, 1:10 PM: Chris Tillman vs. Mike Clevinger
Fortunately, this appears to be just as much of a mismatch in the Orioles' favor. While it's too early to know if he'll keep it up, Chris Tillman has been throwing the ball about as well as he has at any point in his career. His velocity is up, his strikeouts are way up, and he has a 2.61 ERA to show for it. He'll face Clevinger, who will be making his third career MLB start. He was roughed up a bit in each of his first two starts and his ERA is sitting just below nine.
- Bauer's move to the rotation was necessitated by a hamstring injury to Carlos Carrasco, who had a 2.45 ERA through 4 starts before landing on the DL. He's throwing off a mound and should be back within the next few weeks.
- Michael Brantley is also on the disabled list and has no timetable for a return. Brantley returned to the active roster in late April after having offseason shoulder surgery, but lasted only eleven games before landing back on the DL with fatigue in the same shoulder that was operated on.
- Most of Brantley's playing time has gone to Jose Ramirez, and Ramirez has done a pretty nice job so far. He's hitting .287/.350/.426, which has gone a long way to help make up for the loss of a player who nearly won the MVP two years ago. Ramirez is only 23 and entered the season as the utility man for Cleveland. Since Brantley went down he's started nearly every game while being shuffled around between left field, second base, shortstop, and third base.
- At age 22, Francisco Lindor is looking like a potential superstar. He's a tremendous fielder at shortstop and is hitting .318/.372/.413 on the year. He accumulated 4.6 WAR in only 99 games last season and looks like he'll easily top that in 2016.
Cleveland is playing some good baseball right now and the O's will need to take it up a notch after dropping a series to the struggling Astros. If either Mike Wright or Ubaldo Jimenez can step up, hopefully the O's can take the game they should win on Sunday and come back home with a 2-1 series victory.