The American League West is all kinds of confusing this season. Houston was the presumptive favorite, but they find themselves in the cellar. Seattle, who always seems to be a mess, is leading the thing. And then there are Texas, Los Angeles and Oakland fighting in the middle.
The O's beat up on the A's last year, winning six out of seven meetings and outscoring them 50-to-23. This time out, the Birds should miss out on facing all-star Sonny Gray. The righty has struggled against Baltimore in the past and is off to a slow start this year, but no one wants to be the team he finally makes look silly in 2016.
Game 1 - Friday, May 6, 7:05 p.m., MASN
RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (1-3, 5.20 ERA) vs. LHP Rich Hill (3-3, 2.53 ERA)
Manager Buck Showalter tweaks the rotation a bit here, allowing Jimenez to pitch on normal rest despite the team having an off-day earlier this week. His last time out, Jimenez went "full Ubaldo" as he lasted just 4.2 innings and got himself into repeated jams with four walks and seven hits and allowing six runs.
Over his career, he is 3-1 with a 5.28 ERA against the A's. Billy Butler crushes him (10-for-29) and Josh Reddick (4-for-13) has done a nice job too. Everyone else has even smaller samples.
Remember Hill? He pitched for the O's back in 2009 and was just awful, starting 13 games and finishing the season with a 7.80 ERA over 57.2 innings. Well now, as a 36-year-old, he is pretty good. This season, Hill is striking out 11.5 batters per nine innings and has an xFIP of 3.35.
Three pitches make up his repertoire: a 90 mph fastball, a high 70s slider and a mid 70s curveball. That slider he has is making more appearances than ever before (12.6% of pitches). Righties are hitting just .218 against while fellow lefties have fared a bit better at .233.
Game 2 Probables - Saturday, May 7, 7:05 p.m., MASN 2
RHP Mike Wright (1-2, 5.18 ERA) vs. RHP Jesse Hahn (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
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Wright gets an extra day of rest in the swap with Jimenez. His outing against the White Sox on Saturday was his best of the season so far. He tossed six innings and allowed two runs on five hits, two walks and six strikeouts. If any member of the staff is really on "the hot seat" it's Wright.
Wright has been out-pitched by fellow youngin' Tyler Wilson, but who can really push him? Vance Worley has not impressed in brief appearances and T.J. McFarland is perfectly suited in the long role. Unless Wright spontaneously combusts, this spot in the rotation seems to be his until Yovani Gallardo returns.
Hahn made his season debut on April 30, shutting out the Astros over 6.2 innings with 4 strikeouts and 2 walks. He is a 26-year-old that has 29 career starts in the MLB since debuting with San Diego back in 2014. He has a lifetime ERA of 3.11 with a 14-10 record and averages seven strikeouts and three walks per nine innings.
According to Fangraphs, he features a four-seam, two-seam, curveball and changeup. It will mostly be that two-seam and the curveball that he uses. Pedro Alvarez is the only Oriole to ever face him and is 1-for-2 with a home run.
Game 3 Probables - Sunday May 8, 1:35 p.m., MASN
RHP Chris Tillman (3-1, 2.81 ERA) vs. RHP Kendall Graveman (1-3, 4.40 ERA)
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Let the debate continue. Tillman is an ace...for now. Except for that one start against Texas in the middle of April, he has been darn good. In those other five starts he has allowed just four runs over 26.2 innings, which is a 1.35 ERA, and has 32 strikeouts. In his career, he owns a 2-0 record against Oakland with a 2.25 ERA over five starts and a batting average of just .200. Butler especially has struggled, going 2-for-17 against the O's righty.
Graveman has faced the Orioles on four occasions: twice as a relief pitcher with the Blue Jays and twice as a starter with the A's. Overall, he has not been too good, with an 0-1 record, 7.59 ERA, 15 hits allowed, eight strikeouts and two walks over 10.2 innings.
Early on this season, he has seen a slight uptick in his velocity and is featuring his slider a bit more. Many current 's have faced him before, but in small doses. Johnathan Schoop is 2-for-3 with a double. Adam Jones is 1-for-6 with a home run and a strikeout.
*statistics taken at the conclusion of games on May 4, 2016