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O's vs. Royals series preview: June 6th-8th

The O's will look to get a third straight series win against the defending champs.

Baltimore Orioles v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Fresh off of two series against the hated Red Sox and Yankees, the O's welcome another easy-to-hate foe to Camden Yards: the Kansas City Royals. The Royals have been dominant at home (19-7) and terrible on the road (11-19) so far this year; let's hope that continues.

Monday, 7:05 PM: Danny Duffy vs. Mike Wright

Duffy will be making his fifth start after being moved from the bullpen to the rotation a few weeks ago. Each start so far for Duffy has been longer than the last; he went a season-high six innings against Tampa Bay on Wednesday. Duffy has been solid thus far, with a 3.44 ERA (3.09 FIP) on the year. He's sporting a K/9 of nearly ten, but over half of his innings have been short appearances out of the 'pen.

Wright has Darren O'Day to thank for this start, since he wouldn't yet have been eligible for a call-up if it weren't for O'Day being placed on the disabled list. Wright earned a trip to Norfolk after getting demolished by Boston in the Orioles' wild 13-9 win on Wednesday, to the tune of 6 runs and 4 homers in just 2.2 innings pitched.

There were some rumblings that Vance Worley might start this game, but for now the Birds seem compelled to keep him in the bullpen, where he's excelled with a 1.52 ERA in 23.2 innings since being moved from the rotation.

Tuesday, 7:05 PM: Yordano Ventura vs. Ubaldo Jimenez

Jimenez finally looked like his effective 2015 self on Thursday....until he didn't. After getting through five innings with just one hit allowed, Ubaldo yielded five runs in the sixth and left the game before he was able to record an out in the inning. His ERA is now up to 6.59, and one has to think a change to the rotation is coming soon if he doesn't turn things around. He's walking nearly as many batters as he did in 2014 while striking out less, and that's just not going to work.

He'll face Ventura, who has had his fair share of struggles lately as well. He's sporting a 4.82 ERA, and his peripherals (5.68 xFIP) actually suggest he's been worse than that. His strikeouts are way down (5.98 K/9) and his walks are way up (5.11 BB/9). He's not exactly turning things around either - since his 7-inning, 1-run start against the O's on April 24th he has a 6.28 ERA in seven starts.

The bad news is that Ventura's owned the Orioles in his career; his 1.91 ERA against the Birds in five starts is the best against any team that he's faced more than twice.

Wednesday, 7:05 PM: Edinson Volquez vs. Chris Tillman

Volquez allowed only three earned runs in his first four starts, but since then he's come crashing down to earth with a 5.51 ERA, raising his season ERA to 4.03. His xFIP this year is only 0.01 away from where it was last year, when he threw 200.1 effective innings. His latest run of poor form may be more bad luck than bad pitching, but hopefully that luck will continue for at least one more start.

Meanwhile, Tillman will be coming off one of his worst starts of the year, when he allowed five runs on Friday against the Yankees. Until recently he's been able to avoid the home run bug that's haunted him throughout his career, but he's served up six round-trippers in his past two starts after allowing only three in his first ten appearances.

More bad news: as much as we talk about Tillman's struggles against Toronto, he's actually been worse against Kansas City in his career. His 6.25 ERA in seven starts against K.C. is his worst against any A.L. team.

Other notes

  • Kansas City suffered a huge blow a couple weeks ago when Alex Gordon collided with Mike Moustakas in the field. Gordon is out for a few weeks with a broken wrist, and Moustakas is likely out for the year with a torn ACL.
  • Salvador Perez has been playing like an All-Star again following his worst statistical season in 2015. He's hitting .279/.313/.494, improving his OPS by over a hundred points from a year ago. Perez has been dominating All-Star voting so far and will probably start the game. Unlike last year, he actually deserves it this time.
  • The Royals won it all last year despite putting one of their worst hitters in the leadoff spot every game, and Alcides Escobar has actually been worse this season. His .257/.285/.307 batting line has carried him to a negative WAR on the year, and yet he's led off every game thus far in 2016.