It’s safe to say that the last week or so of Orioles baseball has been strange. There has been plenty of action — both good and bad — to say the least, still resulting in the Orioles fighting near the top of the AL East standings as the month of May rolls along. It hasn’t been the most predictable year, but a successful one nonetheless.
Beginning tonight the Birds return to town to host the Chicago White Sox, a welcomed opponent that doesn’t reside in the East. As great as divisional clashes are, I think it’s safe to say a fresh opponent will be greeted with open arms at this point in the year.
The White Sox come to town with a rather impressive 15-12 record to start the year in a talented AL Central. The bats have been relatively cold to kick off the season, but Chicago pitching has been, quite literally, the best in baseball.
As of Wednesday, White Sox pitching led the MLB in team ERA (3.19), average against (.224) and total runs allowed (98 in 27 games). It’s doubtful that anyone in the league would’ve called that one in Spring Training, but here we are.
Here’s a look at the three-game set as the weekend series gets underway at 7:05 tonight.
Game 1: Wade Miley (1-1, 2.32 ERA) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (3-1, 3.27 ERA)
That’s right — a pitcher’s duel between Miley and Gonzalez, the two most unlikely pre-season candidates to surprise and dominate early competition. You really can’t predict baseball.
Gonzalez hasn’t posted any numbers or trends that are terribly different than his well-pitched 2016, rather he’s stayed consistent by allowing hits but minimizing the damage when he’s in certain situations. He won’t blow anybody away with his fastball, but the former Oriole has productive off-speed that he’ll lean on to keep batters off-balance.
Keep an eye on Gonzalez’s slider, a plus-potential pitch that he’ll use nearly a fourth of the time.
Wade Miley is Wade Miley, so I won’t even begin to attempt to predict the type of game he’ll have. All I can point out is that he’s seemingly ditched his changeup to work in breaking balls a bit more often, thus far to overwhelming success. The command has been off (19 BB in 31 IP), but if the hits against (20) and strikeout (38) trends continue, he could be in for another step in the right direction.
Game 2: Dylan Bundy (4-1, 1.82 ERA) vs. Dylan Covey (0-2, 7.29 ERA)
Not too much needs to be said about Bundy, who has been more than impressive through the first month of his season. He’s sacrificed fastball velocity and usage for his new four-pitch arsenal that’s worked out seemingly perfectly despite worries about velocity.
Bundy hasn’t racked up too many innings against the White Sox in his young career, but he did toss six impressive innings (4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 K) against Chicago last August. Keep an eye on Jose Abreu; the young slugger is 4-4 with a double and HR against Bundy — a small sample size, but still a sample size.
The season hasn’t been as kind to Covey, the rookie who has struggled mightily throughout the first four starts of his career. By the numbers, Covey hasn’t been productive in any category, allowing 27 hits and walking 10 in just 21 innings. Over those innings he’s allowed five HRs and 17 runs, all earned. If there’s a long-term weakness on this White Sox roster, it’s the back end of the starting staff that includes Covey.
Game 3: Chris Tillman (expected starter) (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Jose Quintana (2-4, 4.10 ERA)
After one heck of a month in which the Orioles emerged with heads somewhat above water (thanks to the likes of Miley and Bundy), Tillman should be set to make his first 2017 big-league start following the offseason injury.
In four rehab outings, the right-hander tossed just 16.1 innings, allowing 20 hits while posting a 7.16 ERA. Rehab stats are to be taken about as seriously as those from spring training however, so analyze them with caution. Ultimately though, it’s safe to say Buck Showalter won’t be breathing terribly easily until Tillman settles in for a few innings in this one.
Melky Cabrera has by far the most experience against Tillman and he’s put up a pretty impressive fight. Through 27 ABs, the veteran has 11 hits including a trio of doubles and a HR. Other than that, Abreu’s 3-8 with a HR is the most notable battle to keep an eye on based upon past matchups.
Despite allowing a few more runs to score than Chicago would like to see, Quintana has been impressive early. His strikeout numbers continue to stand out and the “simple” fastball-curveball combo is legitimate.
Through 76 at-bats, Quintana has been dominant against the Orioles, allowing a .211/..294/.382 performance against. However, watch for Adam Jones to key in — he’s 7-12 against Quintana with a pair of home runs and doubles in his looks.
How many games will the Orioles win this series?
This poll is closed