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Orioles-Rays series preview: AL East teams hovering around .500

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The Orioles and Rays are still very much in postseason contention. This weekend’s series could help one of the two teams inch closer to the top of the division.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The AL East is still very much up for grabs, good news for fans watching the recent slump in Baltimore. The baseball has been at times ugly but meaningful, more than some teams in the National League can say at this point in the summer.

Every game seems to hold a good bit of weight right now, and the upcoming series against the Tampa Bay Rays should be no different. Below, the breakdown of the three-game series as the Orioles head south.

Game 1 - Ubaldo Jimenez (2-2, 6.25 ERA) vs. Chris Archer (5-4, 3.75 ERA)

Oh, Ubaldo. He’s one of the most likable players on the Orioles roster, yet the inconsistencies that have been attached to his game for years continue to surface on a regular basis. Last weekend’s performance against the Cardinals was superb, a 7-inning gem after a stint in the bullpen. If it weren’t for Jimenez’s track record, you might say he’s “back”. However, the unpredictability of his game makes it nearly impossible to predict his future.

One thing is certain — he’ll be pitching tonight against the Rays at the Trop.

Jimenez pitched against the Rays in April and saw his start be cut short due to walk issues. He allowed five free passes in just 3.1 innings, allowing a home run and three earned runs in total. Overall though, he’s fared rather well against the Rays he’ll face tonight.

Tampa Bay’s current hitters have worked a total .260 average against Ubaldo, but that includes Colby Rasmus’ 13-34 (.382) mark — he’s dealing with a sore hip and hasn’t played in a few days. The O’s starter hasn’t been elite against the Rays, but he certainly hasn’t had a track record that would warrant particular concern.

Archer is Archer and as usual, if he’s on, you can expect an above-average start with flashes of brilliance. He’s posted a 1.18 WHIP this year, striking out 122 batters in 98.1 innings. Bottom line, he’s very good.

Keep an eye on a potential deviation tonight however. The Orioles roughed him up for five earned runs in his loss against the team last June, and the lineup has fared well against the right-hander over his career. Manny Machado (10-35), Jonathan Schoop (6-19) and Seth Smith (4-10) have performed well in their looks.

Game 2 - Dylan Bundy (7-6, 3.72 ERA) vs. Jacob Faria (3-0, 1.37 ERA)

The Orioles are most definitely being cautious with Bundy, and it doesn’t have to do with the fact that he’s allowed 10 earned runs over his last two starts. The news that his starts could be shifted around after the All-Star break doesn’t exactly come at a great time, however he’s still the most consistent pitcher in the rotation and the guy you most want taking the ball every five days.

Bundy pitched into the seventh inning against Tampa Bay in April, allowing just two runs and four hits against the Rays lineup. Tampa’s current roster is hitting just .235 against Bundy in 51 at-bats, working an OBP of .291. It’s a small sample size, but one nonetheless.

For Bundy, the storyline that will emerge from this game will be the issue of workload and wear and tear on his arm as the season nears the halfway point. Fair or not, questions surrounding his usage will creep onto the scene if he posts another below-average start.

If you haven’t heard Faria’s name yet, you certainly aren’t alone. The 23-year-old has made just three starts on the year and has just 19.2 innings to his big-league record.

In those outings he’s allowed just three runs — one in each game — and 15 hits. Faria has fanned 22 batters and walked just four, so it’s safe to say that it’d be difficult for his MLB debut to be much more impressive. We’ll see what he brings to the table against the Orioles in the Saturday afternoon matchup.

Game 3 - Chris Tillman (1-5, 8.39 ERA) vs. Jake Odorizzi (4-3, 3.78 ERA)

The Sunday matchup is the one that, on paper, should warrant the most concern for Buck Showalter’s group. That comes from a combination of both starters, but Tillman presents perhaps the biggest worry of anybody on the current Orioles roster.

One look at Tillman’s 2017 WHIP (2.19) will tell you everything you need to know about his performance coming off of injury in the spring. He’s made nine starts and has failed to work more than five innings in six of them. In his four outings in the month of June, he’s allowed 32 hits in 16.2 innings, striking out just 10 and coughing up 22 earned runs.

The current Rays roster has a career .246 average against Tillman, but it’s difficult to imagine they won’t be able to put up crooked numbers if his trends on the hill continue on Sunday.

Odorizzi continues to be one of Tampa Bay’s most valuable players, posting a 1.22 WHIP over his first 13 starts of the year. He hasn’t faced the Orioles yet in 2017, but the good news — in terms of past statistics — is that O’s hitters have fared well against the 27-year-old over 212 at-bats.

Manny Machado is 9-32 against with four HRs, Adam Jones has 13 hits in 34 ABs and Jonathan Schoop is 6-20 with three doubles.

The O’s could use an in-division series win. If this ends up being the rubber game, it’s safe to say the 2017 trends will need to shift for the Birds to put another notch in the win column in Tampa Bay this weekend.

Poll

How many games will the Orioles win this series?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    0
    (37 votes)
  • 42%
    1
    (56 votes)
  • 19%
    2
    (26 votes)
  • 9%
    3
    (12 votes)
131 votes total Vote Now