Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays @ Baltimore Orioles

BALTIMORE - JULY 21: B.J. Upton #2 of the Tampa Bay Rays steals second base ahead of the tag of Cesar Izturis #3 of the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on July 21 2010 in Baltimore Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

First two games are 7:10 PM start; Sunday's game is a 1:35 PM start.

Friday, September 3: Matt Garza (4.20 FIP) vs. Kevin Millwood (4.92 FIP)

Saturday, September 4: James Shields (4.23 FIP) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (4.52 FIP)

Sunday, September 5: Wade Davis (5.10 FIP) vs. Brian Matusz (4.21 FIP)

The Orioles have been playing better of late, but considering how they started off the season, that's not saying much.

They no longer have the worst record in baseball (that distinction belongs to the Pirates and their .331 W%) and they're starting to get some improved performances from their young players, notably Adam Jones (.378 wOBA in last month), Felix Pie (.344 wOBA, last month), and Brian Matusz (3.40 FIP). They've also had Koji Uehara come back from the DL and contribute out of the bullpen so far (0.90 FIP, 0 walks).

Anyway, 2010 isn't the year for the Orioles and 2011 may not be either. They were counting on their prospects to develop at the major league level this season and almost without exception, all their prospects have had a very rough time. Jake Arrieta has a 5.10 FIP. Chris Tillman has a 5.38 FIP and was sent back to the minors for part of the year. Matt Wieters has a 321 OBP and has shown very little power. Josh Bell has a .236 wOBA. Nolan Reimold took a step back this season and spent a healthy spell in the minors. It's one thing to lose 90+ games if your team has promise and hope; it's another level of suckitude if they lose that much and it feels like no progress is being made.

The funny thing about prospects, though, is you never know when they're going to turn it around. David Price was mediocre at best for his first half season in the rotation, but he's quickly developed into an ace starter. Oriole fans shouldn't despair, even if it seems like they're in for a long, long road.

The Rays should do well this series - they have favorable pitching match-ups and their line-up is stronger too. Their biggest key for the series comes down to this: contain Luke Scott. The big guy has been on fire since the All-Star Break and now has a .390 wOBA. Man, I wish the Orioles had traded for him to us at the deadline!

Also, check out this sweet series preview Jason Hanselman put together over at Dock of the Rays.

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