Series Preview: Rays at Orioles, Take Two

USA TODAY Sports

Editor's Note:

My heart and mind have weighed heavy the last 24-hours with the city of Boston. It's days like yesterday, this dark Patriot's Day, where I'm reminded how fragile life can be, how wonderful the distraction of sports can be, and how ultimately it is just a game.

Thank you to all our staff, writers, and readers for the class and support shown to the Boston community. Mine and also Slowinski's community.

The first explosion happened directly in front of the subway station I use on my way to work. The finish line a block from my office. My favorite restaurant nestled between the two blasts. Had I not been working on-site at a client in another state, it's not unlikely I would have been right there, celebrating Patriot's Day, walking down to see the finish line after the Rays game ended less than an hour before, a few miles away.

Days like today it is an advantage that baseball has so many games a year. Not that we put our hope in a sport, but that we can trust that life continues, that life pushes forward, and that community embraces the entirety of America on a somber day.

Much love to you, our community, the Rays family. And to the city of Boston, our prayers are with you.

Danny Russell

***

The Rays stayed safe, well on their way to the airport before the blasts, though their hotel was on the same block as the Marathon finish line. Today they meet with Baltimore for three games, already their second series of the season.

Many thanks to Steve Kinsella for assisting on this preview, as credited below.

Weather

There's a severe weather storm centered over Tennessee and spread over West Virginia. It's a nasty system featuring tornadoes and hail, but is not expected to move any farther east. As of this afternoon, chances of rain are 10% - 20% - 10% for Tuesday through Thursday, never breaking 80 degrees. Sounds nice. - Russell

What's New?

Since we last saw the Orioles, Brian Roberts has been placed on the DL (after tearing his knee up on a slide into second at the Trop) and replaced him with Ryan Flaherty as the starting second baseman. They have also traded lefty reliever Luis Ayala to the Braves in order to hold on to Rule 5 pickup T.J. MacFarland (another left handed reliever, from the Indians organization) and to make room for Chris Dickerson on the 40-man (now active on the 25-man roster as well).

Since leaving Tampa, the Orioles lost 2 of 3 against Minnesota, won 2 out of 3 in Boston, and lost 2 out of 3 in New York. The return home today with a record of 6-6 on the year. - Kinsella

The Starting Staff

RHP Jason Hammel, LHP Wei-Yin Chen, RHP Miguel Gonzalez, RHP Jake Arrieta, RHP Chris Tillman

Hammel, Chen, and Gonzalez have carried the starting staff thus far while Tillman and Arrieta have been spotty. Tillman's last time out against Boston was much better than his first against the Twins, when he gave up 5R/ER in 3.2 innings of work. Against the Red Sox he went 5.1 innings and gave up only 2R/ER on 6 hits striking out 5 and walking 2.

Arrieta had a similar turnaround from giving up 5R/ER on 6 hits in 5 IP while against the Twins to an improved 5IP performance allowing 3R/ER on 3 hits but did issue 4 walks and only struck out 2. - Kinsella

(It's worth noting that the Orioles have RHP Jair Jurrjens, Zach Clark, and LHP Zach Britton available in Triple-A.)

The Bullpen

RHP Jim Johnson CL, RHP Pedro Strop SU, RHP Darren O'Day SU, LHP Brian Matusz MID, LHP Troy Patton MID, RHP Tommy Hunter MID, LHP T.J. McFarland LR

The Orioles do everything they can to take a lead on their opponent late in a game and why not? It has served them well. From Baltimore Orioles press department comes this: per Elias, the O's have won a franchise-record 96 consecutive regular season games when leading after 7 innings (dating back to August, 2011). It is the 3rd longest streak for any club during the expansion era (since 1961) and the only longer streaks are 1998-99 NYY (116) and 2002-03 ATL (97).

The bullpen is set up with Jim Johnson as the closer and Darren O'Day as the 8th inning guy. Pedro Strop and Brian Matusz will take care of the matchups in the 6th and 7th innings. - Kinsella

The Position Players

Infield: Chris Davis 1B, Ryan Flaherty 2B, J.J. Hardy SS, Manny Machado 3B/SS, Alexi Casilla INF, Matt Wieters C, Taylor Teagarden C

Outfield: Adam Jones CF, Nick Markakis RF, Nate McLouth OF, Chris Dickerson OF, Steve Pearce 1B/OF, Nolan Reimold LF/DH

The Offense

So... is Chris Davis still hot? Since leaving Tampa he is 8-30 with 11 strike outs & 6 walks (1 intentional). He's hit 3 HR and driven in 8 (full slash line .267/.378/.600).

Who hasn't cooled off? Adam Jones... who also torched the Rays as is still hitting, batting 14-for-37 with 8K/1BB. He has only 1 HR and 9 RBI in that stretch (full slash line .378/.395/.541).

How about Matt Wieters....can you believe the Rays catch him on a down turn? The only switch hitter left in the lineup has gone 4-for-30, with 5 strikeout to 3 walks (full slash line .133/.212/.133). - Kinsella

Notables On The Trainers Table

- 2B Brian Roberts - RUPTURED TENDON IN BACK OF KNEE; placed on 15-Day DL (4/5/13); likely out 2-4 weeks
- IF Wilson Betemit - SPRAINED KNEE (3/25/13); out 6-8 weeks; placed on 15-Day DL (3/26/13); placed on 60-Day DL (4/12/13)

Brian Roberts can't catch a break, poor guy. He'll be back sometime this year but not this week. Betemit is out even longer, and losing both of these infielders not only shallows Baltimore's depth but takes two switch hitters out of their lineup. - Russell

Pitching Matchups:

Roberto Hernandez v Jake Arrieta

Arrieta has pitched only 10.0 innings and faced 45 batters in his first two starts this season. If he keeps his average up, the Rays will chase him by the fifth inning with one or two base runners in each. His eight earned runs give the three year veteran a 7.20 ERA and 3.69 FIP. Arrieta is not underachieving by any means, but it's worth noting he has been listed as Day-to-Day since April 5 with a blister on his middle finger.

More of a flyballer than anything else, although he's limited the longball well this season. Arrieta's biggest weakness is a left handed bat:

Platoon AVG OBP SLG
vLHH 0.283 0.356 0.500
vRHH 0.246 0.312 0.359

Arrieta owns a 93 MPH fastball, dividing his use between a 4-seam and 2-seam pretty evenly. He also mixes with an 85 mph Slider (14%), 80 MPH curve (15%), and 86 MPH changeup (8%). - Russell

Matt Moore v Chris Tillman

Tillman outperformed his FIP by nearly 130 points last season (2.93 ERA v 4.20 FIP), an anomaly to his 5.50+ ERA from the three years prior. In his two starts this season the trend has reversed: 7.00 ERA, 4.44 FIP; five runs in 3.2 innings, and two earned in 5.1 innigns. That's only nine innings over his first two starts, in which Tillman has also faced 45 batters. He's averaging a strikeout an inning, but is hurting with his control (6 walks thus far).

Like Arrieta, his struggles could be injury related as well. Tillman was placed on the 15-Day DL for recovery from an abdomen strain in late March, and injury from earlier in the month. Tillman was Day-to-Day at the end of last season with Ulnar Neuritis in his throwing elbow, which leads to numbness in the hand and arm.

Tillman sits on a 92 MPH four-seam around 60% of the time, though sites are divided on how often he's using a cutter, which clocks in around 86 MPH. He drops a whiff-worthy curve when he's ahead in the count (17%), and reaches for a change up or slider to round out his arsenal. Hopefully the Rays will be able to jump on Tillman's slow fastball early. By the eyeball test, I feel like the Rays have been swinging late this season, and Tillman's a good opportunity to reverse that trend. - Russell

David Price v Miguel Gonzalez

Gonzalez will have his hands full toeing the rubber against David Price. After starting 15 games in 2012 with a 3.25 ERA and 4.33 FIP, Gonzo has already shown signs of improvement, working above a 50% groundball rate, fifteen points higher than his rookie season. He tosses softest of the three Orioles to start with a 91 MPH 4-seam, which he mixes with a 2-seam/splitter at 83. The rest is a slider, curve, and changeup without much ado. - Russell

He has pitched well against the Rays except for a game in Baltimore last July 25 when the Rays tagged him for 7R/ER on 7 hits in just 2.1 innings of work. His career record at Camden Yards is 3-2 with a 4.08 ERA, where opposition has a slash line of .270/.359/.446, while on the road he has a record of 7-3 with a 2.77 ERA and held opponents to a .218/.285/.338 slash line. Camden Yards has not been kind to Gonzo. If David Price can pitch to form, the Rays may be an easy favorite to take the series. - Kinsella

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