This week Baltimore comes to St. Pete to take on the Rays, whose offense has woken up and will look to continue to perform against less-than-great pitchers. Baltimore is coming off a series loss 1-2 to the Kansas City Royals.
Monday: Kevin Gausman vs Chris Archer
Tuesday: Ubaldo Jimenez vs Jake Odorizzi
Wednesday: Chris Tillman vs Matt Moore
The Rays should have the advantage on the mound on the mound in the first two matchups if Chris Archer brings his fastball command (that has eluded him so far this season). The Wednesday matchup could also favor the Rays if Matt Moore continues his hot start to the season.
Baltimore Starting Pitching
Kevin Gausman is expected to be activated off the disabled list (shoulder) to make his first start of the season for the Orioles. Gausman was the fourth overall pick of the 2012 MLB draft out of LSU. He has spent parts of the last three seasons in the majors with 42 starts and 23 appearances in relief.
Ubaldo Jimenez is coming off an effective five-inning start against the Blue Jays where he allowed two runs on five hits while striking out six and walking four.
Chris Tillman is the leader of a weak Orioles starting rotation and is coming off a season high six-inning outing against the Blue Jays where he allowed two runs while striking out four and walking three.
Orioles Starting Pitching Last 3+ Years vs Right Handed Hitters:
Gausman and Tillman have a history of allowing hard contact against right-handed hitters, allowing ISO's of .179 and .191 respectively.
Jimenez has been tough on right-handed hitters, but if the hitters are patient they should have opportunities. He can be wild, with a career 4.08 BB/9.
Orioles Starting Pitching Last 3+ Years vs Left Handed Hitters:
Gausman and Tillman have limited the damage against opposite handed hitters, so this series may be a good opportunity to see Steve Pearce and Brandon Guyer get some additional playing time.
Jimenez has struggled against left-handed hitters and I would expect the full allotment of Rays lefties to be in the lineup against him.
The bullpen is one of the best in the league. It might not get the hype that surrounds the Yankee's three-headed monster, but it has a really effective back end in Darren O'Day, Zach Britton, and Mychal Givens.
The bullpen is fresh coming off the series in Kansas City that saw the back end see limited use. In the three games Givens pitched 1.1 innings on Saturday and Britton faced one batter yesterday. T.J. McFarland pitched five innings on Friday night when Yovani Gallardo was pulled after two innings.
The Orioles will have to make a move in order to activate Gausman for tonight's start. McFarland and Givens are the only pitchers in the bullpen with options remaining, so I'd imagine McFarland is sent down.
Orioles Relievers Last 3+ Years vs Right Handed Hitters:
O'Day and Givens have been lights out against righties. Britton has been good, but not great against right-handed hitters. Having a good lefty bat could be useful in this series. As it stands, the only left-handed bat the Rays will typically have on the bench is Hank Conger, if he doesn't see the start.
If the Rays can get into the middle bullpen there are some opportunities for runs, as the quality of arms falls off and many of the pitchers have control issues.
Orioles Relievers Last 3+ Years vs Left Handed Hitters:
Against O'Day left handed hitters have found much more success than right handed hitters. Against Britton left handed bats haven't fared well and will likely see high leverage action against Corey Dickerson. Givens has given up runs in his limited time against left handed hitters, but has a lower FIP due to not allowing a homerun.
Overall the lesser arms in the Oriole's bullpen do a good job against left handed bats and we'll likely see some of our right handed bench bats get some action in this series in big spots if the game is tight.
The Oriole's offense has helped carry them to an 11-6 start. The Orioles lead the league in wRC+ with a .275/.339/.475, .351 wOBA, 128 wRC+ line. That line is propped up by basically only three starters being significantly above average. Manny Machado has been on a tear through the early season as he's posted a .380/.436/.746 .496 wOBA 236 wRC+ line. Mark Trumbo (.373/.408/.642, .450 wOBA, 202 wRC+) and Chris Davis (.230/.382/.525, .393 wOBA, 159 wRC+) have been the other threats in the lineup.
Joey Rickard, JJ Hardy, and Jonathan Schoop have helped out offensively being just above average. Matt Wieters (.233/.298/.349, .288 wOBA, 82 wRC+) and Adam Jones (.205/.286/.318, .272 wOBA, 70 wRC+) have struggled at the start of the season, but will need to produce more if the Orioles are going to build off their successful start.
The target of many Rays fans as a replacement to James Loney, Pedro Alvarez, has struggled in posting a .108/.267/.135, .199 wOBA, 16 wRC+).
Orioles Offense Last 3+ Years vs Right Handed Pitchers:
|Hyun Soo Kim||12||0||0||16.7%||16.7%||0.500||0.583||0.500||0.483||227|
The Orioles have four bats you'll want to avoid beating you in Machado, Davis, Jones, and Alvarez. Their lineup is deep and has a lot of power, but there are a lot of strikeouts to be had. Limit the walks and only allowing solo homeruns will be the key for the pitchers to give the offense the chance to score enough runs.
Orioles Offense Last 3+ Years vs Left Handed Pitchers:
|Hyun Soo Kim||No MLB Plate Appearances|
Trumbo, Jones, and Wieters are the landmines the southpaws will need to keep from doing too much damage. You would probably expect better results for Machado against left-handed pitchers and that league average number could look much different in the near future.
As a whole the Orioles offense doesn't walk a lot outside of Davis and Alvarez. Against lefties that is magnified and the Rays pitchers will need to avoid unnecessary base runners.
An Opportunity to Gain Ground in the Division
The Rays have plenty of time to make up ground, but they can't afford to fall too far behind. Winning a series against a divisional opponent would be a good outcome.
The Rays bats have woken up after a sluggish start that saw them only score 24 runs in the first ten games. In the last eight the Rays offense has put up 41 runs including outbursts of seven, eight, and twelve runs.
The Rays have the advantage on the mound, but will need help from the offense as the Orioles will likely score some runs this series.