Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles (25-21) vs Toronto Blue Jays (19-27)
May 15, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19) heads for home on an error by San Francisco Giants center fielder Angel Pagan (not pictured) during the first inning at the Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
16. The age we are allowed to drive. Girls have a sweet birthday when they turn 16. 16 Candles is a groundbreaking ’80’s movie…seriously. 16 is the number of years it took for the Jays to win their first World Series aaaand 16 is the number of series that the Rays won before the Blue Jays took 2 of 3 at Rogers Centre. SIXTEEN (Thank YOU Jose Bautista)! Perhaps the tide is slowly turning. There are definitely signs that the team is starting to heat up. Aside from the egg we laid in New York we generally have been seeing winning ways. The Rogers Centre has also been a true home field advantage so the 11-13 record this far should only go up.
We are catching the Baltimore Orioles with a wee bit of an issue in the starting rotation. A tried and true rookie from the 2012 draft class will be making his debut Thursday after Jair Jurrjens stunk the joint out in his first and only start of the year. SP Wei-Yin Chen is on the DL. Dylan Bundy is injured and also missing is OF Nolan Reimold, who hasn’t played since May 11 because of a right hamstring strain that has landed him on the DL.
Beware though. The Orioles, even with a 3-7 record in their last 10 games, entered Wednesday’s game against the Yankees with the best winning percentage in the Majors since July 29, 2012 (.613, 65-41)…and then proceeded to bash the Yankees with 3 homers and a win in their series finale. Buck Showalter has guided this team to a point where all AL East opponents are true contenders. No more beating the crap out of the Orioles for some easy wins. Showalter will always have his team prepared…but with the cyclical nature of baseball the Blue Jays need to stomp on their necks while they are down and show the East there are five contenders…because time is running out.
Game 1: Kevin Gausman (2-4, 3.11 ERA @ AA) vs Brandon Morrow (1-3, 5.16 ERA)
Game 2: Freddy Garcia (0-2, 4.84 ERA) vs TBD
Game 3: TBD vs R.A. Dickey (4-5, 4.50 ERA)
Game 4: TBD vs TBD
This should give you an idea how up in the air things are for both teams. To Be Determined taking up half the spots for both teams in this 4 gamer is something not seen very often. So let’s focus on what we do know. Brandon Morrow is still finding his legs after a stint on the DL. Aside from Robinson Cano teeing off on him in New York he generally did ok. If he can keep taking the steps forward, and his ERA is around 4 at the end of June then we have the makings of the ace we have always wanted to see. I refuse to use live up to his potential anymore because he has had time to do that. The key for him is to keep his pitch count decent. Throwing strikes is becoming the key component to his survival (duh) since his 2:1 K/BB ratio is middling at best. We need to see confidence and the ability to throw the ball where he wants it.
Kevin Gausman was the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft and here he is already. He throws strikes, doesn’t walk many and along with Dylan Bundy make up the long term future of the Orioles rotation. The Jays just have to sit back and get a feel for the guy. Take pitches. Work the count. There can’t be much video to study so you know this kid just wants to throw strikes. So sit on a fastball and wait for it. He is the 11th starting pitcher used by the Orioles so this should spell out a win for the good guys.
Game 2 will be a battle of the retread vs the unproven. Freddy Garcia seems to have been around forever. From his glory years with the Mariners to begin his career to his resent situation in Baltimore, Garcia is truly a pitcher. He doesn’t throw as hard as he used to but a 1.07 WHIP and an opp BAA of .222 shows there is still life in that arm. If given the chance I hope we get to tee off on him. His GO/AO is a paltry .83 so expect lots of flyballs and with the way some of the Jays are swinging the bats it should be a homer happy type of game.
This of course is dependent on who will be the starter for the Jays. Chad Jenkins is available but has only thrown a max of 6 innings since coming back from injury. There is talk that 2010 6th rounder Sean Nolin (2-0. 1.17 ERA @ AA) could be shuffled up from New Hampshire to take the start. He has been rising up on the depth charts and appears to be this years…ummm…Chad Jenkins. Reliable with a big arm that could translate to average major league success. Considering he is three years from his draft year he has done quite well. But this is only an educated guess as to who our TBD will be.
Game 3 sees the resurgent R.A. Dickey taking the mound against a yet to be determined opponent. In his last three starts Dickey is averaging 7+ innings, 2 ER and about 7 Ks. This would appear to be closer to the Cy Young starter we gave up some of our future for. His overall WHIP of 1.31 is right in line with his career norm (1.33) so he has been as good as before but he has given up some timely hits this season that have doomed him to fail. The last three starts shows none of that and I am sure a focused Dickey would have no problem taking down a TBD pitcher…
The following are the probable line-ups for both squads:
1. LF: Nate McLouth
2. 3B: Manny Machado
3. RF: Nick Markakis
4. DH: Adam Jones
5. 1B: Chris Davis
6. C: Matt Wieters
7. SS: J.J. Hardy
8. CF: Chris Dickerson
9. 2B: Alexi Casilla
Toronto Blue Jays:
1. LF: Melky Cabrera
2. RF: Jose Bautista
3. 1B: Edwin Encarnacion
4. DH: Adam Lind
5. C: J.P. Arencibia
6. 3B: Brett Lawrie
7. CF: Colby Rasmus
8. 2B: Maicer Izturis
9. SS: Munenori Kawasaki
It would seem Melky Cabrera has tried to put to rest the feeling that he wouldn’t be able to play up to his potential without the use of drugs. In his last ten Cabrera has a .333 AVG which seems to say yes but his 0-5 in the last couple games makes you wonder if the tightness in his legs is causing some different issues at the plate. He is still below his career norms in OBP (.318 to .337) and Slugging % (.374 to .412) but he isn’t the bust many experts were saying hew would be. If he gets over his leg issues watch out.
Then there is da man. Da chief mucky muck himself Jose Bautista. In his last ten Bautista has carried the team on his shoulders it would seem (highlighted by his 2 HR, 4 RBI performance against the Rats…err…Rays). .412 AVG, 14 Hits, 10 runs scored, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 9 BB, 6 Ks and a stolen base for good measure. His average is up to .275 and I think we have finally seen a healthy Bautista coming to the plate. More selective and more confident we may be able to ride his bat to another series win considering the status of the Baltimore rotation.
Thank goodness for Bautista because a lot of the other bats are just there for show it would seem (Arencibia, Lawrie, Rasmus). Baltimore has been free falling from 1st place is the East and now 3rd and in danger of falling to fourth. So which team are they? The one kicking MLB butt for almost a year or the one that is falling on it’s butt lately? It is hard to tell but it shouldn’t matter. If our starters can give a good 6-7 innings and Cabrera, Bautista, Encarnacion and Lind can keep firing on all cylinders then we should easily take 3 of 4. Some turnarounds are slower than others but it is apparent we are playing much better ball this month. Hopefully we can end May on an even higher note.