Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles (9-9) @ Toronto Blue Jays (10-9)


Apr 19, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Toronto Blue Jays left fielder

Melky Cabrera

(left), center fielder

Colby Rasmus

(center) and shortstop

Jose Reyes

(7) celebrate a 5-0 win over the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The AL East is nice and tight. Goes to show the parity that may have developed in arguable the toughest division in baseball. There is only 2.5 games separating first from fifth. Each team has pitching questions in the rotation. Each team has questions on offense. What it will come down to at this point in the season is who is hungrier. Who is adapting to their situations. The Blue Jays have had their problems but are a game above .500 against the East and that includes their opponents today in the form of the Orioles. Jose Bautista is off and running (1.039 OPS). Mark Buehrle is unhittable (0.64 ERA). Sergio Santos is giving us all heart attacks but he has saved 5 of the 10 wins the Blue Jays have so far.

The Orioles are getting by thanks to the addition of Nelson Cruz (.316 AVG, HR, 6 RBI last seven games), the continued growth of Adam Jones (.476 AVG, 1.071 OPS last seven games) and the offensive resurgence of Matt Wieters (.321 AVG, 3 HR, 11RBI, .883 OPS for the season). Pitching-wise it isn’t quite as rosy. Aside from Chris Tillman the pitching has been pretty much mediocre. If the Jays bats keep surging this could be an offensive explosion in the Rogers Centre.

Probable Starting Pitchers

Game 1: Miguel Gonzalez (1-1, 6.28 ERA) vs R.A. Dickey (1-3, 6.26 ERA)

After a brutal opening game in which he gave up 7 earned against the Tigers, Gonzalez has come back strong against the Yankees and Rays by giving up a combined 3 runs in 11 innings. He is giving up a few too many walks but if he keeps the pace up he will give the O’s the number 2 starter that Ubaldo Jimenez was supposed to be. His WHIP of 1.67 is also on the high side but that is mostly due to the debacle against Detroit.

Dickey on the other hand seems to be going in the wrong direction. A notoriously slow starter (career 5.02 ERA before May 1) he is doing exactly what his career norm says. He has been terrible and the 15 walks he has given up are the second most in baseball. With a return to the Dome perhaps he can pick it up but until he proves he is through his early season miseries it is likely Baltimore will take Game 1.

Game 2: Chris Tillman (2-1, 1.71 ERA) vs Dustin McGowan (1-1, 4.85 ERA)

Tillman has definitely asserted himself as the ace of the staff and one of the best pitchers in the American League. The 3 runs he gave up last start were the same as he gave up in his first three starts. His fastball is on, his WHIP is below career norms and his K:BB right where it should be. The Jays have been decent against Tillman in the past but against McGowan it might go the O’s way. Why?

McGowan has been ok. He has been serviceable and his best start did come against these same Orioles. It’s still a bit of a wild card to try and figure out what McGowan will be. He has been great and he has been mediocre. He has gone into the 6th and also hasn’t got out of the 2nd. He is the feel good story of the Blue Jays season by even getting to this point but somewhere along the line he has to start producing on a more consistent basis. Based on the pitching match up this seems to be leaning towards the Orioles again.

Game 3: Bud Norris (0-2, 4.42 ERA) vs Drew Hutchison (1-1, 3.60 ERA)

The most intriguing match up of the weekend. Funnily enough Bud Norris is kind of like McGowan where his best game was the zeros he put up against the Blue Jays. The other games he seemed a bit out of sorts. Some thought when he escaped from Houston he might flourish but he really hasn’t. It is early so I will give him the same chance as I am giving to McGowan. If he puts it together the Orioles become even that much tougher to beat.

Hutchison, aside from a hiccup against the Yankees he has been as reliable as Mark Buehrle. He has a decent 3:1 K:BB but his BA against is a bit on the high side at almost .270. Being back at home may help. The crowd loves a gamer and Hutchison proves over and over again that he is part of the future of this team. As long as he keeps progressing we will always have his back. Let’s give this one to the god guys.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Baltimore Orioles

1. RF: Nick Markakis
2. DH: Nelson Cruz
3. 1B: Chris Davis
4. CF: Adam Jones
5. C: Matt Wieters
6. SS: J.J. Hardy
7. RF: Delmon Young
8. 3B: Jonathan Schoop
9. 2B: Ryan Flaherty

Toronto Blue Jays

1. SS: Jose Reyes
2. LF: Melky Cabrera
3. RF: Jose Bautista
4. 1B: Edwin Encarnacion
5. DH: Dioner Navarro
6. CF: Colby Rasmus
7. 3B Brett Lawrie
8. C: Josh Thole
9. 2B: Ryan Goins

Worth the Price of Admission: Josh Thole. Some people forget but before last season’s barren and lost season at the plate, Thole was a decent, albeit light hitting, catcher. He seems to have found his stroke again so hopefully he can focus on helping Dickey through his early season swoon.

Worth the Price of a Bucket of Lard: Ryan Goins. I would have picked Lawrie but at least he is getting some RBIs (second on the team behind Bautista). Jonathan Diaz and Munenori Kawasaki have outhit him at have been at least on par with their defense. If he doesn’t start hitting soon we may see the end of the Goins era at second.