Series Preview: Texas Rangers @ Baltimore Orioles

Another battle of division leaders. After the Central’s Indians, the Rangers face off against the Baltimore Orioles and boy, are they charmed in Charm City. Not only are they leading what many thought  to be baseball’s most competitive division, they currently have the best record in baseball.

This is Endy Chavez hitting for the Rangers. Endy Chavez plays for the Orioles now. Notice how I didn't say he's hitting... (Photo: Jim Cowsert-US PRESSWIRE)

Baltimore’s bullpen will be quite tired in the opener, coming off a 17 inning game against the Boston Red Sox that saw former Ranger Chris Davis get the win. Texas can take advantage as Brian Matusz is going for the Orioles who usually needs the bullpen’s help. It could allow Texas to get an early jump in a very important four-game series.

Probable Starters:

Monday 6:05 CDT TEX: LHP Matt Harrison (3-2, 5.40 ERA/3.69 FIP) – BAL: LHP Brian Matusz (1-3, 4.67 ERA/4.62 FIP)

Harrison has struggled after a very good start to the year and last time out didn’t even make it out of the fourth inning against Toronto. Much like we said about Derek Holland last time, his statistics are now skewed the other way as his ERA-FIP differential shows as well as a BABIP of .346.

Matusz has fallen off a cliff since a promising start to his career. He is 2-12 in the last two seasons and in his last start he was able to get his first win since last June. The good news is that his numbers are much more aligned with his numbers from the start of his career, especially the HR/FB rate and his FIP. He is only 24 and still has room to take the next step, but time may be running out.

Tuesday 6:05 CDT TEX: RHP Neftali Feliz (1-1, 3.81 ERA/5.30 FIP) – BAL: RHP Jake Arrieta (2-2, 3.52 ERA/3.37 FIP)

Looking at Feliz’s stats could show that he’s bound for regression downwards, but I’m not so sure. His BABIP is low, yes, but his HR/FB rate is almost double the rate he had as a closer so that should come down. Regardless, Feliz as a fifth starter having ups and downs is fine, but amplified more so when the rest of the rotation is also up and down. Much like Nelson Cruz’s struggles amplified when Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre are out of the lineup.

Arrieta has opened up a lot of eyes this season. Despite the even W-L record, his numbers have improved across the board and has been a key to the Orioles success. He raised his K/9, dropped his BB/9 in half and has a lower BABIP. It doesn’t appear like smoke and mirrors as most other numbers are within his career averages. In his last start against the Yankees, he had no one reach second base.

Wednesday 6:05 CDT TEX: RHP Colby Lewis (3-1, 2.97 ERA/3.18 FIP) – BAL: LHP Wei-Yin Chen (2-0, 2.76 ERA/3.50 FIP)

Lewis finally allowed hits with runners in scoring position and his BABIP is now about average but his LOB% is still high and could come down. Lewis still has a good BB/9 and is still an ace. His numbers are still very good.

Chen was the other foreign import starting pitcher and has also had success. The 26-year old from Taiwan had his worst outing last time out against Boston but his team had three errors behind him and he still only allowed four runs. He may not have the stuff or the notoriety of Yu Darvish, but he will open some eyes and at 26, will be part of I’m sure numerous career comparisons with the Rangers right-hander.

Thursday 6:05 CDT TEX: LHP Derek Holland (2-2, 4.43 ERA/3.30 FIP) – BAL: RHP Jason Hammel (4-1, 2.09 ERA/6.35 FIP)

Holland had a return to form against the Indians, but a tough eighth inning along with Mike Adams had two runs charged to him which did little for his ERA. His strand percentage should still pop up a bit, which means that he still has room for regression. Rangers fans know what to expect with Holland and his two bad starts are probably a thing of the past.

Hammel has been outstanding since coming over from Colorado. He is striking out almost double his rate from last season and while regression may take some of the shine off of his numbers, the fact is that he is 4-1 and the presumptive ace of this Baltimore team in terms of numbers. Hammel has given his team a chance to win in every start so far, and will be the biggest challenge the Rangers face in this series.

Projected Baltimore Lineup

1 LF Endy Chavez (L)
2 SS J.J. Hardy
3 RF Nick Markakis (L)
4 CF Adam Jones
5 C Matt Wieters (S)
6 1B Chris Davis (L)
7 3B Wilson Betemit (S)
8 DH Mark Reynolds
9 2B Robert Andino

(source MLBDepthCharts)

Hot/Cold (Last 7 Days)

Wilson Betemit (Hot-BAL) .357/.526/.357 (5/14), 3 RBI, 5 BB
Matt Wieters (Hot-BAL) .370/.452/.667 (10/27), 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB
Endy Chavez (Cold-BAL) 2/19 (.105), 2 K, 0 SB, 1 CS
Nick Markakis (Cold-BAL) 6/28 (.214), 1 HR, 2 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K
Elvis Andrus (Hot-TEX) .458/.519/.583 (11/24), 4 RBI
Mitch Moreland (Hot-TEX) .421/.500/.684 (8/19), 1 HR, 2 RBI
Nelson Cruz (Cold-TEX) .115/.115/.154 (3/26), 2 RBI, 6 K
Mike Napoli (Cold-TEX) .111/.227/.111 (2/18), 1 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K

For more information on the Orioles see FanSided’s Orioles page, Birds Watcher.

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Topics: Baltimore Orioles, Brian Matusz, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers, Wei-Yin Chen

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