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Series preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Baltimore Orioles

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The Indians are rolling, now to just keep it going.

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into the season, the Baltimore Orioles looked to some like a team that spent a lot of money but would not amount to much throughout the regular season. The Orioles quickly dispelled that thought, coming out of the gate hot as one of the best teams in the month of April. Lately, however, they have looked closer to that team full of strikeout machines that we thought they would be.

The Cleveland Indians are coming off of a series in the Chicago White Sox in which they took three games, including strong showings against Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. Conversely, the Orioles are fresh off of getting swept by the Houston Astros, one of the most disappointing teams in the early goings of 2016.

Will these narratives continue, or are they set to flip over the weekend?

Matchups

  • Friday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Trevor Bauer (RHP) vs. Mike Wright (RHP)
  • Saturday, 4:10 p.m. ET: Danny Salazar (RHP) vs. Ubaldo Jiminez (RHP)
  • Sunday, 1:10 p.m. ET: TBD vs. Mike Clevinger (RHP)

The first matchup of the series, Mike Wright against Trevor Bauer, could favor the Indians. I will say it until Bauer proves he does not need the qualifier, but we still do not know what pitcher we are going to get with him game in and game out.

Ubaldo Jimenez is still the Ubaldo Jimenez Indians fans knew when he was in Cleveland from 2011 to 2013 -- a whole lot of walks with a few strikeouts here and there. As long as he does not suddenly morph into second-half-of-2013 Ubaldo, the Indians should be able to draw a good number of walks off the 32-year-old. The big factor will be whether or not they can hit them home.

Baltimore has not yet declared a starter on Sunday, but it should be either Tyler Wilson or Chris Tillman if my complicated equation of counting by five is correct. The Tribe should hope it is the former, as Tillman is finally morphing into the rotation-saver the Orioles organization thought he would be at the start of his career. In 10 starts this season, Tillman has a 2.61 ERA and a 3.10 FIP. His current 24.9 percent strikeout rate would be well over his previous career-high of 21.2 percent if it holds up throughout the year.

Mike Clevinger has not looked great in his first two career starts, but he the Baltimore Orioles lineup has major trouble hitting breaking balls this season. If Clevinger can get his own 12-6 curve working, it could be a deadly out-pitch against the contact-intolerant Orioles hitters.

Upcoming schedule: Following this Orioles series, the Indians will continue to enjoy playing in Progressive Field against the Texas Rangers for a three-game set and wrap up the homestand with four games against the Kansas City Royals.

Team in a Box

Baltimore Orioles

Offense

AL Rank

Pitching

AL Rank

Record

26-19

R/G

4.40

6th

ERA

3.76

4th

AL East

2nd

OBP

.322

4th

HR/9

0.86

1st

Last 10

3-7

SLG

.441

2nd

BB/9

3.24

11th

Streak

L3

Steals

8

15th

SO/9

7.70

9th


Getting swept by the Houston Astros is rough, but even with that three-game losing streak looming over them, the Orioles would still be hosting the American League Wild Card game if the playoffs started today.

They also still boast one of the most powerful offenses in the league, belting out 65 home runs so far this season. Orioles hitters are, however, your typical kill-the-ball-or-strikeout kind of lineup to this point, as their  22.9 percent team strikeout rate would suggest. In the past week alone they struck out 80 times, seven more than the nearest team, the Tampa Bay Rays.

As any pitchng staff with Ubalado Jimenez getting regular starts will, the Orioles have issues with walking opponents. The Indians own the AL's third-highest walk rate at 9.1 percent, so pitchers missing the zone is something they should be able to take advantage of in this series, especially Games 1 & 2.

Orioles position players

  • C: Matt Wieters
  • 1B: Chris Davis
  • 2B: Jonathan Schoop
  • SS: Manny Machado
  • 3B: Ryan Flaherty
  • LF: Joey Rickard
  • CF: Adam Jones
  • RF: Mark Trumbo
  • DH: Pedro Alvarez

Orioles bench

  • C: Caleb Joseph
  • OF: Nolan Reimold
  • OF: Hyun Soo Kim
  • SS: Paul Janish

With JJ Hardy on the disabled list with a foot contusion he suffered in early May, Manny Machado has been the Orioles' full-time shortstop for the majority of 2016. If it stays that way, I have absolutely no qualms with saying that Francisco Lindor is *only* the second-best shortstop in the American League. Machado is incredible pretty anywhere he plays, both defensively and with one of the best bats in baseball. His .309/.387/.619 slash and 13 home runs this season should strike fear into any pitcher about to face him. It's taken Machado a few years to live up to the hype -- and he still is not getting much mainstream media attention -- but we should be keeping a close eye on him this series.

Outside of Machado, the Orioles lineup is pretty much a one-trick pony: They either kill a ball out of the park or strike out. It has been more of the latter in the last week; Ryan Flaherty, Chris Davis, Nolan Remold, Mark Trumbo, and Mark Wieters all have strikeout rates above 25 percent with a special aversion to offspeed and breaking pitches.

After an early "rib area soreness" injury, Adam Jones has not looked like his usual self in 2016. He is slashing just .223/.282/.357, good for a wRC+ of 73 -- tied for third-worst among Orioles batters with at least 60 at-bats.

Orioles starting rotation

  • RHP: Chris Tillman
  • RHP: Ubaldo Jimenez
  • RHP: Mike Wright
  • RHP: Kevin Gausman
  • RHP: Tyler Wilson

Orioles bullpen

  • LHP: Zach Britton
  • RHP: Darren O'Day
  • RHP: Brad Brach
  • RHP: Mychal Givens
  • RHP: Dylan Bundy
  • RHP: Vance Worley
  • LHP: Ashur Tolliver

A couple Orioles pitchers have ties to the Indians, some more direct than others. Ubaldo Jimenez, of course, was on the Indians for two years, including one great half-season where he led the team into the playoffs. Dylan Bundy was selected fourth in the 2011 MLB Draft, one selection after the Arizona Diamondbacks selected Trevor Bauer. Neither pitcher has been the staff ace you would want out of a top-5 draft pick, but they are both young and Bundy is getting his first taste of significant playing time this season out of the Orioles bullpen.

Orioles injuries

  • JJ Hardy: 15-day DL (foot contusion)
  • Yovani Gallardo: 15-day DL (bicep tendinitis)

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