If it weren’t for middling left-handers’ ability to utterly shut down the Indians offense, Derek Lowe might have earned his ninth win in his last outing. Though he made it through six innings of three hit, three run ball with four walks and five strikeouts, the Indians didn’t do him any favors. Though he’s been bit by the walk bug a couple times this year (giving up six bases on balls one outing, four in another among other blips) it’s the fact he’s only striking out 3.3 per nine innings (career 5.8 K/9) that has probably led to his struggles now and then. He’s still the solid pitcher he’s always been, but the O’s have never been his favorite and his last time facing them, back in June, he gave up seven runs on six hits with three walks. Matt Wieters tagged him for a three-run shot and a couple O’s had multi-hit games. He just needs to pitch better, and he did show the rest he got from the All-Star break helped a little when he pitched so well against Toronto. The Tribe just needs to help him out.
This will be Miguel Gonzalez’s third career start, as the Orioles are mining their minor leagues for some semblance of a pitching staff. The young Gonzalez has pitched 24.1 innings in his rookie year and in his two starts this season he went seven against the Los Angeles Angels allowing three hits, giving up two walks and one run, and against the Detroit Tigers he lasted five and a third, giving up three runs and walking five. In six minor league seasons including a stint at Rancho Cucamonga he pitched 437 ⅔ innings and struck out 349 while allowing 399 hits and 122 walks with 38 homers. He logged a 3.86 ERA, but in his 49 triple-A innings that was at 1.69. Maybe he pitches better as the competition gets better, or maybe he’s a decent middle of the rotation pitcher who will have a long and somewhat distinguished career. With how Orioles pitching has been the last decade, they’d take that in a second.
Right now, Zach McAllister is the Indians’ best pitcher. He’s struck out 46 batters through 48 1/3 innings this year with only 26 runs scored, 17 earned. Though he wasn’t throwing the fire he’d been his last start in Tampa, he hung in the low 90’s and kept the Rays mostly quiet all night. Whether this is all smoke and mirrors because the league doesn’t have a book on him yet or he’s the real deal remains to be seen, but his 3.73 SIERA backs up his 3.11 ERA to some degree, and he’s getting guys to swing and miss at an average level at least, 8.2 percent. It’s a little exciting to watch him throw because you cant’ help but get excited when he does well. The Indians haven’t gotten really lucky in a while, maybe this is it.
We’ll see yet another youngster for the Orioles. This will be Chris Tillman’s third start this season. He’s only 24 but has started 38 games in the majors so far, with pretty terrible results. He’s struck out only 5.9 per nine in his major league career and given up 10.7 hits per nine. Of course, his average outing is only 4.9 innings, so he just gets knocked around. He hasn’t given up a homer this year though. In 689 minor league innings he struck out 8.9 per nine and lasted much longer per start, so he could just be a young kid trying to find his way in the world. This is yet another chance for Cleveland to take advantage of a young guy’s mistakes, get some good swings going and springboard to some Murderer’s Row type stuff. Plus, if Gonzalez doesn’t last the night prior, the bullpen will be weak and doughy, easy to take advantage of.
The real plus to having Tomlin face the O’s is their inability to work a walk (12th in the league) and their love of swinging big (first in the AL in strikeouts). Of course, with TOmlin this will likely mean a homer or two but we all know that’s what will happen. The thing is though, he seems to have been nibbling a bit more of late than we’re used to seeing. The best thing about Josh was his brass… guts… and how much he pounded the zone. It’s what made him a starter. He walked five Orioles back in June though, and that was just so unlike him. The bounce back against the Rays, seven innings of three hit, one run ball, was a nice return to form so perhaps our boy Radinsky got into his head. He can’t have another outing like that one against Baltimore in June, so here’s his greatest chance for redemption.
A season ago, Zach Britton was the toast of Baltimore, a young stud of a pitcher who was going to lead the Orioles into a shining future of dominance and Yankee smashing. Then the league caught up with him, he faded in the summer heat and pressure of the AL East, and ended the season with a 91 ERA+. Still, he carried himself well and for a 23-year old (now 24) he did well for himself considering the savage lineups he had to face. He held a surging Yankees team scoreless for seven innings as late as August 28th, throwing 120 pitches, so the Orioles might have something here. Britton made his first start of the 2012 season on July 17 against the Minnesota Twins, throwing 100 pitches in four innings and taking the loss after giving up four runs on six hits and six walks. At least he had balance. The Indians need to keep him off-balance because the kid has talent, just some still-shaky confidence.
Why the question mark? Well, Indians.com has TBA listed as the probable pitcher, and last I heard he was tied up elsewhere. Never seems to make the start he’s listed for. Masterson continues his schizophrenic season, following up seven shutout innings against the Blue Jays by not being able to get out of the fifth in Tampa, allowing four runs on seven hits and seven(!) walks. The plate just wasn’t in the direction he was throwing. He held the Orioles to two runs (one earned) over seven innings on July 1st and he’s due for a dominant outing, so this is a nice way to wrap up the series – ace against, well, something else.
For some reason, Tommy Hunter just seems to come off as an old veteran. On this staff he is pretty much the elder statesman at this point even at 26, but maybe it’s because he kind of looks like Colby Lewis to me, I keep thinking he’s like 35. He isn’t though, having made 38 career major league starts. He faced the Indians on June 30th and lasted 1 ⅔ innings of eight hit, five run ball after relieving Dana Eveland in the fourth inning. It was an ugly mopping up, slaughter house-esque really. Left-handed batters have an .842 OPS against Hunter and his 73 ERA+ is the worst of any of his years in the majors. Oddly, he had a 120 ERA+ with the Texas Rangers (that’s where the Colby Lewis thing comes from!) in 22 starts but just hasn’t been the same since coming to Baltimore. Go figure, you come to a pitcher-friendly park and pitch worse. Maybe the air is bad.
This series could end up forcing a lot of decisions for both clubs. If either earns a sweep the other will be below .500, a first for the Orioles this year and the first time since April 14th for the Tribe. It could mean the difference between holding steady, buying or selling at the deadline. It’s odd for a midseason series between Baltimore to have so much weight behind it, but hey, it’ll be fun. These guys know the stakes.