Talking Behind Their Backs: Rays
The Orioles completed their opening week home stand with a series against the Tampa Bay Rays that was eerily similar to the previous one against the New York Yankees.
In both series Baltimore took a 2-0 series lead against a team picked to finish well ahead of them in the AL East. In their four wins, the Orioles have gotten reasonable pitching performances out of their starters (Jeremy Guthrie twice, Koji Uehara and Mark Hendrickson) and have had to avoid some dicey bullpen situations (Chris Ray and George Sherrill come to mind).
But despite those leads, the Orioles have not been able to close the door and collect an early season sweep and instead have been obliterated (11-2 and 11-3, respectively) in the final frame.
The one constant in those two drubbings has been relief pitcher Brian Bass who has twice jogged out of the bullpen equipped with a tank of gasoline and a match. Bass has given up 12 runs in two appearances (five against the Yankees and seven against the Rays) that have totaled just 5 1/3 innings.
Though Bass entered both games while the Orioles were already down, it does not help team morale to end up in a nearly inescapable hole.
Essentially, the Orioles have gone as the pitching has, it just so happens the team has had its clunkers while in position to sweep. And while two out of three is nice and more than a moral victory, it's not what the team wants to see, just ask Manager Dave Trembley.
"Our intent today was to win," said Trembley following Sunday's loss. "We're not content with winning a series, we're not content with winning two out of three. We wanted to win all three. But we had a very good week. We'll take it on the road and go from there."
The Orioles start their first road trip of the season tonight in Texas against a potent Rangers lineup that was completely mollified while being swept this past weekend in Detroit.
In some ways the Orioles are a poor man's Texas Rangers. Both teams have lineups capable of lighting up the scoreboard combined with pitching staffs that are capable of giving the opposition the chance to do the same.
Through one week, Texas ranks fifth in the league in runs scored (38) while the Orioles come in 11th but just five runs separate the two teams. While both teams clearly can get runs across the plate, they go about doing so in completely different ways.
Texas is a powerful team that loves to hit the long ball, coming in sixth in the majors in both home runs (11) and in slugging percentage (.483). The Orioles conversely like to move runners over and play something more closely resembling station-to-station baseball. Through six games Baltimore has four home runs (23rd in the league) but sport the majors' second-best on-base percentage (.378).
When it comes to pitching, however, both teams are in the lower third for staff ERA with Baltimore (5.67) being just slightly better than Texas (6.00).
All of this is to say: expect some fireworks deep in the heart of Texas over the next three games.
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