The Orioles travel to Kansas City to end their seven game road trip after taking three of four against the White Sox in Chicago. While starting pitching has been stable the last few weeks and the offense has had its positive nights, the Orioles bullpen has a 4.45 ERA now, a stat that can kill any team late in games.
Royals hitting has always been their strong point. The brightest star this year so far has been Alex Gordon who had an 18 game hitting streak. Jeff Francoeur comes in a very close 2nd with 6 Home Runs to put him in the top 10 for the AL HR stat. Finally, Billy Butler is always a hitting threat especially for gap doubles that can really drive in base runners at Kauffman Stadium.
Here is a review of the pitching matchups for the series:
Game 1: Tuesday, May 3
RHP Brad Bergesen (0-3, 4.76) vs. LHP Jeff Francis (0-3, 5.03)
Brad Bergesen is morphing into a totally different pitcher than we saw of him dating back two years ago. Coming through the system relying on a sinker to induce lots of ground balls, Bergesen incorporated a 4 seam fastball last season that changed how he attacked hitters, using the 4 seamer as a set up pitch for his 2 seamer. After 1.55 and 1.33 ground ball to fly ball ratios the last two seasons respectively, Bergesen is turning into a fly ball pitcher now, hosting a 0.77 mark on the year in that category. He faces the Royals, the team that, by way of Billy Butler line drive, took him and his knee out for a chunk of the 2009 season.
Jeff Francis’ pitching performance doesn’t match his record. Francis has had solid appearances he would have won if he could get run support. He has almost taken over Greinke’s spot of being the Royals best pitcher with the corresponding offensive failure during his starts. Francis was completely shelled in the Rangers game but it was a windy day in a tiny ballpark and that added 2 points to his ERA.
Game 2: Wednesday, May 4
8:10 PM EST
RHP Jake Arrieta (3-1, 5.01) vs. RHP Kyle Davies (1-3, 7.98)
Jake Arrieta has had mixed results this season, still trying to bounce back fully from his awful game against the Rangers the first week of the season. Though Arrieta is walking almost a full batter less per nine innings and striking out over two more, he is allowing more home runs in his starts. The key for Arrieta is if he can mix his pitches well and establish the fastball in the zone as he has as of late.
Kyle Davies is just plain awful, doesn’t deserve the 1 win he has and his ERA shows that. The only positive is that he doesn’t walk as much which results in either a quick inning or a Home Run Derby.
Game 3: Thursday, May 5
2:10 PM EST
RHP Chris Tillman (1-2, 5.25) vs. LHP Bruce Chen (3-1, 4.04)
Though Chris Tillman has kept his walk and home run numbers down so far (comparing to an awful 2010, none the less), he has looked quite flat on the mound, continuing with his extremely straight fastball that has dropped quite a bit in velocity. A pitcher who was expected to throw in the 92-95 MPH range, Tillman is ending up around 87-89 this season, and it isn’t pretty. He has two starts allowing one run or less, both in which he received a lot of luck in the BABIP category. Unless he picks up the velocity or incorporates the cutter some more, the Royals fiery offense may bring him some trouble.
Bruce Chen continues to amaze Royals fans with his ability and can really frustrate opposing hitters. His ERA, like Francis, was inflated by the Rangers really hammering him. He somehow seems to get better with age.
The Orioles get two southpaws in this three game series, matchups that may not be pretty considering how they have done against lefties so far this season. Including the loss last night to Mark Buehrle, the O’s are now 2-6 vs. left handed starters, a stat that was expected to go up with all of the right handed batters signed in the off season. 27th in the majors in batting average vs. lefties (.213), the O’s will have their hands full. If the Royals take a lead into the 9th inning, they are almost guaranteed a win with closer Joakim Soria being one of the most dominant in the game.
Our bullpen could be the best in the American League with Aaron Crow really shocking people and his 0.00 ERA through 12.2 innings pitched.