It is hard to believe that the last time the Orioles played the Reds in Baltimore was during the 1970 World Series.  I was not even born then and the fortunes of the two franchises have changed quite dramatically.  The Reds were the dominant National League Team in the seventies and the Orioles were in the middle of a twenty-five year run of excellent baseball. 

The passed two decades have seen both franchises struggle to regain their former glory.  The Reds, to their credit, have made it back to the post-season on a few occasions (2010 and 1995).  And they won the World Series in 1990.  If nothing else this series should carry a great deal of nostalgia with it, and hopefully the play will be as crisp as well.

The Reds do seem to be a franchise headed in the right direction.  They have a group of young and talented position players including reigning NL MVP Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips and Drew Stubbs.  While they do have a potent line-up and a good mix of young and veteran talent, the Reds starting pitchers have struggled to repeat the success of 2010.  The Orioles will face two Cincy starters who have not been able to repeat their passed success in Travis Wood and Edison Volquez.  The question for the Orioles is whether or not their offense is capable of punishing bad pitching?

Offense has not been the only area of concern for the Orioles.  The team has seen break downs in all phases in recent weeks.  Defense and starting pitching have also struggled as well as the alarming trend of Orioles starters coming down with minor injuries.  Brian Matusz, who threw better his last start, is dealing with hamstring issues.  Jeremy Guthrie, who has been very inconsistent lately, with back issues and Jake Arrieta with a sore elbow.

The Orioles did not make any hay with games against the Nationals and Pirates.  Things could get a lot uglier in a hurry as the series against the Reds is the first of five straight above .500 teams the Orioles play to close out the first half of play.  Buck Showalter said it right a couple of weeks ago when he expressed that this was the time of year when a lot of teams sink or swim.  We will know whether or not the Orioles will stay afloat in the next three weeks.

Here are the pitching match-ups and start times for this weekend:

Friday, 7:05pm MASNHD
Edinson Volquez (3-5, 5.61) vs. Chris Jakubauskas (2-1, 5.14)

Saturday, 7:05pm MASNHD
Bronson Arroyo (6-6, 4.86) vs. Brian Matusz (1-2, 5.60)

Sunday, 1:35pm MASNHD
Travis Wood (5-5, 5.11) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (2-9, 3.79)