The last place Baltimore Orioles return home for an extended home-stand which begins with three games against the Toronto Blue Jays. Any way you shake it the 1-5 road trip has to be considered a disappointment, especially the way the club swung the bats. The Orioles managed only 15 runs in six games in Oakland and Seattle. Granted both the Athletics and Mariners have strong pitching staffs, the Orioles need to get the bats going. The club also needs to find ways for players not named Jones, Wieters and Guerrero to produce consistently with runners on base.
Wieters and Jones have clearly emerged as the Orioles best all around players, which is a good thing, but the problem is that the team is getting little from some of their veteran cornerstones, namely Luke Scott and Nick Markakis. With Brian Roberts and Derrek Lee on the shelf, the Orioles have much less of an offensive cushion when guys they are counting on don’t produce. In order for the Orioles to make some noise in the series against the Jays and on this home-stand, the bats need to heat up. Perhaps as the weather warms up in Baltimore, the balls will start flying further at the Yard.
The flips side of the ball having more life is how it affects the Orioles pitchers. The ball carrying further is not something the Orioles want to see, at least when it some to the Blue Jays. The Jays have one of the better offenses the Orioles will face this year, and that offense is built around home-runs. The Jays come to town with, arguably, major league baseball’s best hitter in Jose Bautista. If Bautista’s 2010 season was a surprise, how much more has his 2011 start been. Bautista is leading baseball in home-runs with 20. He is getting on base over 50% of the times and has a staggering 1.276 OBPS. In an era where most of baseball’s sluggers are deflating, Bautista is proving that last year was no fluke. The Orioles best option might be to force other Jays to beat them. Toronto could be getting a boost in their line-up if Adam Lind returns from the DL this weekend.
The Orioles will need to get bounce back performances from LHP Zach Britton and RHP Jake Arrieta. the key for both will be keeping the ball down in the zone and Arrieta in particular needs to locate his pitches better and work ahead in the count. Here are the starting times and pitching match-ups for the series:
Friday, 7:05pm MASNHD
Carlos Villanueva (2-0, 2.62) vs. Zach Britton (5-3. 2.93)
Saturday, 7:05pm MASNHD
Ricky Romero (5-4, 2.88) vs Jake Arrieta (6-3, 4.97)
Sunday, 1:35pm MASNHD
Jo-Jo Reyes (1-4, 4.95) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (2-7, 3.24)