Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles vs. Cleveland Indians


Indians Continuing Surge Back to Top of Standings

Is everyone finally starting to calm down? Now that the Indians are playing like the team everyone thought they would be, has the tension and anger about their poor start tempered down? After taking two of three from the Royals and winning 14 out of their last 20 games overall, can we get back to focusing on the big picture and making a push for the playoffs?

That should be the mindset of every fan moving forward. Thanks to their solid play over the past three weeks, the Indians have climbed back to a game under .500 and find themselves six games back in the division and two games back in the division. Two games. That’s it. They’re right back in this thing even if many of you still continue to find faults within the roster.

May 28, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis (22) catches a fly ball against the Seattle Mariners during the fourth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The fact is, the pitching staff as a whole, and more specifically the starting rotation, is among the best in baseball with a 3.31 xFIP (3.13 xFIP for the starters, best in the majors). The offense, much maligned as it is for its lack of power and perceived run scoring ability, is ninth in runs scored and third in weighted runs created. All of that comes despite hitting a below average .288 on balls in play. Basically, this team can only get batter as the season wears on. Get Lonnie Chisenhall and Yan Gomes going and a little bit more consistency from Brandon Moss and more of anything out of Jose Ramirez and this could be a juggernaut of an offense.

But, as I’ve made mention of previously, the issue for this team will continue to be the defense. Until the Indians take the necessary steps towards improving their ability to turn batted balls into outs and keeping runners off the bases for their pitching staff, they will continue to make things more difficult for themselves.

Meanwhile, the Orioles are a team that a lot of people thought could win a weakened AL East division. Unfortunately, the results just haven’t matched the expectations. Baltimore currently finds themselves languishing in fourth place in the East with a record of 24-29. They come into tonight’s game having only won four out of their last 10 games. Prior to yesterday’s 3-2 win over the Astros, the O’s had been losers of five straight.

More from Away Back Gone

The struggles for the Orioles can be traced back to nothing more than mediocre performance. They haven’t done anything great, but they also haven’t done anything exceptionally awful either. Offensively, they rank in the middle of the pack. Offensively, they’re 19th in runs scored, 17th in batting average, 21st in OBP and 13th in slugging. In terms of pitching, they are 18th in ERA, 14th in WHIP and 11th in batting average against. The end result, a run differential of -7.

Offensively, the Orioles are ripe with talent with the headlining acts being a super-star trio of hitters in the middle of their lineup – Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Manny Machado. Jones and Davis leads the Orioles on every major statistical category and has carried the lineup for most of the season. Jones has compiled a .307/.346/.472 slash line with seven homers and 27 RBI. Davis leads the team with 12 homers and 32 RBI. Meanwhile, Machado has been very good and has once again been a doubles machine.

They’ve also gotten help from their upstart designated hitter, Jimmy Paredes. Paredes has come out of nowhere this year to slash .305/.335/.494 with six homers and 25 runs driven in. Unfortunately, after getting off to a torrid start in April, 385/.400/.769, that carried over into much of May, Paredes is now in the midst of a mini tail spin. He has one hit in his last 20 at bats and was given the day off on Wednesday after appearing in every game for the Orioles since April 21.

May 2, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones (10) at bat against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The lineup could get a big boost however with the return of Matt Wieters to the lineup. If you don’t recall, Wieters underwent successful Tommy John surgery last June and has been out for a full calendar year. And while Wieters is a very good catcher defensively, is ability and offensive potential with his bat are where his true value lies. Getting him back should, hopefully, help take some of the pressure off of Machado, Jones, and Davis.

As for their pitching staff, there is no one in the Orioles starting rotation that scares you. Ubaldo Jimenez, who signed a massive contract only to become the team’s fourth starter can be great when his stuff is on, but it is more likely to be way off on most nights. Chris Tillman is a solid pitcher that would look good in most rotations as a number two or three. Instead, he is the Orioles ace. Miguel GonzalezMike WrightWei-Yin Chen… is anyone scared of that? The answer would be no and it is one of the main reasons why this team has struggled. They simply aren’t that good.

For the Indians, this is an opportunity similar to the Seattle series last weekend. The Orioles are a solid team that is under-performing. If the Indians can do what they do best – score runs and shut down the Orioles offense – they can have a successful weekend. But, if the defensive miscues creep back into the picture and give the Orioles extra opportunities to push runs across the plate, it could be a very long weekend.

Probable Pitching Match-ups:

Next: Indians Showing Patience with Chisenhall