I haven’t done a series preview involving the Baltimore Orioles yet in 2012, but I suppose it’s time to take the Buck Showalter’s Birds seriously. The Orioles are currently five games behind the Yankees in the AL East and right in the thick of the AL wild-card race. We could see three teams from the East in the postseason, with the Yanks a near-lock and the Rays currently holding down one of the AL’s two wild-card spots.
If you are believer in run differential, which I am, then the Orioles should be well under .500 as they have a differential of minus-54, which is the third-worst in the American League. So why is Baltimore succeeding? It is 12-2 in extra-inning games this year, easily the best mark in MLB – by comparison, the other four AL East teams have 14 total extra-inning wins. Baltimore is also an MLB-best 23-6 in one-run games. So apparently the Orioles win the close ones but get blown out fairly often. The O’s also like playing under the sun as they are 23-13 in day games compared to .500 under the lights.
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Baltimore, which was off Thursday, just finished a six-game trip at 3-3, which is pretty impressive considering it visited Detroit and Texas and that it was a sizable dog in all six games. The O’s got a scare in Wednesday’s loss to the Rangers. Catcher Matt Wieters was hit by a foul ball on the right shoulder and was taken out of the game eventually. But X-rays were negative and it’s just a contusion. He is day-to-day and fully expects to play vs. Toronto after getting Thursday off. Wieters struggled on the trip, going 2-for-18, and is down to .238. But he does have 17 homers and 62 RBI. One Oriole who is hot is outfielder Nick Markakis. He had three hits Wednesday vs. Texas and is batting .341 with an on-base percentage of .392 since returning from the DL on July 13 and being moved to leadoff.
The Blue Jays, meanwhile, are just playing out the string as their season was devastated by injuries. Entering Thursday’s series finale in Detroit, Toronto had lost four straight and 12 of 15 to drop into the AL East cellar. But the Jays are expecting back slugger Jose Bautista for Friday’s opener. The all-star and two-time home run king has been out since July 16, when he sprained his left wrist while taking a swing during a game in New York. Bautista was again among the MLB home-run leaders with 27 when he got hurt, but now a third straight title is almost out of the question. It’s possible that Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar misses Friday’s game as he was put on the paternity list before Wednesday’s game – but he might rejoin the team in time for the series opener.
This is the first meeting since the all-star break between these teams. Baltimore leads 5-4 and swept the Jays April 24-26 in their lone visit to Camden Yards so far.
Blue Jays at Orioles Probable Starting Pitchers
Showalter did alter his rotation, which affects this series. The Orioles moved back the starts of Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez, giving each an extra two days’ of rest. That means neither will face the Jays and they will now pitch Monday and Tuesday.
Friday: Blue Jays RHP Carlos Villanueva (6-3, 3.10) vs. Orioles LHP Zach Britton (2-1, 6.23) – Villanueva has a 2.79 ERA in his past three starts but is 0-2 in that stretch as Toronto’s offense has struggled. He pitched two-thirds of an inning in relief vs. the Birds on May 30 but hasn’t started vs. them. Britton had been roughed up for three starts in a row before blanking the Tigers over seven innings last time out. He has struggled in his two home starts this season, allowing 10 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings.
Saturday: Blue Jays RHP Brandon Morrow (7-4, 3.01) vs. Orioles RHP Steve Johnson (1-0, 3.27) – Morrow is set to make his first start since June 11 after missing two months with a torn left oblique. He is 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA in two starts vs. Baltimore this season. Showalter hasn’t officially named Saturday’s starter as of this writing, but the Orioles beat writers project it to be the reliever Johnson. He has made four appearances this season and one start, allowing two runs in six innings vs. Seattle on Aug. 8.
Sunday: Blue Jays LHP Ricky Romero (8-11, 5.63) vs. Orioles RHP Chris Tillman (6-2, 3.71) – Romero was incredibly wild in Tuesday’s loss to Detroit, walking eight and allowing five runs in 5.1 innings. He became the first pitcher in more than four years to walk eight batters without recording a strikeout. There was talk of skipping Romero’s start here because he has lost an American League-worst 10 decisions in a row while posting a 7.69 ERA over that 11-start span. But as of now, the Jays say he will stay put. Tillman beat the Rangers on Tuesday, allowing three runs in six innings. This is his first start this season vs. the Jays.
Blue Jays at Orioles Betting Odds and Trends
For the series, I project Baltimore to around -135, with Toronto at +115 or so. In Game 1, the Orioles are -125 with the total at 8.5. Jays are 26-32-4 “over/under” on road (not counting Thursday’s game), while Orioles are 29-30-2 at home.
Toronto is 0-4 in its past four games vs. lefty starters. It is 1-5 in Villanueva’s past six road starts. Jays have won just four of their past 15 series openers. The Orioles are 6-0 in Britton’s past six starts vs. teams with a losing record but 1-6 in his past seven Friday starts. Baltimore has won nine of its past 12 home games vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 6-1 in Toronto’s past seven series openers. The under is 5-1 in the past six meetings between these teams.
Blue Jays at Orioles MLB Betting Predictions
I like Toronto here to take two of three as the Jays avoid, arguably, Baltimore’s two best current pitchers in Chen and Gonzalez. And even as bad as Romero has been, I still favor the Jays in each day’s pitching matchup. Plus, that offense should get a jump start with Bautista’s return. Take Toronto and the over in Game 1 and in the series.
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