Birds in the Hand: Orioles Series Preview

Toronto Blue Jays @ Baltimore Orioles

April 19th – April 21st

The Blue Jays continue their tour of the American League East, as they head to Baltimore to face the Orioles, the only team in their division they’ve yet to face. Picked by many pundits to finish last in a very competitive division, the Orioles started the season on a tear, winning their first seven games before dropping three of the past four. The Jays are coming off a series split in Boston, with the starting pitching continuing to be good. The Jays only struck out five times in the finale against the Red Sox, but that still puts them at 141 strikeouts after 14 games, an alarming rate, even for a team with a lot of power hitters.

Pitching Matchups:

April 19th – 7:05 PM ET

Marcus Stroman vs. Mike Wright

The Blue Jays’ ace Marcus Stroman is coming off a strong outing against the Yankees, where he went eight innings and allowed two runs. There’s a lot to like about his starts so far: he’s pitched eight innings twice, and walked only six batters. However, he’s only struck out 12 in just over 21 innings. That’s something to watch going forward, especially as he gets a longer track record, and hitters start to see him for the second and third time. Stroman has a career 3.00 ERA over 18 innings against Baltimore in his career, and should be able to hold them to a similar level on

Mike Wright is making his second start of the year, having won his first, a five inning outing where he allowed four runs and struck out four batters. The Jays are likely eager to face Wright, as he has a career 9.45 ERA against Toronto over three outings (two of them starts). At some point, the Jays’ offense will have a big game, and Wright provides an opportune chance for that to happen.

April 20th – 7:05 PM ET

R.A. Dickey vs. Ubaldo Jimenez

The usual April struggles for Dickey have continued this season, as he’s yet to pitch past the fifth inning in any of his three outings. Dickey has thrown the fifth-most innings in baseball over the last three years, so a lack of stamina would take away what has been his primary value to the Jays over his tenure with the team: his ability to throw innings. His catcher, Josh Thole, has also struggled in the last two games receiving the knuckleball, a trend which will hopefully right itself soon.

The Orioles counter with Ubaldo Jimenez, who is making his third start this year. He’s coming off a loss against the Red Sox, a game in which he threw five innings and allowed four runs (is there an echo in here?). Jimenez has a reputation as an inconsistent pitcher with mechanics that can be all over the place, but he’s generally given the Jays fits, sporting a shiny 2.83 ERA over 54 innings against them in the last three seasons.

April 21st – 7:05 PM ET

Marco Estrada vs. Chris Tillman

Expectations were high for Marco Estrada coming into this year, with his performance and a new two year deal cementing his place in the rotation. In his two starts against the Red Sox, Estrada was mostly good, with one bad inning in his second outing leading to his picking up a 4-2 loss. His changeup, one of the best pitches in baseball in 2015, has continued to be devastating in his two outings thus far. Estrada has a 3.42 ERA against the Orioles over three career appearances against them.

Chris Tillman has a 5.11 ERA over two starts and three total appearances this year for the Orioles. He lost his last start against Texas, allowing six runs and nine hits in five and a third innings. This is another matchup the Jays should be looking forward to: in six starts against the Jays in 2015, Tillman sported an ugly 11.72 ERA. Much like Wright in the series opener, this is a chance for the mostly dormant Jays’ bats to wake up.

Additions and Subtractions

The most significant news for the Orioles has been pitchers Kevin Gausman and Brian Matusz starting rehab assignments. Both players are expected to rejoin the team shortly, with Matusz being their primary left-hander out of the bullpen, and Gausman potentially rejoining the rotation. Given the dearth of left-handed hitters on the Jays, one assumes Matusz won’t be rushed back for this series. Although with their rotation as it is, the Orioles probably want Gausman back sooner rather than later

For the Jays, the only recent injury update has been this tidbit from Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, on lefthander Aaron Loup:

There is no timetable for Loup’s return.

Keep an Eye On

Pillar in the 8th Spot

He’s only spent two games in the 8th spot since being moved from the leadoff spot, but Kevin Pillar seems to have found his groove in the last two games. On Sunday afternoon Pillar went 3 for 4 and on Monday put together an impressive afternoon going 3 for 3 with a walk, and he scored once during the Blue Jays 8th inning rally. Pillar spent spring training auditioning for the role in the lead off spot after Ben Revere was traded during the off season, but has been more effective of late towards the bottom of the lineup.

Mark Trumbo’s Hot Start

Mark Trumbo is off to a hot start for the Orioles so far. As of Sunday, Trumbo was hitting .386/.413/.750. On April 15th Trumbo had a two homerun night, both coming in the same inning in a 11-5 Orioles win over the Rangers. His defence has been spotty, which helped the Rangers beat the O’s the following night on a ball he overran, which allowed two runners to come around to score.

Baseball’s Two Best Third Basemen

With arguably two of the best third baseman in the league squaring off against each other in this series, the hot corner will definitely be fun to watch in this series. Despite saying that he is still trying to work out the kinks in his swing, Donaldson is currently hitting .309/.377/.691 in 14 games this year, including 5 homeruns. In 11 games this year, Machado is hitting .383/.431/.723, with 4 homeruns. When they’re not at the plate, keep an eye on the defence of both Machado and Donaldson, who are both known to flash the leather.

Probable Lineup

Blue Jays


Saunders (LF) Rickard (LF)
Donaldson (3B) Machado (3B)
Bautista (RF) Jones (CF)
Encarnacion (DH) Davis (1B)
Tulowitzki (SS) Trumbo (RF)
Colabello (1B) Wieters (C)
Martin (C) Alvarez (DH)
Pillar (CF) Hardy (SS)
Goins (2B) Schoop (2B)

via Roster Resource

Final Thoughts

For the second week in a row the Orioles are atop the A.L East, 2.5 games ahead of the Blue Jays coming into the series. The Blue Jays are hoping for more consistency scoring runs both early and late in games, while cutting down on the exorbitant number of strikeouts they’ve had thus far. The Blue Jays will need Stroman to continue to show why he is the ace, ahead of Dickey who has historically struggled in April.

Lead Photo: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

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