This series is an exciting match-up against two teams with winning records that nobody would have ever expected. If someone pointed to tonight’s O’s-Mets series opener and said both teams would be over .500 and within striking distance of first, 99 out of 100 people would have called that guy nuts. Well, here we are, June 18th, and both Baltimore and New York are playing over .500 ball.
However, the Mets are coming off getting swept for the second time in a week, as they limp into this series with a 35-32 record. They have been lucky with the fact that the rest of the division hasn’t been playing well either, so their 4-6 showing in their last 10 games hasn’t put them closer to the NL East basement, but still only 4.5 games out of first. Terry Collins is hoping to see his club get back on track, and what better place than Citi Field, where they’re 19-15 in 2012.
Buck Showalter’s club has been playing great baseball, but are 1.5 games behind the Yankees since they haven’t lost in about a week and a half. The O’s are currently in second place at 39-27, winning their last two games against the Braves, making them 7-3 in their last 10 games. In addition to just about everything being a surprise for Baltimore this year, their 20-13 road record is a big reason why they’re still in the race.
How they’re performing:
David Wright is the only active position player with a batting average over .300 (.355), and even though Kirk Nieuwenhuis is close at .290, the next closest starter is Daniel Murphy, who has slumped all the way down to a .274 BA. Wright still leads the squad in OBP (.458) and runs (44), but Scott Hairston has the lead in slug% (.584). Lucas Dudastill has a hold on the team home run (10) and RBI (40) lead.
Statistic .255 .328
MLB Rank 16th
As they did in the Tampa Bay series, the New York pitching didn’t disappoint against Cincinnati, but it was the offense that couldn’t do them a solid and help them out. R.A. Dickey leads the staff in ERA (2.20), innings pitched (90), and strikeouts (90), but Johan Santana and Jonathon Niese aren’t far behind in those categories. Jon Rauch has shown some promise out of the ‘pen in the last week, while we haven’t seen Bobby Parnell pitch since last Thursday.
533 .257MLB Rank 24th 20th T-11th 7th 20th
The Baltimore offense has gotten a boost from the return of Brian Roberts to the lineup ( .318 BA in five games), but Adam Jones (.311/.360/.583) has been the team’s offensive MVP, doing a little bit of everything. Chris Davis (.294/.341/.517) has been giving some support to Jones as well, who leads the team in runs scored (47), home runs (18), and RBI (39).
299 89MLB Rank 18th 22nd
The Oriole pitching has been the most surprising this season, and has been the key to their success to this point. Showalter’s bullpen has five relievers with double-digit appearances and a sub-2.00 ERA (Jim Johnson, Darren O’Day, Matt Lindstrom, Pedro Strop, Luis Ayala). Jason Hammel leads the starting staff with a 2.87 ERA and is tied with Wei-Yin Chen for the team lead in wins, at 7. Hammel has the edge in innings pitched (81.2) and strikeouts (77) as well.
MLB Rank 11th 10th
Probable pitching match-ups:
Jake Arrieta (BAL) 3-8, 5.89 ERA vs. R.A. Dickey (NYM) 10-1, 2.20 ERA
Tommy Hunter (BAL) 3-3, 5.58 ERA vs. Johan Santana (NYM) 4-3, 3.23 ERA
The best pitching match-up of the three to tune in to? It has to be tonight’s contest, starring Arrieta and Dickey. Even though his franchise-record scoreless inning streak was halted at 32.2 innings in his last start, he’s still struck out 50 hitters and walked only three in his last five appearances. For a knuckleballer, that’s unheard of. Arrieta is coming off his best of the year against the Pirates, going 7 innings and striking out 9, but he hadn’t gone five innings in any of his previous three starts before that.
Recent head-to-head contests:
Since the 2000 season, these two teams have met five times, and the results are pretty even. In 2000 and 2001, the Mets took two of three in each series, one at Shea and one at Camden Yards. In 2006 and 2009, the Orioles went on a two series winning streak, taking two of three in each of those match-ups, before the Mets swept Baltimore in their last head-t0-head battle, which took place in 2010.
Back in 2009, the Orioles scored only one more run than the Mets in their three games, but neither team scored less than four runs in
any single game. Mike Pelfrey recorded the win in the opener, with Francisco Rodriguez recording the save, but New York ended up dropping the final two contests to Jim Johnson and Matt Albers, as the O’s came away with the series win. In 2010, it was complete domination by the Mets, outscoring Baltimore 19-6 in their three game sweep. Pelfrey and R.A. Dickey earned the wins, while Brian Matusz earned a loss in the second game of the set.
What to watch for:
Adam Jones is one of the most electrifying young players in the game today. Fresh off getting an $85 million contract extension from Baltimore, it is clear that he is in their plans to be the centerpiece of the franchise for years to come, and is hitting .333 in his last 10 ballgames. It is rare for us fans to be able to watch a player of this caliber three nights in a row, let alone in our backyard. Also, watch out for Brian Roberts; after all his injury problems, you know he’s looking to have a big series.
For the Mets, the player to watch for will be R.A. Dickey tonight. What he’s done this season has been unreal, and this is as good of a stretch by a New York pitcher in recent memory. Can he continue his dominance of the league with his knuckleball? He’s electrified the home crowd just as much as Johan Santana has this year, and the place will be buzzing tonight.
Enjoy the re-match of the 1969 World Series…Let’s go Mets!