Fresh off a series win over the Mariners – and with a 9-8 record in their last 17 games – the O’s host the Cleveland Indians (13-19) for a three-game weekend tilt. Tonight’s game features a match-up of right-handers, with Jeremy Guthrie taking on Justin Masterson, who came over to Cleveland from Boston in the Victor Martinez trade.
The Indians offense is struggling quite a bit. Their star center-fielder is having a rough season; their aging left-handed slugging DH has shown some flashes of his former self but is mostly struggling; youngsters all over the diamond, including a right-handed hitting LFer with power and patience can’t get it going at the plate at all. At least their left-handed right-fielders is hitting for average and taking some walks, and a veteran import at an infield corner has been decent. Boy, that sounds awfully familiar for some reason.
Career xFIP versus right-handed batters: 3.22. Career xFIP versus left-handed batters: 4.85. Having Roberts and Pie around would have allowed Trembley to really stack the line-up with lefties.
It’s pretty obvious how Masterson is able to get so many groundballs, when you like at the sink he gets on his fastball. That’s so extreme I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pitch/FX calibration is a little off (not going to check). The slider has been a swing and miss pitch for him so far this year, and the fastballs haven’t been easy to put a bat on either. The O’s absolutely need to avoid chasing pitches out of the zone, or they’re either going to swing and miss or pound the ball into the ground. If they can force Masterson to get the ball up and in the zone, they can make some hard contact.
For perhaps the first time, the O’s come into a game with a higher line-up WAR than the other teams. And yet the Indians have outscored the Orioles 122 to 119 this year, while playing in three fewer games.
Jeremy’s missing way fewer bats – his contact rate against is 88.9% (about 8% higher than average) – but increased usage of the slider seems to be resulting in more swings on pitches out of the strike-zone, which has allowed him to keep his strike-out rate non-terrible.