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A “RIVALRY” BATTLE IS ALSO A CLASH OF CONTENDERS WITH ORIOLES/NATIONALS

This had already developed into a nice regional rivalry to begin with…as the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals begin a four-game series Monday Night in the nation’s capital (first two games in Washington, last two games in Baltimore).

But the 2014 edition happens to feature a pair of teams who have a chance to win their respective divisions.

  • The Baltimore Orioles recently nudged past the Toronto Blue Jays to sit atop the always interesting American League East.
  • The Washington Nationals have been neck-and-neck for weeks with the Atlanta Braves at the top of the National League East.

Both teams are capable of winning their divisions. But, the margin for error is slim because both teams play in leagues where the two Wildcard spots could go to teams in other divisions. The sense of urgency is intense for both franchises, making this a huge week in mid-Atlantic baseball.

Let’s see what the numbers say about the day-to-day win potential for each team…

OFFENSE
Baltimore: 4.34 runs per game, .319 on-base, .424 slugging
Washington: 4.15 runs per game, .315 on-base, .384 slugging

At first glance, Baltimore would have the edge. But, you have to adjust for the Designated Hitter. Once you do that, Washington rates as having the slightly better offense. They’re just fractionally behind Baltimore in on-base percentage even while having their pitchers bat! And, the bulk of the slugging differential would be erased, too on a level playing field. Baltimore has actually been a big disappointment in the AL this year offensively, which shows up more clearly in stat matchups with other AL teams. Edge to the Nats.

MONDAY’S PITCHERS
Chris Tillman: 4.21 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 5.5 K-Rate
Steven Strasburg: 3.53 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 10.5 K-Rate

Tillman has been very inconsistent this season. But, the highs have been so good that you have to keep trotting him out to the mound to hope for one of those peak performances. That 4.21 ERA is the average of extremes. He rarely pitches like a 4.21 pitcher. Either he gets rocked, or throws a quality start. Strasburg continues to frustrate the locals. He’s often awesome. But, he still has a tendency to get himself into trouble and then not get out of it quickly enough. With his stuff, he should have an ERA more like 2.53 this year rather than 3.53. Conflicting indicators for handicappers.

TUESDAY’S PITCHERS
Wei-Yin Chen: 4.12 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 6.3 K-Rate
Doug Fister: 2.93 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 5.3 K-Rate

Chen is similar to Tillman in terms of inconsistency, but it’s a milder case because he’s rarely dominating, but rarely helpless. He’s just kind of a generic pitcher this season, with numbers that aren’t impressive in a “year of the pitcher.” Fister is the most recent example that shows you the difference between the leagues. The NL is still a glorified Triple A in a lot of ways, because the bad teams have such putrid offenses. Fister shouldn’t have an ERA below 3.00 with such a low K-Rate. But, many in the NL can’t figure him out. The Orioles know him well enough to be scarier in this game than those raw pitching stats above would have suggested.

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WEDNESDAY’S PITCHERS
Tanner Roark: 3.12 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 6.7 K-Rate
Bud Norris: 3.62 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 6.2 K-Rate

Note that we’ve switched sites now, with the final two games in Baltimore (where DH’s will bat). Roark allowed four runs in each of his last two starts, after not doing that in several starts prior. The Nats have been careful with his pitch counts, which has helped him avoid trouble because he’s not allowed to get tired.  Norris has only pitched once since mid-June because he’s been dealing with a groin injury. Given the numbers from their first two pitchers in this series, you see how badly the O’s need him to stay healthy and contribute down the stretch. Might be a game that's determined by the bullpens because managers have a close eye on both starters.

THURSDAY’S PITCHERS
Gio Gonzalez: 3.52 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 9.2 K-Rate
Miguel Gonzalez: 4.22 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 7.1 K-Rate

Wow! Gio has thrown 21 scoreless innings in his last three starts, after maxing out his ERA at 4.85 after a bad game vs. Houston. Just what the Nats needed to see! Miguel got off to a rocky start in 2014, so his “current form” numbers are much better than the full season stats. He’s still not pitching at “ace” level by this year’s standards…but it feels that way on this mediocre Orioles staff. You get a real sense of how mediocre the AL East is this year when you see that Baltimore’s a first place team with their unimpressive rotation.

JIM HURLEY will probably have at least one big play in this four-game set. Possibly more. You can always purchase game day BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about baseball or football, call the office during normal business hours this week at 1-800-323-4453.

Back with you tomorrow to preview that high profile LA Dodgers/Detroit Tigers interleague clash. Here’s this week’s NOTEBOOK schedule…

Tuesday: MLB Series Preview…LA Dodgers at Detroit
Wednesday: College Football…Mid-American “East” Preview
Thursday: College Football…Mid-American “West” Preview
Friday: MLB Series Preview…(either St. Louis/Milwaukee, Detroit/KC, or NYY/Baltimore)
Saturday: College Football…Sun Belt Preview
Sunday: College Football…Independents Preview (including Notre Dame)

Some great rivalry matchups this week in the bases. Of course, the biggest rivalry in all of sports is JIM HURLEY vs. THE VEGAS ODDSMAKERS. You know who’s going to win whenever those two forces clash heads…all the clients of JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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