Nationals - Orioles Weekend Series Preview

NATS, ORIOLES RENEW LOCAL RIVALRY OVER FINAL WEEKEND BEFORE ALL-STAR BREAK

When we circled this matchup for a likely series preview a couple of weeks ago in our planning...it was looking like a true blockbuster. The Baltimore Orioles had been playing great, along with the rest of the AL East. Of course, Washington is a virtual shoe-in to win the NL East by default on its way to a possible pennant in the senior circuit.

And, it's one of the great Interleague rivalries! What a way to close out the first half of the season!

Somehow...the AL East fell back off a cliff again...with Baltimore, Toronto, and Tampa Bay all going into recent tailspins simultaneously. That kept the standings the same more or less (while the Yankees surged back to the top by playing 50/50 ball), but raised questions about whether there's a Wildcard in this division's future.

It's hard to imagine a better litmus test right now for the Orioles than to host a high quality local rival. If the O's can't perform well this weekend, then it's very hard seeing them as a team that's going to matter down the stretch. Win at least two of three...and they stay in the discussion.

Let's see what JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats have to say about one of this weekend's marquee showdowns...

OFFENSE
Washington: 4.28 runs per game, .320 on-base, .401 slugging
Baltimore: 4.45 runs per game, .311 on-base, .422 slugging

Because of the DH factor, you probably have to give the nod to the Nationals as the slightly superior offense head-to-head. They have the better on-base percentage...and would probably score more runs per-game on average if they got to use a DH as often as Baltimore does. Of course, BOTH teams will be using a DH this weekend because an AL team is the host.

FRIDAY'S PITCHERS
Gio Gonzalez: 4.16 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 7.9 K-Rate, 5.9 IP-per-Start
Chris Tillman: 5.57 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 6.4 K-Rate, 5.3 IP-per-Start

Gonzalez just had two very good outings, and four in his last five. So, those full season stats are worse than his recent form. But, tonight he'll be pitching on the road against a good hitting AL team, which may bring out the worst in him. Tillman is about 50/50 to throw a quality start lately...and things are really bad when he doesn't! Definitely worth thinking about the Over with these offenses and those WHIPS. Looks like an edge to Washington in a potential shootout.

SATURDAY'S PITCHERS
Jordan Zimmerman: 3.04 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 6.5 K-Rate, 6.3 IP-per-Start
Miguel Gonzalez: 3.87 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 6.8 K-Rate, 5.9 IP-per-Start

This will be one of the regional prime time TV games on FOX. In his last three starts, Zimmerman has allowed just one earned run in 22.2 innings. Great stuff. He's also thrown eight gems in his last 10 starts. Gonzalez has the better WHIP which is meaningful considering he's in the A.L. Hey, we almost had Gio vs. Miguel in a Gonzalez battle! Not quite as fun as when the DeLaRosa's paired up for Arizona and Colorado. Given Zimmerman's current form, he probably rates the edge here...so a true litmus test on tap for the O's in this weekend set.

SUNDAY'S PITCHERS
Doug Fister: 4.08 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 4.4 K-Rate, 5.8 IP-per-Start
Wei-Yin Chen: 2.82 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 7.3 K-Rate, 6.4 IP-per-Start

Things looking much better for Baltimore in Sunday's finale. Fister is only 50/50 to throw a quality start, and has put up poor numbers considering he's an NL hurler in another "Year of the Pitcher. The rest of the team is carrying him. Chen is on fire with six quality starts in his last seven outings. And, those are obviously excellent half-season numbers for an AL pitcher. Definitely a spot to consider the O's unless they're in a letdown situation after rising to the occasion in the first two.

JIM HURLEY may have a selection or two in this great series matchup. He's also paying very close attention to Toronto/Kansas City, Detroit/Minnesota, NY Yankees/Boston, Cubs/White Sox, and the Cardinals/Pirates series we previewed for you Thursday in the NOTEBOOK. You can purchase the final word for daily baseball right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service, please call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back to college football this weekend as our summer series of conference previews continues. Please check the archives if you missed the Mountain West and Conference USA. And print them out! We go big with the MAC Saturday and Sunday with a bonus Monday preview of the Sun Belt to wrap up the mid-majors...

Saturday: College Football Preview...Mid American "East"
Sunday: College Football Preview...Mid American "West"
Monday: College Football Preview...Sun Belt
Tuesday: MLB All-Star Break Report Card
Friday July 17: MLB Series Preview...LA Dodgers at Washington Nationals

The All-Star Break is coming up, but we'll still have plenty to talk about on these pages. Keep visiting the NOTEBOOK for great handicapping information. Then, hook up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!

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