August 4, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis (21) slides safe into second as Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Ben Zobrist (18) attempted to jump and tag him out in the fourth inning at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

A Look Ahead: Orioles at Rays Series Preview

A Look Ahead

Orioles vs. Rays Preview

As it stacks up right now the Rays are on the outside looking in with a slim chance at the playoffs. Nothing short of another September miracle via a sweep of the postseason starved Orioles. This series is going to be all over the place in my opinion. I expect to see at least one extra innings game in this series. Both teams have played well as of late and it could come down to the final game of the season pending a little luck and a few key losses from both the Angels & A’s. Baltimore has the more dominant offense at this point yet are relying on inexperienced pitching to carry them through the clutch. Tampa on the other hand has come through in the clutch with timely hitting and dominant pitching performances while winning 11 out of their last 12. This should be an incredible series to watch to determine the outcome of the standings.  The major advantage for the Rays is home field to field to finish the season.

Game 1 Chen vs. Cobb

12-10, 4.11 ERA…..10-9, 4.18 ERA

This game is so evenly matched it could come down to the performance of the bullpens. Both pitchers will be on short leashes. Both have had solid rookie campaigns. Both have similar K/9, 7.3 for Chen to 6.9 for Cobb. I honestly don’t expect to see either pitcher make it past the 5th inning, at best. If there is one game I see going to extra frames it will be this one. Joe Maddon will have to get creative for the Rays to score runs here.

Prediction: Orioles in extra innings

Game 2 Gonzalez vs. Shields

8-4, 3.45 ERA…..15-9, 3.62 ERA

This is the game the Rays should be able to dominate. Shields will put the team on his back for this one as his future in a Rays uniform is uncertain. He has been a workhorse for the Rays before and will likely come through in the clutch again. Shields at worst should give the Rays the quality start they need to stay alive. I expect this one to be a grind it out type of game for the lackluster Rays offense. Gonzalez is inexperienced in clutch playoff type situations and I expect him to get knocked around a little bit early and the Orioles bullpen will have to hold the Rays down if at all possible.

Prediction: Rays

Game 3 Tillman vs. Hellickson

9-2, 2.78 ERA…..9-11, 3.20 ERA

This may be what it comes down to. The cowbells will be in force at the Trop for game 3. The series finale and last game of the season. If the Rays will be looking to rock Tillman early in this one but it will be tough as he is coming off a dominant one hit performance against Red Sox. Hellickson on the other hand looked poised in his last start as well giving up 3 runs, 2 earned, on 9 hits over 5.2 innings. But I’d be willing to bet Maddon will have him on a short leash with the bullpen ready to roll on a moments notice.

Prediction: Rays

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Tags: Alex Cobb James Shields Jeremy Hellickson Tampa Bay Rays

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