Gonzalez hopes to lead O’s to series split with tough Rangers team

July 11, 2013 | Max Buchdahl

After a morale-raising 6-1 win in last night’s game, the Orioles have put themselves in position to split the four-game series with the Rangers. Taking two of four against a team like the Rangers, one of the toughest in the American League, is no easy feat. Along with having the third-best record in the AL, the Rangers are notorious for beating up on the Orioles. Since Buck Showalter took over the Orioles in July 2010, the Orioles have beaten the Rangers just six times in twenty matchups (not including postseason).

The Rangers will try to keep that number at six and take the series; they can do so with a win tonight. The original starter for tonight’s game was the fearsome Yu Darvish, who sports an 8-4 record and is the AL leader in strikeouts. Darvish, though, was put on the DL yesterday with back problems. The Orioles are lucky to avoid one of the toughest pitchers they’d have to face all year.

Instead of Darvish, the Rangers will send out RHP Ross Wolf, whom the Orioles saw briefly during Monday night’s game. Wolf appeared to face Ryan Flaherty, whom he got to ground out on just one pitch. Word is that the Orioles will try to work some deeper counts on him in tonight’s game.

Wolf has been primarily a reliever in his short career, appearing as a starter just once. That one time was back on May 22 of this year against the Oakland Athletics. He went five innings, giving up a run on three hits with two walks and three strikeouts. He threw just 71 pitches in that outing, so there are certainly some questions about his longevity over the course of a game. He did, however, throw 82 pitches in 6.2 innings of relief work earlier in the year. Most likely, the Rangers won’t let him throw many more than the 82 pitches. In that case, if the O’s can work some counts, Wolf won’t last long and the Rangers will have to go to their bullpen early.

Opposing right-handed hitters have a .315 average against Wolf in his career, and have hit 3 of the 5 home runs he has given up. In Wolf’s lone career start, he retired the A’s first nine hitters in his first time through the order before struggling in the second time through. We’ll see if that trend continues tonight.

Also, Wolf gets increasingly effective as he moves through a game, until he reaches upwards of eighty pitches. All 5 of the home runs that Wolf has given up have been in his first twenty-five pitches of an appearance. After twenty-five pitches, opponent batting average dips about 150 points by the time Wolf reaches his 51st pitch. In three batters he’s faced after throwing pitch number 76, he’s given up a run on two hits. I’d be shocked to see Wolf throw over 85 pitches tonight.

For the Orioles, Miguel Gonzalez will be taking the hill after a getting the disappointing no-decision in last Friday’s loss to the Yankees. Gonzalez is slowly establishing himself as the Orioles most reliable starter, going 4-1 with a 2.69 since the beginning of June.

He has faced the Rangers once before, last year in Texas on August 20. In that start, Gonzalez gave up four runs on eight hits in five innings of work. David Murphy, Nelson Cruz, and Ian Kinsler got the big hits off Gonzo that night, so he will look to work carefully to them in this game. That being said, Miguel Gonzalez has grown a lot and has much more experience than he did that night last August. He’ll have read his scouting reports and will be just fine tonight.

Many of the worries Orioles fans had before last night’s win have been alleviated. The offense finally woke up and will look to continue that momentum into tonight’s game against an unproven starter. With one series left this year against the Rangers, a win tonight could help the birds gain an edge of their AL West foe. Also, the O’s would love to have strung two wins together with the division rival Blue Jays coming to town this upcoming weekend.