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Open Thread - Game 22: Oakland Athletics at Baltimore Orioles

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No matter what happens today, the Athletics cannot drop below .500. That is pretty sweet.

After winning the opening game with authority, Oakland (11-10) will send Tyson Ross to the mound to face the Baltimore Orioles (12-8) and Taiwanese lefty Wei-Yin Chen. I don't know anything about Chen, because he has only pitched in 3 Major League games; previously, he pitched in Japan's NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball). Here is what I've learned about him in a very short amount of time, thanks to the Internet:

According to a write-up that I found on a site called Orioles Nation, the 26-year old Chen is a soft-tossing location specialist with a 4-pitch arsenal: a fastball that tops out at 90 MPH with late movement, a changeup, a curve, and a forkball. The site projects him as a 4th or 5th starter in a Major League rotation, so he should shut out our lineup for a good 7 innings or so (just kidding (hopefully)). According to his NPB stats on Rotowire, he showed the ability to keep the hits down while maintaining a solid strikeout rate and a K:BB ratio north of 3.0 in all four of his seasons. I have no idea how this will ultimately translate to the Majors, but Japan's league is generally considered to be roughly equivalent to AAA. According to Wikipedia, his 1.54 ERA in 2009 was good enough to win the Central Division ERA title. This sounds more impressive until you consider that there are only 6 teams in the Central Division, but then becomes impressive again with the fact that it was the lowest ERA by any NPB pitcher since 1968.

This season, he has made three solid starts, against two good teams (Yankees and White Sox) and the Angels. He's thrown 17.1 innings with a 2.60 ERA, a 15:6 K:BB ratio and only one homer allowed (to Derek Jeter). He's been on a short leash so far, as the Orioles have him on an innings limit for the season. Based on this, I doubt that Chen will work very deep into this game; 100 pitches is probably the most he will throw.

A couple of Oakland's slumping bats came alive yesterday, as Josh Reddick and Eric the Elf homered and Kurt Suzuki lined an RBI double. Coco Crisp also contributed offensively, walking (!) and stealing 2nd ahead of Reddick's RBI single. Today, Jonny Gomes and Luke Hughes get the call against the left-hander, which is to be expected. I'm picking Weeks to break out against the unfamiliar southpaw (eastpaw?), based on absolutely nothing. Here we go!

Lineups (Wieters is sitting today for Baltimore, which helps us):