Tampa Bay right-hander James Shields, who will start Tuesday night’s pivotal game against the Orioles, is wrapping up a very successful 2012 season that – so far – has featured a 15-9 and a solid 3.62 ERA. That’s almost proportionately consistent with his career numbers in 23 career starts against the Orioles.
He’s a very good pitcher, but the Orioles have proven this season that he is far from unbeatable. In his two previous 2012 starts against them, he has not been particularly impressive, giving up six runs (four earned) over 6 1/3 innings at Camden Yards on May 13 and allowing five earned runs over six innings in another Oriole Park start on July 26. He was 1-1 in those two games with an unimpressive combined ERA of 6.57.
Shields has pitched slightly better at home (3.42 ERA) than on the road (3.83 ERA) and has been a much better pitcher in the second half (2.97 ERA) than the first (4.17 ERA), which is just enough information to cast doubt on whether his earlier performances against the Orioles this year are even relevant at this point.
The Orioles can only hope that they don’t get the 2011 James Shields who gave up just three earned runs over 14 2/3 innings, or the 2009 Shields who gave up four earned runs over 20 2/3 innings. But he built his solid numbers largely against an Orioles team that was a chronic loser until this season, and he has struggled against the new and improved version of the club.
There’s your glass half full, sports fans.
If you want a similar rundown on Jon Lester, who will carry the Orioles chances of reclaiming a share of the AL East lead to the mound on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, you probably won’t be encouraged. Lester has a 9-4 career record against the Yanks, which is good, but a 4.27 ERA, which isn’t quite as good. This season, he has made four previous starts against the Yankees and has a 1-1 record and 4.56 ERA.
He’ll need to be much better than that with the lineup that the Red Sox will send up to face Yankees starter David Phelps (4-4, 3.34).
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