Orioles facing old friend and new foe

Miguel Gonzalez is starting tonight against the Orioles in Chicago.

We said it wouldn’t get weird.

Gonzalez hasn’t faced the Orioles. Not before they signed him in 2012 and not after they released him in spring training this year.

The decision wasn’t popular among players, many of them refusing to discuss it publicly. Pitchers that I approached declined comment, saying it was “too soon.”

Gonzalez is 2-5 with a 4.06 ERA in 17 games (16 starts) this season. He recorded quality starts in all six of his July outings, posting a 2.50 ERA and 0.983 WHIP in 39 2/3 innings.

Gonzalez is 2-3 with a 5.24 ERA in six home starts and 0-2 with a 3.39 ERA in 11 road games (10 starts).

Mark Trumbo is 2-for-7 against Gonzalez, Pedro Alvarez is 0-for-3 and Nolan Reimold is 0-for-1 with a walk. No one else has batted against him.

Matt Wieters smile.jpgWho’s got the advantage?

“It’s always a chess game, just like anything,” said catcher Matt Wieters. “I like to make a pitcher think that I have an advantage, just mentally, but I don’t know if I really do or not. It’s something that, for me at least, I have a real idea what he’s going to feature and now it will be up to him whether he wants to do something different or whether he’s going to stick with what he’s done so well since he’s been over there.

“Miggy’s a great pitcher, and the thing about him, which was fun catching him over here, is he has so many pitches he can use. It’s not like he just wants to go to one pitch in certain situations, so I can’t really pigeonhole him too much. It’s still going to be a grind and a tough at-bat.”

(If only I could remember which player once told me that he didn’t want to be pigeon toed in one role ... )

Gonzalez’s velocity is up and he’s incorporating his cutter into his repertoire.

So again, who’s got the advantage?

“I think it kind of equals out,” said manager Buck Showalter.

“Miguel did some good things here and he’s doing them again. I think everybody here likes Miguel and pulls for him every time he pitches, except against us.

“It kind of negates the familiarity. He may have broken out something new. We haven’t gotten that far along yet. We have a pretty good idea of what he’s going to do and if he does it, he’ll be successful.”

The teams split a four-game series in Baltimore on April 28-May 1. The Orioles won the first two games 10-2 and 6-3, with relievers Mychal Givens and Brad Brach earning the decisions. They dropped the next two 8-7 and 7-1, with Zach Britton and Ubaldo Jimenez on the losing ends.

The Orioles lost two of three last season at U.S. Cellular Field, avoiding the sweep with a 9-1 win in the series finale. They haven’t swept the White Sox in a three-game series in Chicago since 1989, with Dave Schmidt, Bob Milacki and Jay Tibbs credited with the wins.

Why not?

Yovani Gallardo is coming off a disappointing start in Toronto, when he allowed five runs and five hits, walked five batters and struck out five in 4 1/3 innings. He’s averaging 5.2 walks per nine innings this season, his second-biggest challenge after recovering from a shoulder injury.

Gallardo has started twice against the White Sox and allowed an unearned run in 11 innings. He tossed five scoreless innings in his only appearance in Chicago.

It’s a small sample size, but perhaps it played a small part in Showalter’s decision to push back Gallardo to tonight.

The current White Sox are batting .316 (25-for-79) against Gallardo. Todd Frazier is 11-for-32 with a home run, Justin Morneau is 6-for-11 with two doubles and Melky Cabrera is 3-for-5.

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