The Story So Far:
If you missed the Yankees series and are looking at the results, your eyes aren't deceiving you. The Orioles won a series. What's more, they won one against an above .500 team - on the road. I honestly didn't think it would happen again this year. It hasn't happened since they took two of three from the Blue Jays in mid-June. I think we've all gotten over the fact the Orioles are not playoff bound this year, so seeing them find some success - against the Yankees no less - feels pretty good. Maybe they can continue that this weekend.
The Royals are still the Royals - dominating the American League. I'll say this though - something seems a little off to me. I don't know, just a hunch but I wouldn't bet on this team to do much in the playoffs.
Friday: Mike Wright vs. Danny Duffy
Wright was hardly great or even good in his first start back with the Orioles in Toronto, but it wasn't exactly terrible either. I know I've seen other pitchers who get regular starts with the Orioles do a lot worse. Anyway, with Gonzalez still on the DL, Wright will get another shot against the Royals to try and make his case for a rotation or (more likely) bullpen spot on the 2016 squad. That's where we are with only a few weeks to go in this season - tryouts.
Duffy wasn't exactly great in his last start against the Orioles, but he still got the win because sometimes it seems the Orioles can't score any runs, getting only two that day in Kansas City. Overall, his season hasn't been that impressive and is a very average pitcher (ERA+ of 100).
Saturday: Johnny Cueto vs. Chris Tillman
Tillman has lost four straight starts, so whatever was working for him in the middle of the season obviously isn't anymore. One of those losses was against Kansas City, when he gave up four runs over six innings. All of this means very little now...the Orioles aren't making the playoffs and there's no chance Tillman isn't in the rotation next year. If anything, this season may help the Orioles at the negotiating table when they try to sign him to an extension.
It's a good thing the Royals are doing so well this season, otherwise someone might be getting fired for trading for Cueto. Since coming to Kansas City, his ERA has jumped from 2.62 to 3.24 and he's got a 2-5 record. I was very surprised at the time when the Orioles were able get six runs off him in Kansas City to win one of those games...it turns out that was part of a larger bad stretch by Cueto, but still. Not sure what's hurting him, I just hope it continues.
Sunday: Wei-Yin Chen vs. Yordano Ventura
Technically the Orioles haven't announced a starter for Sunday yet, but it's Chen turn in the rotation and I don't see any reason they'd skip him. As a team the Royals OPS vs. LHP is .717 as opposed to .744 for RHP, so Chen seems like a good bet. It was Chen who went up against Cueto in that game the Orioles won in KC. That was also the last time he won a game, and he needed those runs the O's gave him in support - he gave up three runs in 6.2 innings. Sure would be nice to see something better this time around.
Ventura has really taken a step back this year. I still wouldn't mind having him on the Orioles, but he's hardly been the "Ace" this season. Of course, even a slumping year didn't stop the Orioles from failing to score any runs off him. What's puzzling is how much he's struggled with LHBs this season, but none of the Orioles power lefties have any kind of success against him. Strangely, J.J Hardy has the best record against him (4 for 8 with two walks).
- When the Royals swept the Orioles in the ALCS last year, a lot of talk was on the Royals bullpen? How have they been this year? Pretty much the same as it turns out. Their bullpen leads the majors in ERA, are second in wins, and second in BA against.
- Another strength of the Royals is their outfield. Per Baseball Reference, they lead the AL (by a lot) in Wins Above Average for the outfield. Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain are both above average hitters and fielders are so good in fact they're more than making up for Alex Rios' below average season.
- You don't get to 83-55 by being bad at very much, but the Royals are definitely worse on the road (.547 WP) while the Orioles are a lot better at home (.585 WP). Just looking for things to give you hope, Birdland.
- The last time the Orioles were at home on the weekend was against the Twins, which was right when this season was starting to fall apart but it wasn't quite obvious yet. The attendance for those games was in the mid-30Ks. I'm very curious to see where attendance is for this series. Does three straight winning seasons get you some credit in an off year?
I'm not going to predict a sweep by the Royals, but giving them two of three sounds about right. They've been struggling a little bit lately and the Orioles seem to have rebounded slightly from that low point about a week ago. But still, the Royals are just a better team this year and the Orioles are still struggling. There's always next year.