The Story So Far:
Maybe this season hasn't gone according to plan, but sweeping the Nationals to really put the nail in the coffin of their season is almost enough to redeem it for me. Coming into that series, the Nats were 7-3 in their last 10 and there was talk they might catch the Mets. Not anymore. The Orioles on the other hand are now 3.5 games behind the Astros, with the Twins and Angels ahead of them. Fangraphs has bumped their playoff odds up to 0.9%. With 10 games left to go, let's say they win out to finish 86-76. And let's assume the Astros, Angels, and Twins all play .500 ball the rest of the way, how would things turn out?
- The Astros are 80-73, leaving 9 left to play. If they go 5-4 they'll finish with only 85 wins. Orioles win.
- The Angels and Twins are 78-74, leaving 10 left to play. If they go 5-5, they'll finish with 83 wins. Orioles win.
That's a lot of stars that need to align, but I think there's a path there. And it begins with a sweep of the Red Sox.
Friday: Kevin Gausman vs. Rich Hill
Gausman got a no decision in his last start, a game the Orioles would lose to the Rays. But the start before that he got a win against the Red Sox as he held them to zero runs over six innings. This was the game where he bested Eduardo Rodriguez, which made it a little sweeter. In his career, Gausman is 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA against the Red Sox, which has to give you confidence for this series. He'll need to be careful with David Ortiz though, who's got two home runs against him in only 10 at-bats.
Is it just me or does Rich Hill sound like a show on the CW? Turns out this guy pre-dates that network though as he's been pitching since 2005. He even pitched for the Orioles back in 2009 (I do not remember this). I'm not sure how he ended up on the Red Sox this season, but he's made two starts for them this season and has pitched pretty well. He's beaten the Rays and Blue Jays, and recorded 10 strikeouts against each team. A handful of Orioles have a few at-bats against him, but nothing much. There is enough data in his career though to believe the +.074 OPS right-handers have against him, so look for some more righties in the lineup.
Saturday: Wei-Yin Chen vs. TBD
If the Red Sox dug up Rich Hill to make starts for them, I don't know how I can predict who that TBD will be. But Roch Kubatko is reporting Chen will start for the O's, even though its listed as TBD on mlb.com. Chen has pitched decently lately, most notably going over 100 pitches in three straights starts and only giving up two walks in his last five. He'll need that kind of durability and command against the Red Sox, who seem to foul off more balls than any other team. He's faced the Red Sox three times this season, but those starts were in April and June. Ortiz and Pedroia have good records against him, but I wouldn't worry about anyone else.
Sunday: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. TBD
Hey, more fun with TBDs. Again, going off Roch's tweets, its possible Henry Owens could start, but mlb.com lists it as TBD. It's also still TBD for the Orioles, but I think it would be Jimenez's turn in the rotation. On the hand, Jimenez hasn't pitched great against the Red Sox this season. In three starts he hasn't gotten above five innings pitched, though one of those games was the one he was ejected in the fourth inning...for some reason. On the other hand, the Orioles won the other two starts he had. And overall Jimenez is 3-0 in his last four starts.
- Winning 10 of their next 11 is going to be hard. Doing it without Zach Britton is going to be harder. Darren O'Day did a good job closing in the Nats' series, but I'd feel a lot better if Britton was back. Not sure when that's going to be though. Same goes for Adam Jones. Come back soon, please.
- Manny Machado is 3rd in WAR in the AL, behind Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson. If he can finish the season strong, I don't think being an MVP finalist would be asking too much, especially if the O's end up making the playoffs.
- Steve Pearce has a 1.018 OPS in his last ten games, including four home runs. And all of that has come along with a .222 BAPIP, which is very low - just like its been all season for him. You have to like him to stay hot as the season ends.
- Since the start of 2012, the Orioles are 46-26 against the Red Sox, and those wins are split about evenly at home and on the road. So far this season, the O's are 11-5. Going 14-5 against the Red Sox seems like it would be an incredible feat, but the Orioles are motivated and the Red Sox have nothing to play for.
I hinted at it above, but I'm picking the Orioles to sweep. Why not go for broke? I know the odds are long, but the Red Sox are done and then the Orioles come home for seven games to likely play two teams that will have punched their playoff tickets and not have anything to play for. Let's do this.