Well, Mother's Day was quite the spectacle.
Manny went yard twice. Mark Trumbo, Joey Rickard, and Johnny Schoop did as well. As much as Manny's grand salami was the icing on the cake, the proverbial moment of yesterday's glorious afternoon was Pedro Alvarez's moonshot onto Eutaw Street. Alvarez needed a punctuating stamp as an Oriole, so a walk-off sac fly and a permanent marker in front of the warehouse in a matter of days is a pretty good start.
Having taken two of three from both the Yankees and Athletics, the Orioles head north to Minnesota for a three-game series with the Twins. The poor Twinkies are 8-23, and in only 31 games, appear to be in the midst of a season already lost. An opening series sweep by the hands of the Orioles can help to gauge where the two sides stand, but where the Orioles are growing in confidence, the Twins are not. Though it would be expected for the Orioles to fly out of Minnesota with the very least a series win, I'll be at the first two games. If history proves true, my presence alone will be the Orioles downfall. If that's the case, I'm sorry, but it isn't often I get to see the Orioles play.
Game 1 Probables
RHP Tyler Wilson (1-1, 3.04 ERA) vs. Jose Berrios (1-1, 6.75 ERA)
T-Wizzle, Twilly, or whatever moniker you prefer, Wilson has picked up where he left off in his short time last season. A quiet contributor, Wilson's arsenal includes a natural cut-fastball, an emerging changeup and a curveball, most of which he'll use in any count. Command and confidence of all of his pitches has allowed him to keep the ball in the ballpark, evidenced by a 52.6 GB%. He doesn't rely on strikeouts, instead maneuvering the baseball around the barrel of the bat. It takes a master of some skill to work in such a way, but Wilson understands what he is, who he is, and better yet, knows how to pitch. He tossed three scoreless innings against the Twins on Opening Day, so there is a bit of familiarity there.
Berrios came into the year as MLB.com's 16th overall prospect, and for good reason. He sits 92-94 MPH on his fastball, where he'll mix in a changeup as well as his crown jewel, the curveball.
Berrios had a case of the yips in his first major league start, going 4.0 innings, surrendering five runs on six hits. Berrios settled down in his second start, pitching into the 6th inning while striking out eight. The Astros are built much like the Orioles, where Berrios' swing-and-miss stuff will likely play to his advantage. Though, the O's are always one swing away from rattling anyone's confidence.
Game 2 Probables
RHP Kevin Gausman (0-1, 1.42 ERA) vs. RHP Phil Hughes (1-5, 5.85 ERA)
Not to build up hopes only to have them come shattering down, but in a year where Gausman is expected to blossom into more, he's shown it just might happen. Gausman has tweaked his breaking ball into a useful pitch, while also utilizing his splitter with more frequency. Gausman is still flashing the heat, but by becoming more well-rounded as a pitcher, his fastball becomes that much more effective. It wouldn't be wise to believe his .176 BABIP will uphold throughout the year, but Gausman is striding to a new level and perhaps a start at Target Field is another stepping stone.
Hughes is what he is. His fastball velocity is slowly declining, he throws a lot of curveballs and cutters, and he gets hit very, very hard. All of his tomfoolery doesn't equate to many swings and misses out of the zone (21.6% chase rate), and as such, he won't see many strikeouts. The Orioles managed three runs in Hughes' final inning of work in his first start of the year, and he is coming off of a two-inning disaster in Houston. This matchup bodes well for the Orioles.
Game 3 Probables
TBD vs. Ricky Nolasco (1-1, 4.70 ERA)
It appears the Orioles are going to tab Vance Worley in a spot-start on Wednesday, in order to keep the rotation from straying out of line. Though my opinion on Worley is surely in the minority, his contributions thus far have been about as well as realistic expectations could have expected. Worley throws any pitch in any count, and in the process, he'll spin it, cut it, curve it, moving the baseball in every tangible way. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Maybe it works on Wednesday.
Nolasco is a fastball-slider pitcher that's going to feature the two exclusively, though he will offer a curveball and splitter as well. He throws a lot of strikes, doesn't issue many walks, but that more or less means a lot of contact. For the Orioles, that's good news. No pressure to walk means more fun to swing and the O's are good at that. Nolasco's peripherals don't align with his advanced numbers, meaning he's bound to find results more suited to the way he's pitched. Let's see if he waits another start for that to happen...