It is less than two weeks into the season and the Orioles will already be seeing an opponent for the second time. Baltimore and Toronto opened the campaign against one another at Camden Yards last week. Now, the O’s head to Rogers Centre to face-off with the Blue Jays in a four-game series for Baltimore’s fourth division match-up of the year.
Since being swept in a quick two-game set in the Charm City, the Blue Jays have continued to struggle. They find themselves with a pretty shocking 1-7 record at the bottom of the AL East, three games back of fourth place.
The reason for their problems is pretty simple: their offense has been terrible. The team’s .190 batting average is the worst in MLB, as is their .276 slugging percentage. And they are second-worst with a .272 on-base percentage. Because of this, they have scored a league low 23 runs. That’s an average of only 2.875 runs per game.
Just about every hitter on the team is having a tough go of it except for Josh Donaldson, who is slashing .308/.438/.577 with two home runs. Kendrys Morales has pitched in with a .250/.314/.406 line. Jose Bautista has six walks already, but is hitting only .138 and has a single RBI. Troy Tulowitzki and Steve Pearce aren’t much better at .172 and .182, respectively.
Toronto’s hurlers have been solid, but unspectacular. Their 4.23 ERA is 16th in the majors and their .253 batting average against is 21st. Marcus Stroman threw a complete game on Wednesday against the Brewers, but lost. That’s just how things are going in Toronto right now.
Game 1 - Thursday, April 13 at 7:07 p.m
Kevin Gausman (0-0, 5.40 ERA) vs, Francisco Liriano (0-0, 135.00 ERA)
It’s fair to say that Gausman has been a mild disappointment through his first two starts of 2017. So far, he is without a decision and has lasted just 10 total innings while striking out eight, walking seven and allowing 13 hits. Meh. The “stuff” has looked good; the splitter has late movement and he is throwing in the upper-90s with his fastball late in games. It’s his command of the strike zone that is killing him at the moment, but the O’s have won both games he started, and that’s worth something.
The current Toronto roster has feasted on Gaus Boss to the tune of a .299/.384/.477 career slash line. Russell Martin (4-for-10), Donaldson (6-for-18) and Pillar (5-for-14) especially stand out, but Bautista has actually struggled immensely against him. The right fielder has just one hit in 15 at-bats, but that hit was a home run.
On the flip side, Liriano throws with his left hand, so the Orioles are already in trouble. But the numbers don’t seem that bad. Adam Jones is 8-for-21, Welington Castillo has gone 6-for-19 and Chris Davis is a modest 3-for-6 against the southpaw. Mark Trumbo, however, is only 4-for-21.
Game 2 - Friday, April 14 at 7:07 p.m.
Wade Miley (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Aaron Sanchez (0-0, 1.29 ERA)
That start by Miley on Sunday was weird, right? He had a no-hitter going for most of the afternoon, but lasted only five innings because he walked seven batters and yet the Yankees failed to score any runs. Safe bet: if he walks seven batters against the Blue Jays, they will score more than zero runs no matter how bad their bats have been.
This could be the game for a breakout of offense for Pearce (5-for-12 against Miley), Tulowitzki (9-for-22) and Morales (6-for-13).
Sanchez picked up in 2017 right where he left off 2016. His first start of the year was a gem as he allowed one run over seven innings against the Rays on Saturday. Man, he seems like a pain to hit against.
Jonathan Schoop and Davis are the two with the best number against Sanchez. Schoop has seven hits, all singles, in 18 at-bats and Davis is 6-for-16 with three dongs and nine walks. For whatever reason, Crush sees the ball well out of Sanchez’s hand.
Game 3 - Saturday, April 15 at 1:07 p.m. (Jackie Robinson Day)
TBD vs Marco Estrada (0-1, 5.73 ERA)
This is it. Decision day. No starter has been announced yet because this will be the first time all season that the Orioles call on their fifth starter, which is nowhere to be found on their roster.
This is a bad scenario, but the options seem to be slimming down to either Jayson Aquino or Alec Asher, both with the Triple-A Norfolk Tides at the moment. With either one, the hope will undoubtedly be that they fight through four or five innings and then give the ball to the bullpen with a hope of winning.
Aquino, a lefty, has been in the organization longer and was with the team throughout Spring Training. Asher, a righty, has more big league experience and was sharper in his first regular season outing.
Estrada was Toronto’s Opening Day starter and did OK against the O’s his first time out, allowing two runs on five hits, four strikeouts and two walks in six innings. But he had a tough go against Tampa last week by allowing five runs in as many innings.
The O’s collective roster has a batting average of .198 against Estrada. One to watch would be Castillo. This is a day game after a night game and would normally be a day off for the backstop, but he is one of the only Birds with good numbers against the righty; 8-for-26 with four home runs. While Caleb Joseph is 0-for-2. Perhaps this gets Joseph into Friday’s game, giving Castillo a start on both Saturday and Sunday ahead of an off day Monday in Cincinnati.
Game 4 - Sunday, April 16 at 1:07 p.m.
TBD vs. J.A. Happ (0-2, 5.40 ERA)
It’s Dylan Bundy’s turn in the rotation, and there doesn’t seem to be any specific reason why he wouldn’t start, but the Orioles website currently has it as “TBD”.
Anyway, Bundy (1-1, 2.70 ERA) has been the best pitcher on the team to start the season. His April 5th start against Toronto was especially great as he threw seven innings and only allowed one run and struck out eight while using that awesome slider/cutter of his. I like to think that his performance that day demoralized the Blue Jays so much and is the sole reason they have been terrible through the season’s first two weeks.
The numbers for Blue Jay hitters against Bundy are limited and are mostly made up of last week’s start, but it’s still fun to say that, as a team, Toronto has a slash line of .118/.167/.118 against the Orioles right-hander overall.
Happ, on the other hand, has a track record of success against Oriole hitters. The 34-year-old was unlucky to face-off with Bundy earlier this season as well, because he also had a nice outing, allowing three runs over seven innings. Home runs from Jones and Davis doomed him. Manny Machado is the only Oriole with real consistently good results facing Happ; 7-for-24 with a double, triple, two home runs and three RBI.
This is a good time to catch the Blue Jays. They are clearly struggling out of the gate, but this is a talented Toronto team that will eventually get it’s act together. Let’s just hope it’s not in the next four days.
It’s the first weekend series at Rogers Centre of the season and the Orioles and Blue Jays seem to have somewhat of a budding rivalry. Things should be loud and feisty. But as long as all beverages stay in the stands, there won’t be any problems.
How many games will the Orioles win in this series?
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