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Orioles vs. Blue Jays series preview: The battle for AL East futility

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The fourth- and fifth-place clubs in the AL East meet north of the border to determine who is the worst baseball team in the division.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles and Blue Jays are two teams that both expected to be a lot better this season than they actually are. Baltimore has felt like a team in crisis, especially when it comes to starting pitching, but did just take two of three from the Rays. Toronto, to be fair, has righted the ship after a disastrous opening month, but they just can’t quite get to the .500 mark. Prepare yourself for three games of mediocrity.

There is no secret as to why the Blues Jays are a slightly below average ball club. Their 36-39 overall record is a direct reflection of their 4.33 team ERA (16th in MLB), .248 batting average (21st), .317 on base percentage (21st) and .418 slugging percentage (20th).

Justin Smoak, unexpectedly, has been the anchor of the Toronto offense. He leads the team in batting average (.304), home runs (20) and RBI (48). Of course, Josh Donaldson and his .280/.379/.536 batting line is impressive in its own right. But the rest of the hitters have been a disappointment. Troy Tulowitzski has almost as many DL stints (two) as he does home runs (three). And Jose Bautista is starting to look every bit like a 36-year-old professional athlete, declining.

On the pitching side, Jason Grilli still has a job somehow. And Roberto Osuna is having a very nice season in the ‘pen (19-for-22 in saves, 2.40 ERA, 40 strikeouts in 30 innings), but he just recently admitting to have some mental heath issues. He was quoted as saying he feels “anxious” and “lost” but remains available to pitch.

While it feels like the first few months of the season have been downright dreadful for both teams, they remain just a handful of games away from first place in the division. With a month remaining until the trade deadline, there is plenty of time to find out who is a contender and who is a pretender.

Tuesday, June 27, 7:07 p.m., MASN 2
Kevin Gausman (3-7, 6.47 ERA) vs. Joe Biagini (2-6, 4.45 ERA)

On a better team, Gausman would be in the bullpen by now. He has won one start dating back to May 8. Last time out, he went 5.2 innings and allowed just three runs on six hits, two walks and nine strikeouts. That is not really good or bad, but for the struggling righty it was a monumental achievement. Unless he completely implodes, Gausman has no chance of being dropped from the rotation, but even then, Buck Showalter would probably be forced to trot him out every fifth day anyway.

Biagini is a starter now. This will be his 10th big league start and his first against the O’s. So far, it has been a mixed bag. In early June, he had back-to-back impressive outings, lasting 14 total innings and allowing four runs on nine hits, three walks and 11 strikeouts. But he followed that with a one-inning disaster and then a 5.2 inning, four-run outing. What I’m trying to say is if he was on the Orioles he would be the ace of the staff.

Wednesday, June 28, 7:07 p.m., MASN 2
Wade Miley (3-5, 4.48 ERA) vs. Marcus Stroman (7-4, 3.69 ERA)

The Orioles southpaw has not lasted more than 5.2 innings since June 1. He continues to walk too many people (4.95 per nine innings) and has suffered from some bad BABIP luck (.324). But he has had some success against this Blue Jays team already this season. Over two starts, he has thrown 13 innings, allowing three earn runs, walking one and striking out 11.

Brave Little Toaster incarnate, Stroman, is having a solid season. His 122 ERA+ and 3.58 xFIP are nice numbers. But he is a little more homer happy this season: allowing 1.26 per nine innings when compared to 0.93 last year. Yet he is stranding nearly 80 percent of base runners. Seomthing’s gotta give, right? Or not. Things can stay the same too.

Thursday, June 29, 7:07 p.m., MASN 2
Ubaldo Jimenez (2-3, 7.26 ERA) vs. TBD

The performance of Jimenez on Friday against the Rays is exhibit A on how terrible the Orioles rotation has been in 2017. It’s not because he struggled and had a bad day. That happens to everyone. But this is a pattern for the veteran and he now boasts a 7+ ERA. And yet, Showalter is forced to give him another chance. As bad as Jimenez has been, the organization isn’t sure they have anyone better right now in Norfolk or Bowie. That is bonkers.

This should be J.A Happ’s (2-4, 3.83 ERA) turn in the rotation, but the off day on Monday may allow the Blue Jays to push him back a day, if desired, and turn to Marco Estrada (4-6, 4.89 ERA) on normal rest. Why would they do that? Because John Gibbons wants to be nice to the Orioles?

Poll

How many games will the Orioles win in this series against the Blue Jays?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    3
    (40 votes)
  • 39%
    2
    (103 votes)
  • 34%
    1
    (89 votes)
  • 10%
    0
    (27 votes)
259 votes total Vote Now