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Orioles-Rangers series preview: The battle to pretend who still has a playoff chance

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It’s likely the case that neither the Orioles nor the Rangers have any playoff chances. One of these teams seems to know it already. The other may realize it this series.

Texas Rangers v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

If this series between the Orioles and Rangers were happening two weeks from now, it really wouldn't have a whole lot of consequence. There aren't very many important meetings between a team that's three games below .500 and another team that's five games below .500. However, with this being the last series before the trade deadline arrives, it could end up nudging either team along in either direction.

The Rangers are actually 1.5 games better in the standings than the Orioles and yet they seem more committed to being sellers. Maybe that's because they have a starting pitcher, Yu Darvish, who other teams might actually want. It probably doesn't hurt that for them, the Astros sealed the division fate a while ago. Perhaps, also, they just don't have all of the complications that cloud the picture for the Orioles.

Of course, it was the O's sweeping these same Rangers for four games in Baltimore not even two weeks ago that both helped to send Texas into a selling direction and also sparked an idea, possibly quite foolish, that the Orioles weren't done with playing a part in the postseason chase themselves.

If they pull off an improbable road sweep, maybe they will still cling to some hope. Otherwise, well, the choice that GM Dan Duquette faces before July 31 should be rather obvious.

As the Rangers are located in the Central time zone, keep in mind that game times for this series will not be at the standard civilized times to which we are all accustomed.

Game 1 - Friday, 8:05

Starters: Chris Tillman (1-5, 7.01 ERA) vs. Andrew Cashner (5-8, 3.64 ERA)

If you want to talk about a guy who seems to be having a charmed season, here is Cashner. There were many people who wanted the Orioles to sign him this past offseason. They might have been right. But while Cashner has an envious ERA, he's getting there in an unexpected way, as he's pitched 94 innings and struck out just 47 batters while walking 41.

There aren't many pitchers who are able to have any kind of starting rotation success with a ratio like that. It's a little crazy to even think about it. Cashner has been helped by a ground ball rate of 50.5%, his highest since 2013. He also, improbably, is giving up home runs on only about 8% of his fly balls, which is a surprisingly low number for a guy who pitches in Texas.

A guy who is NOT having a charmed season is Tillman. You know he's been bad. I know he's been bad. I'm tired of writing words about him.

Game 2 - Saturday, 8:05

Starters: Kevin Gausman (7-7, 5.79 ERA) vs. Austin Bibens-Dirkx (3-0, 4.53 ERA)

Bibens-Dirkx is one of the cooler stories in MLB this season, because he is 32 years old and just made his MLB debut this season. It's always nice when a grinder gets a little reward. Last year, he was pitching in an independent league. Now, he's in a big league uniform. Pretty cool for him.

He has been used as part long reliever and part starting pitcher. That included an appearance in the recent series in Baltimore where he was summoned into a lopsided game and gave up two runs in 2.1 innings to make it more of a lopsided game. The righty has a 7.43 ERA at home, but that's only in 13.1 innings, so it might not tell us much.

Nearly every matchup is a bad matchup for the Orioles when the starting rotation is pitching like it does. What makes this a poor one for Gausman is that he has a 6.90 road ERA, and also he's tremendously homer-prone and will be going up against a Rangers team that is second in the American League in home runs. Hitting home runs may be the only thing the Rangers offense is good at doing, but they are very good at doing that.

Game 3 - Sunday, 3:05

Starters: Wade Miley (4-9, 5.69 ERA) vs. Martin Perez (5-8, 4.67 ERA)

Do you think somebody is going to get traded by the time this game happens? There will still be about a full day to go until the deadline after it begins.

One guy who probably won't get traded is Miley, since he has been the worst starting pitcher in MLB at actually keeping men off base. It's true, Miley leads all comers in WHIP. There is no one worse, and the only close second is his rotationmate Gausman. Ouch. Miley also gives up a lot of home runs, so that is once again a bad combination.

Perez is the lone lefty starter the Orioles will see in this series. Facing a lefty is a less dreadful prospect than it was last season. This year's O's aren't great against lefties, but with a .253/.307/.417 split against southpaws, they rank 8th in the American League, which is at least respectable.

There is a lot of contact against Perez. He doesn't get many strikeouts. This season, balls in play have fallen in for a .344 batting average, maybe because of bad luck, maybe because his ground ball rate has fallen from its usual 50+% to only 45%. Maybe the Orioles batters can take advantage of that, and maybe Miley will pitch decently enough for it to actually matter.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    0 (The Orioles get swept)
    (25 votes)
  • 44%
    1
    (64 votes)
  • 25%
    2
    (37 votes)
  • 12%
    3 (The Orioles pull off a sweep)
    (18 votes)
144 votes total Vote Now