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Orioles-Angels series preview: For many of the Wild Card marbles

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The Orioles are three games out of a wild card spot. This weekend, they get to take a crack at the team in that spot: The Angels.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Los Angeles Angels Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles still have 41 games to play this regular season, but time is starting to grow thin for when a tough series of games can be written off with a "There's still plenty of time left!" attitude. This is particularly true this weekend, when the Orioles are back in Baltimore against the Angels, who currently hold the second wild card spot in the AL.

The O's can't afford to dally any longer. They open up this series with a three game deficit to these same Angels in the standings, with five teams to pass to get there. Another pair of teams, the Rays and Blue Jays, are right there with the Orioles at three games back. There's essentially a three way tie for last place in the AL East.

Lose two out of three in the series and the O's will be four games back. If they get swept, they'll be six back and it will be time to say good night, Gracie. The last time the Orioles were in a similar situation, it was the Royals, and they pulled off a sweep to drag themselves back into the wild card picture. They need something similar this time.

Although the Angels currently hold the second wild card spot, they're as flawed as anyone else in this whole chase. The Angels have the worst team OPS - .702 - in the whole AL, and two of their three starting pitchers who have more than 20 starts also have an ERA over 5.

Doesn't sound like a recipe to compete, especially when you add in two back end relievers with ERAs over 4, including former Oriole Bud Norris, but with a team ERA of 4.13, they're actually fifth-best in the AL in that category. However unlikely, a 12-4 record since the trade deadline has put them back in control, for now. The second half return for Mike Trout surely helped them out.

Game 1 - Friday, 7:05

Starters: Andrew Heaney (first start of season) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (1-2, 4.50 ERA as Oriole)

Guess who hasn't thrown a pitch at the MLB level this season and will be doing so for the first time against the O's tonight? It's Heaney! The 26-year-old had Tommy John surgery early in July of last year and was expected to miss all of this season. A combination of Heaney's rehab plus the Angels rotation needing a hand has brought him back sooner than expected - though still more than 13 months after his surgery.

Heaney is a lefty and he'll be pitching in just his second game since the conclusion of the 2015 season, so it's hard to really guess at what he'll bring to the table here. This could be a case of the curse of the unfamiliar pitcher for the Orioles offense, which would lead to a frustrating night for O's fans. There was always talent in the arm, though. He was a top 50 prospect in the game as recently as before the 2015 season.

When the Orioles traded for Hellickson, the worst thing about the move is what it said about the O's rotation - that it was bad enough that Hellickson might be an upgrade. Here we are after three Hellickson starts and he has a 4.50 ERA. Not exciting, but better than what was happening before. It's a small sample size, of course.

Game 2 - Saturday, 7:05

Starters: J.C. Ramirez (10-10, 4.26 ERA) vs. TBD

The Orioles seem to be doing a little starting rotation juggling after the Thursday off day, probably with the prime goal of giving Dylan Bundy some extra rest. This juggling is intense enough that it apparently includes the possibility that Chris Tillman might make a start on August 22.

That's after this series, but it shows they're serious about mixing things up, which is why the Orioles probable pitchers page has two TBDs for a series that starts tonight. And don't even get me started on any thought that Tillman is fixed after facing eight batters across two bullpen outings since August 4.

Ramirez pitched against the O's in the series out in Anaheim. This was the lone game in that series the O's won, probably because they were able to get to Ramirez for six runs in seven innings. Overall, Ramirez has a 3.72 ERA since the All-Star break, so the O's can't sleep on the Nicaraguan righty despite that recent success, or they will have a bad time.

The Angels starter has been homer-prone this season, giving up 21 homers in 141.2 innings pitched. Let's hope that's a good sign for the O's on an August night in Baltimore.

Game 3 - Sunday, 1:35

Starters: Parker Bridwell (7-1, 2.88 ERA) vs. TBD

As long as Bridwell is having success in Anaheim, you can't help but wonder why in the world the Orioles deemed him worthless early this season. He's pitched in 12 games, which is an admittedly small sample size, but this is a small sample that the Orioles sure could have used this season instead of some of the guys they kept over Bridwell.

Was it a failure of internal scouting? A failure of organizational development? Maybe it was a little bit of a lot of things. But the Orioles designated Bridwell for assignment in order to make room on the 40-man roster for Paul Fry, who got outrighted off the 40-man roster himself in early June. Whether they ought to have known it at the time or not, they chose unwisely.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    0 (The Orioles get swept)
    (30 votes)
  • 19%
    1
    (43 votes)
  • 38%
    2
    (87 votes)
  • 28%
    3
    (64 votes)
224 votes total Vote Now