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Orioles-Athletics series preview: Get hot or go home

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With the clock ticking down on the end of the season, stagnation means failure. If the O’s want an AL Wild Card spot, it’s well past time to start playing like it.

Baltimore Orioles v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

After losing yet another series to the hot Angels, the Orioles will welcome the Oakland Athletics to Oriole Park at Camden Yards for a three game series starting this evening. Without raising false alarms, it really, seriously is time for the O’s to rip off a huge win streak or curl up into a ball and look toward 2018.

The narrative that these Birds are on the fringes of being in contention for a Wild Card spot is growing old. Sure, it’s nice that they’re not miserably terrible, but at the same time the clock is ticking down on the season. With 38 games to go, bobbing up and down around .500 through the end of September simply won’t get things done.

As it stands, the Orioles are 60-64 and 4.0 games behind the virtual tie for the second AL Wild Card Spot. Besides being tied with Tampa Bay, that’s five teams the O’s will have to leap-frog in order to find themselves playing past the 162 games of the regular season.

In order to go .500 on the season (and likely miss the playoffs), the Orioles need to finish 21-17. The current teams tied for the second spot are four games above .500. The Orioles will need to finish 23-15 to hit that mark.

The latter would be a .605 clip over roughly six weeks. Not only is that an incredibly tall order, it would also only land the O’s in the postseason if the Twins and Angels both play below .500 to finish the season AND the Royals, Mariners, Rangers, and Rays all don’t outpace the O’s in that time.

Does that seem likely to you? Are you sort of starting to see the growing urgency? What will it take to actually land in the AL Wild Card game? It’s impossible to say for sure, but “better, and fast” would surely be a good place to start.

The Orioles split four games in Oakland August 10-13. This time it’s three in Baltimore, but coincidentally, the three pitching match-ups in this series are exactly the same as the first three match-ups from the last time these teams met.

Let’s take a look:

Monday, August 21 @ 7:05pm ET

Chris Smith (0-2, 5.26 ERA) vs. Wade Miley (6-10, 5.21 ERA)

The nice thing about playing a team that is 16 games below .500, at 54-70, is that sometimes the pitching match-ups don’t actually look hilarious.

Chris Smith appears to be making his seventh start of 2017, and he’s yet to earn a pitcher win. The Orioles lit him up in Oakland to the tune of 5ER over 6.0IP by blasting four HR (Jones, Mancini, Mancini, Trumbo).

Wade Miley is really weird. If you haven’t been paying attention to his 2017 season, you might thing he’s actually an okay pitcher. He’s not, but somehow he walks the world and it usually works out.

Doesn’t it? Well, kind of. Miley hasn’t given up more than 3ER in a start since July 25, and gave up 0ER over 7.0IP August 10 in Oakland. Sure, that’s a bit of cherry-picking, but sometimes Wade is outright successful. The other side of that coin is that sometimes he is outright terrible.

Tuesday, August 22 @ 7:05pm ET

Paul Blackburn (3-1, 3.46 ERA) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (5-8, 6.47 ERA)

The couple-weeks-ago version of this matchup ended with Ubaldo giving up 3ER over 5.1IP, but the bullpen coughing the game up, with Brach being tagged with both the blown save and the pitcher loss.

On the other side, Blackburn gave up 4ER over 5.2IP, but his bullpen amazingly didn’t allow a single baserunner over 3.1IP at the tail-end of the game. That sounds like something that would be nice to experience. Didn’t Baltimore once have a shut-down bullpen? I hope those days aren’t gone.

Ubaldo’s second-half resurgence has been a pretty wide-spread story as of late. Big U got tagged for 6ER over 4.1IP in Seattle his last start. Before that, he hadn’t given up more than 3ER in a start since July 21. Is Jimenez turning back into a pumpkin, or was the Seattle game just a blip on the radar of a great second half?

Stay tuned as this forced narrative plays out further.

Wednesday, August 23 @ 3:05pm ET

Sean Manea (8-8, 4.58 ERA) vs. Dylan Bundy (12-8, 4.17 ERA)

Does this pitching matchup actually appear to favor the Orioles? That can’t be right...

Dylan Bundy has put up what has amounted to an impressive sophomore campaign, on balance. The problem is that he’s pretty obviously running out of fuel, and the Orioles know it. Having his last start skipped in favor of a Chris Tillman forfeit, it will have been 11 days since Bundy has taken the hill by the time this afternoon game rolls around.

That being the case, Dylan’s last start was actually the one in Oakland against Manea in which he earned the win on the back of six innings of three-run ball. In that game, the O’s smacked Manea to the tune of six earned runs in 0.1IP. That was the game the Birds scored seven in the first inning and didn’t look back.

There’s nothing like a nice, little repeat. Eh? Eh? It could happen, but it probably won’t. Manea recovered in his last start, posting a quality start at Houston (but Houston is so good that Manea got tagged with a pitcher loss as reward for his efforts).

Tell everybody about your poll answer in the comments section. Do you have an angle not explored in this series preview? Do you have an inside perspective that might help shed some light onto the Orioles prospects for this series? Do you just like to speculate wildly? Go for it!

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    zero
    (7 votes)
  • 24%
    one
    (33 votes)
  • 37%
    two
    (50 votes)
  • 32%
    three
    (43 votes)
133 votes total Vote Now