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Orioles-Blue Jays series preview: Turning the calendar to September

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The piping-hot Orioles welcome in their rivals from North of the border tonight to kick-off a four game set.

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays
The O-Train is plowing-down everything in its path right now.
Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The Orioles just won their seventh (!!!!!!!) straight game yesterday, securing a series sweep over the Seattle Mariners at home on the heels of a series sweep of the Boston Red Sox in Boston. Right now it seems like nothing can stop this team from rolling.

The Toronto Blue Jays are coming to Camden Yards from Fenway Park, after being swept at the hands of the Sawx. The Jays are 2-8 in their last 10 games (losing four in a row), and the Orioles are 8-2 in theirs.

That lands Baltimore at 68-65 coming into the series, and Toronto at an AL East worst 61-72. At least for now, these two teams are trending in opposite directions.

With 29 games left in the Orioles regular season, the Birds suddenly find themselves 2.5 games out of the first AL Wild Card spot. Forget the second spot. Forget the speculation about whether this team could even make the play-in game at all. The Orioles now have a decent shot at catching the New York Yankees to play host to game 163.

Will the Blue Jays play the role of spoiler? Let’s hope not.

The calendar will turn over to September for the second game of this series, which is significant because rosters will expand to allow teams to carry their entire 40-man at any given time.

This change affects the style of play in a considerable way—most specifically teams tend to crank-up their bullpen usage, sometimes making several changes in a single inning. It can get tedious, boring, and even kind of weird at times, but it’s here to stay—at least for now.

Potential Orioles to look out for to be added to the September roster who are already on the 40-man may include: Jayson Aquino, Alec Asher, Stefan Crichton, Donnie Hart, Tyler Wilson, Mike Wright, Jimmy Yacabonis, Gabriel Ynoa, J.J. Hardy (60-day DL), and Joey Rickard.

Birds who could join the big club but would require a corresponding 40-man move after the first one (because the O’s are currently carrying 39 on the 40-man roster) to facilitate may include: Ruben Tejada, Francisco Pena, Chance Sisco, Vidal Nuno, and of course, the International League All Star at DH, Pedro Alvarez.

Alvarez, as you may recall, signed a minor league deal with the O’s in the offseason to try and learn to play outfield. Many expected him to be called up or opt-out, but instead he ended up playing a full season at Norfolk—slashing an incredibly “meh” line of .241/.296/.446 with 26 HRs, but only a 103 wRC+.

Nobody knows for sure yet exactly who will be added, and the carousel will likely spin all throughout September.

Enough about that for now; let’s take a look at the game times and pitching match-ups that this coming series will bring us:

Game 1: Thursday, August 31 @ 7:05pm ET

Marco Estrada (6-8, 5.04 ERA) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (8-7, 4.88 ERA)

Since joining the Orioles, Hellickson has been great, good, bad, terrible, and really good. Looking at his results for 2017, he’s been very up-and-down. There aren’t a lot of middling results—he’s either getting lit up, or acquitting himself quite nicely every given start. Let’s hope for something North of “bad” out of Helly today.

Marco Estrada has been pretty consistently mediocre for the Jays this season, leading to the cumulative 5.04 ERA. Tonight will be the fourth time the O’s have squared off against Estrada in 2017. Across the first three starts, he has thrown a combined 20.2 IP and allowed a stingy 3 ER. Let’s hope for a different result here today.

Game 2: Friday, September 1 @ 7:05pm ET

Joe Biagini (3-9, 5.40 ERA) vs. Kevin Gausman (10-9, 4.98 ERA)

After what was a more-than-rough start to the season, Kevin Gausman has now thrown to a 3.63 ERA in July, and a 3.48 ERA in August. He’s had a few hiccups during his resurgence, but has been truly excellent when he’s been “on.” Kevin is coming off of throwing 7.2 shut-out innings in Boston. That was neat. Let’s hope for more of the same tomorrow.

Joe Biagini started the year in the bullpen for Toronto, making his first start of the season on May 7 out of need, and because he had a 2.12 ERA out of the ‘pen in April. Biagini was bounced from that same rotation after making 11 consecutive starts. He went back to the ‘pen on July 8. Now, he’s been added back to the rotation as of August 27, when he gave up 5 ER to the Twins over 3.2 IP. Let’s hope this swingman can’t cut it for the Jays tomorrow.

Game 3: Saturday, September 2 @ 7:05pm ET

Marcus Stroman (11-6, 3.11 ERA) vs. Wade Miley (8-10, 4.99 ERA)

Wade Miley continues to confound his critics, cranking out acceptable results for the season. Despite his league-worst 1.69 WHIP, Miley has not surrendered more than 3 ER in a start since he gave up five on July 25. His high WHIP means he doesn’t usually get you deep into the game, but the O’s bullpen has been acceptable, and the offense is cranking. Let’s hope for some more smoke and mirrors from Wade on Saturday.

Marcus Stroman is a good pitcher in 2017. It doesn’t matter how it’s written—a 3.11 ERA supported mostly by a 3.87 FIP across 170.2 IP is really, really nice. The Stro-Show last got a no-decision in Boston after throwing six innings of one-run ball. The only other time the O’s have seen this dangerous righty in 2017, he shut down the offense—allowing no runs in 7.2 IP on his way to a pitcher win. Let’s hope we don’t see a repeat of that performance on Saturday.

Game 4: Sunday, September 3 @ 1:35pm ET

Brett Anderson (2-3, 6.83 ERA) vs. Chris Tillman (7.91 ERA)

Chris Tillman threw five shut-out innings on May 7 against the White Sox. He earned the pitcher win in his first start of 2017, and we all celebrated the return of our de facto Ace from the DL. Fast-forward to now, and Tillman was bounced from the rotation, only to return so that the O’s can skip Dylan Bundy every-other start. Tillman hasn’t earned a pitcher win since that first start of 2017, and since his return to the rotation has thrown 10.2 innings, allowing a combined 10 ER. He has not looked good at all, and continues to walk people like it’s going out style. Let’s hope... Sorry, Chris. I’m not sure what to put here.

Brett Anderson was acquired by the Blue Jays after signing as a free agent with the Chicago Cubs in the 2017 offseason. Anderson accumulated an 8.18 ERA with the Cubbies across six starts, and then injured his back. After he rehabbed the injury, Chicago decided to cut ties, and the Jays swooped in. Anderson’s only start since joining Toronto was a loss in Boston where he allowed only 1 ER over 5.2 IP. Let’s hope he gives up a little bit more in Baltimore... Tillman and the O’s may need to be staked a sizable lead on Sunday.


Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Zero - Swept at home
    (4 votes)
  • 1%
    One of Four
    (5 votes)
  • 20%
    Two of Four
    (63 votes)
  • 55%
    Three of Four
    (167 votes)
  • 21%
    Four - Sweep and an 11 game win-streak!
    (64 votes)
303 votes total Vote Now