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Orioles-Rays series preview: Just win another game, please

A revolting September to this point has destroyed the Orioles hopes. Things aren’t so much better for the Rays. Who can try to salvage something this weekend?

New York Yankees v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Everything has gone into the toilet for the Orioles in the last three weeks. At the start of the month, this stretch of four games against the Rays seemed like it might be their last chance to try to stay in the wild card race.

Instead, they’re toast. The O’s essentially need to run the table when playing the Rays between now and season’s end just to get up to .500. Unless they sweep the Rays this weekend, they’re going to get mathematically eliminated over this series.

Maybe the O’s can hope for the starting rotation to be non-horrible enough over the last week and a half, including this series, to at least not end up as the worst in MLB by ERA. That’s a tough task. They had a 5.61 ERA as a unit heading into Wednesday’s loss to the Red Sox. Wade Miley’s performance only made that even worse. There’s no reason to have hope for anyone other than Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy, and they might not pitch.

Heading into this series, the Rays are only a game and a half closer than the Orioles to a postseason spot. They are surely looking at the wild card competition and wondering why they can’t be better than those clowns.

There’s much to envy about the Rays, if you’re the O’s. Only four teams in the AL have given up fewer runs. Their starting rotation is all under 30 years old, and no one is making more than Chris Archer at $4.9 million. Among the six players who started more than ten games for the Rays, the worst ERA is Jake Odorizzi’s 4.46. If the Orioles rotation had done as well as the Rays, the team would have given up 138 fewer runs.

On the other hand, there’s the Rays offense. In terms of raw runs scored, the Rays offense is the same as the Orioles rotation. They’re worst in the AL. As a team, they’ve struck out the most in the AL and they have the second-worst batting average. Although they have Logan Morrison as a standout and another several players performing capably, there are some major black holes in the lineup, too. It shows.

Game 1 - Thursday, 7:05

Starters: Matt Andriese (5-3, 4.44 ERA) vs. Gabriel Ynoa (1-2, 4.18 ERA)

The 28-year-old Rays righty was shelved for nearly three months this year with a hip injury, so he has only started 15 games on the season and has yet to run into the Orioles. In just his third MLB season, he hasn’t faced any O’s batters much in previous years, either, with Adam Jones having seen him the most, 11 times.

Andriese has allowed 14 home runs in just 75 innings this season. A homer-prone pitcher always offers at least a little hope for the Orioles. What’s more, in the nine times he’s faced Chris Davis, Davis has hit two home runs, so maybe at least one time Davis will swing and make contact with one of those pitches in the zone he’s been letting sail by all year.

Ynoa will be making just his second big league start this year. He has yet to go beyond 4.2 innings in either of those games. That was against the Indians and the Yankees, two powerhouse offenses, and well, these Rays aren’t quite so good. Ynoa is probably ticketed for at least competition for next year’s rotation, so maybe he can pitch well and give himself a little positive momentum there.

Game 2 - Friday, 7:05

Starters: Alex Cobb (11-10, 3.63 ERA) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (6-10, 6.57 ERA)

Cobb, 29, is about to be a free agent at the end of the season. At least one national baseball writer who tends to speculate more than report real rumors has suggested the Orioles might want to try to sign Cobb. As Cobb is a starting pitcher who has done well this year, this certainly makes some sense.

What might want to give the O’s or anyone else pause - and what gives them hope in this game - is the difference in Cobb’s ERA at home and on the road. Away from Tropicana Field, Cobb has a 4.74 ERA in 15 games this year. With how the Orioles are hitting lately, that probably won’t matter in this series, though. The O’s enter the series averaging fewer than three runs scored per game. It’s disgusting.

Speaking of disgusting, Jimenez’s 2017 pitching line. How do you have a 6.57 ERA in 24 starts, 30 games total? One way is by being very bad at pitching, and another way is by being on a team that has absolutely no help to try to replace you. Jimenez should not still be starting games, but there’s barely anyone else, so here he is. The Rays are probably salivating.

Game 3 - Saturday, 7:05

Starters: Jake Odorizzi (9-8, 4.46 ERA) vs. TBD

Odorizzi is the most disappointing Rays starter this year. By ERA, he would be the second-best Orioles starter. He’s been mostly the same pitcher all year, with similar first half and second half numbers, as well as similar home/road numbers. He hasn’t been great anywhere, but he’s been the kind of mediocre that the O’s have been dying for, and just haven’t gotten, from 3/5 to 4/6 of their rotation.

The biggest problem for Odorizzi is that he gives up home runs everywhere. He’s allowed 30 homers in just 133.1 innings. That’s an eye-popping home run rate even in this, the year of the most home runs ever hit in MLB. Odorizzi has actually been worse against right-handed batters this year, despite being a righty himself. Batters from his own side are .232/.317/.489 this year, including 19 homers.

Again, if the O’s offense keeps doing what it has done in September, that won’t matter at all. But if you want to envision some kind of miracle revival before this series starts, well, here’s another reason for hope.

Whoever this TBD is going to end up being for the O’s, it probably won’t be pretty.

Game 4 - Sunday, 1:35

Starters: Chris Archer (9-11, 4.02 ERA) vs. a different TBD

Not that pitcher wins and losses mean anything, but Archer was 9-19 last year despite the same exact 4.02 ERA and despite striking out 233 batters in 201.1 innings. He’s heading for the same kind of season with fewer losses this year. Archer needs just 7.2 more innings to cross 200. He already has more strikeouts than last year, with 241. At least another O’s opponent won’t be aiming for 300 strikeouts.

It’s on the road that does Archer in. He has a solid 3.42 home ERA, but on the road, that balloons to 4.68. Drill that down a little farther and you find that in open air stadiums, it’s a 5.09 ERA in 14 starts this year for Archer. Maybe that’s a good sign for the O’s offense on the final home game of the year. Anything is possible, right?

Whoever this TBD is going to end up being for the O’s, it probably won’t be pretty. I did not just copy and paste the last time I wrote that sentence. I typed it out again. I promise.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    0 (The Orioles get swept)
    (15 votes)
  • 20%
    1
    (14 votes)
  • 31%
    2
    (22 votes)
  • 13%
    3
    (9 votes)
  • 13%
    4 (The Orioles sweep)
    (9 votes)
69 votes total Vote Now