The Orioles probably cannot afford to lose any series that they play for the remainder of the season if they're going to make the playoffs. With that in mind, the Orioles open up a three-game series in Cleveland tonight. The Indians have now won 15 games in a row.
That's not a joke or a typo. The Indians have won 15 straight. What's even more impressive is that the most recent 11 of those 15 games were all on the road, including two doubleheaders played in the span of three days. They have lifted off. They could still challenge the Astros for the best record in the American League.
Can you imagine these Orioles winning 15 games in a row? It does not seem possible, certainly not with this starting rotation. Which, by the way, is getting juggled again, with Gabriel Ynoa stepping up for a start this weekend. Chris Tillman is dealing with "some soreness in his wrist" and is out for the moment. Ubaldo Jimenez, meanwhile, will be back in for the Blue Jays series.
Maybe instead of being an unstoppable juggernaut, the Indians are due to lose two out of three games after all of those wins in a row. That's what the Orioles have to hope for. It won't be automatic, of course. The Orioles will have to play well to have a chance to do that. We've seen many, many games this year where they don't play well. But even world-beating teams start losing eventually.
The Orioles will not face either of Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco in this series. By WHIP, those have been the two best Indians starters by far. That's some good news for the O's, though they will have to try to capitalize on that with their own rotation of Wade Miley, Ynoa, and Jeremy Hellickson.
Game 1 - Friday, 7:10
Starters: Mike Clevinger (8-5, 3.50 ERA) vs. Wade Miley (8-11, 4.91 ERA)
Like most of the Indians rotation, Clevinger has been a strikeout machine this season, racking up 114 in 100.1 innings. What keeps him from being at the top of the class is that he also has a high walk rate, issuing 51 free passes in the same time. He already faced the Orioles once this year, allowing two runs in five innings in a game the Indians won, 6-3.
Clevinger is not unique among MLB pitchers in being a bit homer-prone this season, having given up 13 on the season. If the O's can tag him for another couple of runs tonight, especially if home runs follow the walks that Clevinger tends to issue, that will be good for them.
Whether Miley will be able to help the O's take advantage of any mistake Clevinger makes is another story. The guy remains the MLB leader in WHIP - walks plus hits per innings pitched. That is, the number of baserunners he allows. No one is worse than Miley - and by the way, #2 on the list is Kevin Gausman. Miley walks everyone and gives up hits to everyone, too.
Game 2 - Saturday, 1:05
Starters: Josh Tomlin (8-9, 5.20 ERA) vs. Gabriel Ynoa (1-0, 3.68 ERA)
The Orioles need to win two out of three games in this series. This is the one they absolutely cannot afford to lose, because the game where they get to face Tomlin should be a gimme. Tomlin is the one Indians pitcher who isn't a strikeout machine this season, although he combines the low strikeouts with a tiny walk rate.
Again, the home run possibility is there for the O's. Tomlin has allowed 19 bombs in 116 innings this season. What they SHOULD do is clear. What they actually end up doing against a guy whose fastball has averaged about 88 miles per hour this season is going to be the question.
Ynoa has yet to make an MLB start in five games this season. If he does well in this one, perhaps it won't be his last. With a Triple-A ERA over 5 in 21 starts for Norfolk, the O's don't seem to have looked at him as a possible answer until September call-ups rolled around.
Game 3 - Sunday, 8:05
Starters: Trevor Bauer (15-8, 4.39 ERA) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (2-3, 6.87 ERA as Oriole)
Oh yes, it's a Sunday Night Baseball matchup, meaning this series gets three different game times in three days, after which the Orioles will head for Toronto. Nothing says marquee prime time matchup quite like Jeremy Hellickson, does it? The national ESPN audience could be tuning in to watch the effective end of the O's postseason chances, depending on how this series goes.
Bauer, the player drafted immediately before Dylan Bundy in the 2011 draft, has never looked like a top of the rotation pitcher, but since joining the Indians rotation full-time in 2014, he's never looked like a doesn't-belong-in-the-rotation pitcher either. Bauer's ERA has never dipped below 4, but neither has it ever gone above 4.55 for a season. The O's probably wish they had a Bauer this season.
Instead, they "had" to trade for Hellickson mid-season, and, well, we've all thought a little bit too much about Hellickson just in the seven games we've seen of him so far, so let's make him Sunday's problem, not today's.
The Twins, who now lead the Orioles by two games, are playing the Royals this weekend. The Angels, ahead of the O's by a game, will be playing the Mariners. It doesn't really matter what other teams do if the Orioles don't win.
How many games will the Orioles win in this series against the Indians?
This poll is closed
0 (The Orioles get swept)
3 (The Orioles sweep)