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Orioles-Twins series preview: A new journey begins

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The Orioles fancied themselves wild card contenders last year before finishing 10 games back of the Twins. They get to measure themselves against those same Twins to start the 2018 season.

Baltimore Orioles v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Orioles would like for us to believe that they are going to be a contending team this season. We’re going to find out pretty quickly whether they can live up to their own expectations, because their first 10 games, and 18 of their first 24 games, will see them going up against 2017 playoff teams. That includes this season-opening series against the Twins, who dusted the O’s by ten games for the second wild card spot last season.

The Twins figure to be wild card contenders again this season. They certainly acted like they were over the offseason, making bold moves to try to bolster their starting rotation, including a trade for their Opening Day starter, Jake Odorizzi. That’s a familiar name to O’s fans after he spent so much time in Tampa. It’ll be just like the Orioles are opening up against the Rays!

Not quite, though, because most of last year’s Twins are back. They didn’t have any big losses and they only made additions: Logan Morrison to the lineup, Francisco Rodney and Addison Reed to the bullpen, Odorizzi and Lance Lynn to the rotation. It’s the pitching staff that needed the most help. While their rotation wasn’t Orioles-level bad, the Twins struggled with a 4.73 ERA, and relievers were little better with a 4.40 ERA.

On the other hand, the Twins had the fourth-best run-scoring offense in the AL last year. The addition of the lefty Morrison, who posted an .869 OPS with the Rays last year, should help them keep that up. It’ll be a tough opening task for the top of the Orioles rotation.

Game 1: Monday, 3:05

Jake Odorizzi vs. Dylan Bundy

Some Orioles batters have faced Odorizzi a lot in their careers and they have done very well. That includes the 33 plate appearances by Jonathan Schoop against Odorizzi, when he has batted .379/.455/.621. Manny Machado has four career homers off of Odorizzi in 46 PA. However, last season, Odorizzi faced the Orioles four times and held them to a .679 OPS.

The entirety of Bundy’s season, and by extension the Orioles, does not ride on whether or not he pitches well in his first Opening Day start, but it will sure make everyone feel better if he does. He’ll have to face a Twins lineup that figures to have six left-handed batters. They challenged Bundy last year, with an OPS of nearly 100 points higher than righty batters did against Bundy. So, good luck!

April was a good month for Bundy last year, which might be explained by performing better when he was fresh. That is borne out somewhat by his pitching numbers with one or more extra days of rest: .779 OPS against on regular rest, .730 OPS against with an extra day (nine starts), .583 OPS with 2+ extra rest days (six starts). Another hot March/April would be fantastic.

Saturday, 7:05

Kyle Gibson vs. Andrew Cashner

The original plan for the Twins was surely to have Ervin Santana as their #1 pitcher, but he had surgery on a finger in February that knocked him out for 10-12 weeks. This bumps a jabroni like Gibson into this opening series of the year. I have labeled Gibson a jabroni because he’s just posted back-to-back 5.07 ERA seasons while pitching in the NL Central. The former first round pick has only ever had one good season and he’s 30 now.

Everyone, righties and lefties both, took equal advantage of Gibson last year. He was, however, better on the road (4.34 ERA) than at home (5.72) which is weird because his home games are in Minnesota? Baseball players don’t make any sense sometimes.

One other thing that didn’t make sense about last year was Cashner posting a 3.40 ERA while only striking out 86 batters in 188.2 innings. That’s a hard way to find success, especially when he also walked 64 batters! It’s not sustainable. If he can’t strike anyone out as an Oriole, I’m not going to enjoy his starts. One game won’t be a referendum on his season either - it’s just going to feel like it until we see more of him.

Game 3: Sunday, 1:05

Jose Berrios vs. Kevin Gausman

Berrios had the kind of breakout last year that the Orioles have perpetually hoped for over a full season from Gausman, though even that breakout was “only” a 3.89 ERA in 25 starts. Berrios isn’t starting ahead of Gausman because, according to the Twins pitching probables on their website, they want Berrios on turn to start on April 17, when the Twins will be playing in his native Puerto Rico. Seems fair enough.

Last year, Berrios held righties to just a .616 OPS, with lefties hitting a .783 OPS against him. That’s a big difference there, enough that it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the O’s load up with lefties. They can do that, for now, with Pedro Alvarez, Colby Rasmus, and Danny Valencia all kicking around. Berrios had big problems on the road - a 5.17 ERA there compared to a 2.41 ERA at home.

As for Gausman, he disappointed last year, and the answer why isn’t found in his splits: Lefties and righties were about the same. He was about the same at home and on the road. The big difference for him was first half (5.85 ERA) and second half (3.41 ERA). If second half Gausman ever shows up for a full season, the Orioles might get somewhere!

Not to sound like a broken record, but one Gausman start won’t be his whole season defined. It’ll just feel a whole lot better if he pitches well, because that’s longer we can tell ourselves this rotation might be OK.

**

The Orioles are going to play 162 games this year and these will be just three of them. Let’s hope they win at least a couple.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    3 (The Orioles sweep the Twins)
    (71 votes)
  • 53%
    2
    (166 votes)
  • 19%
    1
    (62 votes)
  • 3%
    0 (The Orioles get swept by the Twins)
    (12 votes)
311 votes total Vote Now