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Orioles-White Sox series preview: The worst of the worst face off

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The White Sox have the worst record in the majors, and the Orioles are tied for the second-worst. They’ll square off for four games of utter futility.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Chicago White Sox Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The folks who produce MASN’s “Ain’t Baseball Great?” commercials are going to have their work cut out for them.

What, pray tell, is anyone supposed to get excited about when two of the most atrocious teams in baseball face off against each other for four games?

Ooh, let me try. “Only one team can get the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft. Ain’t baseball great?”

The Orioles continue their 11-game road trip with a set of four in the south side of Chicago, where the White Sox hold baseball’s worst record at 13-30. The Orioles are only two percentage points better, sitting at 14-32, tied for the second-worst record with the Kansas City Royals.

Yes, these are two terrible teams. But here’s the difference: the White Sox weren’t even trying to win this year. They were fully committed to this being a rebuilding season, so the losses aren’t surprising. The Orioles, meanwhile, actually were trying to compete! And here they are alongside the White Sox at the bottom of the league standings. Ouch.

The White Sox are last in the AL in runs scored, but they have a better team average, OBP, and SLG (.242/.309/.407) than the Orioles (.232/.297/.401). Their most high-profile hitter is slugger Jose Abreu, who’s batting .306 with a .906 OPS and eight homers. They’ve also gotten good production from relatively unknown DH Matt Davidson (.917 OPS, 11 homers) and 23-year-old second baseman Yoan Moncada (.848 OPS, six homers), their top prospect acquired in the Chris Sale trade with Boston two years ago.

The rotation has been a mess for the White Sox; they have the worst starters’ ERA in the AL at 5.98. (The Orioles, at 5.55, are second-worst.) Chicago’s only competent starter is Reynaldo Lopez, whom the O’s will not face in this series.

On paper, the White Sox are a team the Orioles should beat. Then again, on paper, the Orioles are a team the White Sox should beat. Who will prove more inept than the other?

Game 1: Monday, 8:10 PM

RHP Andrew Cashner (1-5, 4.83) vs. LHP Hector Santiago (0-1, 5.29 ERA)

The Orioles’ recent spate of games against lefties continues, as they’ll face their fourth southpaw in the last five games. That probably means Chance Sisco will be benched again, but on the flip side, it could mean Chris Davis will be benched, too.

Santiago, who signed as a free agent this past offseason, is back on the team he began his career with from 2011-2013. He’s spent most of the year in the bullpen; this will be only his fourth start in 13 appearances. He hasn’t lasted longer than five innings in any of the others. Current Orioles hitters have combined for six homers off Santiago, including two by Mark Trumbo, while Danny Valencia has reached base 11 times in 24 plate appearances against him.

Cashner, making his 10th start, has yet to win since April 5. He’s already given up 11 homers in 50.1 innings after surrendering just 15 in 166.2 innings for the Rangers last year. He’s never beaten the White Sox in his career (0-2 with a 4.61 ERA in four games, two starts). The Chicago batter he’s faced the most is former Oriole Welington Castillo, who is 5-for-12 against him.

Game 2: Tuesday, 8:10 PM

RHP Kevin Gausman (3-3, 3.88) vs. James Shields (1-4, 4.88)

How far Shields’ career has fallen since he was “Big Game James” for the Rays and Royals. After posting a 111 ERA+ in his first nine seasons in the majors, Shields has been a liability since, dipping to an 81 ERA+ from 2015 to today. He has particularly struggled with his control, with his walk rate inflating from 2.1 to 3.9 in those two time spans. He’s in the final season of a four-year, $75 million contract he signed with the Padres in February 2015.

With his many years pitching in the AL East for the Rays, Shields is intimately familiar with the Orioles. In 27 career starts against them, he’s 11-8 with a 3.90 ERA. Adam Jones has had 52 plate appearances against Shields, batting .300 with an .827 OPS. Davis has also torched Shields, hitting three home runs in 16 at-bats.

Gausman had been on a nice groove for the Orioles, with five quality starts in his last six outings, before getting bamboozled by the Red Sox in his most recent start. His only career start against the White Sox was in April 2016, and it was a quality start (six innings, two earned runs). Of course, only one current White Sox hitter was in the lineup then (Abreu), so it doesn’t mean much.

Game 3: Wednesday, 8:10 PM

RHP Alex Cobb (1-5, 6.56) vs. TBD

Cobb is trending upwards for the Orioles. After getting annihilated for a 13.11 ERA in his first three starts of the season, he has a 3.38 ERA in May, delivering three quality starts out of four. In Boston on Friday, he finally notched his first victory as an Oriole. Cobb has only faced the White Sox twice in his career and has been torched for 12 runs in eight innings.

Cobb’s opponent is unknown as of now. This is the spot in the White Sox rotation that previously belonged to 24-year-old righty Carson Fulmer, the eighth overall pick in the 2015 draft. But the White Sox optioned him to the minors over the weekend after he posted an 8.07 ERA in his first nine games of the year.

Game 4: Thursday, 2:10 PM

RHP Dylan Bundy (2-6, 4.70) vs. RHP Lucas Giolito (3-4, 6.42)

Remember when Bundy started the year with five great starts and we were all like, “The Orioles finally have a homegrown ace!” Yeah, not so much. Bundy has been roughed up in four of his five starts since then. He was tagged for three home runs in his most recent outing Saturday at Fenway Park. Right now, he’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma. The White Sox, though, might be the tonic he needs. Bundy has won all three of his career starts against them.

Giolito, a former first-round pick by the Nationals, was thought to be the prize prospect the White Sox acquired in the Adam Eaton trade before the 2017 season. Yet it’s actually Reynaldo Lopez, who was also included in that trade, who has been the more successful of the two hurlers. Giolito has struggled to a 6.42 ERA in nine starts this year. Giolito has never pitched against the O’s, and the only current Oriole who has ever faced him is Jace Peterson, who is 0-for-2.

Poll

How many games will the Orioles win in this series?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    4 (Orioles will sweep)
    (30 votes)
  • 20%
    3
    (39 votes)
  • 38%
    2
    (71 votes)
  • 14%
    1
    (27 votes)
  • 10%
    0 (Orioles will get swept)
    (19 votes)
186 votes total Vote Now