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Orioles-Rays series preview: The road trip ends in Florida

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The O’s make their first visit to Tropicana Field this season to face off against the Rays and their unconventional pitching strategy.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Alternate headline: Orioles are so bad that opponent doesn’t bother using starting pitchers against them. More on that later.

After splitting a four game series in Chicago’s south side, the 16-34 O’s will conclude their three-city road trip in Tampa Bay with three games against the Rays. They are 3-5 on the trip (not bad considering their overall road record is 6-21) and have split the six games they’ve played against Tampa Bay so far this season.

Tampa Bay comes into the series at 23-25 and third place in the American League East. They beat Boston yesterday to salvage one game in that series. They’ve won 8 of their last 12 but are 9-13 in the dark and eerie confines of Tropicana Field.

This will be the last series before the Memorial Day benchmark that Dan Duquette said needs reached before getting a read on his team. A sweep will put the O’s at 19-34. Is that good?

The storyline for this series will be how Rays’ manager Kevin Cash utilizes his pitching staff. He has been unconventional all season, using four starting pitchers and a “bullpen game” for most of the season. But two of those four starters are on the disabled list and the other two pitched in the previous two games. That means the O’s will not see a “starting pitcher” in this series.

The reasoning behind the Rays’ decision is intriguing. The first four Orioles batters are capable right-handers: Trey Mancini, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, and Jonathan Schoop. Using a reliever who neutralizes right-handed hitting to start the game means a left-handed starter won’t pitch to them to start the game and will theoretically lessen the Orioles’ chances of grabbing an early lead. Right-handed batters have a .707 OPS against Sergio Romo who will start two of the games in this series.

If this works, maybe it is something the Orioles could try. Some of their starting pitchers have been quite adept at not going deep into games.

Game 1: Friday, 7:10 PM

RHP David Hess (1-1, 6.75) vs. RHP Sergio Romo (1-0, 4.34)

While Hess hasn’t been confirmed yet, all signs point to him making his third big league appearance to start this series. He is coming off a rough outing in Boston, where he allowed five runs and three home runs in 4.2 innings. Pitching against that lineup in Fenway is a tough task for a rookie. His only other start this season was against these Rays and he registered a quality start, giving up three runs in six innings.

Hess will have to watch out for Matt Duffy, who homered off him in that first game. For a team that is 16-34, it’s fun for fans to watch a young pitcher and find out if he can be a part of the future.

Sergio Romo has made two starts this season, both in the past week against the Angels. His ERA is a bit high for a reliever, but he’s been great against righties and he has struck out 12.5 batters per nine innings. The Orioles strike out... a lot, so that should be interesting.

Game 2: Saturday, 4:10 PM

RHP Andrew Cashner (2-5, 4.72) vs. RHP Ryne Stanek (0-0, 5.40)

Cashner is coming off an outing in which he once again struggled the third time through the order. Opposing batters are hitting .426 off of him the third time he faces them. Ouch. He has managed to avoid Tampa Bay this season and has made only one start against them in his career.

Only three Rays have had more than ten at-bats against Cashner. Denard Span and Matt Duffy are hitting over .300 against him and Wilson Ramos is hitting .231. Cashner has not allowed a home run to any current Ray. Given he’s giving up homers at double his career rate (1.8 per 9 innings), that is not likely to continue.

Ryne Stanek is a second-year player whose career ERA is 5.76. He’s pitched five innings through six appearances this season, so he isn’t likely to get into the third inning. He’s had reverse splits throughout his career; right-handed batters have a 1.228 OPS against him. Hopefully the top of the order takes advantage.

Game 3: Sunday, 1:10 PM

RHP Kevin Gausman (3-3, 3.48) vs. RHP Sergio Romo (1-0, 4.34)

The bullpen and Mark Trumbo’s glove cost Gausman a win in his last start. He struck out a career high ten batters in 6.1 shutout innings, continuing a very nice campaign for him. His strikeouts in Chicago brought his K/9 up to his career average of 8.4. He is walking a full batter per 9 innings less than 2017. Despite being a rare bright spot for his team, the O’s are 4-6 in games he starts.

Current Rays are batting .310 with an .829 OPS against Gausman throughout their careers. Denard Span (.462 BA, 3 doubles in 13 at bats) is of particular note. Only Wilson Ramos has homered off of him. Gausman’s career 3.63 ERA at Tropicana Field is below his career ERA of 4.12.

Romo is slated to make his second start of the series, though that could presumably change if he’s needed on Saturday.

Poll

How many games will the Orioles win in the Memorial Day weekend series against the Rays?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    3 (The Orioles get a sweep)
    (26 votes)
  • 33%
    2
    (38 votes)
  • 33%
    1
    (38 votes)
  • 10%
    0 (The Orioles get swept)
    (12 votes)
114 votes total Vote Now