The 2018 Orioles season is effectively already over with 128 games still to be played. The question is not whether they will do anything good but rather when the team will start to be dismantled. Once that dismantling begins, how thorough will it be? Manny Machado getting traded is obvious. Will coaches get fired? Will Buck Showalter or Dan Duquette get fired? These are the things that will consume our attention.
With all of that in the background, the games must go on. There is no escape. So the Orioles mess of a season rolls on, fresh off of a winless California trip. They will get as much of a slight break as the schedule possibly allows as they face the struggling Royals, who are 11-23, for a three-game set that begins tonight.
We have heard this story before. The Tigers were a struggling team and then they swept the Orioles in Detroit. The Athletics were below .500 and then they swept the Orioles too. The good teams are beating the Orioles. The bad teams are beating the Orioles. How in the world did this team manage to take three out of four games against the Yankees?
Like the Orioles, the Royals are a team with some major flaws. Their starting rotation isn’t great. Their bullpen is the worst in MLB by ERA, despite having a near-unhittable closer, Kelvin Herrera, with a 0.66 ERA. Two Royals relief pitchers have appeared in ten or more games and have an ERA in the double digits.
The Royals offense also stinks, as they have the second-worst OPS in the American League, ahead of only the woeful Orioles - and that’s with an OBP that’s 28 points above the Orioles pathetic .288 mark. The only regulars on their team who are hitting well are Jorge Soler and Mike Moustakas. One difference is that most of their struggling hitters aren’t struggling quite as much as, say, Chris Davis. Another difference is that the Royals have the fewest strikeouts in the AL.
Two of the three bad Royals starting pitchers will take their turns in this series. One might dream that this is the kind of thing that will help jump-start a crummy offense. Facing struggling pitchers in California didn’t help the O’s any. Well, now they’re back at Camden Yards, so at least that’s something.
Game 1: Tuesday, 7:05
Danny Duffy (0-4, 5.63 ERA) vs. Dylan Bundy (1-4, 3.76 ERA)
The true quality of Bundy probably lies somewhere between the 1.42 ERA he posted over his first five starts and the 12.00 ERA he has posted in his last two starts. I know, that was such a radical statement. It’s worth remembering that last season saw Bundy storm out to a 1.65 ERA in April only to have a progressively worse ERA every month until an 8.41 ERA in July. I hope we’re not seeing the start of that, but we might be.
Lefty batters have given Bundy the most trouble so far this season - not surprising for a righty pitcher. They’re hitting .342/.395/.468 off Bundy through his first seven games. Depending on how dedicated the Royals are to this platoon split, they could field a lineup with five lefty batters and one switch hitter.
Pitching this game for the Royals is Duffy, who has the kind of starting pitching line that anyone who isn’t used to looking at Orioles starting pitcher ERAs would call bad. Duffy is a lefty. Game over before it even begins? Maybe not. The Orioles have actually hit better against lefties than righties. Of course, they haven’t hit well against starters at all, regardless of hand.
Duffy has given up 4+ runs in four of his seven starts and has just one quality start for the season. It would not be a surprise if he hits double digit strikeouts for the first time all year.
Game 2: Wednesday, 7:05
Eric Skoglund (1-2, 6.84 ERA) vs. Andrew Cashner (1-4, 4.89 ERA)
Skoglund, also a lefty, has a name fitting for a Viking raider. The rookie has not pitched like one, although he has had some bad BABIP luck and has a merely mediocre 4.71 FIP rather than the bad 6.84 ERA. His career high in strikeouts is nine. I think we all know what to expect. Skoglund has surrendered four home runs in 26.1 innings for the season and according to Fangraphs has allowed hard contact more than half of the time.
Speaking of home runs, let’s talk about Cashner. The guy only allowed 15 homers in 166.2 innings last season and he’s already served up nine taters in 38.2 innings this year. Bad luck? Bad pitching? Maybe some of both. The Royals have only hit 29 home runs for the season, second-fewest in the AL, so that will hopefully be a good sign for Cashner keeping the ball in the yard. Only Moustakas has more than four homers for the Royals.
Game 3: Thursday, 7:05
Ian Kennedy (1-3, 2.92 ERA) vs. Kevin Gausman (2-2, 3.30 ERA)
Kennedy was pretty bad last season with a 5.38 ERA, but reports of his demise were premature, at least based on the start of this season. Even if it’s a small sample size, I’m jealous any time I see a starting pitcher with an ERA under 3. He’s struck out 35 batters in 37 innings and has issued just 11 walks. Maybe the last three years of that 5 year, $70 million contract will be OK for Kansas City.
Gausman has been heading in the right direction ever since a bad first start to his season. His last six starts have seen him post a 2.27 ERA while averaging more than six innings per start, holding batters to a .211/.266/.347 batting line. That includes the nine shutout innings he pitched against the Athletics on Saturday in a game the Orioles still lost.
Short of throwing a no-hitter, you can’t pitch much better than Gausman did in his last outing. Short of getting no-hit, the offense can’t do much worse in support of Gausman than they did in that game. Presumably, neither Gausman nor Kennedy will throw a no-hitter, although the fun of baseball is that every game is a no-no until it isn’t.
How many games will the Orioles win in this series against the Royals?
This poll is closed
3 (The Orioles sweep the Royals)
0 (The Orioles get swept)