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Orioles-Rangers series preview: Wrapping up the “first half”

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Two last-place teams limp to the All-Star break.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Texas Rangers Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

For some teams, the upcoming All-Star break is an opportunity for the players to take a mini vacation and recharge their batteries, while coaches and front office types reorganize, evaluate their rosters and explore ways to make the team better. When it comes to the Texas Rangers, currently last in the AL West, and Baltimore Orioles, currently sporting the worst record in baseball, it is simply a welcome reprieve from losing games on a nightly basis.

Texas enters this three-game series 21 games behind the Houston Astros in their division and 18 games back of an AL Wild Card spot. Their hopes to make the playoffs are not as far down the river as others in the league, but it’s safe to say that they will be sellers at this year’s trade deadline.

Two big names that could be on the move are Adrian Beltre and Cole Hamels. Beltre is set to hit free agency at the end of the year, but he holds full no-trade protection, and while he is still hitting at a good clip (.288/.349/.401) for a 39-year-old, he has also lost a noticeable amount of power and is playing in the field far less often. Hamels, 35, has a team option for 2019 and there is said to be interest from his former club, the Philadelphia Phillies, but the lefty has been fairly average (4.28 ERA, 107 ERA+, 5.15 FIP) this year.

Pitching has been the Rangers’ downfall in 2018. Their 4.64 team ERA is the fourth-worst in the AL. Most of those problems begin with the starters, who have amassed a 5.30 ERA, while the bullpen’s 3.58 ERA is one of the ten-best marks in MLB.

Keone Kela is their closer. He is a perfect 22-for-22 in save opportunities and has held opposing hitters to a .203 batting average while striking out 39 of them in 32 innings. But the team’s top reliever is José Leclerc. The 24-year-old righty has the lowest ERA (2.23), batting average against (.132) and K/9 (12.8) in the ‘pen.

The Texas offense has been middle of the pack with their 414 runs scored. They are near the bottom of the league with a .237 batting average but make up for it with more competitive .319 on-base and .396 slugging percentages.

It all starts and stops with Shin Soo Choo. The 36-year-old, first-time All-Star has always been an underrated player. This may not even be the finest season of his career, but people are starting to take notice. He leads the team in all three slash categories (.290/.399/.500) as well as walks (68) and doubles (20).

Other bats to look for are Nomar Mazara, who has one of the sweetest swings in baseball, Joey Gallo, who strikes out a ton but hits the ball a long, long way and Jurickson Profar, the former top prospect that is settling in as a reliable role player.

Game 1

RHP Alex Cobb (2-11, 6.67 ERA) vs LHP Cole Hamels (4-8, 4.28 ERA)
Friday, 7:05 p.m. ET, MASN 2

Cobb left his most recent start with a blister on his right index finger. That would force many pitchers to miss at least one turn in the rotation, but the O’s righty will begin the game against Texas on Friday. Prior to leaving that start against the Twins last week, Cobb threw five innings and allowed five runs on seven hits, a walk and five strikeouts.

Choo has chewed up Cobb in the past, going 5-for-12 with two doubles and a home run, but Beltre has struggled (1-for-13, two strikeouts). Of course, this is also the worst season of Cobb’s career, so all bets are off.

The Rangers lefty, Hamels, is coming off of a 0.2-inning outing in which he served up seven runs (three earned) on five hits, two walks, two strikeouts and a home run. It was the second consecutive start he had allowed seven runs in. Perhaps the Orioles can make it three in a row?

Some history: Mark Trumbo has three home runs and seven total hits off of Hamels in his career over 20 at-bats. On the other end of the spectrum, Chris Davis is 0-for-9 with three strikeouts, surprising absolutely no one.

Game 2

Yefry Ramirez (0-3, 3.93 ERA) vs TBD (0-0, — ERA)
Saturday, 7:15 p.m. ET, FOX

Is Ramirez any good? The jury is still out. He has now started three times for the O’s and come out of the bullpen once for an extended period. In his most recent start (July 9 vs. Yankees) he allowed four runs on nine hits, two walks and four strikeouts over just four innings of work.

The other draw to this game is the giveaway, which will presumably mirror the jerseys that the O’s wear on the field. Where are we on Maryland flag print? Are you over it? Or is it still the best flag in the country, I don’t care what you say!!!!!?

Game 3

TBD (0-0, — ERA) vs TBD (0-0, — ERA)
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET, MASN 2

As of this writing, neither team appears to have announced their starters for Sunday’s conclusion. Apparently, Chris Tillman (1-5, 10.46 ERA) is a candidate for the Orioles, which would be just a perfect cap to this dreadful first half of the 2018 season. He has a track record. He’s done it before. Blah, blah, blah. This team is bad. Allowing Tillman to pitch in another game is not going to drastically alter their fate, but this is still Major League Baseball, and it’s about what you can do now. Tillman is over the hill. It’s a sucky part of the game, but time marches on and his time has past. Move on, O’s!

Jimmy Yacabonis (0-0, 7.15 ERA) seems to be the other option for this one. This makes much more sense. The guy has shown an ability to get outs when starting a game. In his two starts for the O’s this year, he has allowed five runs in nine innings as compared to the four runs he has allowed in 2.1 relief innings. Give him a few more chances. If he starts to fail like Tillman has over the last year-plus, get someone else.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    0 (O’s get swept)
    (80 votes)
  • 49%
    1
    (119 votes)
  • 13%
    2
    (32 votes)
  • 4%
    3 (O’s sweep)
    (11 votes)
242 votes total Vote Now