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Orioles-Rangers series preview: Finding meaning in a lost season

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The Rangers and Orioles played one another less than a month ago and they both look a lot different. Two teams on the rebuilding road face off in Texas for a four-game set.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Baltimore Orioles
A lot of Orioles and Rangers got traded since the last time these teams saw one another - but not these two.
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The rest of the 2018 Orioles season can be summed up by one John Mellencamp lyric: Life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone. So it is with baseball.

The Orioles must play 54 more games. There is little joy in that fact. There is not even much to hope for in a “Maybe next year” kind of way, because the collection of players on whom the Orioles are pinning their hopes are not currently in Baltimore. If Trey Mancini starts hitting, that would be nice, but it won’t save next year. Tim Beckham hitting better doesn’t save next year.

This is not entirely true. If some of the rotating cast of relievers can solidify that they belong in the big leagues, that’s worth something - either to a future good Orioles team or even just as a trade asset. Tanner Scott throwing strikes would be nice. Paul Fry’s early success sustaining itself over a larger sample would be nice. And if Yefry Ramirez can hold a spot in the back end of a big league rotation, that’s one fewer player the Orioles must develop or later sign.

All of this is mighty thin gruel, though. The Orioles and Rangers last played one another right before the All-Star break and both teams look different. They are both playing for next year and beyond.

Wins and losses only matter for draft position next June - and perhaps, in the O’s case, for avoiding the unfortunate history of being the worst-ever Orioles team over 162 game season. Most of their best players are gone. Those who are left can only play for pride and next year’s arbitration salary... and a rookie can’t even play for that.

Game 1 - Thursday, 8:05

Andrew Cashner (3-9, 4.33 ERA) vs. Yovani Gallardo (5-1, 4.81 ERA)

One thing that surprised me as I researched some numbers for this series is that the Orioles and Rangers entered Wednesday’s games with an identical combined starting rotation ERA of 5.26. This is 0.01 better than the White Sox; the O’s and Rangers are also tied with the Royals. It’s a good way to end up in last place. Texas is a mere 22.5 games behind the Astros.

It’s interesting to me that Cashner and Gallardo are the two pitchers in this game because they are similar to me: The O’s signed both in hopes of getting some veteran presence in the rotation or whatever, even though each clearly had some warning signs of decline. Cashner hasn’t been as bad, and he didn’t cost a draft pick either. The Orioles just don’t score runs for him.

Gallardo has only made seven starts this year. You remember him and will not be surprised when he frustrates a hacktastic Orioles lineup, of course.

Game 2 - Friday, 8:05

TBA vs. Ariel Jurado (1-1, 4.22 ERA)

Jurado is 22 and making his third-ever MLB appearance. We can practically pencil in this no-hitter already. He made the jump from Double-A straight to MLB. Jurado is a 6’1” righty from Panama who has barely managed to strike anybody out in the high minors. I’m talking 58 strikeouts in 101.2 innings for Frisco - though he only walked 17 batters as well. Again, let’s assume the Orioles strike out 10+ times against him.

This game would have probably been pitched for the O’s by Kevin Gausman if he hadn’t, you know, been traded. Is it David Hess time in the short-term? Jimmy Yacabonis had a Norfolk outing cut short by rain after just 2.1 innings on Wednesday, so consider him a possibility. As discussed above, none of this is extremely exciting.

Game 3 - Saturday, 8:05

Dylan Bundy (7-9, 4.53 ERA) vs. Mike Minor (7-6, 4.73 ERA)

After spending last year in Kansas City’s bullpen, the lefty Minor made his way to the Rangers for this season, where he’s logged 20 starts. His 1.196 WHIP would lead the Orioles rotation, though that’s added up to a high-4s ERA that doesn’t seem to be all bad luck, since his FIP is 4.60.

The month of July was a nightmare for Bundy, who made four starts with an 8.38 ERA. He looked like that’s what he deserved. Still, his most recent start was better, with just four hits allowed in seven innings. Unfortunately for Bundy, three of the four hits were solo home runs. That’s the thing for Bundy, who has allowed a tragicomical 26 home runs in 115.1 innings this year.

It’s righty batters who have been hitting more home runs, proportionally, which is a little weird, but that’s Orioles pitching for you. Most of the Rangers power is left-handed. I don’t know if this fact will matter at all on Saturday night.

Game 4 - Sunday, 3:05

TBA vs. Martin Perez (2-4, 6.50 ERA)

Perez is on the Wade Miley baserunners allowed plan, with a 1.971 WHIP, though he’s only made nine starts. They’ve been painful ones, barely averaging five innings a game, ten home runs allowed, 21 walks against just 45 strikeouts, and more hits than your favorite band’s entire catalog.

**

The Orioles, as we are often reminded, have the worst defense in MLB. This does not seem to have improved much upon trading Manny Machado. It has no hope of getting better until at least they start getting a real outfield defense - which Dan Duquette acknowledged on Tuesday needs to improve immediately.

Cedric Mullins is still hitting home runs and patrolling center field for Norfolk, though, and the Orioles outfield corners are manned by Mancini and Mark Trumbo. If the Orioles decide to add Mullins this weekend, following his performance would instantly make this series and the rest of the season interesting. They have avoided doing this up to now and I don’t know why.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    0 (The Orioles get swept)
    (10 votes)
  • 28%
    1
    (49 votes)
  • 45%
    2
    (80 votes)
  • 12%
    3
    (21 votes)
  • 8%
    4 (The Orioles sweep the Rangers)
    (14 votes)
174 votes total Vote Now