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Orioles-White Sox series preview: Embrace meaningless September baseball

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The Orioles and White Sox have lost a combined 193 games so far this season. They meet up for some utterly meaningless September baseball this weekend.

Baltimore Orioles v Chicago White Sox Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

There’s nothing quite like a mid-September matchup between a 42-104 team and a 57-89 team to really set off some sparks. The baseball world will be shaking in this weekend series between the Orioles and the White Sox. Or maybe not so much.

For the White Sox, the quest for the remainder of the season will be to avoid hitting 100 losses. They’re currently on pace to lose 99, which is four games worse than they managed last year. A bad series would put them on track to hit that century mark. Somewhat fortunately for the White Sox, three of their remaining games will be played against a team that has already lost more than 100.

These White Sox are the kind of more ordinary bad baseball team that is seen many years and not pushed aside by the Royals and especially the Orioles. The average age of a White Sox batter this season has been 26.6 - for the O’s, it’s 28.7. It’s a big gap, not that going younger has meant playing well for the South Siders.

Eight of the nine players in the regular lineup are 27 or younger. Unfortunately for the Sox, seven of the eight have an OPS+ under 100, meaning they’re worse than league average hitters. That includes 23-year-old Yoan Moncada, the one-time mega-prospect who’s batting .224/.304/.391 in his first full big league season. From the headliner of the Chris Sale trade, they were likely hoping for better.

Add to that the struggles of a couple of young starters, Dylan Covey and Lucas Giolito, as well as an erratic bullpen, and it’s no wonder they are where they are - ordinarily bad and not legendarily bad. Giolito is scheduled to pitch in this series.

Game 1 - Friday, 7:05pm

James Shields (6-16, 4.58 ERA) vs. Luis Ortiz (don’t look at his ERA after one relief appearance)

Can anything nice happen for Orioles fans with the last remnants of this stupid season? Based on how the team has played so far, probably not, but if there’s going to be something to make you feel just a tiny little bit better about the future before we head into the offseason, a good first start for Ortiz, who the O’s received in the Jonathan Schoop trade, might be the thing.

The scouting report on what Ortiz might be able to offer, from MLB Pipeline:

A big and physical right-hander, Ortiz’s combines stuff and feel better than most young pitchers. His strong build allows him to maintain his 92-97 mph fastball deep into ballgames, and his late-breaking slider in the low 80s gives him a second plus second pitch. Ortiz threw his changeup sparingly as an amateur, but has developed it enough as a pro to where scouts view it as a potentially average pitch. He also mixes in a below-average curveball to give hitters a different look. Meanwhile, a clean and repeatable delivery has helped to make Ortiz an accomplished strike-thrower early in his career, though some evaluators would like to see him spend less time in the zone

There are not many teams who strike out more than Orioles batters do. The White Sox are one of those teams. Hopefully that’s a good sign for Ortiz to get a confidence-builder in his first MLB outing after spending much of the past three seasons in the Double-A level.

The old-look Orioles of late May faced Shields the last time the O’s saw the White Sox. He held them to two runs in seven innings. Things have not gotten much better for the offense since then.

Game 2 - Saturday, 7:05pm

Reynaldo Lopez (5-9, 4.22 ERA) vs. Yefry Ramirez (1-5, 5.94 ERA)

This has been the first full season in the big leagues for the 24-year-old Lopez after getting an Oriole-like up-and-down treatment first in 2016 by the Nationals and then, after the Adam Eaton trade, the White Sox last year. People who hyped him as a prospect might have hoped for better than a low-4s ERA from a performance standpoint, but anyone who’s watched the O’s rotation for the past three seasons would sign up for that from one of the Baltimore starting pitchers in a heartbeat.

The righty has had a slight reverse platoon split over his rookie season, giving up a .758 OPS to same-handed batters and just a .716 OPS to lefty batters. Less surprising is that he’s worse on the road, where he has allowed a .775 OPS, than he is at home, where Lopez has allowed a .698 OPS. I don’t know if either of these will mean anything. The Orioles are bad beyond my comprehension. Lopez did not face them in May.

Ramirez getting another start is one more of those signs about how the O’s are sputtering even worse as they head through the month of September. With Andrew Cashner temporarily shelved with a knee problem, Alex Cobb dealing with a cut or blister that abbreviated his last start, and Dylan Bundy in the midst of a two-plus month stretch where he’s not been any good at all, the O’s have nowhere else to turn. They are not 42-104 by accident.

Game 3 - Sunday, 1:05pm

Lucas Giolito (10-10, 5.76 ERA) vs. TBD

The last time the Orioles ran into Giolito, they smoked him for seven runs in less than two innings. That was back on May 24. The team, of course, looks much different since then, but the pair of home runs hit off Giolito on that Thursday afternoon were hit by Trey Mancini and Adam Jones, who are still around - though of course there’s no guarantee either or both will play.

That was one of four games this season where Giolito has allowed seven or more runs. As you might guess from his high-5 ERA, he has not balanced out these awful performances with good ones - though thanks to the unfairness of pitcher win-loss records, he leads the Sox staff nonetheless. No one in the American League has walked more batters than Giolito and no one, not even an Orioles pitcher, has allowed more earned runs.

Does it even matter who is going to pitch for the Orioles? Maybe it will be Jimmy Yacabonis, maybe it will be David Hess. Maybe it will be someone who as yet has not even been added to the roster, as Buck Showalter alluded to that possibility before the last game of the Oakland series, telling reporters about a few minor league pitchers being asked to stay loose, “It’s not like they’re sitting at home on the couch deciding whether to bet on the Ravens.” With Thursday night’s football score, here’s hoping they didn’t.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    0 (The Orioles get swept)
    (51 votes)
  • 50%
    1
    (95 votes)
  • 15%
    2
    (30 votes)
  • 6%
    3 (The Orioles sweep)
    (13 votes)
189 votes total Vote Now