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Orioles-Rays series preview: The best and worst of the AL East square off

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The Orioles begin a nine-game homestand by facing the Rays, one of three teams with 20 wins this year.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles are going head-to-head with the AL East leaders for three games. The battle for the division is on!

OK, maybe not. The Tampa Bay Rays have already accumulated a 9.5-game lead over the cellar-dwelling Orioles, and I’m sorry to say that playoff contention doesn’t seem to be in the cards for the Birds. Still, the O’s can at least try to have some fun this weekend.

Last year, even amidst a historically bad season, the Orioles had some success against the Rays at Camden Yards, going 6-4. That included three straight wins July 27-29 in which the Orioles scored 11 or more runs each game.

The Rays, as usual, are led by their pitching staff, which leads the majors with a 3.07 ERA. Even with mediocre numbers by last year’s Cy Young winner, Blake Snell (2-3, 4.31 ERA), the Rays have been lifted by Tyler Glasnow and Charlie Morton, who are a combined 8-0 with a 2.15 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 75.1 innings. In the bullpen, flamethrowers Jose Alvarado and Diego Castillo have split the save opportunities.

On the hitting side, the Rays have gotten key contributions from Tommy Pham (.281/.401/.439), Ji-Man Choi (.284/.386/.473), and Yandy Diaz (.264/.357/.528), but the best performer has been University of Maryland alum Brandon Lowe, who was just named the AL Rookie of the Month for April. Lowe is batting .304 with a .945 OPS, seven home runs, and 19 RBIs, leading the club in each of those categories.

This is the second series between the Orioles and Rays this year, with Tampa Bay taking two of three on their home turf April 16-18. Unlike last time, the Rays won’t have the services of right fielder Austin Meadows, who’s on the injured list with a thumb injury. In 20 games, Meadows was batting .351/.422/.676 with six home runs and 19 RBIs. Today is his 24th birthday. The IL is no place to spend it.

There is one key addition to the Rays since that last series, as the club recently called up first baseman Nate Lowe, their No. 13 prospect on MLB Pipeline. He’s not related to Brandon Lowe; Nate pronounces his last name differently (rhymes with “no”) than Brandon (rhymes with “now”). However, Nate Lowe is wearing uniform No. 35, which is the number Brandon Lowe was wearing last year. Oh, also, there’s a Josh Lowe in the Rays’ system, their No. 15 prospect, who is Nate’s brother but of course unrelated to Brandon. Got all that?

Game 1: Friday, 7:05 PM

Tyler Glasnow (5-0, 1.75) vs. Dan Straily (1-1, 6.75)

The Orioles will have their work cut out for them in the opener. I mean, they’ll probably have their work cut out for them in all three games, but especially the opener. Glasnow has been a revelation for the Rays after they acquired him from the Pirates in the Chris Archer trade last year. Led by his stupendous cut fastball, Glasnow has racked up an MLB-best five wins while striking out 38 batters in 36 innings. He hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any of his six starts, and he dominated the Orioles when he faced them earlier this year, working seven strong innings for a victory April 16.

So, yeah, I’d say that deal has worked out well for the Rays. Especially considering they also received Meadows and No. 6 prospect Shane Baz along with Glasnow.

Straily, after getting tattooed in his first two outings as an Oriole, has a 2.57 ERA in his last three starts, though he hasn’t gone more than five innings in any of them. He didn’t face Tampa Bay in the earlier series this year, but he saw the Rays last year as a Miami Marlin and stymied them for one run in seven innings. Current Rays hitters are just 3-for-19 against him.

Game 2: Saturday, 7:05 PM

TBD vs. Dylan Bundy (0-4, 6.67)

Bundy is still seeking his first win of the year. Like Straily, he’s been marginally better in his last few outings than before. He’s gone five or more innings in each of his last four starts after being chased in the fourth inning in his first two. In his last start, two of the four runs Bundy allowed were the result of shoddy O’s defense. The problem, as usual, has been the home run ball, with Bundy having allowed nine roundtrippers in six games. He faced the Rays on April 16 and gave up three runs in five innings, including an Avisail Garcia homer.

The Rays, as they’re prone to do, are playing it coy with their starting pitcher assignments for the last two games. They’ll probably be using openers, as they did twice in the last series against the Orioles, when Ryne Stanek worked one inning April 17 and Hunter Wood two innings April 18. Be on the lookout for an appearance by righty Yonny Chirinos, who threw five shutout, one-hit innings in “relief” of Stanek last time against the O’s.

Game 3: Sunday, 1:05 PM

TBD vs. John Means (3-3, 2.81)

Means was the pitching hero of the Orioles’ last matchup against Tampa Bay. Working in relief in extra innings, Means tossed a scoreless 10th and 11th — getting four of his six outs on strikeouts — to hold the line while the O’s plated the game-winning run. Will the Rays make adjustments to the rookie southpaw? The last time Means faced an opponent for the second time, the White Sox tagged him for four runs April 29. Then again, he’s faced the Yankees three times and dominated them each one, so not all teams have hit him hard on repeat viewings.


How many games will the Orioles win in this series?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    3 (Orioles will sweep!)
    (10 votes)
  • 14%
    (15 votes)
  • 49%
    (53 votes)
  • 27%
    0 (Orioles will get swept)
    (29 votes)
107 votes total Vote Now