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Orioles-Athletics series preview: The West Coast trip begins

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The Orioles can’t seem to win in Baltimore, so maybe a trip to the opposite coast can jolt them into competence.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Baltimore Orioles Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

After gracing their fans with an embarrassing 1-5 homestand and a five-game losing streak, the Orioles are getting as far away from Baltimore as humanly possible. It’s probably for the best.

The O’s are taking their MLB-worst 21-50 record to the West Coast for the first time this season, swinging through Oakland for three games and then Seattle for four. Four of those games will start after 10 PM eastern time, making it easy for Orioles fans to put the team out of their thoughts for a little while.

First up is the A’s, who have been a tough team to pin down. Last year, they were one of the biggest revelations in baseball, coming out of nowhere to win 97 games and claim a wild card spot. This season, they’ve fallen off, currently sporting a .500 record (36-36) rife with bouts of streakiness. On May 14, they were a season-worst six games under the even-water mark, but then rattled off a 10-game winning streak (along with a suspended game in Detroit, to be completed Sept. 6, in which they were ahead, 5-3). Immediately after that, they lost five games in a row to undo half their progress.

Injuries have set back the A’s this year. Expected No. 1 starter Sean Manaea hasn’t pitched this year because of a labrum tear, while sluggers Khris Davis and Matt Olson were both sidelined for a spell. Still, Oakland has still gotten a few star performances, including Matt Chapman, who is not only the team’s best hitter (leading the club with 16 homers and an .851 OPS) but also a Gold Glover at third base. On the pitching side, Frankie Montas — who won’t pitch in this series — has been the staff ace with a 9-2 record and 2.85 ERA, while brief Oriole Liam Hendriks has been stellar out of the bullpen (1.69 ERA and 10.4 strikeout rate).

All told, the Athletics seem perfectly average, as their record attests. They rank in the middle of the pack in the AL in most offensive and pitching categories — not particularly great at anything, but not particularly terrible, either. That, of course, should give them a leg up on the Orioles, who are particularly terrible. The two teams previously squared off in April for a four-game set at Camden Yards, with the Athletics winning three.

Game 1: Monday, 10:07 PM ET

RHP Andrew Cashner (6-2, 4.73) vs. RHP Mike Fiers (6-3, 4.63)

Cashner last pitched on June 8, having missed his scheduled start against the Red Sox because of a blister. He’s apparently good to go now. He’ll be making his second start against the A’s this year; on April 8, he was tagged for a season-high nine hits in 5.1 innings, but emerged with the victory anyway because the O’s scored 12 runs that day. Cashner has only one career start in Oakland, and it came last year, when he gave up four runs in 4.2 innings. Current A’s hitters have six homers against him, including two by Matt Olson.

Fiers got off to a slow start this season; on April 20, his ERA stood at 8.28 after six starts, including three in a row in which he allowed six runs. But he’s turned the corner since then, going 4-1 with a 3.02 ERA in his last nine outings, with opposing batters hitting just .184 in that stretch. On May 7, Fiers threw a no-hitter against the Reds, the second no-no of his career. That’s two more than I’ll ever throw, I’m pretty sure.

Overall, Fiers has fared much better at home (3.60 ERA) than on the road (5.62) this season. Orioles hitters on the active roster have combined for only 23 at-bats against Fiers, with just three hits. Two were home runs (one apiece by Chris Davis and Jonathan Villar).

Game 2: Tuesday, 10:07 PM ET

RHP Gabriel Ynoa (0-3, 5.02) vs. LHP Brett Anderson (6-4, 3.89)

Ynoa is a guy who, on many other teams, probably wouldn’t be in the starting rotation. On the Orioles, he’s not even the worst starter in the rotation. He has a perfectly competent 4.50 ERA in his four starts so far, allowing two or three earned runs in each. He’s never faced the Athletics before, so perhaps he can use the element of surprise to his advantage. Of course, the same could be said for the A’s hitters.

The southpaw Anderson isn’t going to blow you away, as his 4.9 strikeout rate will attest, but he’s a reliable veteran who generally gives his team a chance to win. Anderson has pitched into the sixth or seventh inning in all but two of his 14 starts, and has allowed four earned runs or fewer in all but one. He faced the Orioles on April 9 and, in true Brett Anderson fashion, worked 6.2 innings and gave up two runs, notching a victory.

Game 3: Wednesday, 3:37 PM ET

TBD vs. RHP Chris Bassitt (3-3, 3.68)

Times are tough for the Orioles. So many starting pitchers have crashed and burned — Dan Straily, Yefry Ramirez, Luis Ortiz, David Hess — that the club again has a vacancy at the No. 5 spot. The latest to lose his job was Hess, who was briefly banished to the bullpen, and yesterday to the minors, after going 1-9 with a 7.20 ERA and allowing 20 home runs in 65 innings. The O’s initially indicated this start would go to lefty Josh Rogers, who was pitching to an 8.67 ERA for Triple-A Norfolk, but on Sunday the Birds backtracked and said they could opt to use an opener instead. Either way, they’re probably in trouble.

The 30-year-old Bassitt, who has never had a full, healthy season in the big leagues, has been a mainstay in Oakland’s rotation since the end of April. So far he’s putting up a career-best strikeout rate (8.7) and WHIP (1.193). The last time he faced the Orioles was in 2015, when only one Oriole from the current roster (Davis) was in the lineup. He’s essentially an unknown commodity to the current group of Birds.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    3 (Orioles will sweep!)
    (7 votes)
  • 4%
    2 (Orioles will finally win a series)
    (5 votes)
  • 57%
    1 (Orioles will avoid a sweep, at least)
    (69 votes)
  • 32%
    0 (Orioles will get swept)
    (39 votes)
120 votes total Vote Now