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Orioles-Rangers series preview: Where the Orioles are headed to the Lone Star State

Hold onto your Stetsons! The Orioles visit the land of Cashner, Bundy, and Davis for a three-game series against the 30-27 Rangers.

Baltimore Orioles Photo Day Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

You think this Orioles team isn’t ready to face the Texas Rangers? Well, think again.

Har har. If the Orioles could take these next three games on style alone, we’d be set. Unfortunately, they still have to pitch.

The Rangers are a team the Orioles have had historic success against: 395-270 all-time. The Rangers took last year’s season series, 4-3, although Baltimore had the edge in 2017, 6-1. What that means for 2019 is probably exactly nothing.

The Rangers are sitting 9 games back of second place, but that’s also because they have the misfortune of playing in the same division as the Astros. The Rangers have hovered around .500 this season, but when you break this down, that’s because they’re a much better hitting team than pitching: Texas ranks second in runs and RBIs per game, and tenth in home runs, fifth in slugging, third in extra base hit percentage—so figure, against this Orioles staff, for all those doubles to turn into home runs.

The staff, though, is oddly imbalanced: Texas ranks 24th in the majors in ERA (4.90), except for Mike Minor, who’s suddenly at the top of pitching leaderboards this season.

Game 1 - Tuesday, 8:05

· Dylan Bundy: 11 G, 4.58 ERA, 5.24 FIP, 1.237 WHIP, 59 IP, 60 SO, 21 BB, 13 HR

· Drew Smyly: 7 G, 6.98 ERA, 6.66 FIP, 1.76 WHIP, 38.2 IP, 39 SO, 27 BB, 10 HR

As Mark Brown wrote last week when the O’s faced the GiantsDrew Pomeranz, “With the Orioles starting rotation being what it is, most games this season aren’t ones where you can look at the two starting pitchers and think that the Orioles have the one who has been performing better. This series opener is one such game.”

Since he was drafted in 2010, the injury-plagued Smyly has bounced around quite a bit—from the Tigers to Tampa Bay to Seattle to the Cubs and now the Rangers. He put up big numbers for Tampa Bay back in 2015-16, but hasn’t returned to form since. This year has been especially rough for Smyly, as the career-high ERA and FIP show.

The Orioles faced Smyly quite a bit when he was in their division rival Tampa in 2015-16, but not a ton since, so from the current roster only Jonathan Villar, who had playing time back in Milwaukee, and Chris Davis have faced him. Villar is 0-for-5 against him, Davis 3-for-20 with 3 home runs and 12 strikeouts (how Davis a line is that).

Dylan Bundy has definitely been trending upward (3.24 ERA in his last 7 starts), but this is going to be a tough lineup for him to face. Bundy has been a high strikeout pitcher, but remains very susceptible to the big hit, and the Rangers are a low-strikeout, high slugging team. Against Bundy, Rougned Odor is 2-for-8, Shin-Soo Choo is 2-for-4 with a home run, and Elvis Andrus 2-for-9 with one double.

Game 2 - Wednesday, 8:05

  • John Means: 13 G, 2.80 ERA, 4.20 FIP, 1.10 WHIP, 54.2 IP, 45 SO, 15 BB, 7 HR
  • Mike Minor: 12 G, 2.74 ERA, 3.43 FIP, 1.19 WHIP, 75.2 IP, 80 SO, 24 BB, 8 HR

If you’re into pitching (and as an Orioles fan this year, God help you if you are), Game 2 looks like the matchup for you. I’ve sung the praises of John Means this season, but it’ll be a tall order for the Orioles to come away with a win here against Mike Minor, who’s having the season of his career.

Minor sounds like one of those typical Orioles stories: draft a guy who hangs around your organization with limited success, then watch him turn into an ace after he gets traded. A 2010 draft pick who pitched to a 38-36 record with a 4.10 ERA and 3.90 FIP for Atlanta in five seasons, Minor had one great season for Kansas City in 2017 (6-6, 2.55 ERA, 88 SO, 22 BB) before joining Texas in 2018. He was OK last season, but has exploded this year.

Minor leads all pitchers with a 3.7 WAR, and the numbers, as you see above, speak for themselves. He’s got a mean fastball and a deceptive changeup, so you can expect plenty of swings and misses against Minor from this lineup.

Neither Minor nor Means have seen much of the other team’s hitters. Orioles hitters have a total of 16 plate appearances against Minor (including four each by Davis and Trey Mancini), and a grand total of one hit against him.

Rangers hitters have, no surprise, exactly zero plate appearances against Means. Against lefties this season, a bunch of them have put up numbers, including CF Joey Gallo (.314 BA, 5 HR, 17 RBI), DH Hunter Pence (still crazy to see him as a Ranger!), shortstop Elvis Andrus (.296 BA, 13 RBI), right fielder Nomar Mazara (.290 BA, 4 HR), and first baseman Logan Forsythe (.286 BA).

Game 3 - Thursday, 8:05

  • Andrew Cashner: 12 GS, 5.04 ERA, 5.04 FIP, 1.43 WHIP, 64.1 IP, 48 SO, 25 BB, 11 HR
  • Ariel Jurado: 12 GS, 2.43 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 1.21 WHIP, 29.2 IP, 22 SO, 8 BB, 3 HR

The Rangers’ Ariel Jurado, a righty out of Panama pitching in his second season, is somewhat of a dark horse. The Orioles faced him once last season, getting held to two runs over five innings. But he’s been much better this season: 2-2, with a 2.42 ERA and 22 SO and 8 BB in 29.2 innings (compared to 5-5, 5.93 ERA and 22 SO, 18 BB in 54.2 innings in 2018). Jurado’s FIP is considerably higher than his ERA, for what it’s worth. The current Orioles lineup has seen Jurado a grand total of 9 times: Villar is 2-for-3, Davis is 0-for-2, Mancini 0-for-2, and Renato Núñez 1-for-2.

The right-handed Cashner is having a solid year, though he’s been helped by run support. Cashner is susceptible to righties in a big way, who have a .315 BA against him and all ten homers he’s allowed this year. Against his former team, he’s faced Hunter Pence the most by far. Pence has a .150 average in 21 trips to the plate against the righty. After that, you have Shin-Soo Choo (L) at 2-for-8, catcher Jeff Mathis at 0-for-5, Rougned Odor (L) at 2-for-5, and Elvis Andrus (R) and Delino DeShields (R) 2-for-4 each.

Starting pitching has been an Achilles heel for both of these teams this season, although both are facing each other with the strongest slice of the rotation they have. As usual, with this young, untested roster, predicting how this is all going to go down is a relative crapshoot.


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

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    3 (The Orioles sweep)
    (6 votes)
  • 19%
    (16 votes)
  • 55%
    (45 votes)
  • 17%
    0 (The Orioles get swept)
    (14 votes)
81 votes total Vote Now