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Orioles-Diamondbacks series preview: We still miss Adam Jones

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The Orioles will get to see an old friend and his .500 team in this series.

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The way the most recent baseball offseason shook out, two recent longtime Orioles signed out in the NL West. We already had our reunion with Manny Machado a month ago when the O’s play the Padres. The series out in Arizona starting tonight represents another big reunion, with Adam Jones on the Diamondbacks.

I still miss Jones. I know why he’s not on the team this year and I think that they were good reasons. As things have played out, with the most recent O’s game featuring an outfield with Dwight Smith Jr. in left field, Anthony Santander in center field, and Trey Mancini in right field, we haven’t exactly seen the loads of young outfielders yet. But they’ll be along eventually, we hope, and there just wasn’t room for Jones on the roster, especially if he was looking for a deal beyond one year.

A year and $3 million is what he had to settle for with the Diamondbacks. Jones began the year on a hot streak, with an .860 OPS at the end of April and 11 home runs by the end of May. Things haven’t gone quite as well since, with Jones hitting only two homers in June and none so far in July. He entered Sunday’s play batting .267/.317/.436 for the season. Maybe Orioles pitching will prove to be the thing to get him heated back up.

As for the Diamondbacks themselves, they come into this series with a 50-50 record. Doesn’t sound impressive, but it’s a weak year in the National League for teams who aren’t named the Dodgers and that record leeaves them just 2.5 games out of a wild card spot, with three teams to pass.

Unfortunately for Arizona, they’re in the division with the Dodgers, so it’s wild card or bust. They’re going to have a tough “buy or sell?” decision to make in the next week and a half.

Zack Greinke and his sub-3.00 ERA and sub-1.000 WHIP just pitched on Saturday and will not be on turn to start in this series.

Game 1 - Monday, 9:40pm Eastern

  • Aaron Brooks (w/A’s and O’s): 17 G, 8 GS, 4.69 ERA, 5.60 FIP, 1.204 WHIP, 55.2 IP, 56 SO, 16 BB, 12 HR
  • Robbie Ray: 21 GS, 3.92 ERA, 4.25 FIP, 1.299 WHIP, 117 IP, 152 SO, 57 BB, 19 HR

As a team, the Diamondbacks entered Sunday with an .845 OPS against lefties and a .749 OPS against righties. That’s good news for two of the O’s starters, including Brooks. Ray, a lefty, will face an O’s team that’s modestly better against LHP compared to RHP (.712 OPS vs. .703 OPS) but really they’re just bad against everyone.

Brooks will probably not be in the game for too long. Before being acquired by the O’s, he hadn’t started a game since April, so he’s not stretched back out to full starter game length yet. The O’s bullpen with its 6.21 ERA for the season remains something for O’s fans to fear and fans of other teams to anticipate with delight.

For the Arizona starter, Ray, July has been his best month to date. It’s only been three starts, but they’ve added up to three great starts with 23 strikeouts over 18.1 innings and a 2.95 ERA. Even in his good month, Ray’s given up five homers in those three starts. He’s only given up six runs total, so that’s a lot of teams not scoring against him when they aren’t homering.

Game 2 - Tuesday, 9:40

  • Dylan Bundy: 18 GS, 5.28 ERA, 5.32 FIP, 1.370 WHIP, 92 IP, 97 SO, 32 BB, 21 HR
  • Merrill Kelly: 20 GS, 3.77 ERA, 4.25 FIP, 1.222 WHIP, 117 IP, 92 SO, 31 BB, 16 HR

Bundy is returning from the injured list to make this start, so the Orioles will have at least one roster decision to make between now and then. He was very bad in April, very good in May, and very bad again in June. The right knee tendinitis that put him on the injured list put a real damper on his following that up with an excellent July. Seven runs in one inning hurts the ERA.

We can only hope he’s better and that he pitches better as well. Unless you’re a hardcore tanker who wants the Orioles to lose to get the #1 pick next year. I understand the impulse. They’re only a half game “ahead” of the Tigers right now. There will have to be a lot of losing to guarantee another #1.

I’m jealous of the Diamondbacks and their starting rotation with three pitchers who have over 100 IP thrown and four pitchers with ERAs under 4. Kelly, like Ray, is not significantly outpitching his FIP, so there’s probably not a luck regression due to them.

The 30-year-old Kelly pitched the last four seasons in South Korea and did enough there to get Arizona to offer him a contract with two years and $5.5 million guaranteed, with a couple of team options on the back end. This is his MLB rookie season. More power to him for sticking with baseball and earning his way to the show.

Game 3 - Wednesday, 3:40

  • John Means: 20 G, 16 GS, 2.95 ERA, 4.37 FIP, 1.088 WHIP, 94.2 IP, 74 SO, 24 BB, 13 HR
  • Taylor Clarke: 11 G, 10 GS, 6.50 ERA, 6.47 FIP, 1.642 WHIP, 45.2 IP, 32 SO, 19 BB, 11 HR

There haven’t been many games this season where the Orioles seem like they might, based on the starting pitching matchup, be favored to win the game. With their All-Star Means facing a jabroni, the Wednesday afternoon game might just be one of them. Means has a 3.15 ERA since the start of June, and that even includes a game where he gave up six runs in six innings. Though, don’t forget what I said above about the Diamondbacks performing better against lefties.

Clarke, a 26-year-old righty, is from Northern Virginia and played college baseball at Towson until Towson’s short-lived decision not to have a baseball team prompted a transfer to the College of Charleston. He’s worked his way up to MLB since being drafted in the third round in 2015. It’s been a tough debut for Clarke, who wasn’t particularly homer-prone in the minors. Those juiced baseballs are something.

You have to go back to May to find a game where Clarke pitched at least six innings, and he’s gone fewer than five innings in six of his last eight starts. At the moment, his career high for strikeouts in a game is six, and the Orioles being the Orioles, we should expect Clarke to set a new career high very soon.

**

Baseball Reference gave Arizona a 51.1% chance to make the playoffs going into Sunday’s games. A much more pessimistic Fangraphs projection put their chances at just 18.6%. A team that wants those numbers to go up needs to put some beatdowns on the worst team in MLB. Are the Diamondbacks capable of keeping pace in that chase? If they can’t even win a three-game series against the Orioles at home, the answer is probably no.

I’m not rooting for Arizona, because I don’t root for any team other than the Orioles under any circumstance. But if Jones’s team makes the playoffs and starts doing some magic, I wouldn’t mind that too much. If they decide they’re falling out of the race, hopefully Jones has value to a real contender. He deserves a shot to win a championship other than the World Baseball Classic.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    3 (The Orioles sweep Arizona)
    (14 votes)
  • 24%
    2
    (52 votes)
  • 63%
    1
    (137 votes)
  • 6%
    0 (The Orioles get swept)
    (13 votes)
216 votes total Vote Now