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Orioles-Royals series preview: Where the Orioles take on a team their own size

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The Orioles played Kansas City just over a week ago, taking two out of three. They’ve been pretty decent since then.

Kansas City Royals v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

After that ghastly stretch in August where the Orioles lost 12 of 13 to, well really, just vastly superior teams, Kansas City was just the magic cure this club needed. Since the Royals galloped into town on August 19, the Orioles have been a slightly-better-than .500 team, taking two of three from KC and splitting their series with Tampa Bay and the Nationals.

On paper, the Royals are a better team than the Orioles, but that’s kind of splitting hairs. The Royals are 47-88 to Baltimore’s 44-89, which also puts them above Detroit (39-92), but being the third-worst team in baseball is certainly nothing to brag about. Above that, you get significantly better teams like Toronto, Pittsburgh, and Seattle. Let’s face it, folks: somewhere within this three-team tranche of lightweights lies the #1 draft pick in 2020.

The Royals are a better-pitching team than the Orioles, but the Orioles have hit better. KC’s team ERA is 5.10, only third-worst in the AL. (I don’t need to tell you who has the worst team ERA in the AL. But if you’re curious, that ERA is an appreciably worse 5.81.) Offensively, Baltimore has been less anemic than KC, though (4.35 runs per game to 4.24, and Baltimore outstrips KC by a fair amount in hits and home runs per game).

The Orioles face a mostly new set of pitchers this series. Kansas City just shut down its best starter, Brad Keller, after he showed signs of arm fatigue, and the lefty Danny Duffy is just coming off the injured list from a hamstring injury, while lefty Eric Skoglund is making just his second start of the season after serving an 80-game suspension for PEDs. With all these lefty starters, once thing is as certain as death and taxes: Hanser Alberto will be getting in plenty of at-bats. One crazy factoid I just learned about Alberto’s insane season is that, if the season ended today, his .407 average against lefties would put him 11th of all time for a single season alongside these guys:

1) Buster Posey, .433 (2012)
2) Mickey Mantle, .424 (1964)
3) Elston Howard, .423 (1961)
4) Mickey Mantle, .421 (1957)
5) Tris Speaker, .415 (1925)
6) Stan Musial, .414 (1948)
7t) Albert Pujols, .411 (2008)
7t) Joe Vosmik, .411 (1935)
9) Mariano Duncan, .410 (1990)
10) Roberto Clemente, .409 (1964)
11t) Hanser Alberto, .407 (2019)
11t) Ichiro Suzuki, .404 (2004)
11t) Lew Fonseca, .404 (1929)

Game 1 - Friday, 8:15

  • TBD (possibly John Means, 25 G, 21 GS, 3.61 ERA, 4.42 FIP, 1.185 WHIP, 117.1 IP, 95 SO, 32 BB, 17 HR)
  • Eric Skoglund: 1 G, 1 GS, 3.60 ERA, 7.61 FIP, 1.000 WHIP, 5.0 IP, 0 SO, 3 BB, 1 HR

With John Means on the family medical emergency list, the Orioles have been cagey about their starters for this series. Roch Kubatko speculates that Means might be getting activated tonight, though. It’s been a bad stretch for Means since the All-Star Break, when his ERA was still a sparkling 2.50. Since then, he’s 2-5 with a 6.23 ERA. In Means’ last start on Aug. 24 against Tampa Bay, however, he seemed to get his mojo back, allowing just a run over seven innings. He talked about mechanical adjustments he’d been making under the tutelage of pitching coach Doug Brocail. So it would be great to see him keep this up against a weak-hitting Kansas City.

In his third year in the big leagues, meanwhile, Skoglund is making just his second start of the season after giving up two runs in five innings against Cleveland last week. It’s tough to judge the results on one game, but that extremely high FIP is a good indication that he was getting hit up pretty well by the Indians batters. It might have been rust, or it might have been something more hopeful for the Orioles. Either way, only Chris Davis and Trey Mancini have faced him before, and each is 1-for-3.

Game 2 - Saturday, 7:15

  • TBD (possibly Dylan Bundy: 25 GS, 4.98 ERA, 5.07 FIP, 1.348 WHIP, 132 IP, 131 SO, 45 BB, 25 HR)
  • Jorge López: 33 G, 12 GS, 6.56 ERA, 5.44 FIP, 1.521 WHIP, 93.1 IP, 89 SO, 36 BB, 19 HR

The Orioles haven’t listed anyone for this start, either, but Dylan Bundy would be available since he last pitched last Sunday against Tampa Bay. The still reliably underperforming Bundy has faced Kansas City just once this season, on August 20, when he cruised to a seven-inning victory, his second longest outing of the season. It seems this lineup can make even Orioles pitchers look good? Alex Gordon and Whit Merrifield have faced Bundy the most often, and they’re each .250 against him.

The 26-year-old righty Lopez is not having a good year. He’s been back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen, and he’s probably getting this start because Brad Keller was shut down with only garbage time left in the season for Kansas City.

Game 3 - Sunday, 2:15

  • Aaron Brooks (between two teams): 24 G, 15 GS, 5.62 ERA, 5.95 FIP, 1.376 WHIP, 88.2 IP, 71 SO, 24 BB, 20 HR
  • Danny Duffy: 18 G, 18 GS, 4.93 ERA, 5.13 FIP, 1.405 WHIP, 100.1 IP, 90 SO, 36 BB, 19 HR

After going 0-4 with a 9.22 ERA in seven appearances since coming to the Orioles, Brooks has had a tremendous last two starts—he’s gone 2-0 with an 0.82 ERA in eleven innings. Is this just bad competition, or are we witnessing an Aaron Brooks renaissance? One of those starts came against KC, but the other came this past Tuesday against the Nationals, the hottest hitting team in the Majors for the month of August. I know which version I want to believe.

Eight-year veteran Duffy’s injury-shortened 2019 has been one of his roughest seasons so far. He’s been out for just under a month, but he was getting hit unusually hard before then. Against him, Jonathan Villar is 2-for-5 and Trey Mancini is 3-for-9.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    3 (The Orioles will sweep!)
    (18 votes)
  • 56%
    2
    (54 votes)
  • 19%
    1
    (19 votes)
  • 5%
    0 (The Orioles will get swept)
    (5 votes)
96 votes total Vote Now