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Monday night game thread: vs. Blue Jays, 7:35

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The O’s meet the Toronto Blue Jays for the first time in 2020. Lefty Hyun Jin Ryu, the 2019 Cy Young runner-up, should be a formidable challenge for them.

Baltimore Orioles v Miami Marlins - Game One
Can Alex Cobb keep building on a solid start to 2020 so far?
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Covid-19-era baseball is weird. The last time the Orioles played an opponent from the AL East was over two weeks ago, on August 2. Their last thirteen games, in which they’ve gone 7-6, have all been against the NL East. So against a more familiar opponent, the next three games feel important, kind of a test of whether the Orioles’ recent hot hitting, adequate starting pitching, and solid work from the bullpen are . . . the real deal.

The Orioles are 5-3 against the AL East this season, with Toronto being the last division opponent they’ve yet to face. Last season, they went 8-11 against the Blue Jays. Although that Orioles team wasn’t a very different one from this one (roster-wise), it is a very different Blue Jays team that rolls into Baltimore.

Since April 2019, Toronto has completely revamped its starting rotation and some of its lineup. New and newish faces include former Dodgers ace Hyun Jin Ryu, veteran hurlers Tanner Roark, Chase Anderson, Anthony Bass, Matt Shoemaker, and Shun Yamaguchi, a closer from Japan, as well as last season’s trio of young hotshots Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. and Cavan Biggio, plus infielders Travis Shaw and Joe Panik. With closer Ken Giles on the 10-day IL, the Blue Jays have been divvying up closing responsibilities among a number of guys, including Yamaguchi, Bass, A.J. Cole, and Wilmer Font.

The story tonight may have lots to do with starting pitching. For the Orioles, the question will be whether Alex Cobb keeps up his solid form so far (1-1, 2.75 ERA, 17 Ks in four starts). Among Blue Jays hitters, only Lourdes Gurriel (0-for-3), Teoscar Hernandez (2-for-6), Travis Shaw (1-for-1), and Randal Grichuk (.714 BA in 7 ABs) have faced Cobb before. The Blue Jays rank 12th in the AL in on-base percentage right now, and their best hitter, Bo Bichette (.361 avg, 1.063 OPS, 13 RBIs) is out with a strained right knee. So if Cobb keeps throwing strikes and splitters, he could hopefully have good results.

The other half of the equation is how the Orioles bats will do against last year’s Cy Young runner-up Hyun Jin Ryu, whom the Blue Jays signed in the offseason to a 4-year, $80 million deal. After five seasons with the Dodgers, Ryu had a breakthrough 2019 with an NL-leading 179 ERA+ and an MLB-best 2.32 ERA and 1.2 BB9 rate in 29 starts. So far in four starts in 2020, the lefty has a mixed record. He gave up 3 runs on Opening Day against Tampa Bay and 5 runs against Washington, but since he’s shut out Atlanta over five innings and allowed just a run against Miami in six innings. Ryu’s FIP (4.19) and WHIP (1.250) are elevated so far, but so, too, is his strikeout rate (10.8 per 9 innings). Of current Orioles hitters, only José Iglesias (1-for-5) and and Pat Valaika (3-for-6 with a homer and 3 RBIs) have seen him before.

I just checked the splits of the .326-hitting Hanser Alberto against left-handed pitching, and they actually made me laugh out loud: 7-for 13 for a .538 BA with 4 RBIs and 2 doubles, good for an OPS of 1.423. Tonight’s contest could be a nice test of whether Alberto is a killer of lefties, or just a killer of bad lefties.

Orioles lineup

  1. Hanser Alberto 2B
  2. Anthony Santander RF
  3. Renato Núñez 1B
  4. Pedro Severino DH
  5. Pat Valaika LF
  6. Rio Ruiz 3B
  7. Bryan Holaday C
  8. Andrew Velazquez SS
  9. Cedric Mullins CF

Blue Jays lineup

  1. Cavan Biggio 2B
  2. Randal Grichuk CF
  3. Travis Shaw 3B
  4. Teoscar Hernández RF
  5. Rowdy Tellez 1B
  6. Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. DH
  7. Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. LF
  8. Joe Panik SS
  9. Danny Jansen C