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Tuesday night Orioles game thread: at Mariners, 10:10

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Does Jorge López make you want to stay up past your bedtime? Hope so! He’ll try to follow Dean Kremer’s success from last night and go past five innings.

New York Yankees v Baltimore Orioles Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

So. Next man up? The Orioles may be last in their division, as the naysaying national media expected prior to the season, but as a whole, the team has been outplaying the lowly expectations that were set for it. At 14-15, they’re flirting with a .500 record, and only three games back of the current AL East frontrunners, the Red Sox. Starting pitching, a strong candidate, preseason, to be the team’s Achilles’ heel, has been hit-or-miss instead of bad, thanks to unexpectedly strong starts by John Means and Matt Harvey. The back end of the rotation, with a combined ERA of 6.40, has been an undeniable weaker link, however.

Last night, Dean Kremer took a big step toward dismantling that narrative, pitching six complete innings of one-run ball. He didn’t blow a ton of hitters away, racking up just four strikeouts. But he also didn’t allow much hard contact—only one run on two hits. Plus he walked just two batters and he gave his team length. The Orioles will take it!

Next up to rehabilitate his name is Jorge López, a curious figure in the rotation this year. A righty with a powerful fastball, he never delivered on his potential over five seasons with the Brewers and the Royals, and as a Mike Elias reclamation project, he’s sometimes flashed, but never consistently. What’s interesting about López is that his peripherals in 2021 are better than ever: his fastball velocity is up, placing in the 81st percentile of the league in velocity, and he’s allowing less hard contact and missing more bats than he has in his career.

The bad news is that López still seems like a long reliever in a starting role. Like clockwork, he always falls apart in the fifth inning. His ERA in the fifth inning alone is north of 45.00. Tonight, he’ll try once more to slay that dragon. If he doesn’t, the question for the O’s will be whether to move him to the bullpen, where his stuff may play better, or whether to accept his innings limitations, and use him in a more “opener” role. The trouble with the latter option is that covering innings this year is an obvious challenge, and a taxed bullpen may end up being taxed further. We’ll see.

Seattle counters with righty Justin Dunn, who’s 1-0 with a 3.98 ERA on the season. His undeniably best start came against the Orioles on April 15th, when he went five innings, struck out six, and allowed just one run on two hits. There is an argument to be made that a few Orioles hitters are hitting better now than they were then, so let’s hope for different results.

Last night, DJ Stewart sat out the game with a sore lower back. He was reported as day-to-day, but he’s back in the lineup tonight. Ryan Mountcastle’s seven-game hitting streak was ended last night, but he still reached base, and is still looking leagues better than he did when he was hitting .167 a week ago. If he can find his power stroke, it would mean huge things for this offense.

After last night’s win, the O’s are 2-3 against the Mariners on the season. Can they keep the good vibes going tonight?

Here are the starting lineups:

Orioles

1. Cedric Mullins - CF

2. Austin Hays - RF

3. Trey Mancini - 1B

4. Maikel Franco - 3B

5. DJ Stewart - LF

6. Ryan Mountcastle - DH

7. Freddy Galvis - SS

8. Chance Sisco - C

9. Rio Ruiz - 2B

Mariners

1. Mitch Haniger - RF

2. Ty France - DH

3. Kyle Seager - 3B

4. Kyle Lewis - CF

5. Luis Torrens - C

6. Evan White - 1B

7. J.P. Crawford - SS

8. Dylan Moore - RF

9. Taylor Trammell - LF