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Orioles-Blue Jays series preview: An AL East bird fight

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We’re nearly halfway through the 2021 season, and this series will be the first matchup between AL East foes Baltimore and Toronto.

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde and several players look onto the field as Baltimore plays Toronto in a Grapefruit League matchup this past spring.
Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

After a winless seven-game road trip through Tampa and Cleveland that saw the Orioles losing streak stretch to eight games, the Birds are back in Baltimore.

The homestand kicks off this evening with the first of three games against AL East counterparts the Toronto Blue Jays. It will be the first meeting between the O’s and Jays this year. While Baltimore is currently in firm possession of the AL East cellar, Toronto is only one spot ahead of them, hovering a game below .500.

Last year, the O’s went 2-8 against the Blue Jays and were outscored 59-38 in those 10 games. A big reason for that was Randal Grichuk, who swatted seven home runs and had an OPS of 1.237 in 42 at-bats against the O’s in 2020. He’s a player to keep an eye on in this series.

Toronto boasts one of the best lineups in baseball this year, ranking among the top five teams in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS. They also lead the majors in home runs with 103. Meanwhile, the O’s pitching staff has allowed the most home runs in the majors with 104, so get ready for some dingers.

Even more impressive is the fact that the Blue Jays have excelled offensively without prized offseason pickup George Springer, who has only appeared in four games this year due to injury.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is having a breakout season and is an early contender for the American League MVP award with a .342 BA, 22 HR, 56 RBI, and a 1.119 OPS. Toronto also has a powerful middle infield combo that includes Marcus Semien, who signed a one-year prove-it deal and is excelling at the plate, and Bo Bichette, who brings a rare power-speed combo to the top of the lineup.

On the other side of the ball, Toronto’s pitching ranks near the middle of the pack in several major categories like ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts. But they have a largely veteran staff that has been reliable over the first part of the season, for the most part.

Game 1: Friday, 7:05 PM

LHP Bruce Zimmermann (4-4, 4.83 ERA) vs. LHP Robbie Ray (4-2, 3.45 ERA)

The first game of the series features a pair of left-handed starting pitchers. Young Bruce Zimmermann will be making his 12th start of the year for the O’s, and in his most recent outing, the lefty allowed three runs and six hits over 5.2 innings. June has been his best month in the majors yet, with a 3.94 ERA and .230 BAA in three games.

The Blue Jays will deploy strikeout artist Robbie Ray, who was acquired last August from the Diamondbacks. While he’s allowed a shocking 16 home runs in 70.1 innings this year, he’s been able to cut down on the walks big time. He’s averaging 2.2 BB/9, which is a far cry from his 4.1 career mark in that department. Along with 11.8 K/9, he’s averaging a robust 5.41 K/BB.

Game 2: Saturday, 4:05 PM

RHP Dean Kremer (0-6, 6.65 ERA) vs. RHP Alek Manoah (1-0, 2.66 ERA)

The O’s will give the ball to another one of their young starters, Dean Kremer, in the middle game of the series. The right-hander has had a disappointing season so far with a .293 BAA and a 1.55 WHIP. But he did have a gutsy performance on June 14 against the Indians, lasting 5.1 innings with three earned runs allowed (four total), and he’ll look to build on that against the Blue Jays.

Kremer will face another young pitcher, Blue Jays rookie Alek Manoah. The big right-hander is a former first-round pick who checks in at 6’ 6”, 260 lbs, and he brings mid-90s heat. He’s experienced success despite only being four starts into his big league career by holding opposing hitters to a .189 BA and averaging roughly a strikeout per inning.

Game 3: Sunday, 1:05 PM

RHP Matt Harvey (3-8, 7.76 ERA) vs. LHP Hyun Jin Ryu (5-4, 3.43 ERA)

The O’s are sticking with Matt Harvey in the rotation for the time being, as he will close out the series against Toronto on Father’s Day afternoon. You have to look all the way back to May 23 for the last time Harvey lasted four-plus innings, and back to May 1 for the last time he pitched five. In his most recent start against Cleveland, he allowed six runs (five earned) over 3.1 innings.

The Jays will send veteran left-hander Hyun Jin Ryu to the mound against Harvey on Sunday. It’s Ryu’s second season with Toronto — he spent the first six seasons of his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers — and while he’s been solid overall, it’s been a tough June so far. In three starts this month, Ryu has a 6.11 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. But upon closer examination, that’s due to a poor start on June 4 against the Astros. Since then, he’s allowed three runs over six innings on two different occasions.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    3 (Orioles sweep)
    (1 vote)
  • 4%
    2
    (4 votes)
  • 42%
    1
    (39 votes)
  • 51%
    0 (Orioles get swept)
    (47 votes)
91 votes total Vote Now