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Orioles-Astros series preview: There’s no reprieve outside of the AL East

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The Orioles will face the first-place Astros in a non-divisional matchup. Houston leads the lead in several offensive categories, so Baltimore will need the hot bats of Ryan Mountcastle and Cedric Mullins to lead the charge.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Playing in the American League East provides Baltimore a unique challenge. The rebuilding Birds are forced to face several difficult opponents while aching for an easier matchup. Baltimore will start a three-game series against a non-divisional opponent this evening, but will not receive any reprieve.

The Astros currently sit atop the AL West standings. Houston holds a one-game advantage over Oakland in the loss column, and it comes to Baltimore fresh off a sweep of the AL-Central leading White Sox.

The Astros lead all of baseball with a .274 team average. The club features several heavy hitters including Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Carlos Correa, Yordan Alvarez and others. Needless to say, Baltimore’s pitchers will have their hands full.

The obvious connection with the Astros comes via executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias. Elias served as Houston’s director of amateur scouting starting in 2011 and became the assistant general manager in 2016. The Orioles hired Elias to architect their rebuild after the 2018 season.

The Astros also elicit comments regarding their 2017 World Series championship and the cheating scandal that accompanied it. I would imagine everyone has already formed an opinion on the matter, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Game 1: Monday, 7:05 p.m.

Starters: Jake Odorizzi (1-3, 5.68 ERA) vs. Keegan Akin (0-2, 5.76 ERA)

Akin enters the matchup still recovering from his worst outing of the season. Akin allowed eight runs in 5.2 innings last week against Cleveland. Akin’s ERA ballooned from 4.13 to 5.76, but he has provided Baltimore a chance to win in several games since returning to the rotation last month. Akin blanked Cleveland over five innings in a no-decision, and limited Chicago to just one run in 4.2 innings.

The Orioles will face veteran Jake Odorizzi in the first of three. Odorizzi holds a career 3-3 record in 10 starts against Baltimore. The 31-year-old tossed four scoreless innings of relief on June 15, but started in his other six appearances. Odorizzi has settled in after a pair of rough outings to start the year. He did miss just over a month with a right pronator muscle strain.

Game 2: Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.

Starters: TBD vs. Jorge López (2-8, 5.95 ERA)

Jorge López will return to the mound for another matchup with his bitter enemy. No, there’s no rivalry here with Houston— I’m talking about the fifth inning. Batters are slashing .465/.531/.814 against López in the fifth frame. The Orioles remain committed to keeping López in the rotation, but an eventual shift to the bullpen feels inevitable. López is out of minor-league options.

The Astros have yet to announce a starter for Tuesday. It will not be Lance McCullers Jr. who started on Sunday, or Framber Valdez after he took the ball on Saturday. Luis Garcia pitched seven innings on Friday.

That leaves former All-Star Zack Greinke as a likely option. Greinke allowed three runs over 5.2 innings against Texas on Wednesday. Greinke boasts a 3.74 ERA and 1.14 WHIP through 91.1 innings. He has struck out 66 batters and clearly holds the advantage in this potential pitching matchup.

Game 3: Wednesday, 7:05 p.m.

Starters: Jose Urquidy (5-3, 3.65 ERA) vs. Thomas Eshelman (0-0, 1.93 ERA)

Thomas Eshelman earned another appearance after exceeding expectations in a spot start last week. Eshelman allowed just one run through 4.2 innings against Toronto after Baltimore placed Bruce Zimmermann on the injured list. The soft-tossing righty had not been particularly effective in the minors this season, but Eshelman has kept major league lineups in check before. He will need another strong performance to justify another start or even a place in the bullpen.

Jose Urquidy has never faced the Orioles, but the 26-year-old has established himself as a legitimate starting pitcher. Urquidy holds a career 3.54 ERA and 1.031 WHIP through 26 appearances and has allowed an exact average of one walk/hit per inning in 69 innings this year. Urquidy has struck out 60 batters and has a walk rate of 1.6 BB/9.

With Eshelman, Akin and López set to take the mound, it’s fair to say the Orioles will need to score some runs in this one. Houston’s .795 team OPS indicates that it can score some runs, so hopefully Baltimore brings the heavy lumber. Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins and Trey Mancini all teed off against Toronto, but they may need a few more runners on base before going deep in this three game set.

Poll

How many games will the Orioles win in this series?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    3 (Orioles will sweep)
    (11 votes)
  • 5%
    2
    (14 votes)
  • 35%
    1
    (89 votes)
  • 54%
    0 (Orioles will get swept)
    (136 votes)
250 votes total Vote Now