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Orioles-Indians series preview: O’s look to put losing streak in the rear view mirror

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After losing 14 in a row, the Birds have now won two straight. They’ll try to stretch this inkling of momentum into a roll in their first series with Cleveland.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The 14-game losing skid is history, and in its place is a nice little two-game winning streak.

Asking for that streak to become a run of 14 wins in a row is obviously asking too much. But the Orioles will certainly be hoping to turn this newfound momentum into something more than a fleeting moment of feeling decent about things.

Winning this series against the Indians would be a good place to start.

In their first look at Cleveland, the Orioles will see a team that, while not the Central Division beast and popular World Series bet that they were a few years ago, has still gotten off to a strong first third of the season. The Indians are 30-24 and in second place in the Central, though there’s reason to believe the record doesn’t tell the whole story. Cleveland has a minus-6 run differential (215 scored, 221 allowed) for the season, and has scored exactly as many runs as their next opponent has (the Indians have allowed fewer, but that hasn’t been that hard to do in 2021).

Adding to the dubious status of the record is that the offense has been one of baseball’s worst, with a team average of .218 (28th, or third-worst in baseball) and team OPS of .673 (24th). The Cleveland lineup has been led by (no surprises here) Jose Ramirez, who brings a .258 average, .882 OPS and 13 home runs into this series. Ramirez posted an OPS above .900 in 2017, ’18 and ’20, during which he finished third, third and second, respectively, in the MVP voting. He’s good.

Apart from Ramirez and Franmil Reyes (.257, .893, 11), who’s on the 10-day injured list, there aren’t many bats to keep the Orioles up at night. No other starter has an average over .260 or an OPS over .770. Which means they’ll probably score 30 runs over these next three games.

Where the Indians are decent is on the mound. Cleveland has a team ERA of 3.93 (13th in MLB), and they’re above league average in WHIP and strikeouts. Defending Cy Young winner Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale (more on him in a bit) have been one of the game’s best 1-2 punches, and Emmanuel Clase (nine saves, 1.14 ERA) has had an All-Star caliber first two months.

Game 1: Friday, 7:05 PM ET

RHP Jean Carlos Mejia (1-0, 0.00) vs. LHP Keegan Akin (0-0, 4.80)

A rookie, Mejia has only appeared in three games this season, and started none. He hasn’t allowed a run, and has whiffed seven in five total innings. He made two starts for Columbus in Triple-A, totaling nine innings with a 2.00 ERA.

Akin will be making his second start of the season, and he’s made five appearances. His first start came Sunday, and he allowed one run on five hits in 4.2 innings in a 3-1 loss to the White Sox.

Game 2: Saturday, 4:05 PM ET

RHP Aaron Civale (7-2, 3.28) vs. LHP John Means (4-1, 2.05)

The marquee matchup of the series comes in its middle game. Two likely members of the American League All-Star team in July face off, with Civale enjoying a season that’s seen him rank in a tie for second in wins. The 25-year-old out of Northeastern University doesn’t blow anyone away, with 54 strikeouts in 74 innings, but he keeps himself out of danger, as evidenced by a 1.068 WHIP.

Civale struggled in his last outing, surrendering 10 hits and allowed four runs in six innings of a 4-1 loss to Toronto, but he was stellar in his previous start, allowing one run on six hits in eight innings in a 4-1 win over Detroit.

Means has been the brightest spot for the Orioles all season, but he’ll be looking to correct what’s been a dip in his performance. He’s allowed two home runs in each of his last three starts, and given up nine earned runs in 18.1 combined innings. He’s seen his ERA climb from 1.21 to 2.05 in that stretch; he’ll look to find his previous form this weekend.

Game 3: Sunday, 1:05 PM ET

TBD vs. RHP Jorge Lopez (1-6, 5.29)

ESPN and MLB.com don’t have a pitcher listed for Cleveland for this game. There’s a possibility the Indians could give the ball to Bieber (6-3, 3.08), the MLB leader in strikeouts at 117, for the finale since he last pitched on Tuesday.

Lopez has had a rocky season with the Orioles, but he has looked better in his last few starts. He allowed one run in six innings while striking out seven on Monday against the Twins, and he’s pitched to a 3.18 ERA over his last three starts. His ERA has fallen from 6.35 to 5.29 in that stretch.

Poll

How many games will the Orioles win this series?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    3 (The Orioles will sweep!)
    (10 votes)
  • 39%
    2
    (46 votes)
  • 45%
    1
    (53 votes)
  • 6%
    0 (The Orioles will get swept)
    (7 votes)
116 votes total Vote Now