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Orioles-Blue Jays series preview: A familiar foe comes to Camden Yards

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The O’s head home for their penultimate series before the All-Star Break, where they’ll see the Blue Jays for the eighth, ninth and tenth time in the last three weeks. 

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Toronto Blue Jays
Ramón Urías hits an RBI double against the Blue Jays on June 27, 2021. Hopefully there are more where this came from.
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles are starting to get to know this Blue Jays team well. They first encountered them in a three-game homestand beginning on Friday, June 18 which they lost 1-2. That series, the Orioles won Game 1 as Tyler Wells followed a strong start from Tom Eshelman to get his first MLB win, but a bullpen meltdown and then a subpar start from Matt Harvey sunk the next two games.

The two teams met again on June 24th for a four-game series in Buffalo, as Canada decides whether to let its sole remaining major league baseball team back into the country. The Orioles lost three of four with Dean Kremer, Jorge López and Keegan Akin all falling short and the one win coming on a short Matt Harvey outing.

In their last three games, the Blue Jays have just overtaken a swooning Yankees for third place in the AL East, a fact I guess Orioles fans will celebrate, but not really. Toronto continues to outhit its pitching, with the top slugging in the league and in the top five in batting average, on-base percentage, OPS and WAR. They also lead the AL in home runs with 124. You can probably guess which pitching staff leads the league in home runs allowed. It’s the Minnesota Twins! Gotcha. No, but they’re tied with Baltimore for the league lead, with 126. The Orioles have already allowed 11 dingers to the Blue Jays in seven games so far, so don’t come into this series expecting a shutout.

For that matter, Toronto’s pitchers have also been homer-prone, with the third-highest rate allowed after Baltimore: 111. Plus the Orioles have a .707 OPS against the Blue Jays and that was prior to a few hitters starting to heat up, including Ryan Mountcastle, Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, and dare I say it, Ramón Urías. For the most part, Toronto’s pitching has been adequate, but the Birds have a chance to make some noise against them this series.

Game 1: Tuesday, 7:05 PM

TBD vs. LHP Steven Matz (7-3, 4.60 ERA)

The Orioles haven’t yet announced who will be starting Tuesday night’s opener, but, as if we were playing a game of Clue, we know it won’t be Eshelman, Harvey, Akin, or López, who pitched on Saturday. That could mean it’s time for another bullpen game started by the likes of Adam Plutko, since Travis Lakins, who last pitched as an opener, is on the 60-day IL.

The Orioles don’t know Steven Matz well, with the exception of Matt Harvey, who pitched alongside a rookie Matz during the Mets’ 2015 World Series run. It’s been a minute, huh. Matz was traded by the Mets last offseason after an injury-ridden 2020 where he posted an 9.68 ERA in six starts. Although he missed two weeks in June with a positive COVID test, he’s had a decent 2021 otherwise, going 7-3 in 14 starts with a 1.37 WHIP and 9.71 K/9 rate. The only Orioles who have faced Matz before are Maikel Franco (.538 avg, 2 HR), Pedro Severino (2-for-3, 1 RBI), and Pat Valaika (0-for-2).

Game 2: Wednesday, 7:05 PM

RHP Matt Harvey (3-9, 7.34 ERA) vs. LHP Hyun Jin Ryu (7-5, 3.65 ERA)

Toronto will start Hyun Jin Ryu against Matt Harvey on Wednesday night. At age 34, the veteran left-hander isn’t putting up the same numbers he did during his heyday with Los Angeles, but he’s far from a pushover, either. Ryu pitched to a 4.88 ERA in the month of June and in one start in July, he went just 4.0 IP and allowed five runs to the Mariners. Ryu’s 7.11 K/9 rate is the lowest of his MLB career for now, but his WHIP of 1.15 is pretty solid.

The Orioles wish they could say the same, stats-wise, about Matt Harvey. Harvey had a decent April, going 2-1 with a 4.26 ERA, but posted an abysmal 1-5 record in May with a 9.65 ERA and went 0-3 in June with an ERA of 8.37. Harvey’s stuff has looked better since pitching coach Chris Holt returned from a leave of absence, and his last two starts haven’t been bad: on June 25, he pitched 5.2 IP against the Blue Jays allowing three runs, and on June 30, he went 4.1 IP against Houston with two runs allowed. Signs of improvement?

Game 3: Thursday, 7:05 PM

LHP Keegan Akin (0-4, 7.46 ERA) vs. RHP Alek Manoah (2-0, 2.70 ERA)

So far it’s fair to say that Keegan Akin’s season is not going as we’d all planned. The lefty has a disappointing 7.92 ERA in his last seven games and a bloated WHIP of 1.83 in that stretch. It’s not so much the walks (2.38 per nine) as the contact: Akin is allowing over 11 hits a game these days, with batters slugging .524 against him. The last time he faced the Jays, he went just 4.1 innings and gave up six earned runs on seven hits. Not much to say but that he’s got a lot of room for improvement.

The first time the Orioles faced Blue Jays rookie Alek Manoah this season was the game where Ryan Mountcastle busted out of his early offensive slump with three dingers against the righty, who had a tantrum and then threw at Maikel Franco. The sweetest revenge would have been to demolish Manoah the next time they faced him, in Toronto, but that script got ruined as Manoah went six innings with six strikeouts and just one unearned run allowed. Manoah has a 1.01 WHIP and 10.55 K/9 in seven starts so far.

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