It’s time for another series, and once again, it’s a series against a winning team.
This tough stretch of the Orioles’ schedule continues, as Baltimore will close out the first half with its ninth series against an over-.500 team in its last 11. The two series that were not against winning teams, one coming against the Blue Jays and the other coming against the Angels, came against teams that have since risen above .500.
This time, it’s the White Sox who are coming to Baltimore, and who will play the Orioles for the first time since the end of May, when Chicago took all four games. The White Sox are first in the American League Central with a 51-35 record, and while they’ve been stellar (31-14) in their South Side confines, they’ve been mediocre (20-21) on the road.
They’re second in the American League and fourth in Major League Baseball with a plus-99 run differential, but they’ve proven to be a streaky team of late. They’ve won seven of their last 10 games, but their current two-game winning streak was preceded by a three-game skid, then five wins in a row, followed by losses in seven of the eight games before that.
So, here’s hoping the Orioles are catching them in one of their down points. And that maybe the White Sox are looking ahead to the All-Star break a bit.
Offensively, the leaders for the Sox have been Tim Anderson (.307 average, 14 steals), Yoan Moncada (.274, .787 OPS) and Jose Abreu (team-high 15 home runs and 63 RBI). Yasmani Grandal is hitting only .188, but he’s drawn 60 walks, his 14 homers are second on the team, and his .824 OPS is the team’s best.
The Orioles lucked out in that they won’t face Chicago’s two best pitchers in Lance Lynn, who’s 9-3 with a 1.99 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 90.2 innings, and Carlos Rodon, who’s 7-3 with a 2.31 ERA and 130 punchouts in 89.2. They will probably end up seeing Liam Hendriks, who leads the American League with 22 saves.
Game 1: Friday, 7:05 p.m.
LHP Dallas Keuchel (6-3, 4.48) vs. RHP Jorge Lopez (2-11, 6.02)
Keuchel, the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner who was also in the top five in voting after going 6-2 with a 1.99 ERA last year, has been solid for the Sox this season, though he’s scuffled of late. Keuchel was sitting at 6-1 with a 3.78 ERA after pitching seven shutout innings on June 15, but since then has sandwiched two poor outings against the Astros and Tigers around a good one against the Mariners.
He pitched on May 29 against the Orioles and struggled, allowing eight hits and four runs, all earned, in five innings.
Lopez has lost his last five starts, and pitched to a 7.66 ERA in that stretch. He’ll be looking to pick up only his second win since April 16.
Game 2: Saturday, 4:05 p.m.
RHP Lucas Giolito (6-6, 4.20) vs. RHP Tom Eshelman (0-1, 7.16)
Giolito finished June with a solid run of outings, racking up four straight quality starts and a 3.75 ERA in that span. He started July with a dud, however, allowing 10 hits and six runs in five innings in his last time out against the Tigers.
Giolito, who was seventh in the Cy Young voting last year and sixth in 2019, was masterful against the Orioles on May 30, allowing three hits and one run in seven innings while striking out 12 as the White Sox won 3-1.
Eshelman has made four starts for the Orioles and, apart from a disastrous outing against Houston, has held his own. He has a 5.21 ERA over his other three starts, which came against the Blue Jays, Astros and Angels. It’s not a high bar to clear here in Baltimore.
Game 3: Sunday, 1:05 p.m.
Dylan Cease (7-4, 4.14) vs. Spenser Watkins (1-0, 1.50)
One of Chicago’s top strikeout pitchers, Cease has whiffed 111 in 87 innings. He had that ability on display in a May 27 start against Baltimore, fanning 10 in six innings while allowing one run on four hits. Chicago won 5-1.
Like Giolito, Cease also finished June in impressive fashion, with a 3.67 ERA over his last five starts. And also like Giolito, he had a rough start to July, allowing six runs in 5.1 innings against Detroit. The Orioles might want to be patient against him - Cease led the AL with 34 walks last season, and is seventh in the league again this year.
The 28-year-old Watkins will be making just his second start. His first was impressive, as he faced Toronto’s heavy-hitting lineup and allowed only one run on three hits in five innings of a 7-5 win. Hopefully a similar result is in store for him on Sunday.
How many games will the Orioles win this series?
This poll is closed
3 (The Orioles will sweep!)
0 (The Orioles will get swept)