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Orioles-Guardians series preview: José Ramírez and company come to Camden

The Orioles host a three-game set against an MVP candidate and a Cy Young winner. What could go wrong?

Kansas City Royals v Cleveland Guardians Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

The AL Central is not a good division. In fact, it may be Major League Baseball’s weakest. The Cleveland Guardians enter this series in second place of the lowly Central despite owning a sub-.500 record at 22-24. To be fair, they have played a bit better than their record would indicate, outscoring opponents by 23 runs so far, and they are in the midst of a hot streak, winners of three in a row and four of their last five.

The Guardians are middle of the pack in just about every team statistic. Their 212 runs scored are 15th in MLB. Their team ERA of 3.73 is 13th in the sport while their 3.79 FIP is 12th. All of that positions them on the outskirts of the playoffs, a spot in which they will likely remain unless they receive an injection of talent throughout the roster.

José Ramírez is, once again, an MVP candidate. He is top five in the American League in home runs (13), walk rate (13.9%), slugging percentage (.632), and wRC+ (191) among other metrics. If he were to uphold his current pace, this would be the finest campaign of Ramírez’s stellar career by quite a substantial margin.

There are other members of the Cleveland lineup, of course. Myles Straw is the table-setter. He leads the team with 34 runs scored and nine stolen bases. Expect to hear about Richie Palacios quite a bit. He is a Towson University product that started the season as one of Cleveland’s better prospects and is now a productive member (118 OPS+) of the outfield rotation. Owen Miller leads the team with 13 doubles. Steve Kwan, a college teammate of Adley Rutschman, saw his scoring hot April cool dramatically in May, but he still owns a 110 OPS+ in his rookie season.

Their relief crew is led by closer Emmanuel Clase. He has seven saves and a 2.33 ERA over 21 total appearances. His 9.78 K/9 isn’t particularly high for a high-leverage reliever, but he also makes hitters earn their way on, walking 1.86 batters per nine innings. Second-year pitcher Eli Morgan has impressed as well, striking out 30 in his 23 innings.

A few familiar names you won’t see in this series include James Karinchak and Franmil Reyes. Karinchak hasn’t pitched at all this season with a right shoulder strain. Reyes is dealing with a hamstring strain.

Game 1: Friday, June 3rd, 7:05 p.m., MASN 2

Bruce Zimmermann (2-3, 4.53 ERA) vs. Shane Bieber (2-3, 3.19 ERA)

DraftKings odds: Orioles to win is a +120 bet, or Orioles +1.5 runs at -140

Zimmermann is the midst of a tough patch. Over his last three starts the lefty has allowed 15 earned runs over 15.1 total innings. Home runs have been a particular sticking point as he has served up 10 (not a typo!) dongs in that time. He will be happy to get back home, where he owns a 3.24 ERA and has allowed just one home run this season.

Despite a significant dip in velocity (-2.1 mph on his fastball), Bieber is once again pitching like a Cy Young candidate. The righty has been particularly effective in his last three starts, allowing just four earned runs over 21 innings while striking out 22. This will be only his second career start at Camden Yards. The other came in 2019, when he tossed eight scoreless innings and struck out 11.

Game 2: Saturday, June 4th, 4:05 p.m., MASN 2

Tyler Wells (2-4, 3.17 ERA) vs. Triston McKenzie (3-4, 2.65 ERA)

The Tyler Wells starter experiment is going pretty darn well! His most recent outing was the best of his career: six shutout innings, two hits, one walk, three strikeouts. It should be said that his 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings is worryingly low, but he can make it work when he walks just 1.4 batters per nine innings and induces rather weak contact on a regular basis.

McKenzie’s profile is somewhat similar to Wells in that he doesn’t rack up the K’s or walks, but where they differ is in the quality of contact allowed. The Cleveland hurler ranks in the bottom 10th of the league in average exit velocity against. But he has outperformed his peripherals anyway to lead the team in ERA.

Game 3: Sunday, June 5th, 1:35 p.m., MASN 2

TBD vs. Zach Plesac (1-4, 4.93 ERA)

This is the open spot in the Orioles rotation that they have pieced together with bullpen games and spot starters a few times now. An off day follows this game, so another bullpen day could be viable depending on how the first two games in the series play out. This could also be an opportunity for Dean Kremer to return from his rehab stint, which has been terrific (seven innings, two hits, no runs, two walks, 13 strikeouts).

It has not been a good season for Plesac to this point. His fastball has lost velocity for the third start year, he is giving up loads of hard contact, and both his walk and home run rates are headed in the wrong direction. However, his most recent start was a good one as he went six innings and allowed just one run on five hits, no walks, and five strikeouts. It did come against the Royals though, one of the five worst offenses in the sport.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    0 (get swept)
    (6 votes)
  • 42%
    1
    (38 votes)
  • 40%
    2
    (36 votes)
  • 10%
    3 (do the sweeping!)
    (9 votes)
89 votes total Vote Now