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Orioles-Cubs series preview: A pair of games against an equally bad team

Can the O’s seize a win or a split from a team about as bad as they are?

St. Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs
The Cubs’ All-Star catcher Wilson Contreras is rumored to be on the way out of town.
Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

The last time Baltimore played the Chicago Cubs, Buck Showalter was the manager and Jonathan Schoop the team’s most valuable player. Yep, it’ll be just a month and a week shy of five years since these two teams met. And this after seeing the Milwaukee Brewers in April and the St. Louis Cardinals last month. Well, good—I mean, how many times can we play the Yankees, for Pete’s sake?

In case you were wondering, the Orioles do play the rest of the NL Central, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, after the All-Star Break. The good news is that, other than Milwaukee and St. Louis, the NL Central is not very good. In fact, the Cubs come into this one with a nearly identical record to Baltimore (23-32, one fewer loss) and only out of the cellar because the Reds are so darn bad this year.

It’s not a fun time to be a Cubs fun, I take it from a quick look on the other side. The biggest story out of Cubs camp right now seems to be when they’ll deal their best player, Willson Contreras (slashing .276/.401/.515 this year), to whom, and whether it’ll trigger a weird loophole that keeps him from appearing in the All-Star Game. Yuck. Orioles fans can relate.

The Cubs are middle-of-the-pack in the NL in run scoring but fifth-worst in ERA. They probably were not looking to compete this season, but they haven’t been helped by injuries to starter Drew Smyly and journeyman Wade Miley (hey! I remember him!), both on the 15-day IL. Meanwhile, Kyle Hendricks is 2-5 with a 5.22 ERA, and Marcus Stroman, in his first year with the Cubs, is 2-5 with a 5.32 ERA.

It hasn’t been all bad news. Besides the consistently-excellent Contreras, outfielder Ian Happ is having a nice year at the plate (.822 OPS). Shortstop Nico Hoerner is averaging .294. And 3B Patrick Wisdom is OPS’ing .787. On the pitching front, second-year righty Keegan Thompson is getting worked out as a starter, and he is 6-0 with a 1.99 ERA. Veteran closer David Robertson, a 2009 World Series winner with the Yankees, has a 257 ERA+ and 30 strikeouts in 21.2 innings. Another reliable arm for Chicago: Mychal Givens, who I honestly did not know was a Cub now. He’s 4-0 this season with a 3.22 ERA and 30 K’s in 22 innings.

Game 1: Tuesday, June 7th, 7:05 p.m.

Kyle Bradish (1-3, 6.82 ERA) vs. Keegan Thompson (6-0, 1.99 ERA)

Kyle Bradish has watched his ERA balloon over the last month, but he still has top-shelf stuff. After a disastrous 1.2-inning, six-run debacle in Boston on May 27, Bradish made a real return to form last week against Seattle, throwing 4.2 innings and striking out six. He’s allowed a home run in every start he’s thrown. It’d be cool if he could cut down on those? Either way, hopefully after last week, he’s trending up and learning to harness his stuff.

Keegan Thompson (can’t help it, I’m thinking it) is another reliever being groomed for a starter role, due to injuries as well as general excellence. He debuted last year and went 3-3 with a 3.38 ERA in 32 appearances out of the Chicago ‘pen. In 2022, Chicago started stretching him out in May, after seven relief appearances, and he is 3-0 with a 2.79 ERA in four outings as a starter. Thompson has a five-pitch mix, leaning mostly fastball (42%), followed by his cutter (27%) curveball (20%), changeup (7%) and sinker (3%).

Game 2: Wednesday, June 8th, 7:05 p.m.

Jordan Lyles (3-4, 4.50 ERA) vs. Marcus Stroman (2-5, 5.32 ERA)

Mr. Reliable is proving just as advertised—nothing spectacular, but he stays healthy (knocking on wood) and keeps his team in the game. His last time out against Seattle was far from his best: he went just five innings and allowed four earned runs. Surprisingly, perhaps, given the fact that he’s allowed more hits than any other hurler, his FIP is a full half-run less than his ERA. A few Cubs have seen the veteran Lyles: Willson Contreras is an impressive 4-for-7 against him, Jason Heyward 4-for-8, and Andrelton Simmons is 1-for-4.

I remember this guy! The Orioles used to see a lot of Marcus Stroman back when he pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays (2014-19). It’s not been a stellar year for him. His hard-hit numbers are in the bottom tenth percentile, but he has kept the walks down and batters are still chasing his deceptive stuff, which includes sinker, slider, fastball and cutter. Of the current Orioles, Austin Hays is 1-for-3 against Stroman, Trey Mancini 7-for-19, and Anthony Santander 3-for-3.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    0 (They’ll get swept)
    (24 votes)
  • 52%
    1 (A split)
    (98 votes)
  • 34%
    2 (They’ll sweep!)
    (64 votes)
186 votes total Vote Now