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Orioles-Rays series preview: A battle of AL Wild Card hopefuls

The final series of the first half sees the O’s put their winning streak on the line against a division rival.

Orioles shortstop Jorge Mateo puts tag down on Rays first baseman Ji-Man Choi as he slides into second base
Orioles shortstop Jorge Mateo puts tag down on Rays first baseman Ji-Man Choi as he slides into second base
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

A remarkable first half of the season comes to a close this weekend as the Orioles travel down to Tampa for a three-game set against the division rival Rays.

Both clubs enter the weekend on an upwards trajectory. The O’s, of course, have won 10 in a row and find themselves just 1.5 games back of the final wild card spot. The Rays are winners of four straight and sit atop the wild card standings with any hopes of capturing the division title already gone.

The Rays swept the last series these teams played at The Trop, a season-opening set in which the hosts outscored the Orioles 15-4. The next two series took place in Baltimore, where the Orioles won four games out of six, including a pair of walk-offs.

It all starts with pitching for Tampa. Their 3.33 team ERA is fourth-best in baseball, but they also ask their rotation to throw fewer innings than any other team. Their starters average fewer than 4.2 innings per start. As a result, their bullpen has thrown more innings than any other unit in baseball, but they spread the responsibility throughout with Jason Adam the inning leader in the ‘pen at a reasonable 36 frames so far.

Injuries have hit the Rays particularly hard in recent weeks. Their lineup will be without Wander Franco (wrist), Kevin Kiermaier (hip), Mike Zunino (neck), and Manuel Margot (knee) this weekend, and you won’t see starter Shane Baz (elbow) either. The 17 players that Tampa currently has on the IL is tied for the most in MLB with the Cincinnati Reds.

It’s not all bad news on the injury front for them, though. Brandon Lowe could come back from his back injury this weekend. He has been out since mid-May with the injury. And they know starter Luis Patiño (oblique) is ready. He starts the series opener after being on the shelf since April 12.

Game 1: Friday, July 15th, 7:10 p.m., MASN 2

RHP Tyler Wells (7-4, 3.28 ERA) vs. RHP Luis Patiño (0-1, 13.50 ERA)

DraftKings odds: Orioles +1.5 is a -190 bet, or Orioles to win is +110

There may have been a case for Tyler Wells to be the Orioles representative in the All-Star Game. He is the team’s top-performing starting pitching, and seems to only be getting better. That said, he took a step back in his most recent start, allowing three runs on six hits, two walks, and three strikeouts over four innings against the Angels. He pitches on two extra days of rest here, something he has done three other times this season with varying degrees of success.

This will be just the second major league start of the season for the 22-year-old Luis Patiño. He suffered an oblique strain in start one and has been on the shelf ever since. His rehab stint covered 17.2 innings spread between the Gulf Coast League and Triple-A, maxed out at 78 pitches in one outing and threw just 49 pitches in his final tune up. One would imagine the Rays will be cautious with him in this return to the big league mound.

Game 2: Saturday, July 16th, 4:10 p.m., MASN 2

RHP Dean Kremer (3-1, 2.15 ERA) vs. TBD

Dean Kremer bounced back from a tough start on the Fourth of July to toss five scoreless innings against the Angels in his most recent outing. The only negative was that his pitch count was quickly inflated, preventing him from going deep into the game. Even still, it was a good sign for a player that has looked incredible since his return from injury.

This is Shane Baz’s spot the rotation, but the Rays will need to scramble with the 23-year-old experiencing elbow troubles. It seems like they will need to bring some one up from Triple-A unless they go the opener/bullpen game route. Ryan Yarbrough, who has had himself a difficult season in the bigs (5.82 ERA, 62 ERA+), could be an option. He last pitched for Durham on the 12th, but only went two innings on that day.

Game 3: Sunday, July 17th, 1:40 p.m., MASN 2

TBD vs. RHP Corey Kluber (5-5, 3.58 ERA)

This would seem to be a toss up between Austin Voth and Jordan Lyles for O’s manager Brandon Hyde. It’s Voth’s turn in the rotation, and he has been steady (3.80 ERA, 106 ERA+) since joining the team, but he also has not had a starter’s workload like this since he was a prospect, so they need to be careful there. The off day after the series against the Cubs would allow Lyles to work on normal rest, and the cushion of the All-Star break is helpful too since he has already surpassed 100 innings on the season and could be on pace for a career-high workload at 31 years old.

Kluber will be making his fourth start against the Orioles this season. So far, he has at 2.63 ERA over 13.2 innings against them. His last two trips to the mound came against the Red Sox, in which he has allowed two earned runs over 12 innings while striking out 12 and walking one. The 36-year-old may no longer be a perennial Cy Young candidate, but he clearly still knows how to pitch in the bigs.


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

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    3 (Sweep!)
    (66 votes)
  • 50%
    (135 votes)
  • 22%
    (61 votes)
  • 1%
    0 (get swept)
    (5 votes)
267 votes total Vote Now