The Orioles’ latest home stand might have ended up being one of their biggest of the year, with the team grinding out a 4-3 record against two AL East heavy hitters to hold onto a plus-.500 record and fourth place in the division. Coming out of the All-Star break, if the Orioles did a belly flop against stiff competition, it might signify that all the recent success was a bubble. If they could hang tough, well...
Hang tough they did, proving they can at least compete against winning teams. Is that enough to turn them from sellers to buyers at the deadline? We’ll see... Either way, and even though around here we can never forget the dangers of a trap game, it’s nice not to be facing the beasts of the AL East for a while.
The Orioles are off to Cincinnati for a rare three-game series against the Reds. How rare, you ask? The last time these two teams met, in April 2017, the Orioles’ three starting pitchers were Ubaldo Jiménez, Kevin Gausman and Wade Miley.
Reds fans deserve some sympathy: it’s been a rough year. The team notoriously started the season 3-22, around an 11-game losing streak in April. When fans started to complain about the on-field product, Reds president Phil Castellini gave a touchy interview warning them to “Be careful what you wish for,” because making the team more competitive might involve moving it somewhere else. Without knowing a ton about the Reds, that answer sounds a) out of line and b) like bullshit given that in 2021, the team finished a competitive 83-79 thanks to players like Jesse Winker, Sonny Gray, and Wade Miley (yeah! Him again!)—now all playing elsewhere. (Oh, and Cionel Pérez in the bullpen, too, but I guess they can be forgiven for not realizing they had a diamond on their hands.)
The Reds enter this series at 38-60—the third-worst record in baseball ahead of just the Oakland A’s and the swooning Nationals. They’ve been less bad since their April slump, putting up a winning record in May (14-13) and July (12-10). As a team, they’re OK on offense (10th in the NL in average) but poor on pitching (their 5.18 ERA NL-worst). Their starters and relievers have almost the same ERA as a group.
Even so, the Reds’ best players right now—also the most likely to be moved at the trade deadline—are two starters: two-time All-Star Luis Castillo (2.86 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 14 starts totaling 90 innings) and Tyler Mahle (4.48 ERA and 107 K’s in 18 starts totaling 98.1 innings). Only Mahle is slotted to start against the Orioles, but we’ll see if that pans out.
As of this writing, the Orioles had announced none of their starters. A sudden back injury to Tyler Wells has thrown a wrench in the gears, and we’ll see if the team counters by calling up someone like Mike Baumann (it won’t be veteran Matt Harvey, who allowed three earned runs in five innings for Norfolk last night). For now, these predictions are based on expected turn in the rotation.
Game 1: Friday, July 29, 6:40 pm ET, MASN
Starting pitchers: TBD (maybe Dean Kremer (3-2, 3.06 ERA, 38 K)) v. Mike Minor (1-7, 6.65 ERA, 41 K)
DraftKings odds: The Orioles are -125 favorites to win the game, with an over/under on total runs set at 10.
Dean Kremer is still trying to show the team what he’s made of. He had a brilliant start to the season, with a 1.29 ERA in the month of June, but in four July starts that number inflated to 5.68 (albeit with a 4.60 FIP, indicating some bad luck for Kremer). One interesting thing Kremer has been doing is mixing up his pitch mix from start to start. One concerning thing he’s doing recently is failing to locate his curveball. We’ll see if both trends continue against Cincinnati.
Even after shoulder surgery, 2019 All-Star Mike Minor was very scary. 2022 Mike Minor: not quite as scary. Minor is right around the league’s worst pitchers in sustaining hard contact and among the less prolific in striking people out. Unlike most of the league, he’s actually become more fastball-heavy this season (46% of his pitches), but batters are averaging .326 on the pitch.
Game 2: Saturday, July 30, 6:40 PM ET, MASN
Starting Pitchers: TBD (maybe Austin Voth (1-1, 3.38 ERA [with Baltimore], 43 K)) v. Tyler Mahle (4-7, 4.48 ERA, 107 K)
Since first being deployed as an opener on Father’s Day, the veteran righty Voth has a 3.38 ERA with Baltimore (compared to a 10.13 mark with his old team, Washington). Voth’s last two starts have both been against the Rays, and he was largely effective in both (allowing zero and one run in 2.2 and 3.0 innings, respectively). Voth had a little problem with control last time out, walking three. His most effective pitch right now is his curveball, but it’s the cutter he uses most often to finish hitters off.
A seventh-round draft pick in 2013, Tyler Mahle has only ever pitched for one team. That run might end before August 2, as trade rumors have linked him to the Twins. Mahle is pretty decent at many things: he has a 101 ERA+, and is in the top third of pitchers in fastball spin, strikeouts, and expected average, slugging and ERA. Only Robinson Chirinos has seen Mahle more than once: he’s 1-for-5.
Game 3: Sunday, July 31, 1:40 pm ET, MASN
Starting Pitchers: TBD (maybe Spenser Watkins (3-1, 4.03 ERA, 35 K)) vs. Nick Lodolo (3-3, 4.73 ERA, 47 K)
From an 8.07 ERA last season to a 4.03 ERA today, Spenser Watkins has improbably been a solid contributor to the rotation, with a really nice 2.35 ERA over four starts in the month of July. The stuff is better (notably he added a new slider) but so is his pitch mix. Like Dean Kremer, Watkins has benefited from constantly mixing it up against hitters, so credit the coaches and the catchers for devising and helping to carry out a good plan of attack. Watkins’ best pitch is the slider (which has a .206 expected average) but he favors the cutter as a finishing pitch (22.5% of the time).
Nick Lodolo was the Reds’ first-round pick in 2019 and No. 7 pick overall. A 6’6” lefty out of TCU, in all of seven MLB starts he has been good at one thing: striking hitters out. His 47 K’s in 32.1 innings are good fort 88 percentile in the league. A three-pitch pitcher (sinker-curveball-changeup), Lodolo does get hit hard, as batters are slugging .465 and .591 on the sinker and changeup, respectively.
How many games will the Orioles win in this series against the Reds?
This poll is closed
3 (It’s a sweep!)
0 (It’s a trap!)