Fresh off yesterday’s demoralizing Orioles near-perfect game loss that also put them 1.5 games back of the Rays in the wild card race and gave the Rays the season head-to-head tiebreaker over the O’s, it’s easy to feel like their hopes for getting into the postseason must be over. The game was a crucial one, it’s true, and it’s unfortunate that the Orioles lost, but they have another opportunity to help their wild card position in the three-game series against the Blue Jays that begins today.
The Jays were also losers yesterday. That’s true every day, but specifically they lost their game to the Guardians, 7-2. That keeps the Orioles at 2.5 games back of the Jays in the wild card standings. A sweep in this series and the O’s can pass the Jays! They aren’t going to sweep, but the possibility is there until they lose one of the games. There are still 13 games remaining between the O’s and Jays this season. The Orioles can directly take those games back by going 8-5 or better the rest of the way against Toronto.
Winning this series is also crucial for the O’s to hold off other teams trying to chase down one of the wild card spots. The O’s and White Sox are now tied in the win column at 59; Chicago has one more loss than the O’s. Fortunately, the Mariners and Twins lost as well as the Jays. That means the Twins didn’t pass the Orioles, and the Mariners didn’t get farther ahead. The O’s are within 2.5 games of all three wild card spots.
It all adds up to the Orioles not being in a hopeless place, yet. But if they don’t win two out of three here, the math is going to start getting pretty tough for them to make something good happen for their wild card chances later on down the line.
The last time the Orioles were in Toronto, they gave up at least five runs in three of the four games of the series, including being on the wrong end of an 11-1 blowout in the opener, and ending up on the wrong end of a walkoff in the third game. The O’s answered in the finale with a 10-2 blowout of their own to salvage a split in the four-game set.
Game 1, Monday 7:07 Eastern, MASN
Starting pitchers: Kyle Bradish (6.42 ERA, 5.16 FIP, 1.622 WHIP in 13 GS) vs. Yusei Kikuchi (5.13 ERA, 5.86 FIP, 1.494 WHIP in 19 GS)
The Kikuchi who the Orioles saw only a week ago in Baltimore did not do very well. They wrecked him for five runs in five innings, including three home runs. That’s not atypical for Kikuchi on the road this season; however, he’s been much better (though still at best pedestrian) at home, with a 4.22 ERA in nine home starts.
If that creates extra difficulty for the Orioles offense, they simply must overcome it. This may be the easiest game of the series on paper due to the weakest Toronto pitcher - they really need to get a win in the opener and then hope to luck into one of the remaining two. The best way to do this would be for some of the slumping hitters to bust out. Ryan Mountcastle is OPSing just .592 since the start of July. Austin Hays is right down there with him, and Ramón Urías has slid into a slump since the All-Star break as well.
Of course, the Orioles could also use a good outing from the starting pitcher, Bradish. He allowed three runs in 5.1 innings against the Jays last Tuesday, and since returning from the injured list has allowed six runs in 15.1 innings (a 3.90 ERA) in three starts. As is evident from his full-season stats, that’s an improvement from May and June. The wild card hopes will surely be helped from this continuing.
Game 2, Tuesday 7:07 Eastern, MASN
Starting pitchers: Dean Kremer (3.69 ERA, 3.70 ERA, 1.311 WHIP in 12 GS) vs. Alek Manoah (2.56 ERA, 3.39 FIP, 1.022 WHIP in 22 GS)
It was only last Tuesday that we just got to see the Orioles face off against Manoah, one of the AL’s Cy Young contenders. They got to him for three runs in five innings in a game that the Orioles went on to win by scoring three more runs against the Toronto bullpen. Unfortunately for the O’s, they couldn’t carry over that magic against Cy contender Shane McClanahan of the Rays on Saturday - and now they’ll need to try to summon it again for Manoah here in this series. He has a 2.48 ERA in his home dome this year.
Though there have been a couple of good starts mixed in, Kremer is mostly on a bad run since the beginning of July. It’s a 5.60 ERA over his last seven starts. Last time out, Kremer allowed four runs in 5.2 innings and took the loss as the O’s missed their opportunity for an “easy” win against the Red Sox.
This is going to have to be a nearly-whole-roster effort for the Orioles to do this thing. If Kremer’s starting 20% of the games, then he’s going to be an important part of whether they win or lose in nine or ten of their remaining games. Orioles fans can hope that Kremer’s able to cobble together enough of a decent outing that this one isn’t practically an auto-loss.
Game 3, Wednesday 3:07 Eastern, MASN 2
Starting pitchers: Austin Voth (3.21 ERA, 3.57 FIP, 1.214 WHIP in 13 G/9 GS for Orioles) vs. Ross Stripling (3.16 ERA, 3.02 FIP, 1.101 WHIP in 23 G/15 GS)
Stripling will be returning from the injured list to make this start. He’s been on the shelf since making a July 30 start due to a strain in his glute/hip area. Since the Jays put Stripling into their rotation for good this season, he’s posted a 2.59 ERA over 10 starts, averaging about five innings per game started.
A couple of weeks ago, after trading Trey Mancini, Mike Elias said, “We have a shot at a wild card right now, but it is not a probability that we are going to win a wild card.” This comment ruffled many feathers among a certain subset of baseball media and a larger subset of Orioles fans. I nodded along with Elias, though, for this reason: Only an idiot GM would think his team is definitely charging towards the wild card spots, and make trade deadline decisions assuming this, when his rotation is the Orioles rotation.
Voth keeps proving me wrong for doubting him. The Orioles are 8-2 in games in which he’s pitched since they put him into the rotation in mid-June! Voth himself has a 3.03 ERA and 3.35 FIP in this time. It does not seem to be a fluke. He has yet to go past 5.1 innings, even in his last start when he had such a low pitch count heading into the sixth. Voth is 30, so he’s not a young or young-ish guy we’re just waiting to come around. He’s... I don’t really know what he is. I hope he keeps proving me wrong.
The fate of the rebuild probably does not hinge on Voth’s success or failure in the long run, but as above with Kremer, Voth can do a lot to help push the Orioles into the postseason earlier than anyone expected here in the closing weeks of the 2022 season. All he has to do on Wednesday is hold in check the AL’s second-most prolific run-scoring offense. In 11 August games so far, the Jays have only scored 38 runs. The math gets easier if they’re slumping, that’s for sure.
In the last poll before the Rays series, 35% of voters chose the correct answer of the Orioles winning one of the three games. It is imperative that the Orioles do better this time around.
How many games will the Orioles win in this series against the Blue Jays?
This poll is closed
3 (The Orioles sweep)
0 (The Orioles are swept)