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Orioles-Blue Jays series preview: The most important series of the year

Camden Yards is the venue for a crucial matchup between AL East foes vying for the same playoff spot.

Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Santiago Espinal is tagged out at second base by Baltimore Orioles shortstop Jorge Mateo during the seventh inning at Rogers Centre. Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Rooting for a competitive team is exhausting. Every single game feels like it possesses the power to shift a season’s worth of momentum and either propel the team to postseason glory or tank all of their magic in one fell swoop. That feeling will get ratcheted up to 11 for four games as the Orioles welcome the Blue Jays to Camden Yards for what could be a season-deciding series.

That is not hyberbole. The O’s and Jays are competing for the final wild card spot in the AL. As of this writing, the Orioles are 2.5 games back. As much as a four-game swing in either direction is on the line here. It is fair to say that the season could hang in the balance.

It should be said that these two teams still have two series (six games total) against one another this season: next weekend in Toronto, and then the final three games of the season back at Camden Yards. Nothing will be settled this week, but it’s still of utmost importance.

The Orioles have a 6-3 record against the Blue Jays this season. That’s significant as head-to-head record is the first tiebreaker should the two teams finish with identical records. They will want to ensure they grab that tiebreak as they have already lost it with several other clubs (Twins, Mariners, Rays, Yankees) that are vying for playoff spots. They need to have a leg up on someone.

In the 16 games since the Blue Jays last saw the Orioles, the team up north has gone 11-5, taking advantage of a rather weak section of their schedule. The only winning team they have faced since was the Yankees, who have been in the midst of a well-documented slump for well over a month. A sweep over the Pirates was their most recent conquest.

Toronto has started to get healthy. They have a few pitchers that could be nearing a return from the 60-day IL: Nate Pearson, Julian Merryweather, and Tayler Saucedo. The closest to coming back is Merryweather. The hard-throwing reliever was on the team’s taxi squad this past weekend; perhaps he joins up as the 29th-man for Monday’s doubleheader.

Game 1: Monday, September 5th, 1:05 p.m., MASN & MLB Network

RHP Jordan Lyles (10-9, 4.25 ERA) vs. RHP Kevin Gausman (10-9, 3.14 ERA)

The inning snacker himself, Jordan Lyles, opens the series. The veteran was tremendous in August, compiling a 3.18 ERA over 34 frames. His final start, a scoreless 6.2 innings, was the cherry on top. This will be his third time facing the Blue Jays in 2022. Back in June he allowed four runs over 5.1 innings, and last month it was two runs over 5.2 innings.

Kevin Gausman faces his former club for the second time this season. He struggled in the first matchup, serving up five earned runs (seven runs total) in just 2.1 innings of work. At the time, the righty blamed fatigue and said he was disappointed:

“It’s embarrassing, to be honest, to go out there and do that against a team that I think we should beat. It may sound bad to say, but I think we should beat them more than we should lose to them.

Fortunately for Kevin, all of his teammates have experienced that embarrassment of losing to the Orioles at least six times this season.

Game 2: Monday, September 5th, TBD, MASN

RHP Mike Baumann (1-2, 4.50 ERA) vs. RHP Josè Berríos (9-5, 5.32 ERA)

Mike Baumann will get added as the 29th man for this game. It’s an important appearance for the 26-year-old. The organization seems to have tried making him a full-time reliever this year, but it has not gone well. On the other hand, in the nine games he has started for Triple-A Norfolk this year Baumann has a 2.79 ERA, striking out 53 across 38.2 innings.

August was another tough month for José Berríos. The high-priced righty struggled to miss bats as opposing hitters had a .912 OPS against in the month. It was more of the same in a nightmare season for the 28-year-old. This will be his second start against the Orioles this season.

Game 3: Tuesday, September 6th, 7:05 p.m., MASN

RHP Kyle Bradish (3-5, 5.17 ERA) vs. RHP Mitch White (1-5, 4.67 ERA)

The rookie Kyle Bradish is on a hot streak. The 25-year-old has not allowed a run over his last two starts, which have spanned 15 innings and came against two playoff contenders (Astros, Guardians). He has looked like a different pitcher since returning from the IL: seven starts, 40.2 innings, 2.66 ERA, .216 batting average against, 38 strikeouts, 14 walks.

Mitch White was a trade deadline acquisition from the Dodgers. Through five starts it has not proven to be a prudent move. The righty has a 7.04 ERA in a Blue Jays uniform, but that is weighted heavily towards his last two starts in which he allowed 13 runs over 9.2 innings against the Angels and Cubs.

Game 4: Wednesday, September 7th, 7:05 p.m., MASN

RHP Dean Kremer (6-4, 3.22 ERA) vs. RHP Alek Manoah (13-7, 2.48 ERA)

Is Dean Kremer good now? It sure feels like it. The former Dodgers prospect just continues to shove every single time he goes out to the mound, particularly in his last four starts. In that time Kremer has allowed just six runs and one home run over 26 innings.

Alek Manoah is a Cy Young contender, but he has cooled since a red hot start to season. His 1.44 ERA in April has slowed to a more pedestrian 3.39 ERA between July and August. But don’t you worry, he can still dominant a lineup, as he did over the weekend when he shutout the Pirates for 7.1 innings. The Orioles have faced Manoah three times already this season and come out as the winners on two of those occasions. A winning strategy in the most recent game was patience, pushing up Manoah’s pitch count, working four walks, and getting him on the bench before the end of the sixth inning.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    0 (get swept)
    (12 votes)
  • 11%
    1
    (23 votes)
  • 34%
    2
    (70 votes)
  • 38%
    3
    (78 votes)
  • 10%
    4 (do the sweeping)
    (21 votes)
204 votes total Vote Now