It is official: the Orioles postseason has begun. The Texas Rangers swept the Tampa Bay Rays in two games to capture the Wild Card series, and now they’re here in Baltimore ready to confront the Orioles in the American League Division Series.
The Game 1 matchup will feature Kyle Bradish v. Andrew Heaney. Both teams announced their starters yesterday afternoon, and their ALDS rosters this morning. Both teams left one big starting pitcher off the final list. Lefty John Means is out with elbow soreness, which is a bummer, but he’s expected to be ready for the next series if the Orioles advance. On the other side, Max Scherzer threw a live practice session yesterday, but apparently wasn’t feeling well enough to make the roster.
That Bradish would get the ball in Game 1 was a surprise to exactly no one. Bradish emerged as the Orioles’ best pitcher back in May, and he finished a 30-start season with a 2.83 ERA and 1.043 WHIP, the best full season by any Orioles starter since Mike Mussina’s 1992.
What you might not have seen coming is that Andrew Heaney (10-6, 4.15 ERA) would be taking the bump for Texas in Game 1. Fangraphs’ Dan Szymborski had predicted that, with Jordan Montgomery on three days’ rest after a dominant start against Tampa Bay on Tuesday, Texas’ Game 1 ALDS starter would be the right hander Dane Dunning, who had not pitched in a week and was well-rested to start the opener. Not so fast.
The lefty Heaney is something of an interesting choice, because he’d been in the Rangers bullpen since September and the Orioles had slightly better lefty offensive splits this year (.260/.334/.430). What’s more, Heaney owns a a 7.63 ERA and 1.565 WHIP in seven career games (six starts) against the Orioles, with several O’s hitters having great career numbers against him. Austin Hays is 4-for-8 with two home runs off Heaney and Ryan Mountcastle is 3-for-6 with two home runs and a 2.238 OPS. The lefties, obviously, don’t like hitting off of him as much, but Cedric Mullins has two hits off him in six at-bats.
Texas seems to be hoping to take advantage of Camden Yards’ new lefty-friendly dimensions, and/or daring Baltimore to play those matchups and eliminate the bat of Gunnar Henderson from the lineup, or at least neutralize it. Despite Jorge Mateo’s 4-for-7 career line against Heaney, Brandon Hyde is keeping the rookie Henderson in the lineup, where he’s hitting fifth.
Fangraphs had predicted that Heaney would get the Game 4 start against the Orioles’ Dean Kremer, and that the Orioles had a 54.6% chance of winning that game. Against Bradish? I don’t know. Heaney faced the Orioles twice this season. On May 27, he stymied Baltimore for seven innings, an Austin Hays home run their only run. The prior month, however, the Orioles socked Heaney around to the tune of seven runs in 2.2 innings, including on home runs by Mountcastle and Mateo. I hope the hits are raining down against the left hander today.
As Adam Morris, the Texas equivalent to our Mark Brown, put it in a pre-series Q&A, the Rangers could come out guns a-blazing today, or they could pack it in aginst a lot of Bradish sliders. No outcome would be truly shocking.
[The start of this game has been delayed by rain. The Orioles have now announced a 2:15 ET start time.]
1. Austin Hays LF
2. Adley Rutschman C
3. Anthony Santander DH
4. Ryan Mountcastle 1B
5. Gunnar Henderson SS
6. Aaron Hicks RF
7. Jordan Westburg 2B
8. Cedric Mullins CF
9. Ramón Urías 3B
1. Marcus Semien 2B
2. Corey Seager SS
3. Robbie Grossman DH
4. Adolis García RF
5. Evan Carter LF
6. Jonah Heim C
7. Nathaniel Lowe 1B
8. Josh Jung 3B
9. Leody Taveras CF