The Toronto Blue Jays have made some baseball headlines within the last few days for being a bunch of whining losers who made insinuations about Aaron Judge cheating by stealing signs. That this is what the Blue Jays are will not come as a surprise to any Orioles fan whose memory stretches back to two years ago, when the at that time 46-94 O’s were obliquely accused of stealing signs by eventual AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray. That was pretty weird.
Does that have much to do with the coming three games in Toronto? Probably not. It’s just a matter of personal policy to never pass up a chance to observe when an AL East foe is a loser. This is all the more true when we are in the 2023 season and every team in the division is comfortably above .500 on the strength of winning its non-division games. Any loser aspects are not being expressed in their win-loss records so far.
After losing two of three against the Yankees this week, the Jays are 25-19, exactly three games behind the Orioles in the standings. They have not been below .500 since they were 2-3 after their fifth game of the season. In May, they’ve been mopped (four game swept) by the Red Sox, swept in a two-gamer by the Phillies, and swept the Pirates and Braves. It’s a 7-9 month for them, so far. They are, however, 13-6 in home games. It’s a tough headwind for the Orioles here.
Game 1: Friday, 7:07, Apple TV+
Probable pitchers: Kyle Gibson (9 GS, 52 IP, 4.67 ERA, 4.40 FIP) vs. Yusei Kikuchi (8 GS, 41.2 IP, 3.89 ERA, 5.46 FIP)
Yeah, it’s another one of these Friday night Apple games. I don’t think they’re giving any free access this year, so you might be searching for this one on the radio. In the Baltimore area, that’s 97.9 and 101.5 FM, and 1090 AM.
Kikuchi has yet to be charged with a loss in the 2023 season, sporting a 5-0 record. He has done this despite giving up home runs like they’re going out of style, allowing eleven so far. That’s a 2.4 HR/9. That’s probably what explains a lot of the substantial gap between his ERA and FIP. The 31-year-old Japanese lefty has pitched to a 2.87 ERA in three home starts so far this season.
If Orioles right-handed batters with power can punish Kikuchi, this could be a fun game. The likely suspects there are Ryan Mountcastle, Austin Hays, and Anthony Santander. Adley Rutschman only has one right-handed homer this year. Maybe he just needs to get away from Walltimore to do it. If they can’t do damage, maybe it won’t be a fun game. The Jays, by the way, have moved in fences in left- and right-center while slightly raising the walls.
Gibson has a 6.04 ERA in away games this year, and a 6.11 ERA in the month of May. These are trends that are going to need to be reversed if he wants to perform better than the “veteran mascot who’s not actually a good MLB player” mold, inhabited last year by Jordan Lyles, Rougned Odor, and Robinson Chirinos.
Game 2: Saturday, 3:07, MASN
Probable pitchers: Grayson Rodriguez (8 GS, 37 IP, 6.57 ERA, 5.47 FIP) vs. Alek Manoah (9 GS, 45 IP, 5.40 ERA, 6.46 FIP)
The degenerate gamblers are probably going to find a high over/under total for runs in this one with this starting pitching matchup. If you, like me, are paying attention to the Jays for the first time this year, you may find it surprising that Manoah is stinking severely in his age 25 season after finishing in third place in the Cy Young voting last year with a 2.24 ERA in nearly 200 innings.
One problem for Manoah is his command has fled him. He’s handed out 32 free passes so far, while striking out just 35. Batters are really squaring him up. The Statcast measurement for his xERA (expected ERA based on contact) is 7.04, so his results could probably be even worse than this if things had broken a bit less his way. That’s a stunning fall. Let’s hope these things do not start to fix themselves this weekend. The Orioles have had a lamentable tendency, even while winning, to let poor starting pitchers off the hook.
Rodriguez, well, let’s just all figuratively hold our breath. The number of walks he’s issued isn’t as bad as Manoah but his command isn’t good either, he’s certainly got batters squaring him up too, with nine home runs allowed and 47 hits overall in 37 innings. The Jays doled out a lot of punishment to then-rookie pitcher Kyle Bradish last year. It’s not going to be a fun Saturday afternoon for Orioles fans if they do the same to Rodriguez in 2023.
Game 3: Sunday, 1:37, MASN
Probable pitchers: Dean Kremer (9 GS, 47.1 IP, 4.94 ERA, 4.93 FIP) vs. Kevin Gausman (9 GS, 55 IP, 3.27 ERA, 2.41 FIP)
Since the 2020 season, when he was 29, Gausman has been the pitcher that Orioles fans always hoped he could be here and that, for whatever reason, he was not. It is not much consolation that he bounced through two other organizations, and was non-tendered by one, before reaching his current form; that even if Dan Duquette hadn’t traded him for a disappointing return, Mike Elias surely would have soon after taking over as GM; nor that even if Gausman had stayed in Baltimore, he would have become a free agent after 2020, so we would not have benefited from these last three years anyway.
This year so far is one of the best Gausman seasons yet, as he’s struck out 77 batters in 55 innings, while maintaining a K/BB rate of 8.56. In terms of his ERA, he’s only shaved .08 compared to last year, but given that 2023 is a more friendly offensive environment than 2022 was, that’s actually impressive to hold where he was. His 3.35 ERA last year was a 114 ERA+; this year he’s got a 129 ERA+ so far. His 2021 season with the Giants was better still, a 147 ERA+.
Kremer has a 2.04 ERA through three May starts. He has gotten battered by left-handed batters to the tune of a .341/.388/.528 batting line so far this season. Of the Jays top-performing batters, only Kiermaier is a lefty, so I guess we’ll see if the Jays stack the lineup for the platoon advantage or just roll out their usual guys. They probably don’t want to stack lefties since they’ve got struggling lefty Cavan Biggio on the bench.
In our poll before the Angels series, 51% of you were optimistic enough to think the Orioles would win three out of four and 7% voted for a sweep. Respect for the optimism, but it didn’t work out. The 37% who voted for two wins and a series split were correct. Will you be among those who choose correctly this time? The good news is there’s no way for anyone to know what you voted for, so you can always say you were correct later.
How many games will the Orioles win in this series against the Blue Jays?
This poll is closed
3 (Orioles sweep)
0 (Orioles swept)