These Orioles!! They’ve won six consecutive series, have the second-best record in the AL, and are finally forcing the national media to give them some gosh darn respect. Here’s MLB.com’s Will Leitch, mystified to find the Orioles in the Top Five in Power Rankings:
We do not, alas, have a historical spreadsheet of all the Power Rankings over the last six years. Here’s a statement we nevertheless feel comfortable making: This is the first time the Baltimore Orioles have been in the top five.
The Orioles just had a 5-2 week, and they were already 14-7, and that is enough to get them into the top five in baseball. Considering how often they’ve been in the bottom five — fair to say, even without the theoretical spreadsheet, that has happened pretty often — it’s a massive achievement. And considering how young this team, they’re just getting started.
Take that, world! Yes, the starting pitching and defense could be better, and the competition hasn’t been the stiffest, but there’s no denying this young core is playing exciting baseball right now.
Fresh off taking three of four games in Detroit, the Birds continue their three-city, 10-game swing with a trip to the barbecue capital of the world. The Kansas City brisket may be hot, but at 7-22, the Royals … are not. Only the Oakland Athletics have a worse record, and at this point it’s clear that team isn’t even trying anymore.
The worst-hitting team in the majors by several metrics, the Royals are failing to score runs, get on base or hit for power, and they’re striking out a good amount, too. Bobby Witt Jr., drafted right behind Adley Rutschman in 2019, is having difficulty hitting for average (.222) and getting on base (7 free passes in 124 PA). Infielder Nicky Lopez and center fielder Kyle Isbel are providing great defense (with both on pace for over 30 defensive runs saved), but they, too, are struggling at the dish (Lopez with a .614 OPS, Isbel at .535). Despite this, a few offensive bright spots include 1B Vinnie Pasquantino, slashing .297/.395/.500 in 121 PA, outfielder Edward Olivares, averaging .289 and OPS’ing .826 in 90 PA, and seven-time All-Star Salvador Pérez, hitting a respectable .267 with 13 RBI at age 32.
As for the pitching, the news hasn’t been great, either. The Royals have the third-worst ERA in the majors, and two decorated veteran starters, Zack Greinke and Jordan Lyles, have ERAs over six. One of KC’s most promising young starters, Kris Bubic, a 2018 first-round pick, made just three starts this season before it was announced that he’ll miss the rest of the year to undergo Tommy John surgery. At least closer Aroldis Chapman is still striking out 16.5 batters a game at age 35.
Game 1: Tuesday, 7:40 PM, MASN 2
RHP Tyler Wells (1-1, 2.79) vs. LHP Ryan Yarbrough (0-3, 6.35)
A longtime swing man for Tampa Bay, Ryan Yarbrough joined the Royals in the offseason in what was expected to be a bulk relief role. Now Bubic’s injury has thrust the lefty into the rotation. Last Wednesday, Yarbrough made his first start of the year, allowing one run on four hits in four innings in a 2-0 loss to the Diamondbacks. Those results were good, but Yarbrough hasn’t been particularly effective so far as a reliever, either, his 5.68 FIP a full run and a half above his career average.
Meanwhile, Tyler Wells, a guy believed by Birdwatchers to be on the fringes of the rotation back in the spring, is quietly becoming one of the Orioles’ most dependable starters. Last time out, the big righty went 5 2⁄3 innings against the Red Sox, allowing two runs and striking out seven for his first win of the season. Manager Brandon Hyde is finally stretching Wells out as a starter, and his 0.72 WHIP and 23 K’s in 29 innings are making a convincing case that he can be trusted in that role.
Game 2: Wednesday, 7:40 PM, MASN 2
RHP Kyle Gibson (4-0, 3.93) vs. RHP Zack Greinke (0-4, 6.10)
Without having seen a ton of Zack Greinke yet this season, it feels safe to say that, at age 39, Greinke is not the same pitcher who took home the Cy Young in 2009. The six-time All-Star currently has a whiff percentage in the bottom 13% of the league and one of the highest opposing xBA’s (.311) of any pitcher. Last time out, Greinke failed to reach the fourth inning, allowing seven runs on eight hits in a 7-1 loss to the Twins. On the bright side, his control is still good (4.4 BB%)!
Meanwhile, Kyle Gibson has put up impressive results in six starts as a Baltimore Oriole. Gibson’s last two starts both came against the Detroit Tigers: in the former, he threw 6 1⁄3 innings with a career-high 11 strikeouts, and while he struggled in the latter, allowing eight hits, two walks, and three earned runs in 4 1⁄3 innings, the Orioles came away with a 7-4 win anyway.
Game 3: Thursday, 2:10 PM, MASN 2
TBD (probably Grayson Rodriguez (1-0, 4.07)) vs. RHP Jordan Lyles (0-5, 6.11)
It would have been kind of cool to see Jordan Lyles face his Orioles replacement, Kyle Gibson, in the “Battle of the No. 1 Dads.” Instead, it looks like Lyles will do battle with the youngest of Baltimore’s starters, Grayson Rodriguez. Thus far, Lyles’ problematic start to the season is making it look like the Orioles got the better of the fatherly switcheroo. 0-5 on the season, it’s not that Lyles is getting tremendous run support, but his peripherals—expected slugging, barrels, whiffs—all rank in the bottom 10% of pitchers. He’s giving up home runs at a career-high rate (2.3/game) and hitters’ launch angle is a full 8° higher against him than last year. If I were a Royals fan, I’d try to figure out what’s going on, but at this point it’s not our problem.
Grayson Rodriguez, by contrast, is trending in the right direction. After allowing two, five and four runs respectively in his first three starts, in his last two appearances Rodriguez has thrown ten scoreless innings with 15 strikeouts. His last start on Saturday was his best since joining the rotation and earned him his first career win. The 23-year-old rookie has a 4.07 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and 34 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings and continues to look more and more comfortable in the Majors.
Last year, the Orioles finished 83-79 and went 4-3 against a 2022 Royals team who finished 65-97. This year, the gap between the two teams looks substantially wider: Kansas City is on pace for 52 wins, while the red-hot Orioles are on pace to more than double that total, at 110 wins. Can these Birds acquit themselves a little better in Kansas City this time around?
How many games will the Orioles win in this series against the Royals?
This poll is closed
3 (Orioles sweep!)
0 (Orioles get swept)