After making it through the grueling gauntlet that was their May schedule, the Orioles travel west to open up a three game series against the San Francisco Giants. Facing some of baseball’s best teams—including the Rays, Rangers, Braves and Yankees—the O’s were able to muster a respectable 16-12 record throughout the second month of the season. While the Giants haven’t offered as much of a challenge as some of Baltimore’s recent opponents, they’re no pushover either. San Francisco has been a much stronger opponent in Oracle Park this year, where the club is 16-13 on the season. The Giants have excelled in winning close games when playing by the Bay, as 12 of their 16 home wins have come by three runs or fewer.
While the Orioles and Giants may share a black and orange color scheme, they haven’t often shared the same field since interleague play began in 1997. Their first meeting came at the then-Pacific Bell Park back in 2002. The Orioles took two out of three games against the eventual NL pennant winners, as the O’s pitching staff held NL MVP Barry Bonds to a 2-8 series with no RBIs. Of the all-time 18 meetings between the two clubs, 12 of them took place in San Francisco, where the Orioles have a 7-5 record.
Baltimore’s last trip to San Fran came back in 2016, when the O’s again took two out of three games. The highlight of the series came in the series finale, when the Orioles won 8-7 in a game that saw Matt Wieters go 5-5 (finishing a homer short of the cycle) and Jonathan Schoop hit a game-winning three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning. Perhaps it’s a good omen that the O’s are returning to San Francisco for the first time since their last playoff season.
Given that most of the Orioles starters weren’t on the roster—or even in the big leagues—in 2016, not many of these O’s have experience playing in Oracle Park. The good news for Baltimore is that the one player with significant experience in San Francisco, current leadoff hitter Adam Frazier, feels right at home in the park by the bay. In 21 career games at Oracle Park, Frazier is hitting .324 with a .351 on-base percentage.
Offensively the Giants are led by two former Mets in J.D. Davis and Michael Conforto. Davis leads the club with in RBIs with 30 and is currently slashing .282/.366/.483. After missing all of 2022 due to a shoulder injury, Conforto is back to being the middle-of-the-lineup power bat he was throughout his time in Queens. The left-handed hitting outfielder leads the Giants with 11 HRs and is second only to Davis in RBIs. As with any matchup against the Giants, the O’s will get to face off against their former draft pick Mike Yastrzemski. The grandson of the Red Sox legend terrorized Baltimore in his only series, going 4-11 with a home run, a triple and three RBIs over three games.
Game 1: Friday, 10:15pm ET, MASN 2.
Probable Pitchers: Dean Kremer (5-2, 4.58 ERA) vs. Logan Webb (4-5, 2.75 ERA)
The Orioles will look to start the series on a strong foot, sending Dean Kremer to the mound in Friday night’s opener. After an extremely rough April, Kremer certainly bounced back against tough opposition in May. Over five starts against the Braves, Rays, Angels, Blue Jays and Rangers, Kremer guided the O’s to a 4-1 record while posting a 2.45 ERA and limiting opponents to a .354 slugging percentage. Even in the one loss—last Saturday against the Rangers—Kremer put worth a strong showing, going 6.1 innings and allowing three runs against a potent Rangers offense. The California native will also have extra incentive to show out on Friday. He’ll make not only his first career start against the Giants but his first start in California.
The task for the hot and cold Orioles bats doesn’t get any easier as they lead off the series facing Webb, the Giants’ ace. Webb is seventh in all of baseball with 2.2 pitching WAR and has been incredibly tough at home. The 26-year-old right has a 1.65 ERA in Oracle Park with a 9.6 K/9 rate. Much of Webb’s success comes from his sinker/change up combo mixed with excellent control—a la Yennier Cano. Webb’s changeup ranks as the best in all of baseball when it comes to Run Value and opponents are only hitting .214 against the off-speed offering. Webb will certainly test Orioles hitters discipline with his control, as he ranks in the 88th percentile in the MLB for both walk rate and chase rate. Look for him to pound the strike zone early in counts before going out of the zone once he’s ahead.
Game 2: Saturday, 10:05pm ET, MASN.
Probable Pitchers: Kyle Bradish (2-1, 3.89 ERA) vs. Alex Cobb (4-2, 3.05 ERA)
Bradish is another Orioles starter who had a bounce-back month in May. The second-year right hander had a 2.76 ERA in five starts in May, holding opponents to a .219 batting average and .333 slugging percentage. Much of Bradish’s success in May came from increased usage of his slider. In April, Bradish threw his slider only 16% of the time, despite holding hitters to a .188 average on the breaking ball. The righty more than doubled his slider usage in May, and reaped the rewards. His most recent start against the Rangers was his best of the season, as he went 6.1 innings while only allowing four hits and one run. Bradish will also be making his first start against the Giants, as well as his first start on the West Coast.
Opposing Bradish is former Oriole Alex Cobb. The 12-year vet has found much more success in San Francisco than he ever found in Baltimore. In 39 starts over two seasons with the Giants, Cobb boasts a 3.53 ERA and has drastically cut down on the amount of home runs he’s allowing. With the O’s his HR rate never dropped below 3.5%, while currently he has a 2.3% HR with the Giants—a number that was even lower last season. Cobb relies on his splitter for most of his success, as opponents are only hitting .233 against Cobb’s best secondary pitch. He complements the low-90s splitter with a mid-90s sinker and will often throw his curveball as an out pitch. While Cobb’s arsenal is largely the same one he featured in Baltimore, an uptick in velocity has allowed him to be much more effective in San Francisco. Look for Adley Rutschman and Anthony Santander to be big contributors against Cobb. Tony Taters is currently hitting .500 with .750 slugging percentage against sinkers this season, while Adley is hitting .300 against sinkers and .429 against splitters this season.
Game 3: Sunday, 4:05pm ET, MASN 2.
Probable Pitchers: Tyler Wells (3-2, 3.29 ERA) vs. Anthony DeSclafani (4-4, 3.48 ERA)
If the Orioles can take one of the first two game from the Giants, they’ll certainly feel good about taking the series as they send Tyler Wells to the mound Sunday. After starting the year as the fifth starter, Wells has become the de facto ace of this staff. His 0.83 WHIP leads all of baseball among qualified starters. His minuscule walk rate of 1.7 BB/9 ranks in the top 10 for all MLB starters. Through 11 appearances, almost all the metrics that determine pitcher success—hard hit%, K%, xBA against—are all trending in an extremely positive direction for Wells compared to last season. While this will be his first start against the Giants, the 28-year-old right hander has found previous success on West Coast road trips. In four career appearances in Seattle, Oakland and Anaheim, Wells has a 2.61 ERA and held opponents to a .162 average.
Like Cobb, DeSclafani has revived his career since he joined the Giants back in 2021. The veteran righty has a 3.51 ERA in 49 starts for San Fran, and is back to the dependable form he showed in 2021 after missing most of last season with an ankle injury. The good news for the Baltimore bats is that DeSclafani has struggled more at home this year than when he pitches outside of Oracle Park. His 4.17 home ERA in 2023 is more than a run and a half higher than his road ERA this season. The Orioles will almost certainly look to load up with lefties in the lineup on Sunday, as DeSclafani is allowing a .296 average to left-handed hitters this season. However, Brandon Hyde may also want to sneak Ramón Urías and Ryan McKenna into the lineup with all those lefties. DeSclafani relies heavily on his slider, throwing it 43% of the time, and both Urías and McKenna have crushed sliders so far this season.
How many games will the Orioles win in San Francisco?
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