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Orioles-Dodgers series preview: A rare visit from the NL West

The 53-39 Dodgers lead the NL West by just one game, and roll into Baltimore with many of their top arms on the shelf.

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MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Baltimore Orioles
Dodgers second baseman Gavin Lux turns a double play against the Orioles the last time these two teams met, in September 2019.
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Is it possible to be playing disappointing baseball and still be a first-place team? This is the weighty existential question faced by all Dodgers fans right now. At 53-39, Los Angeles still leads the NL West, but the surprising Arizona Diamondbacks are nipping at their heels, just two games back in the standings. For the Orioles, meanwhile, hot on an eight-game win streak, a 57-35 record feels like a major achievement.

The Dodgers have dealt with injuries. Future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw, now in his sixteenth season, is on the shelf with shoulder soreness, and it’s not clear when he’ll be back (if at all, going by his evasive interview comments). So are pitchers Shelby Miller (on the 60-day IL with a neck injury), Dustin May (season-ending elbow surgery), Noah Syndergaard (blister capping off what Fangraphs calls a “dismal season”) and Tyler Cyr (60-day IL, shoulder impingement). Same for outfielder Trayce Thompson (60-day IL, oblique) and infielder Gavin Lux (60-day IL, right knee surgery).

The Dodgers have also dealt with a lack of offensive production. Last year’s No. 3 prospect for LA, Miguel Vargas won the starting second base job out of spring training, but was just optioned to Triple A after slashing .195/.305./.367 in 81 games. A hand injury seems partly to blame, but it’s still a disappointment for the once highly-thought-of prospect. The Dodgers reportedly are desperate for a right-handed bat (and additional relief pitching) and just signed Jake Marisnick, onetime member of the 2017 World Series-winning (and trash can-banging) Astros, in an effort to add outfield depth and bolster the offense.

It’s not all bad news for the first-place Dodgers, though. First baseman Freddie Freeman was just named to his seventh All-Star game, and deservingly so, with a .947 OPS, a .347 BA and 72 RBIs in 91 games. DH J.D. Martinez was also named an All-Star. Will Smith has a solid 133 OPS+ from the catcher’s position. And Mookie Betts continues to be awesome, slashing .287/.387/.596 while offering prime positional versatility: he’s started 16 or more games at right field, second base, and shortstop!

Game 1: Monday, July 17, 7:05 pm — MASN

RHP Grayson Rodriguez (2-2, 7.35 ERA) vs. RHP Emmet Sheehan (2-0, 4.35 ERA)

I know I’ve been hard on the Orioles youngster. In ten starts from April-May Grayson Rodriguez got hit hard, with a 7.35 ERA, a 1.74 WHIP, and a negative WAR (-1.0). But he definitely has the stuff to make it in MLB. And he’s been on fire since he was sent down to Triple-A in late May: a 4-0 record, 1.96 ERA and 56 K in 41.1 innings. Rodriguez has a blazing fastball, an intriguing arsenal of secondary pitches, and nothing left to prove in Triple-A: will he make the necessary adjustments to thrive in the big leagues?

Facing him will be fellow rookie Emmet Sheehan, a sixth-rounder for LA in 2021. The 23-year-old right hander is 2-0 with a 4.35 ERA through four starts, and has held hitters to a 1.06 WHIP in 20.2 innings. Sheehan’s first three career starts were dominant, but his last time out he struggled against Pittsburgh, allowing five earned runs on four hits and four walks in 3.2 innings, earning a no-decision.

Game 2: Tuesday, July 18, 7:05 pm — MASN

RHP Tyler Wells (7-4. 3.18 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Grove (1-2, 6.89 ERA)

The Orioles’ best starter this year, Wells continues to lead all qualified pitchers with a 0.93 WHIP. Only his 1.81 HR/9 rate is concerning, and this can be forgiven given his stinginess with baserunners. Wells has put together eight consecutive starts where he allowed two earned runs or fewer, and has been the rock of this rotation. Here’s hoping he’ll continue his strong season into the second half of the year.

A 2018 second-rounder out of West Virginia, Michael Grove has been up-and-down this year between LA and Oklahoma City, the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate. With Clayton Kershaw (shoulder) placed on the injured list, Grove was recently recalled on July 3. He’s posted a 6.89 ERA so far in 11 appearances (eight starts). His last time out, he threw six innings and allowed four runs to the Dodgers’ crosstown “rival,” the Los Angeles Angels.

Game 3: Wednesday, July 19, 1:05 pm — MASN

RHP Dean Kremer (10-4, 4.59 ERA) vs. LHP Julio Urías (7-5, 4.35 ERA)

With a 4.59 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP in 19 games, Kremer has alternated between brilliance and bummers. He’s given up 5+ runs four times, but also one run or less five times. So far, in two starts in July he has a sparkling 1.38 ERA and 0.69 WHIP. That included a six-inning, one-run, eight-strikeout performance last week in a 5-2 win over the Marlins.

He’ll be facing a tough left-hander in Julio Urías, who finished third in the NL Cy Young voting in 2022 with a 17-7 record and a league-leading 2.16 ERA. Urías hasn’t looked quite that good for the Dodgers in 2023, having missed all of June with a hamstring strain and posting a 4.35 ERA in 13 starts outside of that. That said, in three starts since being activated off the IL, the 26-year-old lefty has been effective, with a 2-1 record, a 0.93 WHIP and a .192 opposing average against. Of the Orioles, only Adam Frazier has seen Urías with any frequency: he’s 2-for-9 against him. James McCann is 1-for-2.


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

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Three (O’s sweep!)
    (97 votes)
  • 69%
    (461 votes)
  • 14%
    (98 votes)
  • 1%
    None (O’s get swept)
    (9 votes)
665 votes total Vote Now