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Thursday afternoon Orioles game thread: @ Blue Jays, 3:07 ET

Birdland, meet Jack Flaherty.

St. Louis Cardinals v Arizona Diamondbacks
Your newest Orioles starter, Jack Flaherty.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The MLB trade deadline has come and gone, and it’s time for Birdland to meet the newest member of the Orioles’ starting rotation, 27-year-old right-hander Jack Flaherty. Today, he’ll get the game ball in a rare 3:07 pm day game. And he’ll have the none-too-enviable task of facing Toronto’s Kevin Gausman, one of the starters in the conversation for AL Cy Young this year.

Drafted 34th overall by St. Louis in 2014, Flaherty emerged on the scene in 2018, going 8-9 with a 3.34 ERA in 28 games. He outperformed himself in 2019, putting up an 11-8 record with a league-leading 0.97 WHIP and finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting. In 2021-22, however, Flaherty dealt with injuries (oblique, shoulder strain, shoulder discomfort) that limited him to just 23 games in two seasons. This year has been up-and-down: Flaherty had an ERA above five for most of April-June, but in July he posted a nice 3.03 mark, having “ironed some things out,” as he put it.

The only Blue Jays with much experience against the former NL Central fixture are Brandon Belt (1-for-10, RBI) and Whit Merrifield (1-for-10). I’m good with those numbers.

As for the other guy on the mound, well, as Stacey said in her series preview, I’ll forever have mixed feelings about Kevin Gausman. I liked him a lot when he was an Oriole. And it wasn’t his fault that the Angeloses started a massive rebuild, shipping him off to Atlanta in 2018. On the other hand, I of course have major sour grapes—and did he have to sign a long-term deal with the Blue Jays, of all teams??

Well, he did, apparently. Anyway, right now Gausman leads all AL pitchers in strikeouts, FIP, and strikeouts per nine innings. He’s relying on his four-seam fastball, which has a +14 run value, according to Statcast. That’s excellent. The only “good news” is the regression of his splitter (#DaSpwitter), a plus-plus pitch over the last two years but apparently below-average now. Unclear if this is making a difference to the 170 batters he’s struck out this year.

Gausman faced the Orioles once this year, on May 23, and was pretty dominant, holding them to two runs in eight innings in a game the O’s won in extra innings. That said, Adam Frazier has had a good time against Gausman in his career (14 hits in 36 ABs), and Ryan Mountcastle, Ryan O’Hearn, and Adley Rutschman all have a .333 average in past outings facing him.

Today Anthony Santander gets a day off his legs, with Ryan O’Hearn making a rare appearance in RF as Brandon Hyde keeps trying to stuff both “Ryans” into the lineup. In fact, impressively, Hyde has managed to stuff in three today, with Ryan McKenna getting a start in CF in place of the struggling Colton Cowser.

On paper, this starter matchup looks good for Toronto. But stranger things have happened—and often have, to the benefit of this Orioles team, all year.

Orioles lineup

1. Adley Rutschman C
2. Gunnar Henderson SS
3. Anthony Santander DH
4. Ryan O’Hearn RF
5. Ryan Mountcastle 1B
6. Adam Frazier 2B
7. Austin Hays LF
8. Ramón Urías 3B
9. Ryan McKenna CF

Blue Jays lineup

1. Whit Merrifield 2B
2. Brandon Belt DH
3. Vlad Guerrero, Jr. 1B
4. George Springer RF
5. Matt Chapman 3B
6. Alejandro Kirk C
7. Daulton Varsho LF
8. Paul DeJong SS
9. Kevin Kiermaier CF