Welcome back to Baltimore, Buck Showalter. If only it were under better circumstances.
The former Orioles manager, forever adored in Birdland for turning a moribund franchise into a winner, is sure to receive a glowing reception from O’s fans in his long-awaited return. But Showalter — and almost everyone in baseball — probably expected he’d be bringing a contending, powerhouse club with him, not (gestures at Mets) whatever this is.
The 2023 Mets have been the most expensive disappointment in baseball history. Owner Steve Cohen shelled out nearly $500 million in free agent contracts this past offseason, including a deal with reigning AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander to reunite him with his former Tigers co-ace, Max Scherzer, who himself received a two-year, $86 million contract a year earlier. The Mets re-signed key veterans like closer Edwin Díaz (three years, $64 million) and center fielder Brandon Nimmo (eight years, $162 million). They brought in Japanese ace Kodai Senga for five years and $75 million.
The club entered 2023 with a season payroll of $355 million, by far the highest of any team. Their Opening Day lineup featured former All-Stars at seven of the nine spots in the batting order, plus the future Hall of Famer Scherzer on the mound. The only thing bigger than the Mets’ payroll was their expectations. This is a club that was supposed to be a World Series favorite.
Instead, they flatlined. They currently sit at 50-58, languishing in fourth place in the NL East, and just got swept by the Royals, the second-worst team in baseball. The offense hasn’t clicked, ranking a distant 19th in MLB in runs scored. On the mound, Verlander and Scherzer began to show their age, with neither looking like their vintage, dominant selves (and with Verlander missing the first month with injury). Díaz suffered a season-ending injury in the World Baseball Classic. The team of superstars just hasn’t found ways to win, and hasn’t been above .500 since June 3.
The Mets, admitting defeat, were sellers at the trade deadline earlier this week. They dealt closer David Robertson to the Marlins, then sent both Scherzer and Verlander packing, the former to the Rangers and the latter back to the Astros. Outfielders Mark Canha (Brewers) and Tommy Pham (Diamondbacks) and reliever Dominic Leone (Angels) were shipped out as well.
Showalter’s Mets tenure, unfortunately, has played out as a warp-speed version of his time in Baltimore, with early triumph giving way to eventual disappointment. He joined New York with great acclaim and found immediate success in his first year in 2022, winning 101 games and earning Manager of the Year honors for the fourth time. But after a postseason failure — a first-round exit to the Padres — it’s been all downhill for the skipper and his club ever since, and his job security seems shaky at best.
Meanwhile, Showalter will be facing an AL-best O’s club that is almost unrecognizable from the last one he managed. Only two Orioles on the field for this series — Austin Hays and Anthony Santander — played for the Birds during Showalter’s tenure. (Cedric Mullins, Mychal Givens, and John Means did as well, but all are currently injured.)
Against a stripped-down, underachieving Mets team that has essentially packed it in for the season, this should be a very winnable series for the Orioles. But don’t count out Buck’s ability to play spoiler against his former club.
Game 1: Friday, 7:05 PM, MASN
LHP David Peterson (3-7, 5.92) vs. RHP Dean Kremer (10-4, 4.66)
Peterson began the season in the Mets’ rotation, but struggled so much in 11 starts — a 6.46 ERA and 1.64 WHIP — that he was bumped to the bullpen in July. The trades of Scherzer and Verlander, though, have forced him back into a starting role. Only twice this season has Peterson worked six innings, and in one of those starts he gave up six runs. The fourth-year lefty is averaging 11 hits per nine innings, so expect the Orioles to put plenty of traffic on the bases.
Kremer’s most recent start was a missed opportunity, when the O’s handed him a seven-run lead in the first inning against the Yankees and he still couldn’t get through the fifth. He sure seems to enjoy pitching against the NL East, though. He’s made four starts this year against the division — one each against Washington, Atlanta, Miami, and Philadelphia — and pitched six or more innings each time, allowing one or no runs, for a cumulative ERA of 1.05. Can Kremer complete the NL East cycle by shutting down the Mets?
Game 2: Saturday, 7:05 PM, MASN
TBD vs. RHP Kyle Gibson (10-6, 4.53)
Gibson’s last three starts have gone, in order, like this: 6 IP and 3 ER; 6 IP and 2 ER; 6 IP and 1 ER. If the pattern holds, mark him down for six shutout innings this time, followed by six innings and negative one runs in his next start. That’s just math. Having spent the previous two years with the division rival Phillies, Gibson has seen plenty of the Mets recently, making five starts against them from 2021-22. He certainly had their number, posting a 2.63 ERA, with 21 strikeouts and just one homer allowed.
Incredibly, Mets slugger Pete Alonso is 0-for-14 lifetime against Gibson. Some of their lefty swingers have had more success, though, as Francisco Lindor, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, and Daniel Vogelbach all have an OPS of .800 or better against Gibson, including a homer apiece for the latter three.
The Mets have yet to announce a Saturday starter as of this writing. This would have been Verlander’s turn to pitch until, well, you know. Expect a huge crowd at this game, as the Orioles will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of their most recent World Series championship in 1983. Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, and Cal Ripken Jr., among many other members of the ’83 club, will be on hand for the ceremonies.
Game 3: Sunday, 1:35 PM, MASN (in market), MLB Network (out of market)
LHP José Quintana (0-2, 3.57) vs. RHP Kyle Bradish (7-6, 3.32)
Poor José Quintana seems like the guy who showed up late to the party only to find that everyone had already left. And the house was trashed. And also on fire. The Mets signed the well-traveled veteran to a two-year, $26 million deal to complete their All Star-filled rotation, but he underwent spring surgery to treat a lesion on his ribs. By the time he finally made his Mets debut in July, their season was already hopelessly off the rails. The former White Sox ace hasn’t started against the Orioles since 2017, which was a very different team. The current O’s roster has little experience against him aside from Adam Frazier (batting .188 in 16 at-bats) and James McCann (.167 in 18 ABs).
Emerging Orioles ace Kyle Bradish offered a gutsy effort in his last start in Toronto, giving back an early 3-0 lead but holding firm to work seven quality innings and earn the win. Bradish not only has taken a huge step forward in his stuff and his command, but he’s working deep into games. His last seven starts have all been six innings or longer, and only once since the start of May has he failed to work at least five. He’ll be facing the Mets for the first time.
How many games will the Orioles win in this series against the Mets?
This poll is closed
3 (Orioles sweep!)
0 (Orioles get swept)