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Orioles-Diamondbacks series preview: Another playoff contender awaits

The former NL West leader has been strapped for pitching, but despite a slump in July-August, they’re still just half a game out of a Wild Card slot.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers
The leading candidates for AL and NL Rookie of the Year will meet this series. With a .279/.361/.561 slash line with 41 stolen bases, Arizona’s Corbin Carroll is pretty much a lock to take home some hardware.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

On the one hand, the schedule makers seem to hate the Orioles. Just a week-and-a-half after a nine-game trip to the West Coast, guess where the Orioles are headed next? Yes, back west, this time for six games against Arizona and the Los Angeles Angels. Then again, baseball pundits seem to agree: in remaining strength of schedule, the Orioles are sitting pretty. With MLB’s worst record in August, Shohei Ohtani not pitching again in 2023, and Mike Trout still suffering from a hamate break, the Angels are waving the white flag on a colossally disappointing season.

The Diamondbacks, however, won’t go down so easily.

At 69-64, Arizona is very much in the playoff race, just half a game out of a Wild Card berth, in a virtual tie with the San Francisco Giants (69-93). Their season has had a disappointing arc: Arizona was an NL West stunner for a while, leading their division for a good chunk of the first half. But they went a horrific 8-23 over a month-long stretch in July-August. They’re 6-4 in their last 10 games (including an impressive six-game win streak against Texas, San Diego and Cincinnati), but the Dodgers (82-49) just just completed a three-game sweep of Arizona to pad their division lead to a comfortable 15 games.

Pitching—specifically starting pitching—is a big reason why Arizona has struggled. Despite having a leading contender for NL Cy Young on the roster (Zac Gallen), the D-backs are not a standout unit. Their staff is among the bottom ten in ERA (4.64), strikeouts (8.4 K/9, compared to Baltimore’s 9.05), walks (3.34 per game), and home runs allowed (1.29 per game). Besides Gallen and Merrill Kelly, who’s putting up some of his best numbers in his fifth season (10-6, 3.31 ERA), the rotation has been unsettled. Brandon Pfaadt and Ryne Nelson (40-man) have struggled, while Tommy Henry is on the 60-day IL and Zach Davies is just making it back from the IL.

As for run-scoring, Arizona has a middle-of-the-pack offense that hits more for average than power. The D-backs are among the league’s best base stealers (with 135) but they’re 20th in home runs—not surprising given that only two teams have a lower average launch angle on balls they put in play.

Despite that, Arizona has gotten some thump from their leading hitters. Their star position player is also the hands-down favorite for NL Rookie of the Year, Corbin Carroll. In 129 games, the 22-year-old outfielder has a .279/.361/.519 slash line, not to mention 41 stolen bases, and he’s OPS’ing .880, too. Exciting stuff. You might also remember the name Christian Walker, a right-handed 1B who played for the Orioles in 2014-15: he’s got 3.8 WAR and a team-leading 28 home runs for Arizona. Second baseman Ketel Marte (.828 OPS) and 23-year-old shortstop Geraldo Perdomo (.765 OPS) are also having good years.

Besides Walker and Davies, three other former Orioles you might recognize are infielder Jace Peterson and relief pitchers Cole Sulser and Miguel Castro.

Game 1: Friday, 9:40 ET, MASN2

RHP Zach Davies (1-5, 6.93 ERA, 51 K in 62.1 IP) vs. LHP Cole Irvin (1-3, 4.78 ERA, 58 K in 64 IP)

Hello, old friend. Another young pitcher the Orioles did nothing with who went to have a decent career elsewhere, the 30-year-old Davies was a late-round draft pick by Baltimore in 2011 who got flipped to Milwaukee in 2015 for a mid-season rental, outfielder Gerardo Parra. Ouch. Since then, Davies has gone on to have a 4.31 ERA in 195 career games across nine seasons. He’s struggled this season with lower back inflammation, making just 13 starts amidst IL stints, and was just activated by Arizona this week.

After a rocky introduction to Baltimore (a 10.66 ERA in April), Cole Irvin spent some time working on stuff in Triple-A Norfolk, and so far, so good? August, which saw Irvin inserted into a new six-man starting rotation, has been his best month yet: in six appearances (three starts) Irvin has a 2.25 ERA and is holding batters to a .194 average, with 19 strikeouts in 20 innings. Is he enjoying the extra rest, or making some new stuff tweaks? I don’t know. But keep it up, Cole!

Game 2: Saturday, 8:10 ET, MASN2

RHP Slade Cecconi (0-0, 2.57 ERA, 14 K in 21 IP) vs. RHP Kyle Bradish (9-6, 3.03 ERA, 130 K in 133 IP)

I swear I didn’t make this name up. Rookie Slade Cecconi was called up by the pitching-strapped D-backs on August 2, and after two relief appearances they’re moving him into the rotation. In 21 innings over five appearances (three starts) since, the 2020 competitive-balance round pick out of U. Miami has done a good job, conceding just six runs and striking out 14. In three career starts so far, he’s allowed two, one and one run, respectively, while giving his team at least four innings.

Before the season, I assume not even diehard Orioles fans predicted that in September Kyle Bradish would be putting up numbers to rival Sonny Gray, Gerrit Cole and Luis Castillo. But that’s where we are, with Bradish’s 3.03 ERA, 3.45 FIP, and 1.11 WHIP in 24 starts. His strikeout numbers aren’t as flashy, so he won’t attract a lot of votes for postseason hardware, but you can believe the Orioles are grateful for what the second-year righty has turned into. Another young Orioles starter who’s seeming to flourish with extra rest, Bradish has a 2.23 ERA in his last 13 starts, including a 1.59 ERA in four starts this past month.

Game 3: Sunday, 4:10 ET, MASN2

RHP Zac Gallen (14-6, 3.32 ERA, 182 K in 173 IP vs. RHP Jack Flaherty (8-8, 4.73 ERA, 128 K in 129 IP)

The toughest matchup of the series, Zac Gallen is having a good enough season that he’s cracked at least one Top 10 list of candidates for NL Cy Young. His 182 strikeouts are fifth in the NL right now and his 1.10 WHIP is tied for ninth. A mixed bag for Gallen in his last three starts, though: he held both San Diego and Texas to just one run in six-plus innings, but on Monday, the Dodgers steamrolled him, scoring six runs on nine hits, including four home runs.

It is impossible to know what we’re going to get from Jack Flaherty in this start. The trade deadline acquisition made his debut with Baltimore on August 3, silencing the Blue Jays offense over six innings. But after that impressive introduction, he allowed three, seven and three runs, respectively, in each of his next three starts, and had to have the last one pushed back due to what Brandon Hyde called “general soreness.” Health is a worry for the seven-year veteran. Cross your fingers.


With a win on Friday, the Orioles will pass their 2022 win total. We can’t count the chickens before they hatch, though. They’ll need these wins, too, because the Tampa Bay Rays keep losing players and still refuse to go quietly. They’re just 1.5 games back in the AL East.



How many wins will the Orioles get in this series against the Diamondbacks?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    3 (sweep!)
    (37 votes)
  • 72%
    (325 votes)
  • 17%
    (79 votes)
  • 1%
    0 (swept)
    (7 votes)
448 votes total Vote Now