Orioles vs. Rays: Series Preview 7/31-8/2

Coming off of a disappointing two game series against the Yankees, the Orioles welcome the Tampa Bay Rays to Camden Yards for a three-game series beginning Friday night.

The Orioles enter the game at 2-3 and in last place in the American League East. The team has been outscored by 11 runs, second most in the A.L. On the bright side, two of the Orioles three losses have come against the ace of the opposing team, the Red Sox and the Yankees, respectively.

The Rays come into Camden Yards with a 4-3 record, good for second in the A.L. East. The team is outscoring opponents by 10 runs, second most in the A.L. The Rays come into the series having split a four-game series with the Braves. However, they dropped the last two.

As of now the pitching match-ups are as follows:

  • Friday – Alex Cobb vs. Blake Snell
  • Saturday – Wade LeBlanc vs. Tyler Glasnow
  • Sunday – Yonny Chirinos vs. Undecided

Alex Cobb pitched brilliantly in his last outing, a 7-2 victory against the Red Sox, going 5.1 innings, while giving up one run and striking out six. Cobb is coming off a forgettable 2019 that saw injuries limit him to just three games, all in April.

In June of 2019, Cobb underwent season-ending hip surgery. The 32-year-old right-hander is in need of a strong start to begin to put 2019 as far in the rear view mirror as possible.

Current Rays are batting .333 against Cobb with one home run in 42 at-bats. Cobb spent six very effective years in Tampa Bay before coming over to the Orioles in 2018. As a Ray, Cobb posted a 3.50 ERA, while striking out 570.

Wade LeBlanc starts his second game as an Oriole on Saturday. In his first start, the 6-foot-3 lefty wasn’t great, but kept the Orioles competitive by going 5.1 innings and giving up four runs.

Pitching for his eighth team in 12 years, the 35-year-old LeBlanc struck out four and walked none. Current Rays are batting .212 with two home runs in 33 at-bats against him. For the Mariners last year, LeBlanc appeared in 26 games, pitching to a 5.71 ERA and 1.45 WHIP.

The crew of pitchers that the Orioles will face this weekend have been lights out thus far, coming into the game with a 0.90 ERA in 10 innings to go with 18 strikeouts.

Blake Snell, pitching against the Blue Jays in his first outing of the season, was scheduled for a short start. However, struggling with his location, Snell saw his pitch count rise quickly and was pulled after two innings.

Leblanc started only four of the first 11 batters he faced with a strike and walked two batters. Current Orioles are batting 0.83 against Snell in 25 at-bats. Last year for the Rays, Snell went 6-8 with a 4.29 ERA. striking out 147 in 107 innings.

In his only outing thus far, Tyler Glasnow struck out an incredible nine batters in only four innings against the Braves. The 6-foot-8 right-hander gave up one run and one hit in that start.

Current Orioles are batting .200 in 40 at-bats against Glasnow. Dwight Smith Jr. has gone 4-for-8 with a stolen base against him. For the Rays last season, Glasnow went 6-1 in his 12 starts, with a 1.78 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 60.2 innings pitched.

On Sunday, the Orioles are scheduled to face off against 26-year-old right-hander, Yonny Chirinos.

Chirinos gave up one un-earned run and four hits in four innings against the Braves in his only outing this season, while striking out four.

Current Orioles are batting .143 with four home runs against Chirinos. Renato Núñez has had some success, however, going 4-for-12 with two home runs. Chirinos went 9-5 with a 3.85 ERA for the Rays last year.

Keys to the series:

  • Make the starting pitchers work: The Rays have not allowed their starters, thus far, to go deep into games. The three pitchers the O’s face this weekend have combined for only 10 innings. The young Oriole hitters will need to work the count and drive the Rays starters’ pitch counts up. While the combined ERA of the three starters is below one, the Rays bullpen has a more manageable 3.50 ERA.
  • Play small ball: Runs are bound to be hard to come by in this series. Current Orioles are batting a minuscule .150 against the three Rays starting pitchers. So far this year, the Orioles have been very, very reluctant to bunt to move runners over, and it has cost them potential runs in three of their five games this season. This team is not full of mashers as the teams from 2012-2017 were, and they are striking out at an alarming rate. The long ball has helped the team considerably this year; however, the Rays pitching staff has given up only five home runs in their seven games this season.
  • Improve the starting pitching: The Orioles starting pitching enters this series with a whopping 8.10 ERA after five games. That number balloons to 9.56 if you remove Cobb’s start. The Orioles bullpen has not fared much better, sporting a 6.95 ERA. The starters have to be more efficient, get ahead in the count and stop giving up hits and home runs when they are ahead in the count. These games can remain close if the starters can each give the team six good innings.
  • Limit mental mistakes: The Orioles hurt themselves numerous times in the two games against the Yankees. On Wednesday evening, two inexplicable catcher interference calls against Pedro Severino gave the Yankees two free base runners, driving up the pitch count of starter Asher Wojciechowski. On Thursday night, John Means was extremely close to getting out of the first inning unscathed before hitting two batters and giving up a grand slam that ultimately became the difference in the game. This was all coming off back-to-back games of bad base running in the Red Sox series.

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