The Orioles have certainly been one of the surprises on the young and shortened Major League Baseball season. The young Birds have won a series against the Red Sox, swept the Rays and are one tarp and three innings away from sweeping the defending World Series Champion Nationals.
Beginning Tuesday, the Orioles travel to Philadelphia for a three-game set with the Phillies.
The Orioles enter this series at 7-7 and in third place in the American League East, 2.0 games behind the Yankees.
For their part, the Phillies have struggled to find consistency, partially due to games missed because of COVID-19. They currently sit in third place in the National League East at 5-6, 2.5 games behind the Braves.
The Orioles lead the all-time series 33-28, which includes a 4-1 series win against Philly in the 1983 World Series. The two teams last played in 2018, when the Phillies swept the Orioles in four games.
As of now the pitching matchups are:
Tuesday – Alex Cobb vs. Zach Wheeler
Wednesday – Wade LeBlanc vs. Zach Eflin
Thursday – Undecided vs. Jake Arrietta
Alex Cobb has had a very good start to the 2020 season. Cobb has gone 1-1 with a 2.51 ERA and 1.116 WHIP, with 15 strikeouts and six walks in 14.1 innings. However, current Phillies are batting .303 against Cobb with two home runs in 46 at-bats.
Wade LeBlanc has struggled a bit in 2020, but has been picked up by his offense. In three starts, the left-hander is 1-0 with a 6.91 ERA and eight strikeouts in 14.1 innings. LeBlanc has struggled with the long ball, giving up four home runs. Current Phillies are batting .195 with two home runs in 41 at-bats.
Though the Phillies pitching has struggled overall, Zack Wheeler has had an impressive start. In December, Wheeler signed a five-year, $118 million deal with the Phillies, so the club is expecting big things from him.
The 30-year-old right-hander has started the season 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA and six strikeouts in 13 innings. Current Orioles are batting .300 in 20 at-bats against him. José Iglesias has been particularly successful against Wheeler, going 3-for-6 with two RBI.
Zach Eflin will be starting his second game on the season, after going four innings against the Yankees August 6. Eflin gave up two runs, both unearned, and struck out five. Current Orioles are batting .214 in 14 at-bats against Eflin.
Former Oriole Jake Arrieta has had a career resurgence since leaving Baltimore in 2013. In 2020, Arrieta is 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 11 innings. Arrieta has walked only one batter thus far. Current Orioles are batting .250 in 15 at-bats.
Keys to the Series:
1. Chase the starters!
Each starter that the Orioles are facing this week have an ERA in the twos or lower. In contrast, however, the Phillies bullpen has an ERA of 9.87. In fact, three of their six bullpen arms have ERAs over 10.
The Orioles will need to work the pitch count and continue to get on base. The three starters that the Orioles will face have averaged just over five innings per start. However, each is getting to a point at which they can go further into games if the pitch count allows.
2. Bring those left-handed bats!
Zach Wheeler’s career OPS against left-handers is over 100 points higher than his OPS against right-handers.
Zach Eflin’s career OPS against left-handers is a whopping 177 points higher than it is versus right-handers, and he has given up 20 more home runs against lefties in only 100 more at-bats.
Jake Arrieta has an OPS against that is over 100 points higher against lefties than righties and has given up almost 20 more home runs against lefties, in fewer at-bats.
The left-handed bats will be heavy this series, and they need to come through (Chris Davis, we’re looking at you.)
Expect to see plenty of Davis, Chance Sisco and Dwight Smith, Jr. during this series, along with Andrew Velazquez and Anthony Santander.
The Orioles are batting .249 against righties this year, good for second in the American League and fourth in the majors. They are also second in the A.L. with 26 doubles off right-handed pitching.
3. Keep the ball in the yard!
The Phillies have some mashers to put it mildly. Bryce Harper and Didi Gregorius have both hit three home runs through 11 games, and catcher J.T. Realmuto already has five.
Oriole starters have given up 1.77 home runs per nine innings, while the bullpen has fared much batter, giving up 0.81 per nine.
The Phillies, overall, are hitting 1.77 home runs per nine innings. Statistics tell us that the team could hit two per game, so the challenge for the Orioles will be to ensure that two is all they get and that the bases are empty when they do.
What do you expect to see in this series? Let us know in the comments below, and make sure to follow The Baltimore Battery on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!