Orioles begin important road trip vs. Rays: Series Preview 8/25/20 – 8/27/20

The Orioles came back strong last week after a six-game losing streak to win two in a row versus the Boston Red Sox. The Birds will look to keep the momentum going this week, as they travel to Tampa to take on the red hot Rays. The Orioles enter the series at 14-14, four games behind the American League East leading Rays who are 19-11.

The Orioles have been hot and cold in August, sweeping the Rays before getting swept by the Marlins, following that up with a sweep of the Nationals and Phillies, only to get swept by the Blue Jays.

During the month, the Orioles have had winning streaks of three and six games and losing streaks of four and six games. The O’s are fairing much better on the road than at home, going 8-1 away from Camden Yards.

The Rays have been on a tear since being swept by the Orioles, going 15-5. This run includes winning streaks of five and six games. The Rays have not lost back-to-back games since doing so to the Orioles on August 1 and 2. The Rays are 10-5 at home and have an overall run differential of +25, sixth best in the American League.

Despite some struggles at the plate during their six-game losing streak, the Orioles remain among the league leaders in offensive stats.

The O’s rank fifth in the A.L. in runs per game with 4.96 and third in hits with 250. The team’s .260 batting average ranks them second in the A.L. and fourth in all of baseball. The Birds are third in the A.L. in slugging with a .453.

The Orioles are benefiting from some surprise offensive outputs from several key batters. Pedro Severino ranks sixth in A.L. with a .333 batting average. Hanser Alberto ranks fourth in the A.L. in hits (35) and first in the majors in doubles (12).

Anthony Santander continues his MVP bid with a .661 slugging percentage (5th in the A.L.), 11 doubles (second in MLB), 10 home runs (tied for 3rd in the A.L.), 27 RBI (second in the A.L.), and 76 total bases (second in the A.L.).

All of this has led to a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 1.4, seventh in the A.L. for position players. Santander currently has an MLB-leading 18-game hit streak.

Renato Núñez has been a solid contributor with a .283 batting average to go with five home runs and 15 RBI. Rio Ruiz has hit six home runs, and Chance Sisco has hit four and batted .279 in his 43 at-bats.

The Rays offense has been impressive as well. Their 5.23 runs per games ranks them third in the A.L., while they rank second in RBI with 146. The team’s 133 walks rank them first in the majors, contributing to a .337 on-base percentage, good for second in the A.L.

The Rays strike out at a high rate, ranking second in all of baseball with 282. They also leave many runners stranded, ranking fifth in MLB with 197.

Like the Orioles, the Rays are being led by a young player that doesn’t get the fanfare that he deserves. Brandon Lowe is slugging .676 (second in the A.L.) with nine home runs (tied for seventh in the A.L.) and 25 RBI (tied for fourth in the A.L.).

Lowe ranks second in the A.L. among position players with a WAR of 1.7. Willy Adames has scored 19 runs, and Kevin Kiermaier has stolen six bases. The Rays get solid contributions from Yandy Díaz and Austin Meadows.

The Orioles’ pitching has been the team’s achilles heal this season. The staff has an overall ERA of 4.86. The starters carry an ERA of 5.42, while the bullpen has a more respectable 4.35. The bullpen has pitched 11 more innings than the starters, 130.1 to 119.2.

The pitching staff has struggled with men on base, giving up a batting average of .304 and particularly with runners in scoring position, allowing an average of .315. The team has really struggled with the bases loaded, allowing a batting average of .448 in 29 at-bats.

The Ray’s pitching as been an area of relative strength, posting an ERA of 4.05 with 275 strikeouts. The Rays’ bullpen has a 3.92 ERA, while the starters have a 4.20.

The staff has allowed a batting average against of .271 against righties, while limiting lefties to a .214. The team has allowed three times more home runs against righties in less than twice the at-bats.

Pitching matchups:

Tuesday – Tommy Milone (1-3, 4.13) vs. Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 6.00)

Milone has been the Orioles’ second most effective starter this season, having gone five or more innings in three of his five starts and striking out 25 in 24 innings.

In his last start against the Blue Jays, Milone went six innings, striking out seven and giving up three earned runs.

Milone has a tough matchup against the Rays, as current Rays batters are batting .409 against him with four home runs in 44 at-bats. Milone needs to be particularly careful against Mike Zunino, who has gone 6-for-15 against him with three home runs (remember Randal Grichuk??).

After a promising 2019, Glasnow has struggled a bit for the Rays in 2020. The 6’8″ righty went back-to-back games against the Yankees and Red Sox in which he gave up nine earned runs in 6.2 innings, before bouncing back last week, going 5.2 innings allowing two earned runs against the Yankees. Current Orioles are batting .176 against him in 34 at-bats.

Wednesday – Asher Wojciechowski (1-3, 4.84) vs. Undecided

Wojciechowski has increased his pitch count in each of his last three games, to varying results. In his five starts, Wojciechowski has gone five innings three times and 3.2 innings twice.

In his last start, the right-hander went 3.2 against the Red Sox, giving up three earned runs and striking out four. Current Rays are batting .256 against him with five home runs in 43 at-bats.

Thursday – John Means (0-2, 10.13) vs. Ryan Yarborough (0-2, 4.45)

John Means’ difficult season resumes, as he continues to put up poor numbers. Means is averaging less than three innings per game, while giving up over a run per inning pitched.

In his last start, Means went three innings, giving up three runs (two home runs) and striking out two. Means has given up four home runs in his 10.2 innings pitched this season. Current Rays are batting .143 against Means with four home runs in 43 at-bats.

Yarborough has given up four or more earned runs in half of his six starts this season. In his last start against the Blue Jays, Yarborough went 6.1 innings, allowing four earned runs and striking out six. Current Orioles are bating .262 against Yarborough in 42 at-bats. Renato Núñez is 4-for-10 against him with a home run.

Keys to the Series:

Improve with runners in scoring position!

The Orioles bat 15 points lower on the year with runners in scoring position and a paltry .212 with a runner on second. With runners on second and third and no outs, the Orioles have one hit in eight at-bats. With runners on second and third with no outs, they have one hit in six at-bats.

During their six-game losing streak, the Orioles left a total of 38 runners on base and batted .222 with runners in scoring position. Four of those six games were decided by three runs or less.

Get ahead in the count, while staying aggressive (batters)!

The Oriole batters (as do many batters) do their best work when ahead in the count. When Oriole batters go up 2-0, they have 15 hits in 30 at-bats with six home runs. When O’s batters have gone up 3-0, they have walked in 21 of 22 at-bats and singled in the other.

When the pitcher gets ahead in the count, the Orioles bat .211. Conversely, the Rays’ pitching staff allows a .278 batting average when the batter gets ahead in the count, compared to a .201 when the pitcher is ahead.

Eighteen of the team’s 26 home runs surrendered have come when the batter is ahead in the count. The Orioles will need to find a balance in aggressiveness and pitch count, as the Rays have allowed a .326 batting average and eight home runs on the first pitch.

Get ahead in the count (pitchers)!

The Rays’ batters walk a lot. They also strike out a lot. When Rays batters get ahead in the count, they bat .320. When behind in the count, they bat .170 for a whopping difference of .150.

The team’s OPS when ahead in the count is 465 points higher. The most glaring stat, however, is that the Rays walk one in five times that they get ahead in the count 1-0 and have a .465 OBP.

If their opponent goes up 0-1, they walk once every 15 at-bats and have an OBP of .272. If the Rays go down 0-1 in the count, they strike out 34% of the time. Rays batters are batting .159 with one strike. It is very important that the Oriole pitchers pitch from a favorable count.

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