The Orioles were able to salvage one game of their weekend series with the Blue Jays, but in the world of Major League Baseball, there is no rest for the weary. The Birds are back at Camden Yards for a two-game set with the Mets and a familiar face. Among the flurry of trade deadline deals around the league, the Orioles sent pitcher Miguel Castro to the Mets for pitching prospect Kevin Smith.
The Orioles are certainly scuffling, having lost 12 of their last 15 games and being outscored by 34 runs in that span. The team has dropped to 15-19, nine games behind the first place Rays and 3.5 games out of the last Wild Card spot, currently occupied by the Blue Jays.
The Mets enter the shortened series on a downward slide as well, having dropped four in a row and six of their last nine to drop to 15-20, 5.5 games behind the NL-East-leading Braves. The Mets are 1.5 games out of the last playoff spot in the National League.
At one point in early August, the Orioles were among the league leaders in runs per game; however, a three week dry spell has dropped the Birds to 18th in the majors with 4.62.
Over the last 15 games, the Orioles have scored less than four runs per game and have left 110 runners on base. The team is batting .253 in that time span and has hit 18 home runs.
These numbers are not that much worse than the Orioles’ numbers during the first 15 games when they had an 8-7 record. To be clear, the bats have not been the issue during this 15-game stretch. We will get to that problem later in the article.
For the Orioles, Anthony Santander’s bat has cooled over the last 10 games, where he is batting .209 with one home run and 12 strikeouts. José Iglesias has continued his hot hitting, batting .421 with a .947 OPS in the four games since returning from the injured list.
The Orioles’ hottest hitter and most exciting player, has been recent call-up Ryan Mountcastle. Since being brought up, Mouncastle has batted .364 with an OPS 1.038 and two home runs. Mouncastle has reached base safely in eight of the nine games he has played in and has demonstrated a discerning batting eye.
The Mets have played their last 12 games against two teams, the Marlins and the Yankees. They have gone 6-6 over that time period, scoring 52 runs and batting .269. The Mets have struggled against left-handed pitching on the year, batting .239 with an OPS of .741, versus .277 and .801 against righties.
Mets second baseman Robinson Canó has been their hottest player, hitting four home runs in the last two weeks with an OBP of .395. The Mets have added a bat in Todd Frazier, who is currently slumping with a .220 and one RBI in the last two weeks.
It’s no secret that the Orioles’ biggest barrier to winning games this season has been pitching. The Orioles pitching staff has a 4.60 ERA on the season. That inflated number is due mostly to the starting pitching, whose ERA is a gaudy 5.30.
The bullpen has done its part pitching to a 3.95. Of course, after the recent trades, the Orioles have gaps in the pen left by the departure of Mychal Givens and Miguel Castro. Hunter Harvey will look to take up some of the work left by those pitchers, while César Valdez will also be called on to provide some bullpen innings.
During this poor 15-game stretch, while the Orioles batting numbers have remained relatively stable, the pitching staff’s ERA has been 5.02, and the team has given up 24 home runs. This compares to the 4.22 that the staff had during the 19 games prior.
The Orioles are near the bottom of the American League in strikeouts per nine innings with 8.5. Only the Tigers have been worse. The Birds will look to Thomas Eshelman and Keegan Akin to fill the starting pitching void in Tommy Milone’s absence. The Orioles will send Asher Wojciechowski (1-3, 5.13) to the mound in game one and are undecided about game two.
The Mets pitching staff has an identical 4.60 ERA with 327 strikeouts in 297.1 innings pitched. Like the Orioles, the Mets’ starters have struggled, pitching to a 4.93 ERA, while the bullpen has a 4.33. The Mets have yet to choose their starters for the Orioles’ series.
Keys to the Series:
1. Score with runners on base
The Orioles came into their series with the Blue Jays with some of the worst numbers in the American League in leaving runners on base. That did not improve during the series, and it was the difference in splitting or winning the series and losing it.
The Orioles batted .219 with runners in scoring position and left a total of 30 runners on base in the four-game series. Two of their three losses were by one run. The Orioles are batting a paltry .111 with runners on first and second with no outs and .167 with runners on second and third with no outs.
2. Limit the errors
When your pitching staff is already struggling, fielding or base running errors can absolutely demoralize them. The Orioles committed three fielding errors in the series against the Blue Jays, including a throwing error by Hanser Alberto that almost cost them their only win.
The Orioles rank 11th in the AL in errors and 11th in fielding percentage. The Birds are 1-4 in the last five games in which they have committed a fielding error. By the same token, a team that is struggling to drive runners in can not give outs away by running into them, and we have seen the team give away at least two, and maybe more, games with bad base running.
3. Get ahead in the count (batters)
During the last 15 games, the Orioles have fallen behind in the count more often than not. This needs to change against the Mets. The Mets have given up the following batting averages against the given counts:
- 1st pitch – .346
- 1 ball 0 strikes – .344
- 2 balls 1 strike – .368
- 3 balls 1 strike – .391
- 2 balls 0 strikes – .286
Mets pitchers are struggling when pitching behind in the count, and the Orioles hitters would be served well to execersize patience and get ahead in the count.
How will the series play out? 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!