Hey, do you see that in the distance?…it’s getting closer! What it is?
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s the wild card. And it’s much closer than you may think!
Heading into this next four-game series against the Yankees, the Orioles’ season and Wild Card hopes hang in the balance. With the Yankees leading only 1.5 games ahead of them, the O’s have a legitimate chance to snag that second spot with two weeks left or reversely fall completely out of contention.
Minus a bullpen hiccup in game two against the Mets that resulted in a 7-6 loss following a 5-0 lead, the Orioles are on a hot streak, winning six of their last nine.
Over that streak, starting pitching has been fantastic, with help from rookies Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer. John Means finally found his groove over the past weekend, and the trio hopes to continue that success in the Bronx.
The bullpen for the Orioles has been solid, despite being completely shaken up at the trade deadline. Now without Mychal Givens and Miguel Castro, the Orioles bullpen has still been able to finish games.
Over the previous week, pitcher numbers have followed their success, as the O’s pitching staff has a collective 2.47 ERA, with help from a much improved 1.14 WHIP. With five wins in the last week, it’s no surprise, as the pitching has been consistently giving the Birds offense a chance to win games when games are needed to be won.
The offense seems as though it hasn’t stopped hitting since September started, and that wouldn’t be wrong statement. Five players have on OPS over 1.00 in the month, including DJ Stewart, who has a 2.09 in September.
In a time when a playoff run is visible, the team collectively leads the AL in OPS in September and also has the second most runs scored. That’s how you push yourself into the postseason, especially if that success can be replicated in this four-game series.
We will see the matchup of Keegan Akin and Gerrit Cole once again in game one. Cole shut down the Orioles last week before he was beaten up in the 7th inning, allowing an earned run, along with four un-earned on his way to his third loss of the season.
Akin will look to continue his hot streak, entering his third start with a 2.08 ERA and 15 strikeouts. He completely shut down the Yankees lineup in his last start, not allowing a run and striking out eight.
The Orioles will also face J.A. Happ and Masahiro Tanaka, two pitchers this Orioles squad have gotten to previously. Splitting this series or possibly taking three of four would set the Orioles up in a fantastic spot to finish the last two weeks with a Wild Card spot.
Keys to the Series:
1. Starters must battle later in games
Over the last week, we have seen the benefit of our starters being able to go deeper into games. The bullpen stays fresh and sets them up in the right situations.
2. Work the Yankees pitchers’ counts up
The Yankees bullpen has not been the greatest, and getting to them as quick as possible is beyond beneficial. Working counts, taking pitches, and getting runners on base to give chances with RISP will be make-or-break in the series. The Yankees can score runs, so we need to as well.
3. Get up early, and offer run support
Pitching in games with a lead will give the Orioles pitchers some leeway. With a young pitching staff, they have fared very well when the Birds have led early in games.
Here is the starting lineup for game one:
1. Cedric Mullins CF
2. José Iglesias SS
3. DJ Stewart RF
4. Ryan Mountcastle LF
5. Pedro Severino C
6. Renato Núñez DH
7. Rio Ruiz 3B
8. Hanser Alberto 2B
9. Pat Valaika 1B
Keegan Akin LHP
Don’t miss the O’s, as they play their biggest series of the season, starting tonight at 7:05 p.m. EST on MASN and the Orioles Radio Network!