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Series Preview: Rays head to Baltimore

Rays continue their tour of ALE contenders.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Rays, winners of three of their last four games, face the Orioles for a four game set. The Orioles are currently the top AL wild card team, but they are only one game behind the Red Sox for the AL East. The Orioles have won four of five including winning a series against the Red Sox.

Matchups:

Thursday: Blake Snell vs Yovani Gallardo

Friday: Chris Archer vs Ubaldo Jiminez

Saturday: Matt Andriese vs Chris Tillman

Sunday: Jake Odorizzi vs Wade Miley

It’s a miracle the Orioles are in contention

If the Orioles are poised to make the post-season this year it’s certainly not because of their starting pitching.

Yovani Gallardo has struggled in his first season in Baltimore. He’s posted a 5.44 ERA and 5.25 FIP in 102.2 innings over 20 starts. His 15.3% strikeout rate ties his career low and his 11.3% walk rate is the highest since his first full season in the majors. He’s seen better results since the start of the August. His overall numbers are very similar, but he has only had one clunker of seven where he allowed eight runs in 1.1 against the Yankees. His other six starts have been at least five innings and three or fewer earned runs which isn’t great, but it’s been enough with the Orioles offense and bullpen.

Ubaldo Jiminez is another Orioles starter who hasn’t had good overall numbers this year, but is getting better results as of late. His 5.98 ERA and 4.58 FIP is bad, but since returning to the rotation on August 25 he has allowed a 2.83 ERA and 4.04 FIP over 28.2 innings across four starts. He had a complete game two hitter against the Rays two starts ago where the Rays put up three runs in the first and then nothing the rest of the game.

Chris Tillman has been the Orioles second best starter the season with a 3.68 ERA and 4.18 FIP. He was good in his return from the disabled list against the Tigers his last time out, allowing one run in six innings while striking out four and walking one. Tillman has faced the Rays four times and gotten the best of the matchup in three as he allowed one run or fewer. The Rays beat him once in Baltimore, scoring six runs in five innings.

Wade Miley hasn’t had much success since being acquired from the Mariners. In 35.1 innings he’s allowed a 8.41 ERA and 4.81 FIP in eight starts. Homers have been a problem as he’s allowed six in his limited time. In his last outing he survived for just 1.1 innings while giving up six runs in Boston.

The Orioles bullpen has been doing the heavy lifting

The Orioles bullpen has been very good at closing out any lead they get. The Orioles are 68-0 when ahead entering the ninth and are 10-3 when entering the ninth tied. Zach Britton’s incredible season plays a massive role in this.

Zach Britton is putting up one of the best seasons by a reliever in major league history. He has a .061 ERA and 2.08 FIP over 59.1 innings. He’s picked up 43 saves without a blown save. If the Orioles enter the ninth with a lead the game might as well be over.

Brad Brach’s season line is very good, but he hasn’t been as lockdown as he was in the first half (.091 ERA, 2.49 FIP) as he’s put up a 3.63 ERA and 3.54 FIP. Batters have had much more success with a .264 batting average against .153 in the first half.

Mychal Givens, a Plant High School (Tampa, FL) product, has been effectively wild. He brings a 29.8% strikeout rate, but has an 11.9% walk rate.

The rest of the bullpen has been around replacement level which works when you have three guys putting in work in close games.

The Orioles offense is very similar to the Rays’ but in a hitters park

The Orioles bring a high strikeout, high slugging offense very similar to the Rays. They lead the league with 232 homers, but are only tenth in runs scored with 686 runs scored. The Orioles have a league low 17 stolen bases as a team which is 15 fewer than the Cardinals in second to last.

The Orioles are the second best offense against right handed pitching with a 110 wRC+. It’s unexpected as the Orioles are very right hand heavy. Mark Trumbo (136 wRC+) and Manny Machado (135 wRC+) lead the team against right handed pitchers. Left handed bats Hyun Soo Kim has received more play and is hitting righties at a 133 wRC+ clip. Veteran left handed bats Chris Davis (125 wRC+) and Pedro Alvarez (122 wRC+) add to lengthen the lineup against righties.

As a team the Orioles hit for an 81 wRC+ line against left handed pitchers which is the worst in the American League. Machado leads the offense against LHP with a 148 wRC+. Chris Davis is the next highest regular with a 99 wRC+ against southpaws and J.J. Hardy does fine for a short stop with 95 wRC+. Right handed batters Jonathan Schoop (66 wRC+), Mark Trumbo (63 wRC+), and Adam Jones (50 wRC+) have really struggled against lefties.

Prediction: Homers will be hit this weekend

Many homers should occur during this four game set. Both teams rely on power, and as Tony Blegino at Fangraphs has noted, Baltimore has been a good place to hit them this summer.

The Rays owe the Orioles a solid for their role in making Game 162 historic. If the Rays can’t win it I will root for the Orioles as you saw the team excited to knock the Red Sox out of the playoffs that night.