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Rays Series Preview: Orioles look to make history in St. Pete (in a bad way)

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MLB: Cleveland Indians at Baltimore Orioles
first baseman Trey Mancini (16) reacts after striking out in the eighth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Orioles pitching staff is on the brink of history. They have allowed five or more runs in 19 straight games. The Major League Baseball record is 20 straight games by the 1924 Philadelphia Phillies. During that 19 game streak the Orioles are 6-13 while being outscored 145-84.

The Tampa Bay Rays come in winners of four of their last five. In their last 38 games they are 22-16. They currently possess the second wild card and are just 2.5 behind the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox who are tied at the top of the American League East.

The Matchups:

Friday 7:10 PM: Ubaldo Jimenez vs Chris Archer

Saturday 4:10 PM: Dylan Bundy vs Jacob Faria

Sunday 1:10 PM: Chris Tillman vs Jake Odorizzi

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

At least the Orioles rotation isn’t the worst!

The Orioles rotation’s 5.61 ERA and 5.37 FIP are both the second worst in all of baseball. The only team worse is the Reds. Their 16.5% strikeout rate is second lowest in baseball. Their 10.0% walk rate is the second highest in baseball. This isn’t a great combination for limiting runs.

Ubaldo Jimenez has a 6.94 ERA and 7.08 FIP as a starter. His ERA is crazy high, but it’s been deserving. Jimenez has struck out 15.5% of batters and walked 12.2%. Left handed batters have teed off against Jimenez with a .274/.377/.635 line and .415 wOBA this season. His last start was one of his more effective in recent memory where he allowed two runs (two solo homeruns) in seven innings. In a start earlier this season against the Rays he gave up three runs in 3.1 innings.

Dylan Bundy has been the best performing starter for the Orioles. He has a 3.74 ERA and 4.64 FIP. He has a middling 17.3% strikeout rate, but has a solid 7.7% walk rate. Bundy shows relatively little left/right split. Bundy was knocked around for six runs in 4.1 innings in his last outing against the Indians. Earlier this season he held the Rays to two runs (two solo homers) in 6.1 innings.

Chris Tillman has been one of the better starting pitchers for the Orioles in recent years. This year started with an injury in spring training that caused him to miss the start of the season. In his nine starts he has a 8.39 ERA and 6.52 FIP. His strikeout rate has tanked to 12.9% and his walks have spiked to 10.9%. In his last start he allowed five runs in four innings to the Indians.

The Orioles bullpen has struggled without Zach Britton.

Last year Zach Britton put up arguably the most dominant season by a reliever in major league history. This year he’s thrown nine innings and is currently on the 60 day DL with a forearm strain.

This year the Orioles are middle of the pack with a 4.30 ERA and 4.74 FIP.

Darren O’Day and Brad Brach have had big shoes to fill with the loss of Britton. O’Day has a 3.86 ERA and 2.75 FIP. Brach has picked up most of the save opportunities with a 2.59 ERA and 3.43 FIP.

The bullpen doesn’t get a ton of strikeouts with a combined 19.9% rate. O’Day is the top strikeout guy at 29.9%.

The Orioles enter the series playing 17 straight days. The workload is a chance for the Rays to abuse. In the past three days the bullpen has thrown 12.1 innings and 25.2 in the past week.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles offense has taken a step back.

This season the Orioles are batting .255/.311/.430 and have a 93 wRC+. They continue to hit homers, but don’t get on base very often.

Chris Davis and JJ Hardy are currently on the disabled list, replaced by Trey Mancini (No. 5 prospect, per Baseball America) and Ruben Tejada (recently purchased from the Yankees). Between them, Trey Mancini has been a pleasant surprise for the Orioles. He’s hitting .313/.355/.561 and 138 wRC+ with 12 homers.

Jonathan Schoop has broken out at the plate with a .292/.345/.537 and 128 wRC+. He’s hit 14 homers and doubled his walk rate to 6.0%, covering second.

At third, Manny Machado has had a disappointing offensive season for a guy that was in consideration for best position player in baseball non-Trout division. He is hitting .228/.300/.456 and 95 wRC+. He has 15 homers and is still having an excellent defensive season.

Mark Trumbo has not had the follow-up season that Orioles fans were hoping for after leading the AL in homers last year. He’s hitting .255/.315/.399 and 88 wRC+ with 10 homers. He’s below replacement level due to his poor defense combined with subpar hitting, and is likely to be seen as a DH in Tropicana Field.

The Rays look to continue picking up series victories.

The Rays bats are heading into what appears to be one of the best matchups they could hope for. All right handed starters that have been giving up runs in bunches.

Tampa Bay will look to push the Orioles pitching staff well past the 20 straight games allowing five plus runs by the 1924 Phillies threshold, hoping to bury a formidable AL East team down on their luck.

Best of all, the Rays should get reinforcements from the disabled list this weekend with Brad Boxberger and Wilson Ramos expected to join the team.

Let’s not screw this up.