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Rays Series Preview: O’s now you tell me

Baltimore welcomes Rays after they host DC... wait we couldn’t have flipped that home-and-home with DC earlier this year? Ah well, on to the baseball.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays continue to play perfectly fine, average baseball, as they have for most of the last two weeks going 6-7 over their last 13 after going 21-4 in a run that all but secured their playoff spot.

The Rays could clinch a playoff spot today with two wins and a loss by the Seattle Mariners or with one win and losses by both the Mariners and the Detroit Tigers. Even if it doesn’t happen today it’s coming at some point in the next 11 days.

The magic number to win the American League East is currently at eight. So five to six wins out of their last 11 games should lock it in most scenarios. Of course fans also want to see the team play better as we approach the playoffs where it will start to matter.

The Rays hot run was carried by the offense and a solidly good pitching staff. The pitching staff has been good this year despite the adversity faced, and this time through the rotation the Rays should see Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, and Tyler Glasnow be at or very close to full strength with 90+ pitches expected from each for the first time.

We haven’t seen the pitching be dominant this year, and that’s where the upside on the team lies. Don’t peak too early, but let’s keep moving closer to it.

Matchups:

Thursday 4:35 PM: Blake Snell vs Dean Kremer
Game Two: Bruce Zimmermann vs TBA (Rays as home team)
Friday 7:35 PM: Tyler Glasnow vs Alex Cobb
Saturday 7:35 PM: Charlie Morton vs Jorge Lopez
Sunday 1:05 PM: Ryan Yarbrough vs John Means

Blake Snell has historically performed very bad in Baltimore, with a 10 ERA over three starts. It’s time that changes!

Dean Kremer is the first Israeli citizen to play in the Major Leagues. In his first two starts of his Major League career he was tasked with taking on the New York Yankees and passed with flying colors. He allowed one run in each start over 11.0 combined innings with 14 strikeouts and 6 walks. Kremer was one of the pieces the Baltimore Orioles received in the Manny Machado trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. His primary pitch is a low to mid 90s fastball that he pairs with a high 80s slider and mid 70s curve. He has thrown a couple changeups that sit in the mid 80s.

For Game 2, Trevor Richards is expected to pitch the bulk of the innings in game two as the extra man for the double header. It’s unknown whether he’ll start or pitch behind an opener at this time and likely isn’t going to be announced until game one ends.

The Rays are the hometeam in Game 2 as this is the makeup game for when baseball players refused to play in light of their black colleagues not feeling they could take the field following another police shooting.

Bruce Zimmermann is making his Major League debut. Zimmermann is a soft tossing lefty that fastball sits in the 90-92 range. His slider is his most effective secondary pitch. In the minors he’s gone through bouts of wildness.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Cobb has not pitched well during his time with the Orioles. This year he’s posted a 5.03 ERA/5.43 FIP/4.22 xFIP. He’s been victimized by the longball with eight homers allowed. Earlier this season he held the Rays to two runs in 4.0 innings. His last two starts have been his worst as he allowed five and four runs while only throwing 4.0 innings in each outing.

Glasnow is looking to right his ship in the stat line as the season comes to a close. His 2.86 xFIP is better than his 3.51 FIP which is better than his 4.47 ERA... Glasnow is good, let’s get a win here.

Jorge Lopez received his first call up in 2015 with the Milwaukee Brewers and has bounced up and down since. Over 220.1 Major League innings he has a 5.80 ERA/5.03 FIP/4.76 xFIP. This year’s results are very similar. He doesn’t strike that many hitters out with a mid teens strikeout rate, and walks his fair share. He throws a mid 90s sinker as his primary pitch which he pairs with a low 80s curveball. He will throw the occasional changeup to left handed batters.

Morton has allowed seven walks this season. Seven! In the last game that was zero, and in no game has he walked more than two. His job in this game will be to throw 90 pitches and not walk anyone. He hasn’t faced Baltimore this season, so let’s see how it goes.

John Means has had a disappointing sophomore campaign. He has posted a 5.63 ERA/6.69 FIP/5.54 xFIP. His strikeout rate has tanked to 15.7%. He doesn’t walk that many (4.5%). His velocity is up about 2.5 mph compared to last year. His fastball sits in the mid 90s. He has a high 80s slider, mid 80s change, and high 70s curveball as his secondary offerings. The chagneup is his best offspeed pitch.

The Orioles are sinking.

The Orioles weren’t expected to be good this year, but they got off to a hot start that included sweeping the Rays. As recently as a week ago they were threatening the New York Yankees for a playoff spot, but they have lost six of the last seven including a four game sweep by the Yankees.

The offense has disappeared over the last week hitting .197/.252/.319 and putting up a 52 wRC+ as a team. Jose Iglesias (169 wRC+) over that stretch is the only regular really hitting, but he suffered an injury and listed as day-to-day.

For the season the Orioles have hit much better than expected putting up a .257/.321/.433 and putting up a 102 wRC+. The Orioles have been better defensively than in the recent past with a -1 DRS and -1.1 UZR.

Let’s win the season series.

The Rays have won their season series against their other division rivals but with five games left to go against the Orioles they are 2-3. Going 4-1 is a big ask but attainable. Going 3-2 and securing a split and getting closer to locking up the American League East is what we should be looking for.

The offense has looked better after a particularly rough stretch. Brandon Lowe has heated back up. If road Willy Adames shows up the offense will be playing at near their peak level.

The pitching is still working towards being at full strength for a deep playoff run.