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Series Preview: Rays at Baltimore Orioles

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MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Mets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays are on a four game winning streak after completing the sweep of the New York Mets. Game one involved late inning heroics culminating in a Brett Phillips walk off single while the final two games involved the offense breaking out.

The Rays sit at a season best four games over .500 at 23-19 and currently are third in the American League East and two games behind the Boston Red Sox.

The Baltimore Orioles got off to a solid start, but the last week and a half the Orioles are 2-7 over their last nine. Their record sits at 17-23 and last place in the American League East.

Matchups:

Tuesday 7:05 PM: Luis Patino vs Matt Harvey
Wednesday 7:05 PM: Rich Hill vs John Means
Thursday 12:35 PM: Tyler Glasnow vs Dean Kremer

The Orioles pitching staff has taken a step toward respectability in 2021. They own a 4.26 ERA/4.39 FIP/4.29 xFIP. This is a huge step forward from the 5.36 ERA/5.31 FIP/5.07 xFIP they posted between 2019-20.

Matt Harvey is coming off a rude homecoming versus the Mets (7 runs in 4.1 innings) in his last start. In 39.1 innings he’s posted a 4.81 ERA/3.63 FIP/4.58 xFIP. He’s been quite solid in a five inning role most of the season. In five of his eight outings he allowed three or fewer runs. He’s not the dominating force he was in the early 2010s. His strikeout rate is down to 16.6% and walk rate sits at 6.3%. Harvey throws a five pitch mix: two fastballs with a 93.3 mph four-seam fastball and 92.7 mph sinker that account for over 60% of his pitches. He’ll throw a 86.1 mph slider to right handed batters and a 84.8 mph changeup to left handed batters. He’ll sprinkle in a 79.9 mph curveball typically early in the count to steal a strike.

John Means had a disappointing 2020 following a really good 2019 season in which he served as the Orioles representative in the All-Star Game. In 2021 he has taken it to another level. In 52.0 innings he has a 1.21 ERA/2.91 FIP/3.56 xFIP and has thrown a no hitter. His strikeout rate is up to 28.0% while his walk rate stays low at 5.3%. Mean’s primary pitch is a 92.6 mph four-seam fastball that he throws just over half the time. He throws a 83.0 mph changeup almost exclusively to right handed batters. He throws a 77.5 mph curveball to batters of both hands. He will throw a 85.7 mph slider mostly to left handed hitters.

Dean Kremer has been snake-bitten by the homerun. After not allowing a homer in 18.2 innings while making his debut in 2020 he has already allowed eight homers in 31.0 innings in 2021. He has a 5.81 ERA/5.48 FIP/4.52 xFIP. He gets a fair amount of strikeouts (21.6%) while avoiding walks (6.7%). Kremer’s primary pitch is a 92.6 mph four-seam fastball he throws nearly 60% of the time. He adds a 87.2 mph cutter mostly to right handed batters. He throws a curveball nearly 20% and is the secondary pitch of choice against all hitters. Against left handed batters he will very occasionally throw a 83.1 mph changeup.

The Orioles offense hasn’t taken flight.

As a team the Orioles are hitting .231/.294/.375 and putting up a 88 wRC+. They average 3.85 runs per game.

Cedric Mullins II has led the Orioles offense with a .312/.374/.516 line and 148 wRC+. He’s hit six homers an stolen five bases.

Austin Hays has struggled in his transition to the majors, but is hitting well in 2020 with a .250/.316/.471 line and 120 wRC+.

Trey Mancini, a local who attended Winter Haven High School, missed 2020 as he was treated for colon cancer. He has hit well in his return leading the team with seven homers and hitting .257/.321/.454 and putting up a 117 wRC+.

Freddy Galvis is hitting .261/.317/.443 and putting up a 113 wRC+ as a free agent addition.

That’s where the good news for the Orioles offense stops.

DJ Stewart (92 wRC+), Maikel Franco (76 wRC+), Rio Ruiz (58 wRC+), Pedro Severino (75 wRC+), and Ryan Mountcastle (58 wRC+) bring up the rest of the offense on most days.

Anthony Santander (51 wRC+) is expected to return from the Injured List sometime this week after suffering an ankle injury almost a month ago.

It feels like the Rays haven’t played well against Baltimore recently.

Maybe this is perception more than reality. Since the Orioles started tanking in 2019 the Rays have gone 18-11 against the Orioles. It probably feels like they should win more than that, but also that’s a good spread in a sport that the worst teams in the league regularly can beat the best teams in the league in one game.

The Rays need to take care of business when they get the opportunity and win series.