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Series Preview: Rays vs. Orioles

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Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays return home after a successful 6-3 road trip even though it didn’t end as well as they would’ve hoped.

Over the last week the Rays kept their division lead and the best record in the American League. The Rays lead the Boston Red Sox by 3.0, New York Yankees by 5.5, Toronto Blue Jays by 7.5, and Baltimore Orioles by 32.0. The Rays held serve and cut down the remaining games to 44.

Matchups:

Monday 7:10 PM: Matt Harvey vs Collin McHugh (Josh Fleming to follow)
Tuesday 7:10 PM: John Means vs Drew Rasmussen
Wednesday 7:10 PM: Spenser Watkins vs Shane McClanahan
Thursday 1:10 PM: Jorge Lopez vs Michael Wacha

Matt Harvey is no longer The Dark Knight who threw for the New York Mets, but he’s shown to be a reasonably effective pitcher in 2021. The ERA is an ugly 6.10 but the 4.45 FIP and 4.84 xFIP are far more reasonable for a backend starter. His 16.5% strikeout isn’t impressive but he limits base runners with a 6.7% walk rate. He splits his fastball usage between a 93.5 mph four-seam fastball and a 93.0 mph sinker. He adds a 86.7 mph slider and 80.1 curveball as his breaking ball offerings. He will throw an 85.3 mph changeup mostly to left handed batters but is willing to throw them to right handed batters.

John Means has a beautiful 3.21 ERA but far more average 4.70 FIP and 4.51 xFIP. He’s struck out 22.4% of batters while walking 4.4%. The biggest reason for his success has been a .223 BABIP. Homers have been an issue with a 1.84 HR/9 due to his extreme flyball nature and 14.7% HR/FB rate. He was able to hold the Rays to two runs in his start a week and a half ago. Means’ primary pitch is a 92.7 mph four-seam fastball that he throws nearly 50% of the time. Teams tend to stack right handed batters against Means so he usually throws a 83.1 mph changeup and 77.7 mph curveball as his secondary offerings. Against left handers they need to be prepared for a 86.3 mph slider even though the overall rate is only 7.6%.

Spenser Watkins has a 5.25 ERA/4.96 FIP/5.37 xFIP over his first 36.0 MLB innings. He doesn’t get strikeouts (14.6% strikeout rate) while also walking more than average (8.9% walk rate). He’s faced the Rays twice. In his first start he had his best start as a major leaguer allowing one run in 6.0 innings. However his second time was not nearly as successful when he allowed five runs in 6.0 innings. Spenser is a crafty righty throwing a 90.4 mph four-seam fastball nearly 50% of the time. He mixes in a 86.2 mph cutter and 78.9 mph curveball as his secondary pitches of choice. He will occasionally throw a 85.0 mph changeup almost entirely to left handed batters.

Jorge Lopez has bounced around the majors since 2015 but is coming up on his MLB high of innings at 111.1. His 6.14 ERA/5.13 FIP/4.59 xFIP are all very close to his career rates. His numbers vary from awful to bad to fine. He has a below average strikeout rate (19.6%) and has a higher walk rate (10.2%) than average. Lopez has a four pitch mix where he doesn’t have one pitch he throws far more than the rest. He throws a 95.2 mph sinker, 95.3 mph four-seam fastball, 82.1 mph curveball, and 88.6 mph changeup. He will add a 86.0 mph slider almost exclusively to right handed batters.

The Orioles have a bottom five offense.

The Orioles 4.08 runs per game is tied for the fifth worst rate in the majors and only bests the Texas Rangers in the American League. They have hit .239/.303/.401 and put up a 93 wRC+. Unlike most of the teams at the bottom in run scoring the Orioles do hit for a solid amount of power (.162 ISO).

Despite having a lackluster offense the Orioles do have some threats of note. Cedric Mullins (152 wRC+) has been the team’s best hitter. He is tied for the team lead with 20 homers and his 22 stolen bases leads a team that no other batter has more than 4.

Trey Mancini (111 wRC+), Ryan Mountcastle (111 wRC+), and Ramon Urias (108 wRC+) have been good complimentary bats. Mancini has 20 homers. Mountcastle has 19 homers.

Anthony Santander (96 wRC+), DJ Stewart (96 wRC+), Austin Hayes (95 wRC+), and Pedro Severino (89 wRC+) have been solid.

Maikel Franco (68 wRC+) has really struggled.

The Orioles have lost 11 in a row.

The Orioles have been in a very bad stretch of baseball that includes a sweep by the Rays in Baltimore followed by a sweep by the Red Sox. So on the one hand, they are a bad team. On the other hand, even bad teams don’t lose every game so the Orioles are due for a bit of positive regression. Let’s hope it doesn’t come this week.