Tampa Bay Rays (4-3) Vs. Baltimore Orioles (2-3)
2019 season series: Rays won 12-7
Sunday August 2nd, 1:05 EST: Yonny Chirinos (0-0, 0.00 ERA) Vs. TBA
Rays: Tampa Bay comes off a split of a de facto four-game series against the Atlanta Braves. Their pitching has been astounding so far while they have been successful offensively with runners in scoring position. They continue to vary the lineup as they await the return of 2019 All-Star Austin Meadows. Meadows is unlikely to play in this series. In the meantime, fellow All-Star Brandon Lowe has started hot, batting .308 with a .956 OPS. Joey Wendle, the fourth-place finisher in 2018’s Rookie of the Year voting, is hitting .300 as well. The stars, though, reside in the starting rotation. The Rays have gained notoriety for their depth and opener strategy, but they may possess a starting staff that renders those luxuries unneccesary. Through seven games, Rays starters have compiled a a 3.23 ERA. If we exclude Charlie Morton’s unlucky opening day start, that figure drops to 1.69. The bullpen has been similarly stellar with a 3.48 ERA through seven games. The Rays have a history of success building great pitching staffs. The 2020 edition may be the best yet.
Orioles: The Orioles have been in rebuilding mode since the 2018 trade of Manny Machado. They finished 2018 with the worst record in baseball. 2019 wasn’t much better as they only went 54-108. Their future lies in a solid farm system led by 2018’s first overall pick catching prospect Adley Rutschmann. Similar to the Astros’ run of ineptitude from 2009 to 2014, Baltimore is grinding out several losing seasons while taking advantage of high draft picks and trade acquisitions. To make matters worse, outfielder Trey Mancini, their best hitter, was diagnosed with colon cancer and will miss this season. In theory, the Orioles are still two to three years away from playoff contention.
Be that as it may, Baltimore is actually off to a mediocre start to the season. After winning their opening series against the Red Sox, they endured a schedule change due to the aftershock of the Miami Marlins’ coronavirus outbreak. That resulted in a short-notice two-game set with the Yankees. They were routed in the first game before blowing a ninth inning lead on Thursday, losing 8-6. A Mancini-less lineup isn’t very imposing, but middle infielders Hanser Alberto and Jose Iglesias have started well. Their rotation is headlined by 2019 Rookie of the Year runner-up John Means, who made his season debut Thursday, and an ensemble of journeyman veterans.
Matchup to Watch: Few series present such a large dispartity in the quality of two opposing pitching staffs. Tampa Bay finished 2019 ranked in the top three in MLB in most major pitching categories. Baltimore ranked in the bottom five in many of those. The Orioles allowed an MLB-record 305 home runs last season (no, Gleyber Torres didn’t hit them all). Head-to-head, Baltimore’s staff was neither atrocious or spectacular against the Rays last year. Conversely, the Rays dominated Orioles’ hitters. Rays pitchers allowed a 3.28 ERA and a miniscule .630 OPS. Incredibly, they only allowed 29 walks in 170 innings (1.54 BB/9) to Baltimore hitters. Two of the starters in this series, Tyler Glasnow (2-0, 1.29 ERA) and Yonny Chirinos (2-1, 2.33 ERA), dominated Baltimore last season. With Mancini out and the Orioles’ best 2019 contributor overall, Jonathan Villar, departed to Miami, the Rays could improve upon those gaudy statistics in the ten matchups this season.
Prediction: Baltimore’s roster has been reduced to spare parts. They are rebuilding and don’t do anything particularly well. The Rays are coming off two tough losses in Atlanta. They must gain momentum before a crucial stretch of games against Boston and New York next week. Sweeps are tough to predict, but the Rays need it. Rays sweep the Orioles in Baltimore.