The Orioles get a chance to end their skid against the 62-64 Angels and the single most dominant player in baseball right now.
Last time the O’s and Angels squared up for battle, the Orioles were off to LA to wrap up a cross-country road trip that included some pleasant surprises, including a sweep of the Houston Astros. That road trip didn’t end so well: the Angels swept the Orioles in three, with two walkoff wins to compound the misery of any O’s fans foolhardy enough to stay up til 1 a.m. just to watch their team lose.
That was a month ago, and to be honest, not a ton has changed for either team. The last time these two teams met, the Orioles were 27-55 and sending out a starting rotation of Keegan Akin, Jorge López, and Tom Eshelman. Today, the Orioles are 30-85 and two of those three pitchers are no longer in the rotation. But this team was bad then, and they remain bad now. They have added some new faces, however: Jorge Mateo, Kélvin Gutiérrez, and now Jahmai Jones, who can hopefully outperform the lackluster infielders they replaced.
At 62-64, the Angels continue to be no more than a .500 team, which is hugely disappointing when you have Mike Trout, Jared Walsh and Shohei Ohtani in your lineup. Nine games back of the second wild card spot, the Angels avoided a big sell-off at the trade deadline, dealing just starter Andrew Heaney to the Yankees and reliever Tony Watson to the Giants while holding onto trade chips like closer Raisel Iglesias and old Orioles friend Alex Cobb.
But still, they’re unlikely to catch a stacked New York or Boston with their rotation in the shape it’s in. The Angels’ team ERA of 4.70 is fourth worst in the AL (the Orioles, at 5.80: “Hold my beer”) and they’ve issued more walks as a staff than any AL team but the Royals. To compound matters, they’re currently down three starters due to injury (Cobb, Patrick Sandoval, and Griffin Canning).
For all those reasons, the reason most people will be tuning in to watch this series will be to watch Shohei Ohtani, far and away the game’s most exciting player right now, with his ridiculous two-way skills and 8.1 WAR. With a .270/.366/.637 batting line and 40 home runs, Ohtani is the Angels’ best hitter. And with an 8-1 record, 2.79 ERA, and 167 ERA+ he’s their best pitcher, too. The first player ever to be voted the AL’s starting pitcher and DH is the obvious—unchallenged?—frontrunner for MVP. It’s incredible.
So, be a sport, tune in, and enjoy great baseball, regardless of the fact that your team’s not playing it.
Game 1: Tuesday, 7:05 ET
RHP Dylan Bundy (2-9, 6.04 ERA) vs. Spenser Watkins (2-5, 5.63 ERA)
When former Oriole Dylan Bundy emerged as the Angels’ staff ace last year, some O’s fans may have had sour grapes. If you’re that kind of miserly person, fear not: Bundy has collapsed this season to a 2-9 record and 6.04 ERA. His WHIP is high (1.332) and he’s allowing almost two home runs per nine innings. It got bad enough that the Angels started to use Bundy out of the bullpen in July, but he’s been better over the last month, pitching to a 3.68 ERA in his last four starts.
Spenser Watkins allowed one run or less in his first four starts, but four or more in his last five. Does the league know something we don’t? Watkins’ 4.82 FIP is better than this ERA, but he’s been hit hard and isn’t racking up many strikeouts with his low-‘90s stuff. He blamed extreme heat last time out for a slippery grip on the ball, so tonight’s expected 89º forecast in Baltimore might not help Watkins’ control tonight.
Game 2: Wednesday, 7:05 PM ET
RHP Shohei Ohtani (8-1, 2.79 ERA) vs. TBD
The Orioles face Shohei Ohtani with “TBD.” It’s a tough “TBD” because Jorge López has been moved to the bullpen, Bruce Zimmermann is still out with an ankle injury, and Alex Wells just came off a start in Triple-A. They may fill this slot with a bullpen game, a last-minute recall of Dean Kremer, who last pitched on August 18, or take a shot with new pickup Chris Ellis. Either way, gripping stuff.
As you may have caught, Ohtani has been fearsome on the mound and off. He hits home runs out of the park at 115 mph, then throws 100 mph. About the only good news for the Orioles is that Ohtani’s strikeout rate is down from a monster 12.5 K/9 in July to a more-mortal 10.8, and his walk rate of 3.5 batters per nine innings is high.
Game 3: Thursday, 1:05 PM ET
TBD v. Keegan Akin (0-8, 7.92 ERA)
After a somewhat promising 2020 season, it’s been a hugely disappointing year for Keegan Akin, and for the Orioles’ hopes of developing their young prospects into bona fide starters. Winless in eleven starts this year, Akin has a 7.92 ERA and a 1.806 WHIP, unacceptable even for this team. His strikeout rate is way down from last year (8.1 compared to 12.3), and his 3.8 walk rate per nine innings is too high. His 5.10 FIP is much better than his ERA, so potentially he’ll benefit from the O’s recent infield moves, booting Maikel Franco for Kelvin Gutiérrez and giving some playing time to Jorge Mateo and the newly-arrived Jahmai Jones.
Meanwhile, the Angels have a hole to fill on Thurday. The young righty Griffin Canning is out for the season with a lower back stress fracture, Patrick Sandoval is on the 10-day IL with something similar (“a left lumbar spine stress reaction,” says the team), and Alex Cobb has an inflamed right wrist. In the Angels’ last series against Cleveland, Joe Maddon had to employ the lefty Jose Suarez, normally a reliever, to pitch the finale. So for this start, your guess is as good as mine.
This losing streak can’t last forever. Let’s go O’s!