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2021 Series Preview: Houston Astros @ Baltimore Orioles

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The Astros (43-28, t-1st in AL West) take the show on the road starting with three against the Orioles (23-48, 5th in AL East)

MLB: Houston Astros at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Quick Notes

The Astros head to Baltimore to face one of the worst teams in the sport, a distinction that the Orioles have held for several years now. Already in the midst of yet another lost season, Baltimore is 19.5 games back from the first place Red Sox, which might as well be a million with how poorly the O’s have played.

There are some feel-good stories in Charm City though. Trey Mancini’s return from battling cancer in recent seasons is one, especially since he’s been hitting quite well this year. Also, Cedric Mullins has come out of nowhere to become one of the best players in baseball. Then there’s the third attempt at a comeback by Matt Harvey, but that storyline sort of fell apart a month ago.

Still, no matter how many good stories you may have, 2021 is a bust in Baltimore. We’ll have to see if the Astros can take advantage of that and continue rolling over other baseball teams. It would be easy for them to let their guard down and try to cake walk through this series, but Houston has been burned by weaker teams already this season so hopefully they keep their guard up.

Last 10 Games: 1-9 Record, 2 Series Losses, 1 Series Swept, -23 Run Differential

W/L Splits: 12-23 at home, 11-25 on the road, 18-39 against teams over .500


Offense

Then Orioles’ offense is surprisingly not terrible for a team that is scraping the bottom of the barrel like they are. They’re definitely not great, but more towards the middle of the pack. They own a collective .238/.302/.401 sash line, which puts them firmly in the middle 10 of the 30 teams, so far as stats are concerned. Most of that comes from their slugging, which Baltimore is fairly decent at, but a lack of discipline at the plate (194 BB : 620 K’s) is costing them success.

Notable Players:

  • Cedric Mullins (.319/.389/.552) is having a fantastic season and is easily the best Oriole in 2021. While you can’t say that there hasn’t been improvement in Mullins’ game since his 2018 debut, this is easily the best start. Previously a switch hitter, Mullins has become a full time lefty in 2021 and hasn’t looked back since. He’s also 12-for-16 in stolen bases, so kind of a complete player right now.
  • Trey Mancini (.272/.353/.490) has been one of the best stories in baseball since returning from his successful bout with cancer, and he is absolutely raking this year. He leads the team in homers (14) and RBI (52) and his .843 OPS is just behind Mullins for best on the Orioles.
  • Ryan Mountcastle (.266/.291/.473) is also a power threat with 12 taters so far this season, but hitting for power is pretty much his whole game as an atrocious 8 : 78 walk/strike ratio can attest to.

Pitching

Pitching has been a complete and utter disaster for the Orioles so far this season. Their collective 5.25 ERA is 2nd worst in the league and the bullpen has blown 12 of 23 save opportunities. The Orioles’ staff has allowed more home runs (108) than anyone else and are in the bottom five in the league for most other pitching stats.

A lot of that is coming from the starters as the relievers tend to hover closer to the middle of the league rather than the bottom of it. Of course, their collective 4.77 ERA isn’t exactly bringing home the bacon this season either. None of that means there aren’t any bright spots in the pitching, of course, but when you look at it from a distance, Baltimore’s pitching shouldn’t offer much of a challenge to the best offense in baseball.

Notable Relievers:

  • Cole Sulser (RHP, 2.59 ERA, 24.1 IP, 36 K’s) has probably been the Orioles’ best reliever so far this season, though he’s had a rough go of it lately. The O’s have a closer-by-committee situation going on, and Sulser has picked up a save this season, but he seems to be more of a set up man. He hasn’t pitched since the 17th though, when he gave up 2 runs in 0.2 innings against Cleveland.
  • Paul Fry (LHP, 3.12 ERA, 26 IP, 37 K’s) has also seen duty as a closer for the Orioles, but it’s hard to tell who is the legit closer since save opportunities have been few and far between. He had been rolling with 8 scoreless appearances since May 23rd, but got hit hard in his last outing, giving up 4 runs in 0.2 IP against Toronto.
  • Cesar Valdez (RHP, 5.74 ERA, 26.2 IP, 29 K’s) started the season as the O’s 9th inning guy, converting 8 of 12 saves, but really fell off a cliff in mid-May. He continues to see work out of the Orioles’ pen, but his leverage situations are somewhat diminished these days.

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Jake Odorrizzi (RHP, 1-3, 5.68 ERA, 26 K’s) vs Keegan Akin (LHP, 0-2, 5.76 ERA, 27 K’s)

Akin is making just his fifth start this season and had been doing alright up until his outing against Tampa Bay two starts ago. In that one and his previous game against the Blue Jays Akin has given up 11 runs in 9.2 innings, mostly against Toronto. This will be his first career start against the Astros.

Game 2: TBD vs Jorge Lopez (RHP, 2-8, 5.95 ERA, 65 K’s)

Lopez has been getting absolutely manhandled in the month of June, where he has an 8.63 ERA across 3 starts. He’s given up 5 runs in each of his last two starts and couldn’t escape the fifth inning in either of them. Those games were the fourth and fifth time this season that he has failed to go five innings while giving up four or more runs in a start.

Game 3: Jose Urquidy (RHP, 5-3, 3.65 ERA, 60 K’s) vs Thomas Eshelman (RHP, 0-0, 1.93 ERA, 3 K’s)

Eshelman makes just his second start this season as he fills in for the injured Bruce Zimmerman. He was good in his first game against the Blue Jays, keeping them to just one run across 4.2 IP. He has a 6.41 ERA in AAA across 19.2 IP so far this year.


For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Monday, June 21st @ 6:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010 / Orioles - 107.5 The Fan, Orioles Radio Network
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Orioles MASN

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Game 2: Tuesday, June 22nd @ 6:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010 / Orioles - 107.5 The Fan, Orioles Radio Network
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Orioles MASN 2

Game 3: Wednesday, June 23rd @ 6:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010 / Orioles - 107.5 The Fan, Orioles Radio Network
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Orioles MASN


Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (129 votes)
  • 39%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (89 votes)
  • 1%
    Orioles Win 2-1
    (3 votes)
  • 3%
    Orioles Sweep 3-0
    (7 votes)
228 votes total Vote Now