Baltimore Orioles: Eyes On Los Angeles Angels, Sunday’s Matchup

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 06: John Means #67 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches in the third inning against the Boston Red Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 6, 2019 in Baltimore. Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 06: John Means #67 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches in the third inning against the Boston Red Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 6, 2019 in Baltimore. Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

The Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Angels begin a three-game set at Camden Yards on Friday. What should you be watching for? Can the Orioles take a series?

The last time I was at Camden Yards, the Baltimore Orioles were playing the Los Angeles Angels. I’m going to be honest for a second, I was there to see Mike Trout. Can you blame me? I was planning on spending Friday night at OPACY for my first trip this season, but then I saw Dan Straily is scheduled to start. Good news for my wife, she gets a date night without baseball.

The Orioles and Angels begin a three-game set Friday night, a series which could get out of hand pretty quickly.

First, where does each team stand entering Friday? You’re likely familiar with the fact that the Baltimore Orioles are currently 13-24, in last place and 10.5 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The O’s have lost two-straight, are coming off a series loss against the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox, and have won just three of their last ten games.

The Angels have been the Angels. Injury after injury has continued to prevent LA from playing at full strength but things are turning around for the Halos on this front. A number of impactful starters, led by Shohei Ohtani, are slowly coming back, while the rest of the roster was able to keep the team floating near the top of the American League West.

The Angels are 17-20, good for fourth place in the West, but find themselves just 5.5 games behind the Houston Astros. Winners of six of their last ten, Los Angeles has struggled against teams under .500 (9-15) and has also struggled on the road.

Can the Baltimore Orioles pitching staff outperform LA’s?

The Orioles continue to lead the league in home runs allowed, giving up 80 in 27 games and are coming off a record-breaking month. The Angles also have a home run problem. LA pitchers have given up 55 home runs, fifth-most in the majors. Their staff ERA (4.95) and batting average against (.247) both rank in the bottom third of the league, but it’s been the starting pitching which has been particularly dreadful.

Friday night: Dan Straily (1-2, 7.43 ERA) vs Trevor Cahill (1-3, 6.95 ERA)

If you like watching home runs sail into the outfield bleachers, Friday night may be your type of ballgame. Straily and Cahill have combined to allow 20 home runs in 46.2 innings and will square off in a hitter’s paradise. Both pitchers are also very good at walking opponents, combining for 22.

Tommy La Stella and Kole Calhoun each lead the way with nine home runs for the Angels. They also have that Mike Trout guy and a player by the name of Albert Pujols who may be hitting a measly .208, but he still has some pop left in that bat. It’s going to be tough for Straily and the Baltimore pitching staff to keep the ball in the yard.

Cahill was solid to start the year, but the wheels have flown off in his last four starts. In those four starts, Cahill is 0-2, hasn’t made it out of the fifth inning, and has given up nine home runs. His ERA has nearly doubled, going from 3.50 to 6.95, while his WHIP has jumped from 1.05 to 1.46.

Saturday afternoon: Dylan Bundy (1-4, 5.30 ERA) vs Matt Harvey (1-3, 6.94 ERA)

Both Bundy and Harvey have struggled mightily this season. However, Bundy is coming off a dominant start against a very good Tampa Bay team. The veteran O’s pitcher went 7 1/3 scoreless innings while giving up zero home runs. Yeah, I was pretty shocked as well. It was one of those starts that prevents you from giving up on him. Is Bundy turning a corner? We will have a better idea after Saturday’s start.

As for Matt Harvey, things are going as expected. He’s producing the highest amount of groundballs since 2015, owns a FIP (5.47) nearly one and a half runs lower than his ERA, and has continued to trend positively as far as home runs allowed per game (1.49, down from 2.04 in 2017). On the flip side, Harvey’s walk rate has taken a big jump this season (8.8% BB rate) and his strikeout rate has taken a significant dip. His 13.8% strikeout rate is the lowest of his career.

According to Baseball Savant, he has scrapped his sinker and replaced it with a four-seam fastball, unfortunately, the four-seamer isn’t working. It doesn’t miss bats and has been hit so hard, it makes a batted ball against David Hess look like a soft dribbler. That might be unfair to Hess, but you get the idea.

Sunday afternoon: John Means (4-3, 2.48 ERA) vs Griffin Canning (1-0, 4.66 ERA)

I’m fine with never watching Dan Straily pitch. The moment a team offers a human being with a pulse, Mike Elias better jump. It doesn’t even have to be a baseball player. Bundy’s start is intriguing, especially after his previous start. The real highlight of this weekend will come on Sunday.

Two rookies, one a top prospect and one unknown prospect who has burst onto the scene, both pitching well and providing excitement for fans. I watched a lot of John Means in the minor leagues and my impression was always the same- he was just a guy with a decent arm. When he was hit hard, it was tough to watch, but when he was on, you saw flashes of what could be a major league swingman/reliever in the right environment.

No one saw John Means producing this type of success in this role in a Baltimore Orioles uniform. If you can find a scouting report that believed this, let me know because that’s my new go-to for prospect analysis.

While the rookie and his lethal changeup have been fun to watch, we can’t be certain of what type of pitcher Means will be come July and August. Here’s a big number to watch- the Angels have struck out just 215 times this season, the best mark in the league and nearly 50 fewer than the Minnesota Twins who have the second fewest amount of strikeouts.

More from Birds Watcher

Canning, a former UCLA Bruin, was a second-round pick of the Angels in 2017. After 129 minor league innings, he’s a major league baseball player. Yeah, he’s pretty darn good. Small sample size warning, Canning can carve up an opponent. His first two major league starts have come against the Blue Jays and Tigers, not exactly threatening offenses.

The rookie is producing a 47% whiff rate. That’s not good news for a young Orioles lineup which just struck out 22 times in a game against the Red Sox. Want a breakdown of Canning’s major league debut and a scouting report on the Angels rookie? Prospects Live has you covered here.

I’ve been a fan of Canning since his college days and Means is one of the top surprises of 2019 for the Orioles. This matchup could be a pitcher’s duel well worth the price of admission. Although, typically when I make declarations like this, the complete opposite tends to happen.

Next. Ranking The Orioles Trade Candidates. dark

Come hang out with us this weekend and let’s talk Baltimore Orioles baseball! Follow us on Twitter @BirdsWatcherFS.