Do the Baltimore Orioles have what it takes to slow down an MVP favorite?
Following three straight losses to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park over the weekend, the Baltimore Orioles travel out of the New England area and into Philadelphia to take on the Phillies in a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park to begin the week. The Orioles have lined up their ace, John Means, to take hold of the starting pitching duties to open the series Monday night.
While the Orioles will look to Means for a strong start like the 5.2 IP of two-run ball he worked through in his last outing against the New York Yankees, stopping the Phillies’ offense might be one of the toughest challenges in baseball as of late. Philadelphia has come away winners in four of their last five games, including a 17-8 rout of the Chicago Cubs last Thursday.
Although San Diego Padres superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. will absolutely garner votes, Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper has seemingly passed Tatis in National League MVP consideration. In his last 15 games, Harper is slashing an otherworldly .408/.531/.959 with 7 home runs and more walks than strikeouts. If this late run proves to swing the vote, the 2021 NL MVP award would be Harper’s second of his career, cementing him into baseball history as just the 11th player to win multiple NL MVP awards.
While the game won’t take place at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Harper has a decent amount of history against the O’s from his seven seasons playing in the Beltway Series as a member of the Washington Nationals. Over that time, Harper has seen success in his matchups with Baltimore, batting .294 with an OPS of .935 in 145 plate appearances.
What the O’s pitching staff will likely attempt to exploit in Harper’s profile lies in his plate discipline. According to Baseball Savant, Harper ranks within the 13th percentile of qualified Major League hitters in whiff rate. Orioles bullpen arms such as Connor Greene and Cole Sulser would seemingly be the best options in relief as the team’s active leaders in swinging-strike rate. However, Fernando Abad, Baltimore’s lone left-handed reliever, could also be useful against Harper due to the .360-point drop in OPS in lefty-lefty matchups for Harper this season.
The Orioles will look to re-write the script against Harper and the Phillies tonight with a win to start off the series.