The Baltimore Orioles begin a series of utmost importance on Monday when they face the Toronto Blue Jays in a Labor Day doubleheader, the most crucial stretch of games this year’s iteration of the club has encountered to date. Toronto currently occupies the third and final AL Wild Card spot that the Orioles so desperately covet, and only 2.5 games separate the two squads in the standings. A successful four game set for the Orioles could see that gap shrink, and a poor performance could leave them on the back foot headed into the rest of September.
Toronto enters the series fresh off a sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates, surely a cathartic three games after a 2-4 “mini slump”. The Orioles dropped Sunday’s finale to Oakland but head into Monday having won four of their previous five. It’s face off the likes of which we haven’t seen since Mike McDermott went heads up with Teddy KGB in a dingy New York underworld club.
Jordan Lyles and taxi squad member Mike Baumann (who struck out 13 in his last Triple-A start) will start Monday’s games against Jose Berrios and old friend Kevin Gausman, though the order has yet to be announced. Lefty batters have a .381 wOBA against Berrios this season, so expect Brandon Hyde to break out Kyle Stowers and Terrin Vavra to face him. Gausman is a Cy Young contender and is a tough beat for any team, though the Orioles feasted on him in his only start against them this season (2.1 IP, 7 H, 7 ER).
Baltimore Orioles vs. Toronto Blue Jays Series Preview
Doubleheaders can often wreak havoc on bullpens and drive managers mad trying to manage their respective workload, but the Orioles ‘pen is actually well-prepared for the upcoming task; Félix Bautista has had three days of rest, Dillon Tate two days, and Cionel Perez has thrown just seven pitches in three days. Nick Vespi should be the only unavailable O’s arm having pitched in the team’s last two games.
The burgeoning Kyle Bradish is scheduled to start Tuesday’s game against Toronto’s Mitch White. Bradish has been simply spectacular in his last two starts (against division leaders) and will look to continue his scoreless innings streak against an offense that’s hit a rough patch in the last week. The 27 year old White has struggled for Toronto since coming over from the Dodgers at the trade deadline, but don’t let his ugly 7.04 ERA as a Blue Jay fool you: his 3.56 FIP is in fact lower than his FIP while he enjoyed good results with the Dodgers before the trade.
Wednesday’s series finale pits red-hot Dean Kremer against another one of Toronto’s Cy Young candidates, Alek Manoah. Kremer has been the Orioles best starting pitcher since August, having allowed more than two runs only once in his last six starts, one of which being a 7 inning, two-run victory against the Blue Jays on August 16th.
The Baltimore Orioles have a colorful history with Blue Jays SP Alek Manoah
Orioles fans may remember Manoah fondly (lol) from the benches-clearing brouhaha he induced last season when he intentionally, allegedly, hit Maikel Franco after allowing back to back homers to Ryan Mountcastle and D.J. Stewart. Manoah’s combination of strikeout ability, a low walk rate, and an excellent home run rate have driven his dominance, but the Orioles have been able to get to him in ways other teams have not. In two August starts against the O’s, Manoah allowed 7 earned runs and 5 walks in 10.2 innings.
A 2-2 series split wouldn’t be the end of the world for the Baltimore Orioles, but a positive result could be a gigantic confidence boost for the squad going into a difficult 29 game stretch to finish the regular season. Winning three would put them within a half game of the Jays, and a four game sweep would catapult them ahead of their Canadian rivals in the Wild Card and division standings. Losing three or (baseball spirits forbid) all four would be catastrophic though, and would see their playoff hopes shrink rapidly. Buckle up Orioles fans, this series is gonna be a good one.