After a successful homestand that saw the Baltimore Orioles go 5-1 after sweeping the Royals and taking two of three from the Blue Jays, the Orioles hit the road and dip into another interleague series, squaring off against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field over the weekend.
Baltimore Orioles travel to Chicago to face the Cubs for three game series
KNOW YOUR OPPONENT
The Cubs enter this series riding high, coming off a three game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates at home. They took two of three from the San Francisco Giants this past weekend after getting swept by the Los Angeles Angels, giving them a 5-5 record in their previous 10 games. They enter with a +4 run differential and a 31-37 record, currently holding fourth place in the NL Central.
This will be the only time of the year that the Orioles and Cubs meet due to being in opposite leagues. They played the Cubs in a two game series in Baltimore last season, but in a weird fashion. On June 7, the Orioles rolled over the Cubs with a 9-3 win. However, the game scheduled for the next day was rained out, forcing the Cubs to come back to Baltimore on August 18. The Cubs won that game 3-2.
The Orioles also traveled to Wrigley Field last July, right before the all star break. In another short two game series, the Orioles swept that quick meeting. They won game one by a 4-2 score and won 7-1 in the second game.
FORMER ORIOLE MATCHUP
One storyline surrounding this series is that of Trey Mancini. The series is not at Camden Yards, so there will be no rousing ovation, but it's fun to see the Orioles square off against Mancini, who is now a World Series champion, and very deservedly so.
So far with the Cubs, Mancini has a .237/.303/.345 slash line and a well below average 76 OPS+, with four home runs and 21 RBIs, adding seven doubles and 16 walks as well. He's split time between first base and DH, just as he did with the Orioles.
Friday, 6/16: Cole Irvin vs Kyle Hendricks
Irvin gets the start for the Orioles in the opener in his second start since coming back from Triple A. His first start back was encouraging, allowing one run on six hits while striking out five hitters in 5 1/3 innings. He now has a 7.85 ERA in five games but is the victim of bad luck as suggested by a 4.20 FIP.
After plenty of time on the IL, Hendricks is coming off his best start in a while for the Cubs. He threw an eight inning shutout against the San Francisco Giants, allowing just one hit and one walk. He has a 3.09 ERA and a 1.071 WHIP in 23 1/3 innings over four starts this season, his tenth in the bigs.
Saturday, 6/17: Kyle Gibson vs TBD
The veteran Gibson gets the nod in the middle game of the series. He pitched solid against the Royals in his last start, allowing three runs while striking out four hitters in 6 1/3 innings, including giving up one home run. His ERA now stands at 3.90 and his WHIP at 1.301 through 14 starts. Gibson is two wins away from 100 in his career.
Chicago has not announced a starter, but the two most likely candidates are Justin Steele and Hayden Wesneski. Steele is listed as the projected starter by FanGraphs, while Wesneski would be on six days rest from his last start.
Steele has been a very solid starter for the Cubs, with a 2.65 ERA, 2.83 FIP, and 1.059 WHIP in 12 starts this season, with 68 innings under his belt. He is currently on the 15 Day IL with a left forearm strain, but would be eligible to be activated for Saturday, as his IL stint was retroactive to June 1.
Wesneski has been hit around by lineups all season, making 10 starts and one appearance out of the bullpen. He has a 5.33 ERA which is right in line with his 5.98 FIP, and he also has a 1.243 WHIP in 50 2/3 innings. He allowed five runs on four hits and a walk in four innings in his most recent start against the San Francisco Giants.
Sunday, 6/18: Dean Kremer vs Jameson Taillon
Kremer gets the start in the series finale for the Orioles. After a rough start in Milwaukee, he bounced back against the Royals, throwing six innings and allowing two runs on eight hits and striking out six hitters. His ERA now sits at 4.74, his FIP at 4.49, and his WHIP at 1.434 after 14 starts this season.
Taillon has not been the pitcher the Cubs were hoping for when they signed him to a four year, $68 million contract in the offseason. He has a 6.70 ERA to go with a sub-optimal 1.500 WHIP in 48 1/3 innings, having made 11 starts thus far. He allowed three runs in six innings in his most recent start, coming against one of his old teams in the Pittsburgh Pirates.
This series presents the Orioles with another winnable series, as the Cubs have been stuck in the mud in an NL Central that's really open for anyone to take at this juncture of the season (except the Cardinals). This should be another good series for the Orioles to keep their winning ways going. Let's play ball!