Baltimore Orioles v. Kansas City Royals: What to expect
By Brian Barr
The Baltimore Orioles finished the month of April 19-9 and in second place in the American League East. It is worth nothing that they only sit in second place because the Tampa Bay Rays have been almost unbeatable starting the season 23-6, and the Orioles have the third best record in all of baseball. Only those Rays and the surprise Pittsburg Pirates (yes you read that correctly) have better records than the Orioles. In fact, MLB.com has the Orioles as the fifth best team in baseball per their most recent power rankings. The Orioles have won six consecutive series and look to keep that streak going in Kansas City.
Let's take a look at the Royals. Kansas City has gotten off to a slow start this season. At 7-22 the Royals are last in the AL Central with the Oakland Athletics being the only team in all of baseball that have a worse record. But we should remember that anything can happen in baseball and the Royals have some young talent that should not be overlooked. Bobby Witt had a great rookie campaign last year, and entered that season as the #1 overall prospect (knocking Adley Rutschman out of the spot). Witt continues to look like a star in the making, while first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino has gotten off to a nice start in his first full major league season.
Right fielder / catcher MJ Melendez has struggled early on but is full of upside. The Royals are rounded out by veterans Salvador Perez, Hunter Dozier, Franmil Reyes and Jackie Bradley Jr. The combination of youth and experience gives the Royals a good pairing a speed and power. The Royals haven't been able to muster much with that talent and boast a team .220 batting average which places them 29th out of 30 MLB teams. We will see if the Orioles pitching can keep the Royals bats quiet.
The Orioles offense has been firing on all cylinders this season. With Jorge Mateo leading the way, the O's have had just about every starter make major contributions offensively this season. The Birds currently sit in or around the top 10 in virtually every major offensive category while striking out fewer times than all but four other teams. Four different Orioles lead the team in the major offensive categories. Manager Brandon Hyde seems to be pushing all the right buttons, whether it's with pinch hitters or, more recently, call-ups from Triple-A Norfolk stepping in and making contributions.
Any concerns the O's had early in the season with the bullpen have been laid to rest. The emergence of Yennier Cano has been a joy to watch while Danny Coulombe has been everything the Orioles traded for and more. Keegan Akin and Bryan Baker have also been very reliable. Cionel Perez and Feliz Bautista have been hit or miss but overall the bullpen has gotten the job done with the benefit of having multiple lock-down right handed and left handed pitchers.
Game 1: Tyler Wells v Ryan Yarbrough
Game one of the series is projected to have Tyler Wells face off against Ryan Yarbrough. Wells comes into the game with a 1-1 record this season. Wells was not expected to make the opening day roster, at least not as a starter, entering spring training but earned the spot and has been arguably the Birds best starter this season. Wells has pitched to a 2.79 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 29.0 innings. Hyde seems to have taken the training wheels off Wells this season and Wells has responded nicely.
Conversely Yarbrough has struggled this season to a 0-3 record with a 6.35 ERA. Yarbrough will be making his second start of the season on Tuesday and will look to build off his first. In Yarbrough's last outing, which was his first start, he tied his season high with 4.0 innings pitched and only allowed one run.
Game 2: Kyle Gibson v Zack Greinke
Game two will see two veterans take the stage. Gibson is having a solid season, coming into the game with a pristine 4-0 record and a 3.93 ERA. Gibson was hit around a bit in his last outing against the Detroit Tigers, allowing 3 ER on 8 hits in only 4.1 innings. Gibson will look to bounce back in this favorable matchup against the Royals struggling offense.
Greinke has been a disaster so for this season for the Royals. Greinke comes in with a 0-4 record in six starts with a 6.10 ERA and has allowed multiple earned runs in all but one start. The Royals ace will be coming in off his worst start of the season where he allowed 7 ER on 8 hits in 3.2 innings. The hot hitting Orioles lineup will be looking to do damage against the veteran whose batting average against (BAA) this season is over .300.
Game 3: TBD v Jordan Lyles
The Orioles have yet to announce the projected starter for the series finale on May 4, which may be in part due to the doubleheader they played against the Tigers. It would appear to be Dean Kremer's spot in the rotation but Kremer hasn't had his best stuff. Kremer does have a 2-1 record in six starts but boasts a 6.67 ERA. Kremer was hit hard by the Tigers last weekend giving up 5 ER on 11 hits but to his credit he found a way to make it through 5.0 innings in the Orioles only loss to the Tigers this year. DL Hall made his season debut in relief of Kremer and finished the remaining innings. Given Kremer's struggles, Hall could be an interesting option to start against a weak Royals offense.
Lyles draws the start for the Royals against his former Orioles teammates. We all remember the second half Lyles put together as an Oriole last season and how much fun he was to watch. Lyles has not been able to duplicate his Orioles success with his new team and is 0-5 in six starts with a 6.11 ERA. Lyles was shelled by the Minnesota Twins for 7 ER in 4.0 innings during his most recent start. We loved watching Lyles battle his way through innings last year but this hot Orioles lineup will look to knock him out quickly on Thursday.
The Orioles need to continue their winnings ways against a Royals team that they should beat. The rest of the month of May will not only see them face very good teams, but they only have two more days off until June. May will be a tough test for this young Orioles team, but they look to have the fight and drive to continue to be a top team in this league.