On Tuesday the Baltimore Orioles will start the second half of their homestand with the Houston Astros coming to town. Both teams appear to be playoff bound with the defending World Series champion Astros being perennial contenders and the upstart Orioles trying to crash their attempt at an encore. Both teams endured multiple seasons of poor showings in the major leagues while front offices, either led by or including Mike Elias, built powerhouse franchises in the minors.
The Astros are a few years ahead of the Orioles and have two World Series championships to show for it, but so far this season it is the Orioles who have the best record in the American League and maybe it's time for the student to become the teacher.
Baltimore Orioles face Houston Astros in clash of two of the AL's best
The Orioles and Astros met twice in 2022 with the O's taking the season series 4-3. Tuesday starts a three game series, the first of two times they will meet in the regular season. The Orioles are coming off of a dominant series sweep of the New York Mets that saw the O's outscore their opponents 19-6 over the course of the three games. The Astros are finishing their road trip in Baltimore after splitting a four game series against the New York Yankees.
Baltimore is playing some of their best baseball of the season, and the thought that should scare other teams is that they're not even healthy yet. The Birds are 8-2 in their last 10 games and have been getting contributions across the board. Jordan Westburg has added to his stellar defensive contributions by heating up at the plate and has received more playing time for his efforts. James McCann put together a great series, including a five RBI performance, against his former club the New York Mets.
Anthony Santander has been able to fend off Gunnar Henderson for the team lead in homers but for how long? Machine Gunnar has been spraying baseballs all over the place against righties and lefties, putting himself in position to potentially be the first Oriole to win the Rookie of the Year since Greg Olson in 1989.
The offense has been firing on all cylinders but the pitching staff refused to be outshined. Mike Baumann set an Orioles record by earning a win in his ninth consecutive decision to start a season. Yennier Cano looks to have regained some of the control he temporarily lost. Cionel Perez has had several good outings recently and Shintaro Fujinami has shown the potential to be scary good. Felix Bautista has been Felix Bautista.
It is a good time for the Orioles to be playing so well because they have a tall task in front of them. They are projected to face Framber Valdez, Christian Javier and Hunter Brown for the Astros. Valdez will be making his first start since no hitting the Cleveland Guardians on August 1. Valdez needed only 93 pitches in that game meaning he throws strikes and the Orioles hitters will need to be aggressive against the lefty.
Game two could be the exact opposite against Javier who has struggled with control for the last two months. It would behoove the Orioles to show patience against the right handed Javier. The Orioles will probably look to be aggressive early in game three against Brown. The rookie got off to a great start on the season, but recently has had his struggles.
The Orioles will send their own rookie starter, Grayson Rodriguez, to the mound in game one. GrayRod has pitched well since being recalled from the minors. His fastball has more life and his control is more of what we expected from the former top pitching prospect. Hopefully the offense will stay hot and give him the some run support.
Bird fans will get to see the newest Oriole, Jack Flaherty, make his Camden Yards debut in game two of the series. Flaherty made a nice impression on O's fans by earning a win while shutting down a tough Blue Jays lineup in his first game as an Oriole. His second game won't be any easier against the likes of Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker and company. Hopefully the friendly confines of Camden Yards make his feel comfortable in his new home
Dean Kremer will get the ball in game three. Kremer has struggled to pitch deep into games recently but has posted good numbers over the last month.
The Orioles enter the series at 70-42, a season best 28 games over .500. They have identical 35-21 records at home and on the road. They are a young team that is only getting better while awaiting the returns of Cedric Mullins, John Means and Aaron Hicks (among others). The Orioles and Astros should be a very entertaining series between two powerhouse teams and could be an ALCS preview.