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Series preview: Cleveland at Orioles

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The last time Cleveland played the Orioles ... it didn’t go well

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

The 2021 Baltimore Orioles are not a good team. This is not a controversial statement, even to the most hardcore Baltimore fan. They have some promising prospects working their way through the system (including MLB Pipeline’s No. 2 overall prospect, Adley Rutschman), but they are on pace to finish below .500 for the fifth-straight year, and currently have the worst record in the majors. FanGraphs gave them virtually no shot at making the playoffs prior to the season, and they weren’t wrong.

But the thing is, the Orioles also weren’t a good team in 2019 — they lost 108 games that year. However, in a series in late June, facing a team that was in a desperate sprint to take back their division, Baltimore came alive and looked like a World Series contender for 48 hours. They outscored their opponent 13-0. Twice. In a row.

That opponent was, of course, Cleveland.

Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac were the primary victims of those games, each tagged for seven earned runs over 1.2 and 3.2 innings, respectively. Francisco Lindor was 1-for-8 in the losses; Jake Bauers and Yu Chang were both in the lineup for one of the games. It was a mess and a low point for a 93-win Cleveland team that missed the playoffs for the first time in three years.

Like in 2019, Cleveland finds themselves chasing a potential juggernaut in the AL Central. This time it’s the White Sox, and they’ll need to be chased down with a pitching staff running on fumes. If the rundown is going to happen — it’s only a three-game deficit in June so obviously it’s possible — they should probably mop up easy targets like the Orioles.

But nothing is ever certain. Especially so in baseball.

Team at a glance

  • Record: 19-37
  • Runs Scored: 215
  • Run Differential: -62
  • Last 10: 2-8
  • Slash: .233/.299/.390
  • wOBA: .302
  • wRC+: 94
  • ERA: 4.91
  • SIERA: 4.09
  • K-BB%: 14.4%

Projected starters

Friday, June 4, 7:05 p.m. ET: LHP Keegan Akin vs. Jean Carlos Mejía
Avert your eyes — 26-year-old Keegan Akin is a lefty who throws a lot of changeups. He’s not going to win any Cy Youngs soon, but the 2016 second-round pick has already proven to be a competent pitcher. Akin throws primarily fastballs (63.5% of the time), but will slip in a changeup (25.6%), slider (7.2%) and curveball (3.6%). This isn’t a Lance Lynn situation, where he throws “one” fastball that spins like four different pitches — he just likes his four-seamer a lot.

This will be Akin’s second start of the season after opening the season as a reliever. He held the White Sox to just one earned run over 4.2 innings on May 30, striking out four and walking two.

Saturday, June 5, 4:05 p.m. ET: LHP John Means vs. Aaron Civale
It’s safe to say John Means is finally putting it together in 2021. He’s thrown a no-hitter already, sports a 2.05 ERA over 70. 1innings, and has a career-high 25.9% strikeout rate. Means has slowly morphed into a fastball-changeup pitcher in his four years in the bigs, now relying on his 92.8 mph four-seamer 51.4% of the time and his changeup 28.5% of the time. His slider has almost disappeared, down to just 7.3% this season.

Means has struggled a bit since his no-hitter back on May 5, but he hasn’t been terrible by any ... means (sorry). Still, he’s allowed seven earned runs his last three starts combined, and has struck out just 15 batters over 18.1 innings.

An extreme fly ball pitcher, Means will only go as far as his ability to limit weak contact can carry him. Right now he’s doing a great job at limiting it with one of the best average exit velocities against in baseball.

Sunday, June 6, 1:05 p.m. ET: RHP Jorge López vs. TBD (Sam Hentges*)
Jorge López is only 28, but already quite the journeyman. Since debuting in 2015 he has pitched for four teams, including the Royals and his most current home, the Orioles. This year has been more of mostly the same for a guy who sports a 5.90 ERA in his career. He’s a garden variety back-end-of-the-rotation starter, with a bunch of peripherals that don’t portend some kind of breakout coming on the horizon. He does touch 95 mph with his fastball, though, and he is slowly proving to be capable of earning a long-term rotation spot.

López’s last start was his best: six innings and seven strikeouts against the Twins on May 31.

* All projected TBD’s are via FanGraphs’ Roster Resource unless stated otherwise

Lineup highlights

3B, Cedric Mullins - Cedric Mullins has cooled off considerably since racking up 19 hits in his 49 plate appearances, but even without a gaudy 226 wRC+ (now it’s just a Very High 135) he is still an excellent defender and he doesn’t strike out a ton.

1B/DH, Trey Mancini - After missing all of 2020 following a colon cancer diagnosis, Trey Mancini’s return to baseball was one of the season’s feel-good stories early on. He has continued his storybook season, slashing .284/.361/.512 for a 143 wRC+ over 54 games. Mancini is a free agent after next season and the Orioles are going nowhere, though, so his story may move to a different city before July is over.

Roster

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Poll

How many games will Cleveland win against the Orioles?

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    3
    (44 votes)
  • 49%
    2
    (73 votes)
  • 11%
    1
    (17 votes)
  • 9%
    0
    (14 votes)
148 votes total Vote Now