Written by Christian Wolf – @CWolfPGH
When & Who
Pittsburgh Pirates (21-17) at Baltimore Orioles (24-13)
Game 1 – (5/12, 7:05 EST)
For the Pirates – Johan Oviedo (2-3, 5.59 ERA)
For the Orioles – Kyle Bradish (1-1, 5.95)
Game 2 – (5/13, 7:05 EST)
For the Pirates – Roansy Contreras (3-3, 4.74 ERA)
For the Orioles – Tyler Wells (2-1, 3.15 ERA)
Game 3 – (5/14, 1:35 EST)
For the Pirates – Mitch Keller (4-1, 2.72 ERA)
For the Orioles – Kyle Gibson (4-2, 4.40 ERA)
Baltimore has won all but one series at home, which came early in the season against the Yankees, and are coming off taking two of three from the AL best Rays. While the O’s do rank 22nd in baseball in starter ERA, they have one of the best bullpens in MLB, with a 3.12 ERA, 165 strikeouts, and just 49 earned runs given up, all of which rank in the top five of MLB. Baltimore’s offense also ranks in the top ten of many categories, including OPS, walks, RBIs, and runs scored.
The Pirates have lost nine of their past ten games, but thanks to a Brewers team losing just as much, the Pirates have maintained a slim lead in the National League Central. The Pirates bullpen has continued to be a pleasant surprise, but the rotation has been taking a hit lately, dropping out of the top ten in ERA. The Pirates’ offense has been silent over the past handful of series, with strikeouts racking up, and more notably, an inability to score with runners in scoring position. Facing an Orioles team with a top bullpen, scoring early and taking advantage of opportunities will be key for Pittsburgh.
For the Orioles – Austin Hays: Hays collected at least one hit in each game against the Rays, and is 6-24 over his last seven games. His impressive .856 OPS should give a fair warning to Pirates pitchers when Hays is up to bat.
For the Pirates – Andrew McCutchen: Cutch has exceeded expectations early this season with the Bucs, recording four hits in twelve at-bats against Colorado, with a walk in each game as well. Cutch has a .857 OPS this year and has done well getting on base, particularly with walks. He also has an early, yet impressive seven home runs this year, and will be an important factor in this series for the Pirates.
For the Orioles – Gunner Henderson: While very young and incredibly talented, Henderson has struggled to find a rhythm to start the year. He is just 3-20 over his past seven games and collected just one hit in the O’s series against the Rays. Henderson is a player due to breakout at any time, and the Pirates need to make sure it is not in this series.
For the Pirates – Carlos Santana – Rough stretch for the Bucs’ first basemen. Santana went hitless in the Pirates series against Colorado and is just 3-22 over his past seven games. Santana still has a respectable .717 OPS, but has just two home runs this year, and could help the Pirates’ chances with a longball or two in Baltimore.
Series Overview & Prediction
The Orioles would be in first place in all but two divisions in baseball. They are tough to beat in general, but even tougher to beat at home, where they are 11-5 at Camden Yards. Their lineup is very dangerous, and if the Bucs can’t get a lead early, it’ll be tough to come back against their bullpen. Baltimore is not a team the Pirates want to face when they’ve already lost nine of ten.
The Pirates know they can win, and have a talented group of guys. But when the offense isn’t clicking and the rotation is trending down, a turnaround takes time, and it’s hard to do that against one of the best teams in baseball. It’s early in the season, but the way teams respond to losing streaks is what can define a team, and the Bucs need to stop the bleeding.
The Pirates ceiling in this series is taking one of the three games. But until they show some consistency on offense, it’s hard to see them winning a game here, especially on the road where Baltimore is so good. An O’s sweep seems likely, and the Pirates taking a game would surprise me. But the losing needs to end at some point for Pittsburgh, so maybe now is the time.
One thought on “Pittsburgh Pirates at Baltimore Orioles Series Preview”
Good preview as usual, thanks. I think it’s reasonable to ask the Pirates to win at least one in this series, even if a Baltimore sweep is the likely outcome.
To your point, the following is especially true here with Game 1 starters struggling to limit runs, but I always think the first few innings of a series are the most important time to score, so that you can ideally have that bullpen worn out by Sunday morning. Although Baltimore relievers haven’t had many earned runs, their 32% inherited runners scored is only a smidgen better than average, so all the more reason to put the pressure on for early chases.