Series #19: A Quickie in Baltimore

Series Quick Look 
Tuesday, June 6, 7:05PM

Wednesday, June 7, 7:05PM
at Camden Yards, Baltimore, MD

It’ll be a quick two-gamer when the Pirates (26-31) arrive at Camden Yards for the first time since 2014. The Orioles (29-26) will be closing out a long nine-game homestand with two games with the Bucs before traveling to Washington for a makeup game Thursday. They’re 4-3 so far on this homestand after splitting a four-game series with the Red Sox last weekend. Meanwhile, the Pirates will return home Thursday to begin their longest homestand of the season against the Marlins, Rockies and Cubs. After this two-game series, the Pirates won’t see the Orioles until they close out PNC Park for the regular season in late September. This is the Pirates first interleague matchup since the Yankees series in April. They’re 2-4 versus the AL in 2017.

ALL-TIME RECORD: Orioles lead 10-6
Last matchup…May 20-21, 2014. the Pirates and Orioles split a two-game series at PNC Park with 28 runs total in those two games.

About the Orioles:
The Orioles are not a very good hitting team (94 wRC+) and while home runs have carried them in previous years, they’re not hitting them out at the pace of last season. In 2016, Baltimore led the AL in home runs to help overcome their deficiencies elsewhere to earn a wildcard berth. This year, they’re still hitting the long ball but not as frequently as they rank sixth in the AL with 76 home runs. But their .309 OBP is third worst in the AL and their BABIP is around league average so they’re overall numbers are about right. While Mark Trumbo and Manny Machado have struggled offensively, rookie Trey Mancini has been a nice surprise for them. Mancini is slashing .294/.338/.507 with a team-best 123 wRC+. Catcher Wellington Castillo was off to a nice start, but will miss this series after hitting the DL on May 31, leaving Caleb Joseph (76 wRC+) and Francisco Pena to hold down the catching duties. That’s a big hole for the Orioles with Castillo on the shelf. Overall, Mancini, Castillo and second baseman Jonathan Schoop are the only regulars with an OPS above .800. Even Adam Jones and Machado, while still showing power, are struggling overall with a below-average wRC+. Basically, this team will hit some home runs, strike out a ton and not walk very much.

As far as the Orioles pitching staff, they’re average at best. Pirates face a struggling Gausman in game one and then a surprising Miley in game two, which you read more about both below, but the rest of their starters have been a disaster besides Dylan Bundy. Their pitching is ninth in the AL with a 4.34 ERA and 12-out-of-15 in FIP (4.60). The O’s bullpen is middle of the road and they’re done their best pitcher in Zach Britton, who’s been on the DL a couple times already this season.

The Orioles will hit some home runs this series, but they do nothing else very well so the Pirates should be able to score some runs off their staff. But the Orioles can put up some runs and in a hurry, so we could see some back-and-forth, crooked line score games if their bats get to Nova and Kuhl.


6/6: RHP Ivan Nova (2.92 ERA/3.17 FIP, 77 FIP-) vs.
RHP Kevin Gausman (5.92 ERA/5.29 FIP, 121 FIP-)

Mr. Efficiency Ivan Nova will make his 12th start of the season against the Orioles Tuesday night and will look for more run support this time out. In his last start, Nova tossed another seven strong innings with three runs allowed but was tagged with the loss as the Bucs were shutout 3-0 to Arizona. Nova continues to pound the strike zone this season, issuing just six free passes in 77 innings for an NL-leading 0.7 BB/9. The righthander is very familiar with the Orioles after pitching in the AL East for years and will be facing them for the 18th time in this game. Lifetime, he has a 5.01 ERA vs. Baltimore. Gausman will make his 13th start for the Orioles in this one and he hasn’t been very good this year after coming off a solid season in ’16 where he was an above average pitcher (84 ERA-). Despite his struggles, Gausman has been better in his last three starts with a 3.00 ERA in his last 18 innings. Gausman features a mid-90’s fastball that he throws early and often. This is his 5th season in the Majors and it’ll be his first time facing the Bucs.

6/7: RHP Chad Kuhl (6.02 ERA/4.08 FIP, 100 FIP-) vs.
LHP Wade Miley (2.82 ERA/4.40 FIP, 101 FIP-)

Kuhl will make his 12th start of the season Wednesday night in Baltimore, and he’s in need of a good outing. With Jameson Taillon on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Indy and Trevor Williams pitching well, Kuhl’s spot in the rotation could be in jeopardy. Last time out on May 31 against the Diamondbacks, Kuhl allowed two runs through five innings on three hits. This will be Kuhl’s first start against the Orioles in his career and I suspect he’ll do well considering Orioles don’t have many active lefties to put in the lineup besides Chris Davis and Seth Smith. Kuhl will go opposite of Wade Miley, who is turning in a surprising 2.82 ERA, but more toward league average 4.40 FIP. Miley may be getting lucky this season so far, but he’s coming off of a terrific outing, limiting the Red Sox offense to one run through seven innings. Miley has had success in six career starts (3.11 ERA) against the Pirates, which shouldn’t surprise anyone as he doesn’t throw very hard (low-90’s fastball) and relies on his sinker for his 55.2 GB% rate this season.

TV (All games): ROOT Sports Pittsburgh, Mid-Atlantic Sports Network 2 (MASN 2) and MLB Network (out-of-market only)
Radio (All games): KDKA-FM 93.7


Jung Ho Kang (3B): Restricted List (March 11)—Work visa denied.
Starling Marte (OF): Suspended 80 games (April 18)—Use of PED’s.
Antonio Bastardo (P): 10-Day DL (April 25)—Left quad strain. 
Jameson Taillon (P): 10-Day DL (May 6)—Recovering from testicular cancer surgery.
Josh Lindblom (P): 10-day DL (May 20)—Left side discomfort.
Chris Stewart (C): 10-day DL (May 30)—Left hamstring strain. 

Anthony Santander (OF): 10-day DL (April 2)—Right forearm strain.
Zach Britton (P): 10-day DL (May 9)—Left forearm strain.

Ryan Flaherty (SS): 10-day DL (May 22)—Right shoulder strain.
Wellington Castillo (C): 10-day DL (May 31)—Groin contusion. 

Since May 1, the hottest hitter in the Pirates lineup has been none other than Josh Harrison. Over the past 144 PAs, JHay produced a 130 wRC+ and a .367 wOBA. He’s hitting .310/.366/.488 in that time and has found a home at second base and the two hole in the lineup. JHay is also getting the job done defensively with a +2 in DRS at second base.

Despite leading the team in fWAR thanks to his outstanding defense, Manny Machado is having his first struggles at the plate since his rookie season in 2012. Machado has a below average 94 wRC+ and hitting just .219 with an on-base percentage under .300 which is rare for a player that features his talent. Even with the low OBP numbers, Machado is tied for the team-lead with 12 home runs. Manny has never faced Kuhl obviously, but he has seen Nova a good amount and struggles against him (.200/.231/.360).

Since returning from the DL on May 12, Freese hasn’t been the same hitter from his torrid pace in April. Freese is hitting just .206/.313/.309 in 80 plate appearances for a .272 wOBA and 68 wRC+. Freese probably isn’t the .954 OPS hitter we saw in April, but I think he’s better than the 68 wRC+ we’ve been seeing. Hopefully Freese settles in somewhere in the middle of that and starts to heat up. In Sunday’s blowout win over the Mets, Freese did go 3-for-4 with three RBIs.

The Orioles have managed to hit enough home runs and defy their win total projections in recent years and this year is another case where pundits are perplexed at how the Orioles are 29-26. Their run differential and Pythagorean W-L record should be a game under .500 as they’ve allowed nine more runs than they’ve scored. Their rotation is a mess, stud closer Britton has been injured the majority of the season and even their big sluggers (Trumbo, Davis, Machado) aren’t tearing it up as of yet. In a tough AL East, you’d think the Orioles won’t be able to keep up.

Don’t forget to join us live on Friday, June 9th before the Pirates and Marlins game for our live podcast. DiNardo and Ryan will both be live on the North Shore in the Clark Bar tailgating lot at 4PM for a live show and to hang out with the fans. Be sure to check Twitter @northshorenine to see our exact location and join us for some Pirates discussion and many beverages.

The Pirates head straight home to begin their longest homestand of the 2017 season with 10 games against the Marlins, Rockies and Cubs.

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