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Easy wins on paper: Phillies vs. Orioles series preview

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The Orioles are bad, but since when does that matter?

New York Yankees v Baltimore Orioles
There have been a lot of unhappy trips back to the dugout for the Orioles this season
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The scheduling gods have chosen to give the Phillies three games against the worst team in baseball this week. But as we all remember, the Phillies had a three-game series against the second worst team in baseball last month, and they managed to lose all three. So even though the Orioles are putrid, it certainly isn’t a lock that they come away with three - or any - wins in this series.

Baltimore Orioles

Record: 47-102 (Fifth place in American League East)

The manager

This is Brandon Hyde’s third year as manager, and considering that it’s his second season with over 100 losses, there’s a decent chance it will be his last. That’s probably not entirely fair to Hyde since he hasn’t been given rosters that contain much in the way of good talent, and he did lift the team to a fourth place finish in 2020.

Hyde gained attention earlier this season for screaming at Blue Jays starter Robbie Ray. Unimpressed by Hyde’s tirade as well as the subsequent apology, the Blue Jays spent the rest of the series demolishing the Orioles’ pitching.

Considering the state of Orioles’ pitching, it’s probably wrong to assume the offensive explosion had anything to do with Hyde. They’re just really bad.

The last time they met

If anyone thought this series was a gimme, they should be reminded that the Orioles swept the Phillies in a three-game series last year. The first game was lost when the Phillies’ bullpen allowed five runs in the final two innings. The second game was lost in part due to allowing home runs to immortals like Rio Ruiz and Chance Cisco. And the third game was lost when Jake Arrieta was announced as the starting pitcher.

Trivia

Name an current player on the Orioles.

Just kidding

That’s not really the trivia question, but the Orioles aren’t exactly loaded with name talent. They do have a promising young star in Cedric Mullins, who could be a player to build around if he doesn’t become disillusioned by the train wreck of a team around him.

Aside from him, there’s Ryan Mountcastle who has 30 home runs on the season, Trey Mancini who has his moments of productivity, and...not a lot else. It should tell you something that Maikel Franco had 403 plate appearances for this team in 2021.

Least valuable player

The Orioles can’t field many good starting players, so you can only imagine what they’ve got sitting on their bench. Pat Valaika is one of those guys who plays multiple infield positions, but he doesn’t play any of them especially well. In 2020, he made up for that by hitting eight home runs with a .791 OPS. In 2021, he’s down to .514.

Negating the advantage

On paper, the Phillies are the superior team. One way to level the playing field in your opponent’s favor is by scheduling a bullpen game when you don’t have all that many good relief pitchers. With John Means (3.41 ERA) and Chris Ellis (2.82 ERA) scheduled to start, the Orioles might actually have the starting pitching advantage in the first two games. Or maybe not since Means will be facing Ranger Suarez who has theoretically been the Phillies’ third most valuable player this season. (Ranger has been very good, but that doesn’t pass the eye test.)

Those good old Beltway Bullpens

The Phillies’ bullpen has avoided disaster for the past few days, so they might actually have a late-game advantage in this series. It shouldn’t surprise you that a bad team would have a bad bullpen, and the Orioles’ relievers’ ERA is a worst in the majors 5.72. The Phillies did really well against one Beltway team with a bad bullpen, so maybe they can have similar success against another.

Viering off

Considering the team doesn’t have obvious answers in left field or center field for 2022, wouldn’t it be nice if an internal option for one of those positions emerged? Matt Vierling isn’t the highest-rated prospect the Phillies have produced lately (not like that matters), but he’s done well in his limited action this season.

With neither Andrew McCutchen nor Odubel Herrera doing especially well lately, it doesn’t seem like it would hurt to give Vierling regular playing time at their expense down the stretch.

Trivia

Last series’ answer: Carlos Ruiz had two separate four-hit games at Citi Field. This may be the first time I stumped everyone.

This series’ question: Two different Phillies pitchers have had double-digit strikeout games against the Orioles at Citizens Bank Park. Who are they?

What to expect

  • The Phillies have given up a lot of home runs to guys who don’t hit a lot of home runs lately. So don’t be shocked when Valaika goes deep this series.
  • Freddy Galvis gets a big hit against his former team. (Yes, the Orioles had Galvis and Franco as the left side of their infield for a bit. Surprisingly, the attempt to recreate the “magic” of the 2016 Phillies didn’t work out too well for them.)
  • At least one of the seven or so pitchers the Phillies will use in the bullpen game will have a bad night.

Closing thought that may or may not be relevant to the series

They need to schedule more Phillies games at Camden Yards. That’s still one of the best stadiums in baseball, and always a fun road trip.