After (hopefully) recharging their batteries over the last four days, the Orioles will look to come out of the break swinging this weekend versus the reigning World Champion Chicago Cubs.
While the All-Star Break was fun, it’s time to get down to business. The Orioles might not have to climb Mount Everest to get back in the fight, but they’re certainly down on the score cards. The time for error has come and gone, and it’ll take a total team effort to get to the promise land. However, their current situation isn’t necessarily uncharted waters for this squad.
These Orioles are capable. They’ve been counted out and written off before, and they’ve proven doubters wrong on more than one occasion. They’ll need to do so again down the stretch.
The Orioles (42-46) will roll into the second half of the season 7.5-games behind Boston for first place in the division, but just four games out of the wild card picture. They’ll also kick off the latter part of the season with a massive ten-game home stand, which will more than likely provide the direction of their approach to the trade deadline. If they can go on a winning tear, they might try to buy or at least stand pat. If they fall further off the pace in the chase for the playoffs, you may see some bags being packed. To say this is the biggest ten-game stretch of the season to date would be an understatement.
The Cubs (43-45) have already proven themselves to be buyers as they look to claw their way back into a playoff spot. The reigning champions would at least like a chance to defend their crown, but it won’t be easy for them after going through a rough first half. They’re 5.5-games behind the Milwaukee Brewers for first place in the NL Central, but they’ll have to rely on a strong second half and a drop-off in form from the red-hot Brewers to have a real shot at reaching the postseason. They already trail the Colorado Rockies by 7.5-games for the second wild card spot in the NL.
You never want to rule out the team that won the title during the last campaign, but they definitely have their work cut out for them, just like the Orioles.
This weekend will mark the Cubbies’ first trip to Camden Yards since their first-ever trip to Baltimore back in 2003. They had a pretty good team back then, too. The last time that these two squads faced each other, the Cubs swept the Orioles over a three-game set at Wrigley in 2014.
How will the story line play out this time around? We’re about to find out. Let’s take a look at the starters.
Before allowing five runs on nine hits over four innings during his last start versus the Twins, Gausman had recorded back-to-back shutout starts versus Tampa Bay and Toronto. The Orioles will need a huge second half from Gausman in order to have any hope for a playoff run. Despite struggling for most of the first half, the Orioles flamethrower has notched an impressive 3.27 ERA over his last four outings. Here’s to more of the same going forward.
Montgomery will be making his first career start versus the Orioles after getting tagged to the tune of giving up seven runs on six hits over just 2 1/3 innings his last time out versus the Brewers. Over his last four contests, the southpaw has recorded an 0-3 record and an 8.00 ERA.
Miley finally turned in a decent outing during his last start of the first half by allowing just a single run on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings versus the Twins. Like Gausman, the Orioles will need more of the same from their southpaw as he’s posted a 9.64 ERA over his last seven outings and a 7.87 ERA over his last nine. The promising part is that he’s gone 4-1 with a solid 3.46 ERA over six career starts versus the Cubs.
Arrieta allowed three runs on six hits over 5 2/3 innings during his last outing against the Pirates after throwing seven shutout innings against the Reds during his previous start. While Arrieta labored through an off-key first half, he has shown signs of returning to his Cy Young-caliber self as he’s gone seven innings while allowing one run or fewer in two of his last four starts. When he faced his former club for the first time at Wrigley in 2014, he allowed just a single run on four singles over seven dominant innings in a winning effort.
Jimenez struggled in Minnesota during his last start, allowing four runs on four hits over five innings, but still recorded his third win in five attempts. During that span, he’s posted a 6.59 ERA. Over his last three contests, Jimenez has gone 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA. Over five career starts versus the Cubs, he’s gone 1-3 with a 5.14 ERA.
Quintana, who was just acquired from the South Side of Chicago, will make his Cubs debut against the Orioles. He went 4-8 with a 4.49 ERA with the White Sox during the first half of the season. During his final outing with the ChiSox, he allowed three runs on five hits over 5 1/3 innings against the Rockies while racking up ten strikeouts. Over six career starts versus Baltimore, the southpaw has gone 1-4 with a 4.29 ERA.
Finally, baseball is back!