O's game blog: Looking for a sweep against Pittsburgh

With 1-0 and 6-3 wins over Pittsburgh this weekend, the Orioles have moved closer to a playoff spot and also are now a win away from a second consecutive three-game sweep. They’ll try to get that this afternoon in the series finale.

The Orioles beat the Bucs 1-0 on a combined six-hitter Friday night as Dean Kremer allowed four hits over 6 1/3 innings on 83 pitches. They held Pittsburgh to six hits again on Saturday in the win. The No. 9 spot in the Orioles batting order, between Brett Phillips and Ryan McKenna, combined for two doubles, a sac bunt and three RBIs.

The Orioles (56-51) have won five in a row, their second-longest streak of the year behind the 10-game win streak right before the All-Star break. That streak took the O’s from nine games under .500 to one game over, and they have continued to build on that.

They begin play today one game out of both the second and third American League wild card spots. Tampa Bay is one percentage point ahead of Seattle for the second wild card spot.

.533 – Tampa Bay (57-50)
.532 – Seattle (58-51)
.523 – Orioles (56-51)

The Orioles are one game ahead of Cleveland, two up on the Chicago White Sox and three games ahead of Boston as those six teams contest for two playoff spots in the AL.

The Birds have outscored their opponents 28-10 during their latest win streak, and their team ERA is 1.91 over the last five games. Baltimore pitching has allowed three earned runs or fewer in six straight games. The club’s team ERA today is 3.84, and that is fifth-best in the AL. The Orioles finished 15th (last) in 2021 at 5.84. That is quite the difference, and they now trail only Houston (2.99), the New York Yankees (3.24), Tampa Bay (3.45) and Seattle (3.68) in the league.

The Orioles have started this six-game homestand at 2-0. They are now 31-20 at home, and this marks Baltimore’s best home record in their first 51 home games since going 37-14 in 2016. The Orioles are 14-3 in the last 17 games at Oriole Park.

Right-hander Spenser Watkins (4-1, 3.80 ERA), a pitcher on a good roll, will try to pitch the O’s to another win today. In his last start, Monday at Texas, he gave up one run and five hits over six innings on 88 pitches. Watkins, whose ERA was 8.07 last year, has allowed one earned run or zero in five of his last six starts. In those games, his ERA is 1.85, he has three quality starts and the Orioles are 5-1. Opponent hitters are batting .239 with an OPS of .619 against him in this span.

Lefty batters hit .268 against Watkins with a .695 OPS, and right-handers bat .264/.817. He has made 14 starts for the season, and the Orioles are 9-5 in those games.

Righty Bryse Wilson (1-6, 6.20 ERA) gets the ball for the Pirates, coming off a game Tuesday versus Milwaukee in which he gave up three runs and six hits over 5 1/3 innings. Wilson is pitching better lately, with an ERA of 3.62 his past five starts, and the Pirates are 6-5 in his 2022 outings.

His splits are vast in that lefty batters hit him big, with a batting average against of .391 and a 1.131 OPS, while right-handers bat .253/.713 against Wilson. The O’s have six lefty batters or switch-hitters in the lineup today.

Baltimore improved to five games over .500 for the first time since June 7, 2017 (31-26), and for the first time this late in a season since finishing the 2016 campaign 89-73. The 21-7 record in the last 28 games is the best 28-game stretch by the Orioles since July 19-Aug. 19, 1998 (21-7).

Baltimore catcher Adley Rutschman has drawn 32 walks in his first 60 career games, the third-most in Orioles history, trailing Curt Blefary (37, 1965) and Glenn Gulliver (39, 1982-83). Rutschman has reached base safely at least twice in 14 of his last 15 games. He was drawn seven walks in the last three games, the most by an Oriole in a single-season, three-game span since Manny Machado also drew seven from May 24-26, 2016. Rutschman leads the O's with 132 wRC+, which is tied for eighth among major league catchers (min. 200 PA).

The Orioles drew 41,086 on Saturday, their second biggest crowd of the year behind opening day. They saw a ballgame, postgame concert and the 30th anniversary celebration ceremony. Around Major League Baseball, Saturday’s games drew 596,775 fans, the largest one-day total for the sport since the 2019 traditional opening day (3/28/19). Yesterday’s average crowd was 35,104.

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