O's game blog: O's look to split series, wrap up 2023 playoff spot in series finale

A series that got off to a pretty brutal start for the Orioles could have a real happy ending today with a win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

If they get the win, the Orioles (92-56) will widen their American League East lead to two games with 13 games left. And they will clinch their first playoff berth since the 2016 season.

The Orioles clinch a place in the playoffs today if they win, and even if they lose they will clinch with a loss by either Texas or Seattle. The Rays' magic number to clinch the postseason is also one, and the same scenarios are true today for the Rays. A loss by Texas or Seattle would put both Baltimore and Tampa Bay in the 2023 postseason. 

A 93rd win would also make the 2023 Orioles the 17th team in club history to have 93 or more. Five O's teams have won 100 or more. The last was the 1980 Orioles. This club needs to go 8-6 or better in its remaining games to get there.

The O's broke their first-place tie with Tampa Bay with Saturday's 8-0 win at Oriole Park. Gunnar Henderson hit his 27th homer and had three hits and three RBIs. Six different O's drove in runs as they went 6-for-11 with runners in scoring position. After the O's had scored just six runs during a four-game losing streak, they had six by last night's fourth inning.

The O's offense, even after the four-game lull, has scored 62 runs the last 10 games. In the last 27 games, the O's have scored eight runs or more 10 times and 169 runs total, an average of 6.3 per game. In that 27-game run, the Orioles as a team have hit .285/.347/.463/.810 with 54 doubles, five triples and 35 home runs.

Henderson last night tied and then surpassed Cal Ripken Jr.’s single-season O's rookie record for most runs scored after scoring his 90th and 91st runs of the season. By connecting on his 27th home run of the year in the second inning, he tied Eddie Murray for the third-most homers by a rookie in O’s history.

O's outfielder Aaron Hicks extended his season-long on-base streak to 13 games with a single in the fourth inning. That marks his longest on-base streak since a 17-gamer from July 25 to Aug. 17, 2020 with the Yankees. He also recorded his 17th multi-hit effort of the season and his fifth in 12 games this month.

Grayson Rodriguez pitched a career-high eight innings and threw scoreless ball. He is now 6-4 with a 4.53 ERA. In 11 starts since returning from the minors in mid-July, he is 4-2 with a 2.32 ERA.

Rodriguez fanned Curtis Mead on a 100.1 mph fastball in the second inning, the second-fastest strikeout pitch by an O’s starter in the Statcast era (since 2015). Rodriguez owns the top four spots and 10 of the 11 fastest punchout pitches in this period. His 117 strikeouts this season are the 10th-most by an O’s rookie and most since John Means fanned 121 batters in 2019.

At 23 years, 304 days old, he became the youngest O’s starter to work eight scoreless frames since Zack Britton (23-141) tossed a shutout on May 12, 2011 vs. Seattle.

The O's go for the series split today with righty Dean Kremer (12-5, 4.25 ERA) on the mound. The Orioles are 22-7 in his 29 starts. They are 4-0 in the last four and he has a 2.57 ERA in that span. They are a remarkable 11-1 in his last 12, and Kremer is 4-1 with a 3.18 ERA in that span. The only O's loss in Kremer's last dozen starts came Aug. 16 at San Diego.

In his only 2023 outing versus Tampa Bay, Kremer pitched six scoreless innings on four hits, throwing 95 pitches on May 10. In five career games against Tampa Bay, he is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA.

Righty Zack Littell (3-6, 4.25 ERA) will make his 25th appearance and 13th start of the year. His year began with him signing as a free agent in February with Texas. On May 5 the Red Sox purchased his contract from the Rangers. On May 12 Tampa Bay claimed him on waivers from Boston.

Littell has thrown well his past two games, allowing one run in eight innings versus Seattle and three runs in seven against Minnesota. He has pitched just twice in relief this year versus the O's, allowing one run over three innings with five strikeouts. 

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