O's game blog: The homestand begins against Texas

With a 12-7 record in a 22-game stretch against clubs with winning records, which includes series wins over the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees, the Orioles return home tonight as a club playing .660 ball through the season’s first 50 games.

It is a stunningly strong start to a season they hope ends with them in the playoffs for the first time since the 2016 season. If the season ended today, they would hold the first American League wild card spot and would indeed be a playoff club.

This challenging stretch started May 5 at Atlanta. The Orioles won the opener but then lost twice by a run to lose that series 2-1. They then went 2-1 versus Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh and 2-2 versus the Los Angeles Angels. They went 3-0 at Toronto and 2-1 at New York. They are playing .632 ball the past 19 games, going 4-1-1 in the six series against quality opponents.

When the stretch began they were 4 1/2 games back of Tampa Bay for the AL East lead, and today they begin play three games back. The AL East standings as the weekend begins:

Tampa Bay 37-15

Baltimore 33-17, 3 GB

New York 30-22, 7 GB

Boston 26-24, 10 GB

Toronto 26-25, 10.5 GB

The Orioles would be in first place in the any of the other five divisions in Major League Baseball. Overall, they have won five of six, seven of nine, 11 of 15, 16 of 24 and 24 of their last 34 games.

They completed a 5-1 road trip, scoring 37 runs in the six games, and have scored 57 runs the past 10 games.

This weekend’s matchup is between two of the top scoring clubs in the majors.

MLB team leaders, runs per game:

6.33 – Texas
5.96 – Tampa Bay
5.47 – Los Angeles Dodgers
5.24 – Boston
5.18 – Atlanta
5.14 – Baltimore and Arizona

According to Stats Perform, the Rangers are the fifth AL team to score at least 310 runs and record at least 170 extra-base hits in their first 50 games of a season in the expansion era.

* 2023 Texas Rangers, 310 Runs, 170 extra-base hits (in 49 games)

* 1999 Cleveland Indians, 338 Runs, 189 XBH

* 1999 Seattle Mariners, 325 Runs, 200 XBH

* 1996 Seattle Mariners, 316 Runs, 212 XBH

* 1994 Chicago White Sox, 317 Runs, 174 XBH

While Tampa Bay has the best record in the majors right now, the Orioles are second and Texas (31-18) is third, playing .633 ball and leading the AL West by three games over Houston and four over the Angels. 

Despite the big offense they have produced this year, the Rangers scored just seven runs in losing two of three in early April at home versus the Orioles. The O's won the first two games 2-0 and 7-2 before losing 5-2 in the series finale. In 26 innings that series, Baltimore pitching allowed 17 hits and seven earned runs, with three walks to 24 strikeouts. Texas had a .523 OPS in the three games and has a team OPS of .790 for the year to rank second in the AL.

The Orioles are 15-8 at home this year with a team ERA of 3.76, allowing opponents a .244 average and .692 OPS.

The Rangers are 15-10 on the road, 4-3 versus AL East clubs, 8-8 in series-opening games and now a season's-best 13 games over the .500 mark. That is their most games over .500 since the end of the 2016 season.

Texas is 10-2-1 in its last 13 series and the Orioles are 11-1-1 in their past 13.

Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez (2-1, 6.21 ERA) will make his 10th start tonight. For the year, he has allowed 51 hits and 10 homers over 42 innings, with 18 walks and 50 strikeouts. He has allowed 1.643 WHIP and recorded a 3.9 walk rate and 10.7 strikeout rate. The Orioles are 7-2 in his games. Over his past six starts, Rodriguez has allowed zero, zero, six, two, eight and two runs. 

Right-hander Jon Gray (4-1, 3.02 ERA) starts for Texas. The Rangers signed him before the 2022 season to a four-year deal worth $56 million. Gray is on a three-start roll coming into this game, going 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA, allowing two runs and 12 hits in 20 innings with a .470 OPS. The Rangers are 5-4 in his first nine starts of 2023.

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