O's game blog: The road trip begins against the Chicago White Sox

After their first road trip was followed by their first homestand of the 2023 season, the Orioles are back on the road starting tonight. They play three games at Chicago against the White Sox this weekend and play two games in Washington next Tuesday and Wednesday at Nats Park.

Baltimore went 3-3 on that first trip, going 1-2 at Boston and 2-1 at Texas.

The White Sox are 5-8, after going 81-81 last year with a second-place finish in the American League Central. Right now they are trailing Minnesota (9-4) and Cleveland (7-6) in the standings in third place.

They began the year going 2-2 at Houston and since have gone 1-2 versus San Francisco, at Pittsburgh and at Minnesota, where they lost the last two games of that series by 4-3 and 3-1 scores on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Chicago ranks third in the AL in team batting (.263) and eighth in OPS (.728). Their team ERA of 5.79 ranks 13th in the AL. The White Sox rotation ERA stands at 5.00 (which is 10th), while their bullpen ERA of 7.01 is the worst in the league.

Right-hander Tyler Wells (0-1, 3.27 ERA) will make his third appearance and second start of 2023 for the Orioles. He has thrown 11 innings, allowing four runs and six hits with no walks and eight strikeouts. He has a 0.545 WHIP, a 0.0 walk rate and 6.5 strikeout rate. Opponents have hit just .154 against Wells with an OPS of .462.

He had an excellent relief outing of five no-hit, no-run innings at Texas. He got a start last Sunday versus the Yankees and allowed six hits and four runs over six innings, throwing 89 pitches. He and Kyle Gibson are the only O’s starters this year to throw at least six innings in a game.

In his first two games, lefty batters are just 2-for-15 versus Wells, batting .133 with a .467 OPS. Right-handed batters are 4-for-24, hitting .167/.458.

So far Wells has used his fastball just 32 percent of the time, averaging 93.1 mph on the pitch. He uses a cutter 27 percent, changeup 20 percent, curveball 14 percent and slider seven percent.

Right-hander Mike Clevinger (2-0, 3.48 ERA) gets the start for Chicago. In two games he has pitched 10 1/3 innings, allowing 11 hits and four runs with five walks and nine strikeouts. He has a 1.548 WHIP with a 4.4 walk rate and 7.8 strikeout rate.

The White Sox have won both of Clevinger’s starts. In the first one he threw five scoreless innings on three hits against Houston on 98 pitches. In the next one, last Saturday, he allowed eight hits and four runs over 5 1/3 on 88 pitches at Pittsburgh.

Clevinger, who missed all of 2021 after Tommy John surgery, went 7-7 with a 4.33 ERA last year for San Diego, throwing 114 1/3 innings in 23 games.

The White Sox signed him last December to a one-year free agent deal that guarantees $12 million. His contract calls for an $8 million payday this year and a $12 million mutual option for 2024 with a $4 million buyout.

He did not face the Orioles last year. In six career games against Baltimore, he is 4-1 with a 3.69 ERA over 31 2/3 innings with 1.358 WHIP.

O’s starters have a 6.86 ERA for the season and have thrown five innings or less in 10 of 13 games. The last three starters in the Oakland series – Grayson Rodriguez, Dean Kremer and Cole Irvin – combined to throw just 12 2/3 innings while allowing 16 hits, 15 runs and three home runs.

The Orioles are having a much better beginning to their season at 7-6 than when they went 7-14 last March and April. They are hitting much better than early on in 2022, but pitching worse thus far.

O’s in March/April 2022: .211 avg, .604 OPS, 10 homers and 2.95 runs/game.

O’s in March/April 2023: .255 avg, .794 OPS, 20 homers and 5.69 runs/game.

But the team ERA for the first 21 games through April last year was 3.76. It is 5.49 through the first 13 games in 2023.

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