O's game blog: The series opener against Oakland

After losing two of three over the weekend to the New York Yankees, the Orioles' (4-5) homestand continues tonight at Oriole Park. They begin a four-game series against the Oakland Athletics (2-7), who have lost four in a row and got swept three straight by the Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Oakland lost 9-5 Friday and by identical 11-0 scores the last two days. The A’s were outscored 31-5 in that series and have been outscored 37-9 the past four games. A’s pitching has already allowed 11 runs or more four times this season.

And that pitching staff has been the worst of all 30 teams in the majors with a team ERA of 7.54. Oakland starting pitchers to this point are 0-5 with a 10.04 ERA, 1.88 WHIP, and a .320 batting average against. They have allowed 12 homers in 40 1/3 innings. That is easily the worst rotation ERA in the major leagues, with Detroit the next worst at 7.49.

In the Tampa Bay series, the A’s starters covered a combined 12 innings, allowing 18 hits and 20 runs. On Saturday they needed their backup catcher to pitch the eighth inning of that loss.

The Oakland offense has had its share of issues as well. As a team, they are batting .192/.265/.320/.585 and scoring just 27 runs so far. They rank between 13th and 15th in the American League in each of those four categories.

Right-hander Kyle Gibson (2-0, 4.50 ERA), the Opening Day starter, will make his third start for the Orioles tonight. He is coming off the longest outing by an O’s starter this year, when he went seven innings last Tuesday at Texas. Gibson allowed six hits and two runs on 88 pitches, and that is the only quality start of the year thus far by an Oriole. Over 12 innings this year he has allowed six runs and 1.083 WHIP,  recording a 0.8 walk rate and 6.0 strikeout rate.

Gibson is throwing his two fastballs a combined 38 percent of the time, averaging 92.4 mph on his four-seamer and 91.8 on his two-seamer. He is mixing in his changeup 21 percent, sweeper 20 percent, cutter 16 and curveball five percent. His best whiff rate is 35 percent on his sweeper.

He is throwing first-pitch strikes 67.4 percent of the time this year, ahead of last year’s pace of 58.8 percent. He is averaging just 13.9 pitches per inning, and last season with Philadelphia was at 16.3. In the first three innings of his first two starts, opponent batters went just 3-for-20 against him.

In 10 career starts versus Oakland, he is 5-3 with a 4.05 ERA in 60 innings. In 59 career starts against AL West clubs he is 19-17 with a 3.91 ERA and .723 OPS against.

Lefty JP Sears (0-0, 5.79 ERA) will make his second start for Oakland. The 27-year-old Sears allowed three runs and eight hits over 4 2/3 innings on Tuesday at Cleveland. He threw 98 pitches, 64 for strikes, and did not get a decision.

The lefty pitched for the New York Yankees and Oakland last season, going a combined 6-3 with a 3.86 ERA. That ranked as the fifth-best ERA among AL rookies throwing 70 innings or more. On Aug. 1 he went from New York to Oakland as part of the deal in which the Yankees acquired Frankie Montas.

The Orioles are 3-0 in series openers in 2023, beating Boston 10-9, Texas 2-0 and the New York Yankees 7-6 on Friday at Camden Yards.

Upcoming career milestones:

* Austin Hays is two homers shy of 50.
* Cedric Mullins is 22 stolen bases shy of 100.
* Anthony Santander is 17 homers shy of 100.
* Ramón Urías is five RBIs short of 100.

Baltimore is 1-2 so far this season in games started by a lefty opponent while batting .282/.371/.526/.896  (22-for-78) with four doubles, five homers, 16 RBIs and 10 walks against left-handed pitching. Last year, the O's were 27-23 when a lefty started against them, and batted .224/.297/.366/.663 against left-handers.

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