O's game blog: The series opener with Toronto

During this truncated season, where the Orioles will play 40 of 60 games against American League East opponents, tonight they get back to divisional play. After going 7-5 in 12 straight games versus National League teams, the Orioles begin a three-game series at Oriole Park against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Orioles (12-9) are three games behind New York for the AL East lead and one game back of Tampa Bay for second. They have gone 5-3 (.625) against their own division, going 2-1 versus Boston, 0-2 against New York and 3-0 versus Tampa Bay. Last year, the O's went 24-52 (.316) within the division. They were 8-11 against Toronto, going 3-7 at home and 5-4 on the road.

Toronto (7-11) is in fourth in the AL East. The Blue Jays have lost two in a row, four of six and six of nine. They are 3-6 against the AL East. Toronto is 2-4 in one-run games and 1-4 in extra innings.

Thumbnail image for Cobb-Brings-White-sidebar.jpgOrioles right-hander Alex Cobb (1-1, 2.75 ERA) will make his fifth start tonight. Over 19 2/3 innings, he has allowed 13 hits with eight walks and 17 strikeouts. Cobb allows just 5.9 hits per nine innings with a WHIP of 1.068, a walk rate of 3.7 and strikeout rate of 7.8.

He has heavily used his split-finger pitch this year, throwing it 38 percent of the time, second in the majors only to former Oriole Kevin Gausman at 39.5 percent. Cobb throws his fastball 45 percent at an average velocity of 92.6 mph. Lefty batters are hitting just .179 off him with an OPS against of .615. Right-handers hit .167/.602 off Cobb.

Cobb has not faced Toronto since 2018, when he went 0-2 with a 9.42 ERA over three starts. In 11 career starts versus the Blue Jays, he is 3-5 with a 4.67 ERA and 1.281 WHIP in 61 2/3 innings.

Toronto will start left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu (1-1, 4.05 ERA). In December, the Blue Jays signed the free agent away from the Los Angeles Dodgers with a four-year deal worth $80 million.

He is coming off two strong seasons with the Dodgers. Over 2018-19, he went 21-8 with an ERA of 2.21 in 44 starts. Last season, Ryu led the majors in ERA, going 14-5 with a 2.32 ERA and he finished second in voting for the NL Cy Young Award. He was the starter for the NL in the All-Star Game, so just add his name to the list of quality pitchers that the improved Baltimore offense has faced in 2020.

Over the weekend, the Nationals trio of Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Max Scherzer faced the Orioles. In that series, they combed to pitch to an ERA of 7.82. They went 12 2/3 innings, allowing 17 hits, 11 runs and five home runs.

Ryu gave up eight runs over nine innings in his first two starts this year against Tampa Bay and Washington. But over his past two versus Atlanta and Miami, he has been much better. He's thrown 11 innings, allowing just one run on three hits with five walks to 15 strikeouts.

He throws his fastball 34 percent with a velocity of 89.7 mph and adds in his changeup 30 percent and cutter 25 percent of the time. He has made just one career start against the Orioles. In his rookie year, on April 20, 2013, he went six innings for the Dodgers, allowing eight hits and five runs. He gave up homers in that game to J.J. Hardy and Nolan Reimold.

The O's catching group of Pedro Severino, Chance Sisco and Bryan Holaday ranks among the AL and Major League Baseball leaders in many offensive categories:

Batting average, .306 (third in AL, fifth in MLB)
On-base percentage, .411 (first in AL and MLB)
Slugging percentage, .583 (first in AL, third in MLB)
OPS, .988 (first in AL, third in MLB)
Extra-base hits, 10 (tied for second in AL, tied for third in MLB).

The Orioles rank third in the AL in runs per game:

5.67 - New York
5.36 - Oakland
5.33 - Orioles
5.26 - Tampa Bay
5.19 - Houston

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