O’s game blog: Out to avoid a five-game sweep

The Orioles (22-31) will play their final home game of the 2020 season this afternoon when they host the Tampa Bay Rays (35-18) to wrap up a five-game series. The Orioles need a win to avoid a five-game sweep after Saturday night’s 3-1 loss.

The Birds are 11-9 against National League teams, but 11-22 against the American League, facing only East Division teams this season. They swept Tampa Bay very early in the year, but have since lost six in a row to the Rays. Five of the nine games between these teams have been decided by two runs or less, including three in this series, and the Orioles are 1-4 in those games.

The Orioles for the season have struggled in the close games, going 7-17 (.412) in games decided by two runs or fewer. They are 6-12 in one-run games and 1-5 in two-run decisions.

Means-Winds-White-ST-sidebar.jpgLeft-hander John Means (1-3, 5.63 ERA), who has recorded back-to-back quality starts, will take the ball in the series finale. Means got a no-decision last Sunday at New York against the Yankees, allowing one run in six innings. In 12 innings over the last two starts, he has given up two runs and eight hits for a 1.50 ERA and a .186 batting average against.

In 2019, Means was 8-5 with a 2.74 ERA at home. But this season, he has gone 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA. Last year his homer rate at Camden Yards was 1.08 per every nine innings, and this season, he has allowed six homers over 16 innings for a rate of 3.38.

The 27-year-old Means has not faced Tampa Bay this season. In four career games, including three starts, he is 2-1 with a 3.68 ERA against the Rays. Over 22 innings, he has walked just one and fanned 20 Rays batters.

Lefty Ryan Yarbrough (1-3, 3.97 ERA) will make his ninth start for Tampa Bay. He has posted a WHIP of 1.235, allowing 9.1 hits per nine innings and 1.0 homers with a 2.0 walk-rate and a strikeout rate of 6.4. He has an ERA of 3.33 in his past five games. Lefty batters hit him better, batting .304 to the .252 mark for right-handers. While Yarbrough has not faced the Orioles this season, he is 3-0 with a 3.38 ERA in seven career games against them.

The Rays have won seven of their last nine games and their magic number to clinch the AL East is four. If they get it, this would be a third AL East title following 2008 and 2010. Tampa Bay is 27-12 within the division and is 9-1-4 in its last 14 series. The Rays are 20-9 in games decided by two runs or less.

The Orioles will again today look to get their offense going. They’ve scored one run or less in eight of the last 11 games and 13 times for the season. The Orioles 2020 offense was outperforming the 2019 version, but the recent slump has closed that gap. The 2019 club averaged 4.50 runs per game and this edition is at 4.55 through last night.

* The 2019 Orioles hit .246/.310/.415 with an OPS of .725.
* The 2020 Orioles hit .254/.319/.425 with an OPS of .744.

Baltimore ranks third in the AL in team batting average, eighth in OBP and slugging, and is tied for seventh in OPS.

Trade completed: The O’s got another player to be named later to complete an earlier trade. They added 17-year-old shortstop Victor González from the New York Mets to complete the deal for Miguel Castro.

González is out of the Dominican Republic and was signed to a bonus of $250,000. He has yet to play in pro ball, but was added to the Orioles’ 60-man player pool. To make room, pitcher Chandler Shepherd was released.

The O’s still have three players to be named coming, two from Atlanta and one from Houston.

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