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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Orioles series preview

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These teams have not met in Camden Yards since 2003.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

BALTIMORE — I asked Mark Brown, manager of our SB Nation Orioles site Camden Chat, to tell us a bit about his team, since the Cubs see them so infrequently.

After a 2016 season in which the Orioles made the wild card game but felt like they underachieved due to a disappointing starting rotation, the O's approached the 2017 season as if their philosophy was to keep as much as possible the same and hope things went better a second time. Surely, pitchers like Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley couldn't be that bad again, could they? Not only is the answer to that question yes, but better starting pitchers who the team was counting on to keep being good, Kevin Gausman and Chris Tillman, could also be that bad. What it adds up to is a team with an AL-worst ERA, sinking that far mostly because of an AL-worst starting rotation. After 88 games, how do you have a 5.75 rotation ERA? It's hard to be that bad.

Add in an offense that's 14th in the AL in on-base percentage and a team full of anticipated home run hitters who seem to be the only guys in MLB who haven't gotten the memo that the balls might be juiced for more home run potential and you get a disappointing fourth place team at the All-Star break. The biggest mistake that the O's might have made is assuming that everything that was good about 2016 would continue to be good, while also assuming the bad things would get better. They retained Mark Trumbo on a three-year contract hoping he would keep being among the MLB leaders in home runs. Trumbo, who hit 40 last season, sits at 14 at the break.

Also, Manny Machado, despite being among the leaders in hard-hit balls, is having the worst season of his career at the plate, with a paltry 90 wRC+. First baseman Chris Davis, expected to be better this season due to having healed from a hand injury he suffered last season, hasn't been any better. Davis will come off the disabled list for this series and probably strike out a lot, as he's been doing all season.

One other thing they were counting on being as good as last year was the bullpen. That hasn't been the case. It's hard to be as good as closer Zach Britton was last season for two years in a row, especially hard to keep being perfect in save opportunities. Britton hasn't pitched much due to an injury and when he has pitched, he hasn't looked totally like last year's Britton. That's shaken up the rest of the bullpen, with Brad Brach occasionally faltering while replacing Britton as the closer, and others having problems in less familiar roles as well.

It all comes together to give a team that's four games below .500 coming out of the All-Star break, but, thanks to a lack of strength in the AL, still having hopes for everything to come together in the second half of the season. I hope they're right.

Fun fact

The nine games these two teams have played are the fewest the Cubs have played vs. any A.L. team since interleague play began. The Cubs are 6-3 all-time, and took two of three in the only series between the two teams at Camden Yards, in 2003. The Cubs’ winning pitchers in that series: Shawn Estes and Matt Clement.

Pitching matchups

Friday: Mike Montgomery, LHP (1-6, 3.75 ERA, 1.378 WHIP, 3.91 FIP) vs. Kevin Gausman (5-7, 5.85 ERA 1.763 WHIP, 4.73 FIP)

Saturday: Jake Arrieta (8-7, 4.35 ERA, 1.303 WHIP, 4.17 FIP) vs. Wade Miley (4-7, 4.97 ERA, 1.748 WHIP, 5.04 FIP)

Sunday: Jose Quintana (4-8, 4.49 ERA, 1.323 WHIP, 4.01 FIP) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (4-4, 6.67 ERA, 1.506 WHIP, 5.96 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Friday: 6:05 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago

Saturday: 6:05 p.m. CT, ABC7 Chicago

Sunday: 12:35 p.m. CT, ABC7 Chicago

Prediction

I should get out of the prediction business, since I’ve been so bad at it recently. However, as bad as the Cubs were just before the break, the Orioles were worse. They were 25-16 and half a game ahead in the A.L. East on May 20. Since then? 17-30.

Therefore, the Cubs should win two of three here.

Up next

The Cubs make their first visit to the new stadium in Atlanta, SunTrust Park, as they meet the Braves for the first time this year in a three-game series that begins Monday night.

Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against the Orioles?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    3
    (92 votes)
  • 39%
    2
    (87 votes)
  • 13%
    1
    (31 votes)
  • 5%
    0
    (13 votes)
223 votes total Vote Now