Houston is going for win #100. The Orioles will try to fight that off on their own quest to win #82.
There’s no getting around that the Orioles really blew it in the just-concluded series against the Tigers. The offense just inexplicably evaporated against some not-that-great pitchers. You can never count on a sweep, even against a bad team, but the O’s had no business almost getting swept by those same Tigers – or getting swept by them earlier in the season. That’s one of the things that will sting when wondering about how this season could have been just a little different.
A former Tiger awaits them tonight, with Justin Verlander set to pitch for the Astros. Even with the knowledge that Verlander has pitched pretty well this season, I’m floored actually looking at his numbers. Verlander has an amazing 1.78 ERA and 0.834 WHIP over 25 starts this season. Pitcher wins and losses don’t mean much, but it’s still amazing to see his 17-3 record. It’s not out of the realm of possibility he could get to 20 wins, if he wins every remaining start.
He’s going to have to beat the Orioles tonight to get there. If they hit like they did against the Tigers, that won’t be a tough task for him. The last O’s-Astros series, Verlander had to leave due to a calf injury after only three innings, then he didn’t pitch for almost three weeks. This will be his second start back. We’ll see if Verlander can pick up where he’d left off against the O’s batters – he’d already struck out six batters in three innings when that injury wiped him out.
As a team, the Astros don’t have much in the way of stakes for this game. They’ve clinched their division title already and are almost certain to have the #1 seed in the AL. They’re at 99 wins for the year, so their next win is #100. The Orioles, meanwhile, are fighting to get to a winning season. This seemed like a pretty good chance at the start of the month but the September stumble has left it looking less certain. Every game the O’s can pick off from the Astros this weekend helps their chances.
- Cedric Mullins – CF
- Adley Rutschman – C
- Gunnar Henderson – 3B
- Anthony Santander – DH
- Ryan Mountcastle – 1B
- Terrin Vavra – LF
- Kyle Stowers – RF
- Rougned Odor – 2B
- Jorge Mateo – SS
Now that the Orioles playoff hopes are basically done with, I’d like to see Vavra and Stowers every game from here on. We’ll see if the O’s keep doing it, but here we are for a second straight game. I’m not as sure about Vavra in left field. It’ll be good for the O’s if he can add some superutility to his skill set by being able to handle corner outfield spots occasionally. It’ll also be good if Stowers and Vavra can hit enough to carve themselves roles for the future.
Kyle Bradish is making the start for the Orioles. Since returning from the injured list at the end of July, he’s got a 3.09 ERA through 10 games. That’ll work! That included eight shutout innings against these Astros only about a month ago. Being able to repeat that success would be a good sign that he’s turned the corner and continuing in a good direction.
- Jeremy Peña – SS
- Aledmys Díaz – 2B
- Yordan Alvarez – LF
- Alex Bregman – 3B
- Kyle Tucker – RF
- Trey Mancini – 1B
- Christian Vázquez – C
- Yainer Diaz – DH
- Mauricio Dubón – CF
Hey, it’s Trey! I hope he has a nice game for himself while his teammates aren’t very good. Probably his teammates will hit well, though. The Astros have the third-best OPS in the AL. Alvarez is a .300/.400/.600 batter for the season. Bregman and Tucker have been great hitters this season. Tough lineup to navigate.
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