The Orioles and Royals matched up in October in the American League Championship Series and while there may have been some bad blood due to comments from Jarrod Dyson and a t-shirt gaffe by Jeremy Guthrie, the Royals had the last laugh with a quick sweep. The two teams have not played since then, with the Royals capitalizing on last year's success while the Orioles have struggled to get over .500 this season. They are still hanging in the Wild Card race, just two games back of the final post-season spot. They have actually played well, with a pythag record of 67-59, but have been just 17-22 in one-run games and have lost all seven of their games to the Twins this season.
Baltimore has been a much different team on the road this year, going just 25-36, scoring just 3.83 runs per game compared to an even five runs per game at Camden Yards. Overall they are fifth in the league in runs scored, fourth in slugging percentage, and fourth in home runs. Chris Davis has bounced back from a disastrous 2014 season that led to a 50-game suspension for PEDs to hit the second-most home runs in the league. However 21 of his 34 home runs have come at home and his batting average is nearly 30 points lower on the road.
Manny Machado has been amazing this season and will certainly finish in the top ten in MVP balloting. Centerfielder Adam Jones also continues to have a solid career in Baltimore. Starting shortstop J.J. Hardy will land on the disabled list today while first baseman Steve Pearce is expected back. Former Royals infielder Jimmy Paredes has been surprisingly good for the Orioles this year, but has hit just .222/.260/.323 over his last 56 games. Catcher Matt Wieters missed much of the year with Tommy John surgery, and will not catch on back-to-back days, allowing Caleb Joseph to get some playing time. You may remember Joseph from his tweet following last year's ALCS:
Welcome back to earth boys.— Caleb Joseph (@McGrattan17) October 22, 2014
The Orioles' pitching is fifth in fewest runs allowed, thanks in large part to a very good defense that ranks third in Defensive Runs Saved. Manny Machado is sixth among all baseball players in DRS with +16 and the Orioles have been strong up the middle with Caleb Joseph, J.J. Hardy (when healthy), and Adam Jones. Orioles pitchers are fifth-best in the league in striking hitters out.
Ubaldo Jimenez has rebounded from a poor 2014 season by cutting down his walk rate and inducing more ground balls. Jimenez tosses the best split-fingered fastball in the game, a pitch also used by Miguel Gonzalez. Both have ground ball rates above 40%. Chris Tillman has one of the worst strikeout-to-walk ratios in baseball, but has found success with a 2.35 ERA over his last nine starts by adding a sinker to his repertoire. Wei-Yin Chen has outperformed his FIP considerably, but has allowed three runs or less in 22 of his 24 starts this year.
The Orioles have the third-best bullpen ERA in the league at 2.86. They have the second-most strikeouts and the second-fewest home runs allowed. Closer Zach Britton has converted 29-of-32 save opportunities with a 1.94 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.8. Submariner Darren O'Day has allowed right-handers to hit just .198/.236/.248 with 48 strikeouts in 127 plate appearances. Rightie Brad Brach and lefty Brian Matusz have also been very solid, although the rest of then pen is staffed by unproven young pitchers.
The Orioles are still fighting hard for a playoff spot and retain much of the talented team that won 96 games a year ago. They still feature big stars like Jones and Machado and have a solid team with few holes. However they are a much different team on the road, and their high home run, high strikeout offense should struggle to score runs in spacious Kauffman Stadium.