Orioles-White Sox series preview: Birds look to break losing streak against White Sox

In many ways the Orioles and White Sox feel like teams heading in different directions—and not in the way you might have assumed at the beginning of the season. Baltimore’s beloved Birds are surrounded by a sense of renewed hope. They reached 30 wins in 2022 in game 68. In 2021 it took them until game 92. While it is certainly not the last corner they will have to turn, it’s undeniable that this Orioles team has turned a corner in their rebuild.

The White Sox, on the other hand, cannot seem to find their corner, let alone turn around it. Coming into the 2022 season, no team had better odds to win their division than the Southsiders, and only the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers had better odds of winning it all.

What has transpired since then is a team that—despite managing to outperform their expected WL record—still sits a game below .500 and in third in a division that was theirs to lose. Things have gotten so bad that Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa has gone from “he who would lead the White Sox to the promised land” to public enemy #1 among White Sox fans.

All of the current turmoil around the White Sox has managed to overshadow a career year for All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson. If he had enough at-bats to qualify, Anderson would be second in all of baseball with a .358 average and would lead all major league shortstops with a 155 OPS+. The qualified leader, Xander Bogaerts, has a 144 OPS+.

This cloud hanging over the White Sox’ heads means now might be a perfect time for the Orioles to break their losing streak against Chicago. You have to go back to the first game of a May 1, 2019 double header to find the last time the Orioles beat the White Sox. Last season saw the Birds drop all seven of their contests against La Russa’s men, including being outscored 18-7 in a four-game sweep at Guaranteed Rate Field. 2022 is a new season though, and this four-game set presents plenty of new opportunities for the O’s.

Game 1: Thursday, June 23, 8:10 p.m., MASN

Dean Kremer (1-1, 2.35 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (1-3, 2.95 ERA)

DraftKings odds: Orioles +1.5 runs is a -145 bet, or Orioles to win outright is +135

The opening matchup of the series sees two pitchers at opposite ends of their careers who are both pitching surprisingly well. Kremer seems to be getting stronger with every start this season, as his last two starts have been two of the best in his entire career. After an impressive five innings against Kansas City to earn his second major league win, Kremer was even better in six shutout innings vs. Tampa Bay his last time out.

Kremer has largely relied on fastball command throughout his early success, as his four-seamer ranks as the eighth-best pitch on the entire Orioles staff based on Run-Value. With only Anderson and Andrew Vaughn grading out as plus players against the fastball, Kremer may be in line for his third straight successful outing.

Despite his 1-3 record, Cueto has been the model of consistency for the White Sox. The 15-year-veteran righty has gone 5+ innings in every start this season, only allowing more than three runs once. In his last start against the Astros, Cueto threw seven innings of shutout ball and struck out five, while only allowing four baserunners. The last time he went up against the Orioles, the cleanup hitter was Chris Davis. It’s been a while.

Game 2: Friday, June 24th, 8:10 p.m., MASN

Kyle Bradish (1-4, 7.38 ERA) vs. Michael Kopech (2-3, 2.38 ERA)

If Cueto has been a pleasant surprise for the White Sox this year, Kopech has been nothing short of a revelation. After not pitching in the majors for the better part of three seasons, the former top prospect has followed up a good 2021 with an even better start to 2022.

Moving from the bullpen to the rotation has not affected Kopech’s production at all. He’s already eclipsed his WAR from last season and his 2.2 mark in 2022 is good enough for seventh among all American League pitchers. Kopech attacks with a three-pitch mix of fastball, slider, and curveball—all of which have graded out as plus offerings this season.

Bradish has been trending in the wrong direction of late and will look to turn things around in Chi-Town. After striking out 11 over seven innings in his third start of the season, Bradish has struggled to regain that same sharpness. The 9.20 ERA in his last seven starts can largely be contributed to Bradish’s lack of success with his fastball. The rookie’s four-seamer has graded out as the worst pitch in all of baseball, in terms of Run-Value, with opponents hitting .344 against it.

Game 3: Saturday, June 25, 2:10 p.m., MASN

TBD vs. Lance Lynn (1-0, 5.79 ERA)

When this spot came up in the rotation last Sunday against the Rays, the Orioles opted to go with Austin Voth as an opener and the bullpen overall delivered a dominant showing in the 2-1 win. Unless the Orioles call up a last-minute starter from Norfolk, this will probably be the approach again against the White Sox. The Orioles (as shocking as it may sound), actually have the seventh-best bullpen ERA in all of baseball, so going with a bullpen game isn’t conceding the game the way it often seemed in the past.

What the White Sox will get from Lynn is not certain at this point. The veteran righty did not make his season debut until June 13 due to a knee injury, and he has not exactly dazzled in his first two starts back. While Chicago has won both of Lynn’s starts this year, he has allowed 14 hits in 9.1 innings to the tune of a 5.79 ERA. The 11-year vet has finished in the top 6 of AL Cy Young voting each of the past three seasons though, so a rediscovery of form would not be out of the question.

Lynn last saw the Orioles in May of last year, when he pitched five shutout innings in the second game of what was then a seven-inning doubleheader. There’s been a lot of turnover in the lineup since then. Only three regulars are still around from that game’s starting lineup: Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, and Anthony Santander. Perhaps 2022’s new and maybe improved Orioles can fare better.

Game 4: Sunday, June 26th, 2:10 p.m., MASN

Jordan Lyles (4-6, 4.92 ERA) vs. Dylan Cease (5-3, 2.68 ERA)

Dylan Cease will come into the series finale against the Orioles on a streak of 27.1 innings without allowing an earned run. Yes, he did allow six runs against the Dodgers on June 9, as well as a couple of runs here and there in other starts—but none were earned runs! Cease leans on his slider—as it is the best pitch on the White Sox staff—so look for Austin Hays to do damage in this one. The outfielder has posted an impressive .300 average and .500 slugging percentage against sliders this season.

For Lyles, Sunday will be about reversing his fortunes this season on the road. The free-agent signing has a 6.70 ERA in eight starts on the road this year, while allowing 10 home runs. The good news is that in only two of those eight Lyles lasted less than five innings—and Lyles’ ability to extend his start will be key with a projected bullpen game on Saturday.

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