The Baltimore Orioles travel to Chicago to take on the White Sox in the first of a four-game series this weekend. The Orioles are in last place in the competitive AL East but have been far more competitive this season than in recent years. The White Sox are starting to get healthier with the returns of SS Tim Anderson and starting pitcher Lance Lynn. They are still in good position to make a run in the mediocre AL Central Division. The pitching matchup on Thursday night will be righty Dean Kremer (1-1, 2.35) of the Orioles taking on veteran righty Johnny Cueto (1-3, 2.95) of the White Sox. Game time is scheduled for 810pm EST.
Birds are BattlingDespite an improved record, a stronger bullpen and the introduction of key prospects, the Orioles are once again in last place in the AL East Division and find themselves already 20.5 games behind the red-hot New York Yankees. The Orioles have battled despite a couple of key injuries to their starting rotation thanks to a much-improved bullpen. Baseball's #1 prospect, catcher Adley Rutschman, had been added to the Orioles everyday lineup and he has recently started to show the promise that has everyone penciling him in as a future all-star. On Wednesday night against inter-league rival Washington, big right-hander Tyler Wells gave the Birds five shutout innings on just 3 hits and the Orioles and Austin Hays came alive while batting leadoff and playing CF with by hitting for the cycle in his first four plate appearances in a big Orioles win. Hayes tripled in the first, homered in the third, singled in the fifth and doubled in the sixth to earn the impressive feat.
Baltimore has been scrappy and resilient this season despite having a team without a player having a standout season. In the team's last ten games prior to Wednesday night, the Orioles are batting just .235 as a team. In that time, they are averaging 4.8 runs per game and have hit 11 home runs. The Birds will send converted reliever Dean Kremer to the hill on Thursday night. Kremer has been effective in his three starts this season as he's seen his pitch count move up as well as innings pitched in each start. He has one quality start out of three and picked up a win in his last start after going six shutout innings against Tampa, giving up one hit while striking out five.
White Sox Waking UpThe Chicago White Sox came into the season as the favorite to win a relatively weak AL Central for the second straight season. The team strengthened its bullpen, still possessed a quality starting rotation and had a veteran lineup. The early part of the season has seen the White Sox release one of their projected starting five, suffer key injuries to the pitching staff as well as multiple injuries to the everyday lineup. Things appear to be coming together now as Lance Lynn recently returned to the starting rotation after missing the entire year with knee issues and the team's best player, Tim Anderson, returned from injury. On Wednesday afternoon in the series finale against Toronto, the White Sox starter Lucas Giolito continued a rough stretch by allowing seven runs on a season-high 11 hits in five innings of work. His ERA is 9.47 over the course of his last five starts.
The White Sox are happy to welcome back all-star shortstop Tim Anderson to the top of the order this week. Anderson has missed 22 games with injury this season but leads the team in batting average and is second in steals and in the top-five in hits, total bases and runs scored for the ChiSox. His presence at the top of the order gives more opportunities for the White Sox power bats to drive in runs. On the mound in Thursday night's series opener will be Johnny Cueto. Cueto has been a pleasant surprise for Chicago after being picked up in May to bolster the rotation. Cueto has made five quality starts out of six starts this season and thrown 42.2 innings and given up 36 hits with a sub-3 ERA. Cueto has struck out 33 and walked just 11 in 7 appearances this season.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Cueto, while not the pitcher he was several years ago in terms of velocity and overall stuff, has been a revelation for the White Sox in his ability to get the team to the middle innings and to the team's deep bullpen. The White Sox offense has welcomed back Anderson to the top of the lineup as one of baseball's best table setters. Anderson's presence opens up more opportunities for Andrew Vaughn, Luis Robert and Jose Abreu. The Orioles have not been hitting particularly well as of late and are a dismal 13-22 on the road this season. The White Sox offense is hitting .319 in their last ten games with 34 extra-base hits and averaging 7 runs per game.
Take the White Sox with the money line.
Full-Game Total Pick
The White Sox are averaging 7 runs per game in the team's ten games heading into Wednesday. The Orioles, despite a low team batting average, are scoring more than 4.5 runs per game. The White Sox are 4-2 to the over in the team's last six games. The Orioles are 7-3 to the over in their last ten games. Look for the White Sox bats to continue to produce with Anderson back in his familiar leadoff role and setting things up for the White Sox potent 3-4-5 hitters.
Take the over, 9 runs.