BALTIMORE — For the Baltimore Orioles, the first half of the 2017 season brought extreme highs and lows. On May 10, Baltimore sported a 22-10 record, best in baseball. A little more than two months later, the Orioles (42-26) enter the second half of the season two games below .500, searching for hope.

Much like the Orioles, the Chicago Cubs look unrecognizable compared to their 2016 campaign that ended in their first World Series Championship in 107 years. Also relative to the O’s, the Cubs (43-45) went into the All-Star Break with a sub-.500 record. Both of these ballclubs still find themselves in the thick of the Wild Card race, and intend to open up the second half strong.

Last Meeting: Nearly three years separate the last time Cubs and the Orioles squared off. The Orioles would probably like to forget that series. From August 22-24, 2014, the Cubs swept the Orioles in three games. In that series, Chicago outscored Baltimore 13-5. Two former Orioles, Jake Arrieta and Tsuyoshi Wada, started against their old team and won. Both pitchers allowed just five hits and struck out 13 total hitters. Nelson Cruz and Steve Pearce homered in a quiet series for the offense.

Standings Update: Coming into the second half, the O’s trail the Red Sox (50-39) by 7.5 games in the American League East. Meanwhile in the National League Central, the second-place Cubs linger 5.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers (50-41).

Game Times and Pitching Matchups:

Game 1Friday, July 14, 7:05 pm – Mike Montgomery (1-6, 3.75 ERA) vs. Kevin Gausman (5-7, 5.85 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 2Saturday, July 15, 7:05 pm – Jake Arrieta (8-7, 4.35 ERA) vs. Wade Miley (4-7, 4.97 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 3Sunday, July 16, 1:35 pm – Jose Quintana (4-8, 4.49 ERA) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (4-4, 6.67 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Notes on the Cubs:

  • A big reason why the Cubs won a championship last year goes to their pitching. This season tells a different story. So far, the Cubs’ starting pitching dons a 4.66 ERA, which ranks eighth in the National League. Even though this might not smell as bad as the Orioles’ 5.75 starter ERA, much of the Cubs’ struggles comes back to their pitching.
  • On July 10, Chicago placed pitcher John Lackey on the 10-day disabled list with plantar facitis in his right foot. The Cubs may miss Lackey, a former Red Sox and Angels starter, during this series because of his previous encounters with the O’s.
  • Former Oriole reliever Pedro Strop prepares to return to Camden Yards this weekend as an important part of Chicago’s bullpen. In 12 appearances since June 10, Strop (3.00 ERA) limited opponents to just three runs on 10 hits, three walks, and 14 strikeouts.

Notes on the Orioles:

  • Several Orioles’ hitters experience drop-off in their career second half batting averages – Seth Smith (.240 second half/.274 first half), Mark Trumbo (.237 second half/.263 first half), Adam Jones (.262 second half/.285 first half), Jonathan Schoop (.238 second half/.275 first half) and Manny Machado (.264 second half/.288 first half).
  • First baseman Chris Davis nears a return from the disabled list with an oblique strain. In his first rehab outing for Class-A Fredrick on the 10th, Davis doubled and scored for the Keys, going 1-for-4 overall. On Wednesday with the Delmarva Shorebirds, he went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. The Orioles plan to activate Davis on Friday before game 1.
  • Don’t sleep on Caleb Joseph. With Wellington Castillo dealing with several injuries this season, Joseph has now played in more games (51) than Baltimore’s offseason addition (50). Joseph may not hold the sexy stats, but he possesses a higher batting average and on-base percentage (.295/.314) than Castillo (.258/.298). Granted, Castillo’s at-bats (194) beat Joseph’s (147), but Castillo’s pitch-framing deficiencies make Joseph just as serviceable as Castillo.

Over the Horizon: This series marks just the beginning of one of the two longest homestands for Baltimore this season. Baltimore will host two AL West teams from Texas over seven games – the Rangers from July 17-20, and the Astros from July 21-23. This 10-game stretch at Camden Yards ties the 10-game period that takes place from August 28-September 6.

Image Credit: Newslocker