The Baltimore Orioles surrendered their hold on second place in the American League East with back-to-back losses over the weekend but remain in the thick of the race in division. The Pittsburgh Pirates, who visit the Orioles in the opener of a two-game interleague series on Tuesday, are nearly as close to first place in their own division after beginning the trip with a series win at the New York Mets.
The AL East starts the week with all five teams at least within one game of .500 while the Pirates are in a virtual tie for last place in the National League Central, but just four games behind first-place Milwaukee. The Orioles split a four-game home set with the Boston Red Sox over the weekend and began to see signs of a breakout from star third baseman Manny Machado, who went 6-for-15 with two home runs and five runs scored in the series. The Pirates enjoyed a similar breakout over the weekend from Andrew McCutchen, who homered among three hits in an 11-1 win over the Mets on Sunday and has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games to pull his batting average from .200 to .232. McCutchen will try to stay hot on Tuesday against Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman, while Pirates righty Ivan Nova faces Machado and company.
PITCHING MATCHUP: Pirates RH Ivan Nova (5-4, 2.92 ERA) vs. Orioles RH Kevin Gausman (3-4, 5.92)
Nova is coming off a loss after allowing the Arizona Diamondbacks three runs and six hits over seven innings last Tuesday. The Dominican Republic native is sporting a 1.08 WHIP and limits the damage by issuing just six walks in 77 total innings. Nova spent the first 6 1/2 seasons of his career in the AL East with the New York Yankees and is 8-4 with a 5.01 ERA in 17 career games against Baltimore.
Gausman is settling into a groove with two earned runs allowed in each of his last three starts but struggled with his control last time out. The LSU product yielded eight hits in 5 1/3 innings while issuing a season-high five walks but still managed to earn the win over the Yankees. Gausman is seeing the Pirates for the first time and is 3-6 with a 5.31 ERA in 12 career interleague games.
1. Orioles CF Adam Jones is 0-for-11 with five strikeouts in his last three games.
2. Pirates 2B Josh Harrison (right calf) left Sunday’s game and is day-to-day.
3. Pittsburgh 1B Josh Bell struck out 14 times in his last nine games.
PREDICTION: Pirates 6, Orioles 2