The beast of the East and the worst of the West will go head-to-head Friday night when the Baltimore Orioles continue a tour of the Pacific coastline with a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics.
The set matches the team with the best record in the American League, the 74-47 Orioles, against the club with the worst, the 34-87 A's, for the second time this season. The Orioles took three of four in an April home series, with the last three games featuring a total of 20, 12 and 15 runs combined.
The Orioles have split six games so far on their trip, winning a series 2-1 at Seattle before dropping two of three — including the last two — at San Diego.
The trip to Oakland will allow some of the top rookie performers in the AL to introduce themselves.
Baltimore third baseman Gunnar Henderson is a candidate for AL Rookie of the Year honors as he currently leads all AL rookies in triples (six) while ranking among the top three in runs (63), RBIs (56), walks (47) and home runs (19).
The Orioles' bullpen features All-Star set-up man Yennier Cano, who currently leads all MLB rookies in holds (27) and is tied for the AL rookie lead in saves (four) and appearances (53).
"It makes you proud of our organization," manager Brandon Hyde said of the infusion of young talent, including star catcher Adley Rutschman, already the face of the team at age 25. "It's a testament to (general manager Mike Elias), just how well he has done in accumulating young talent, and they're performing."
Oakland, which has employed 17 rookies this season, is paced by Esteury Ruiz, the MLB rookie leader in steals (48); Ryan Noda, the majors' rookie leader in walks (60); and Zack Gelof, who ranks fourth in batting average (.294) among AL first-year players with 100 or more plate appearances.
Ken Waldichuk, who ranks third among AL rookies in strikeouts (100), has made his mark on Oakland's young staff.
Gelof had four hits in Wednesday's 8-0 win at St. Louis that allowed the A's to snap a five-game losing streak. As part of his big night, he became the first A's player ever to have at least 20 extra-base hits and 20 runs scored in his first 28 games.
"It's fun watching right now," A's manager Mark Kotsay said of the 23-year-old second baseman. "He's playing with a lot of confidence. For young guys to come here and have that type of success, it obviously builds their confidence. But not only that, he's a player that in spring training tried to make the team and went to Triple-A and continued to work. And it's paying off here."
The Orioles will see one of Oakland's rookie starting pitchers, right-hander Luis Medina (3-8, 5.31 ERA), in the series opener.
Medina has gone 1-1 in his last five starts with a 2.70 ERA. The 24-year-old will be facing the Orioles for the first time.
Baltimore is expected to counter with veteran righty Kyle Gibson (11-7, 4.89), who opened the previous series against Oakland by throwing 6 1/3 innings, allowing just one run in a 5-1 win. The 35-year-old has made 11 lifetime starts against the A's, going 6-3 with a 3.80 ERA.
Gibson is coming off his worst outing of the season, bombed for 12 hits and nine runs over 5 1/3 innings in a 9-2 loss at Seattle last Friday.
—Field Level Media