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Series Preview - Orioles @ Yankees, July 5-7

The O's look to right the ship after a disappointing layover in Chicago, while the Yankees look to continue the success of their four game sweep versus the Twins.

Ichiro's history against this weekend's starters doesn't bode well for a good weekend for him.
Ichiro's history against this weekend's starters doesn't bode well for a good weekend for him.

The Orioles come into New York having dropped two of three against a White Sox team where better results were a reasonable expectation. The Yankees are coming off a road four-game sweep of the Twins, which is what you should do to teams that aren't very good.

This series' prospects for the O's can be summed in in four words: No CC, No Kuroda. The O's won't face the fat man or the ace of the Yankees this weekend. Yankee Killer Miguel Gonzalez will start the series and be followed by #StaffAce Chris Tillman. Even rotation weak link Jason Hammel gets a winnable matchup against Phil Hughes.

The O's last met the Yankees a mere five days ago, with the O's completing the first home 3-game sweep of the Yankees in eight years. Two of the three games were nationally televised. And while the O's and Yanks don't get ESPN or FOX this weekend, they do get MLB Network on Friday and Saturday and TBS on Sunday, so it is possible for out-of-town folks to watch all three games if you get those two networks.

Friday, July 5, 7:05 p.m. ET: Miguel Gonzales (6-3) vs Ivan Nova (2-2) (Nat'l TV: MLB NETWORK)



















Miguel Gonzalez really is a Yankee Killer. Collectively, players on the Yankees this season (the ones who are actually playing, an important caveat with this year’s hated rival), have had a total of 56 ABs against MiGo, and are slashing .161/.217/.250/.467. Another caveat – this is Small Sample Size Theater, as only two batters expected to play this series have seen MiGo more than eight times.

As far as Ivan Nova? What can be said about Ivan Nova that hasn't been said about Afghanistan? Collectively, current Orioles are batting better against Ivan Nova than Manny Machado is for this season. Six Orioles have at least a dozen ABs against Nova, and only the Ghost of Nolan Reimold isn't doing well.

MAYBE HOT: For the Orioles, take your pick. Nick Markakis gets on base nearly half the time against Nova (.483 OBP in 29 PA), Matt Wieters does even better than that (.500 OBP in 28 PA) and Chris Davis hits him hard (.813 SLG in 17 PA). For the Yankees, Brett Garner had faced MiGo six times and has a double, two walks and a SAC bunt. He's it. Everyone else has either seen him three or fewer times or just doesn't hit him.

PROBABLY NOT: For Orioles with more than 3 PA against Nova, Nolan Reimold is about it. He's faced Nova 13 times, and has just three hits and a walk to show for it. Adam Jones does OK against Nova, but with his teammates' numbers, a .280/.286/.360/.646 line in 28 PA pales in comparison. As for the Yankees, Robinson Cano doesn't have a clue against MiGo. In 15 PA, he's got two hits. That's it. He's struck out more times (three) than he's reached base (two). Ichiro Suzuki (.077/.077/.077/.154 in 13 PA) and Travis Hafner (.167/.167/.167/.333 in 6 PA) have fared no better. And no one else on the team has seen MiGo even a half dozen times aside from the aforementioned Gardner.

Saturday, July 6, 1:05 p.m. ET: Chris Tillman (10-2) vs Andy Pettitte (5-6) (Nat'l TV: MLB NETWORK)



















Two years ago, this would have been a sure loss. Last year, well, by July, Pettitte was gone with an injury and wouldn't return until September, and Tillman was starting to turn a corner. This year? Tillman has a half-way decent shot at a dozen wins by the All-Star Game, and Pettitte is hoping to get above .500 by then. My, how times have changed.

Want to know the main difference between Yankees teams of the past decade and a half and this year's edition? Compare Chris Tillman's slash lines against the Yankees for his career and his slash line against current Yankees hitters he's faced. Quite the difference. Derek Jeter ain't coming through that door this series. Curtis Granderson ain't coming through that door. And Alex Rodriguez, well, even if he does come through that door, he will probably be hobbling on a bad hip.

MAYBE HOT: For the O's, it's the trio you would expect - Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Chris Davis. Markakis has an OBP of .342 (with an .880 OPS) in 38 PA, Jones is batting .350 with an .800 OPS in 20 PA and Davis is hitting .364 with 4 RBI in just 12 PA. For New York, only five of the hitters have seen Tillman more than half a dozen times. Of those, Robinson Cano is absolutely crushing him. In 21 PA, he's slashing .526/.571/.895/1.466. And if Lyle Overbay gets a hit, chances are it's going far. He's batting just .273 but his SLG .818 for a OPS of 1.247.

PROBABLY NOT: I'll be as nice as I can - we might as well sit J.J. Hardy for this game. In 21 PA, Hardy has 1 hit, 1 walk. Yup, that's it. That translates to a .050 BA and a .095 OBP. Matt Wieters (.231 BA in 15 PA) and Brian Roberts (.355 SLG in 67 PA) probably aren't going to help much, either. For New York, Ichiro is surprisingly feeble against Tillman. In 13 PA, he has just 1 hit. Vernon Wells has just 1 hit against Tillman in 12 PA, but that cleared the wall.

Sunday, July 7, 1:05 p.m. ET: Jason Hammel (7-5) vs Phil Hughes (4-7) (Nat'l TV: TBS)



















This isn't exactly Cy Young vs Walter Johnson here. OK, it could be - the one time the two baseball greats faced each other as starters, Johnson won 8-2 laugher, pitching a complete game while Young went 7 IP with three runs. On second thought, no, it's not gonna be like that at all. There's no way either of these pitchers is going to give up just two runs.

The disparity of past Yankee performance in Hammel's career versus the lack of success of the current edition is startling. It's down 50 points of BA, almost 90 of OBP, and more than 70 of SLG. It's the difference between batting collectively like Nick Markakis' career year in 2007 and this year's edition of Andrelton Simmons (yeah, I had to look him up, too).

That being said, this year's O's who have faced Hughes aren't exactly lighting the world on fire, either. A collective OPB of .303 is pretty bad against a pitcher who's just not that good. He's historically let on three base runners for every 2 IP, and these guys can't hit .270 against him?

MAYBE HOT: Nate McLouth (.714/.750/1.286/2.036 in 16 PA) has probably had this game circled on his calendar for a while. Nick Markakis (.326/.354/.522/.876 in 48 PA) and Manny Machado (.400/.455/.400/.855 in 12 PA) have had success as well. Ichiro (.435/.480/.522/1.002 in 25 PA) loves hitting against Hammel, as does Vernon Wells (.353/.353/.706/1.059 in 17 PA) and Robinson Cano (.314/.306/.457/.763 in 36 PA). Travis Hafner doesn't hit Hammel often (just 3 hits in 13 PA), but when he does, it travels - he's SLG .818 against Hammel with 2 HR.

PROBABLY NOT: Adam Jones (.190 OBP in 42 PA), Matt Wieters (.273 SLG in 36 PA) and J.J. Hardy (.200 OBP in 25 PA -what is it with J.J. and bad pitchers this series?) may as well take the day off. In fact, the rest of the regulars blow chunks against Phil Hughes - Chris Davis is batting .182 in 24 PA and Brian Roberts is batting .125 in 17 PA. For New York, it's even worse. Of the 11 current Yankees who have even a single PA against Hammel, seven are batting below .060 against him. That collection of suck does includes a quartet of Yankees who've seen Hammel just three times (including pitcher Hiroki Kuroda), but there still is not much cause to be optimistic in those numbers. Lyle Overbay (.059/.111/.059/.170 in 18 PA) isn't likely to help their cause, either.

Maybe we will get a pitcher's duel after all.