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Orioles-Yankees series preview: The real battle for first place

The Orioles and Yankees enter this weekend’s series separated by just a game in the standings. Who has the edge in this late April battle?

New York Yankees v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Remember how the Yankees sold off veteran players at last year’s trade deadline and were supposed to not have much chance to compete for the remainder of last season or this season? That never really came true last season, much to my chagrin, as they did well enough after the sell-off.

In the process, the Yankees collected some prospects that should help them in the future, and this year, without that new talent even being at the MLB level, the Yankees are chasing the Orioles for first place in the American League East early in the season. On the strength of an 8-1 home record, the Yankees are just one game behind the O’s.

These three upcoming games will be played at the third incarnation of Yankee Stadium. If the Orioles are going to be continuing their streak of non-losing series to open up the season, they’ll need to be the first team to win a series against the Yankees in New York this year.

Oh, and if they’re going to do that, they’re going to have to do it while facing their kryptonite - a left-handed pitcher - in two of the three games of the series. The Yankees have lined up the lefties.

Game 1: Friday, 7:05

Kevin Gausman (1-2, 7.50 ERA) vs. CC Sabathia (2-1, 2.70 ERA)

The Yankees were supposed to have to dread the $25 million vesting option for Sabathia for this season, with their opponents celebrating it. Instead, Sabathia arrested a three-year downward slide last season by turning in a solid, unremarkable season and he’s started off this season with good results - though with a FIP of 4.73, perhaps he’s gotten lucky, too.

It’s still the case that the Orioles are one of the worst-hitting teams against lefties in the AL. They have a combined .229/.282/.352 batting line, good for just 12th in the AL. Four Orioles have seen Sabathia 50+ times. One of those is Adam Jones, who has five home runs and an .830 OPS in 87 plate appearances.

Another is J.J. Hardy, who has an .803 OPS in 56 PA, but Hardy does not look capable of that so far in 2017. Things are also not great against Sabathia for Chris Davis (.594 OPS, 53 PA,) Mark Trumbo (.688 OPS, 34 PA,) or Jonathan Schoop (.579 OPS, 22 PA.)

A big question along with whether the Orioles will be able to hit a lefty is whether Gausman will be able to pitch well, or even mediocre. Manager Buck Showalter suggested it’s neither a mental nor a physical problem for Gausman. He just needs to do better. Well, that settles it.

Game 2: Saturday, 1:05

Ubaldo Jimenez (1-0, 5.95 ERA) vs. Michael Pineda (2-1, 3.86 ERA)

The Orioles have yet to lose a Jimenez start, an absurd-yet-true statement that will be tougher to keep being true if Jimenez persists in his ERA or his 1.627 WHIP. On the young season, Jimenez has allowed a 1.8 HR/9 - bad news in Yankee Stadium and particularly with baseball’s large adult son Aaron Judge and his 1.024 OPS lurking about.

Pineda’s 2017 season, though again it’s only been four starts, is shaping up to potentially be the best full season he’s had in a Yankees uniform. Pineda is striking out a whopping 31.5% of batters he has faced so far this season, which is actually ridiculous for a starting pitcher, and probably bad news for a strikeout-heavy Orioles lineup.

O’s hitters will be hoping that it’s an older version of Pineda who’s showing up on Saturday afternoon, with several players having feasted on Pineda in their careers to date. That includes Jones (.938 OPS in 32 PA,) Davis (.967 OPS in 23 PA,) and even Hardy (1.324 OPS in 32 PA, including three homers.) Pineda is possibly better than the guy who allowed those numbers.

Game 3: Sunday, 1:05

Wade Miley (1-1, 2.08 ERA) vs. Jordan Montgomery (1-1, 3.78 ERA)

Did you ever think, after the way Miley pitched last year, that there would be a series where he ends up being the starting pitcher you worry about the least? Yet here we are. You might still worry about Miley, and that’s fine, because he has still walked way too many guys even when not allowing runs onto the scoreboard.

Miley’s also striking out enough guys to make up for it, and when batters put the ball in play, they’re putting it on the ground almost 50% of the time.

Although you’ve probably never heard of Jordan Montgomery before right now, the 24-year-old lefty starting this game is not a case of, “Team calls up any lefty to face the Orioles.”

Montgomery, a fourth round pick in 2014, earned his way into a thin back end of the Yankees rotation to start the season. He’s pitched well at every level and moved quickly. Sometimes you get lucky with a fourth round pick. He has a total of ten career starts above Double-A, including his four big league starts. No one on the Orioles has seen him, or at least not at the big league level. I know, I’m worried, too.


That’s the upcoming series in a nutshell. We’re all still waiting for Manny Machado and especially Mark Trumbo to start hitting and holding our breath for the starting rotation in the meantime. Oh, and Zach Britton is supposed to be back on Sunday. I hope they have a chance to use him.


How many games will the Orioles win in this series?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    The Orioles will be swept by the Yankees
    (48 votes)
  • 34%
    (184 votes)
  • 46%
    (246 votes)
  • 10%
    The Orioles will sweep the Yankees
    (55 votes)
533 votes total Vote Now