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Orioles-Yankees series preview: The Bronx looms

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Yankee Stadium was a house of horrors for the Orioles last year. Can they stop their slide?

MLB: Spring Training-Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles have yet to win since Opening Day. They’ve lost five games in a row and just got swept by the defending champion Houston Astros. Now, they’re taking on the team the Astros beat in last year’s ALCS, the Yankees, in the Bronx, where the Orioles were 2-8 last year.

No component of the Orioles is playing well. The offense’s 14 runs this year are the second-fewest in the AL, better only than the Royals, who have been rained out twice. Here are some OPSes of Orioles regulars this year: .215, .331, .500, .550, .556. See if you can match the players to their OPSes. (Trick question — it doesn’t matter.)

In the rotation, the Orioles have gotten two quality starts from Dylan Bundy and none from anyone else. In the bullpen, every reliever except Darren O’Day has been scored upon.

The defense has struggled, with outfield misplays costing the Orioles runs in two games of the Astros series, and the new infield alignment of Tim Beckham at third and Manny Machado at short looking shaky.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

The Orioles’ opponent, the Yankees, have had their flaws, but are bashing their way to victory. They’re coming off a two-game sweep of the Rays that improved their record to 4-2. Shortstop Didi Gregorius has been otherworldly in the early goings, batting .364 with a 1.349 OPS and collecting an eight-RBI game against the Rays on Tuesday. Shiny new acquisition Giancarlo Stanton hit two homers in his Yankees debut, then got booed at Yankee Stadium after striking out five times Tuesday, then won their praise again with a homer Wednesday. Welcome to New York.

The starting pitchers have all been solid, but new manager Aaron Boone has had a quick hook; only two of their first six starters worked six innings in a game. The Orioles are fortunate that they’ll miss Yankee ace Luis Severino (2-0, 1.38 ERA) in this set, but they have their work cut out for them all the same.

The one surprising weakness for the Yankees has been their bullpen, which is loaded with high-strikeout power arms who have nevertheless been hit hard so far. They include Dellin Betances (9.00 ERA), David Robertson (12.00), and Tommy Kahnle (4.91).

The schedule isn’t getting any easier for the slumping Orioles, who are in danger of getting buried early in the season.

Game 1: Thursday, 6:35 PM

RHP Andrew Cashner (0-1, 7.20) vs. RHP Masahiro Tanaka (1-0, 1.50)

Cashner’s Orioles debut last Saturday didn’t exactly inspire confidence that he’ll be an improvement over the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley, and Jeremy Hellickson. I mean, he still probably will be. But giving up three home runs in five innings to the Twins — after allowing only 15 roundtrippers all last year in 166.2 innings — was an inauspicious start. Cashner is 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA in three career starts against the Yankees, but he’s never pitched at Yankee Stadium.

Tanaka tossed a quality start in his season debut against the Blue Jays, striking out eight in six innings. He’s 2-2 with a 3.58 ERA in eight starts against the Orioles. Adam Jones is 7-for-21 lifetime against Tanaka, while Jonathan Schoop has tagged him for three home runs in 23 at-bats.

Game 2: Friday, 7:05 PM

RHP Kevin Gausman (0-1, 13.50) vs. LHP CC Sabathia (0-0, 1.80)

Speaking of uninspiring debuts, Gausman’s 2018 opener was a dud, a four-inning, six-run stumble against the Twins. Could this be another season where Gausman struggles to find his footing early? Last year, he had a 5.85 ERA in the first half and 3.41 in the second; the year before, it was 4.15 and 3.10. He won’t be looking forward to facing Aaron Judge, who has torched him for three homers in 12 at-bats.

The ageless Sabathia, an annual nemesis, will be making his 42nd career start against the Orioles and 33rd as a Yankee. He’s 19-10 with a 3.56 ERA versus Baltimore in his career. Jones has had nearly 100 plate appearances against Sabathia and hit him well, blasting five home runs. Machado has been even better, batting .316/.361/.579. This might be a good game to give Chris Davis another breather, though. He’s batting .208/.288/.264 against Sabathia with twice as many strikeouts (22) as hits (11).

Game 3: Saturday, 1:05 PM

RHP Chris Tillman (0-1, 9.00) vs. RHP Sonny Gray (0-0, 2.25)

What I like about Sonny Gray is that his first name and last name are antonyms. Also, he’s a pretty good pitcher, although he got chased after four innings in his season debut in Toronto, giving up seven hits. The Orioles have hit him hard to the tune of a 5.28 ERA in six career starts. This is a particularly good matchup for Beckham, who has two homers in 13 at-bats against Gray.

Then there’s Tillman, whose first 2018 start looked like a carbon copy of most of his 2017 outings. I’m not going to post his career splits, because however Tillman performed in his 2012-2016 glory years doesn’t seem especially relevant to present-day Tillman. I’ll just focus on last year, when Tillman gave up 15 runs — and six homers — in seven innings to the Yankees.

Game 4: Sunday, 1:05 PM

RHP Mike Wright, Jr. (0-0, 5.40) vs. Jordan Montgomery (0-0, 1.80)

If you predicted that Mike Wright would have the most successful first start of any non-Bundy Oriole, give yourself a cookie. He held the Astros to three runs in five innings Tuesday and left with a lead before the bullpen blew the game. Wright has pitched seven times against the Yankees, but only one was a start. It was back in 2015, when he gave up five runs in four innings. With Alex Cobb ready to join the Orioles soon, this could be Wright’s last start for a while.

Montgomery made five starts against the Orioles in his rookie season last year, more than he faced any other team. It went quite well. He was 2-1 with a 2.67 ERA and struck out 30 batters in 27 innings.

Poll

How many games will the Orioles win in this series against the Yankees?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    0 (The Orioles get swept by the Yankees)
    (161 votes)
  • 39%
    1
    (182 votes)
  • 16%
    2
    (73 votes)
  • 3%
    3
    (17 votes)
  • 5%
    4 (The Orioles sweep the Yankees)
    (23 votes)
456 votes total Vote Now