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Orioles-Yankees series preview: Four games in three days

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The Orioles haven’t seen the Yankees since the beginning of June, since which time the O’s have lost a ton of games and the Yankees have won almost as many.

New York Yankees v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

A month and a week ago, the Orioles last faced the Yankees. Since that time, the Orioles have won seven games. The Yankees have won 21.

Their 2018 seasons could hardly be more divergent. The only similarity is that they are both battling for their place in the standings with a team that might actually be their equal. The O’s are fighting for the worst record in MLB with the Royals, with the possibility for both teams to lose more than 115 games. The Yankees are fighting in the AL East with the Red Sox, where both teams could win more than 100.

Where the Orioles have horrible offense at most positions, the Yankees have above-average batters basically everywhere. First baseman Neil Walker has struggled greatly, but he’s been supplanted by Greg Bird. Catcher Gary Sanchez took a step back, and it doesn’t matter, because Austin Romine is hitting and now so is a call-up named Kyle Higashioka.

Giancarlo Stanton is somewhat disappointing, by his standards, at “only” an .849 OPS. Only Manny Machado is over an .800 ops for the O’s. And it doesn’t matter to the Yankees that Stanton is “slumping” because Aaron Judge is still destroying baseballs, Aaron Hicks has gone to another level of good play, and Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres are holding down spots in the infield with fantastic play as rookies.

In short, the Orioles would be glad to trade problems with the Yankees. That’s not to say that the Yankees have no problems. They have only two standout starting pitchers and may need to dip into the July trade waters to address at least one rotation spot. That’s it, really. That’s their only problem.

The best Yankees starting pitcher, Luis Severino, will not be appearing in this series. He just pitched on Saturday. This does not particularly matter for the Orioles since they are bad against essentially every starting pitcher in the entirety of Major League Baseball.

Game 1 - Monday, 4:05

CC Sabathia (6-3, 3.02 ERA) vs. Jimmy Yacabonis (0-0, 8.53 ERA)

An unbiased observer would have to be impressed by Sabathia’s performance at age 37. The lefty looked like he was just about done for with a couple of tough seasons in 2014 and 2015 and has rebounded since, and 2018 might be his best yet, at least so far. Sabathia isn’t the inning-eater he once was, but he’s figured out how to get things done with a diminished repertoire.

The Orioles faced Sabathia earlier in the year and had him out of the game after just four innings pitched, hammering him for three home runs. That was during the now-miraculous-seeming series where the O’s took three out of four in New York, including the one where Sabathia pitched. How did that even happen? That was back before we knew how bad the Orioles are and how good the Yankees are. Results could be much different now.

In their careers, Adam Jones (.270/.302/.506 with five homers in 96 plate appearances) and Manny Machado (.339/.381/.695 with five HR in 64 PA) have liked seeing Sabathia. The rest of the Orioles who have seen a lot of him, not so much.

The O’s belief that Jimmy Yacabonis could be a starting pitcher is one of the weirder things about them right now. His lone previous MLB start on June 28 saw him allow two runs on six hits and a walk in four innings to the Mariners. It’s not a sure thing how much Yacabonis is stretched out to pitch even if he somehow ends up pitching well. Be braced for an extended Mike Wright Jr. appearance in relief, because the O’s don’t want to blow through the bullpen in the first game of a doubleheader.

Game 2 - Monday, after Game 1

Luis Cessa (0-1, 5.00 ERA) vs. Yefry Ramirez (0-2, 2.51 ERA)

Two games in one day means that both teams have to step outside of the usual starting rotation. The Orioles chose to do it in the first game. New York is doing it in the second.

For the Yankees, that means bringing Cessa back to the big leagues, probably just for this start. It’ll be Cessa’s second MLB start of the season, and the last one only lasted three innings. The 26-year-old righty has been a swingman for three seasons now, prone to allowing home runs and not tending to get a lot of strikeouts.

In a different world, Ramirez might have been the emergency Yankees starter in this doubleheader. The Orioles acquired him from the Yankees for international bonus pool money last July because they knew they could fit him on the 40-man roster and the Yankees couldn’t. Ramirez has starts against the Red Sox and Phillies under his belt. Good luck against Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and the rest of that lineup.

Game 3 - Tuesday, 7:05

Masahiro Tanaka (7-2, 4.58 ERA) vs. Andrew Cashner (2-9, 4.39 ERA)

In this matchup is a perfect illustration of the worthlessness of the pitcher win-loss record. Tanaka, who will be returning from the disabled list after having hurt both of his hamstrings while running the bases in an interleague game, has gotten 6+ runs of support in seven of his 13 starts and is 5-0 in those games.

Cashner has received 0-2 runs of support in nine of his 17 starts and is 0-7 in those games. He does not have even one game of 6+ runs of support. This is not to say the two pitchers have otherwise had similar seasons. Tanaka, for instance, has a 1.087 WHIP while Cashner has a 1.554 WHIP.

Perhaps there’s some luck there, too, with Tanaka having a .242 BABIP allowed, much lower than his career mark, while Cashner has a .315 BABIP allowed, higher than his career mark. The Yankees defense is good and the Orioles defense is horrible. But Cashner walks too many guys (4.0 BB/9) and doesn’t get many strikeouts (7.1 K/9) while Tanaka is better at both (2.4 BB/9, 9.0 K/9). The run support helps, but so does helping yourself.

Jones has liked seeing Tanaka since the Japanese pitcher came to MLB, with a .407/.429/.815 batting line in 28 plate appearances. Machado (.172/.200/.448) likes seeing him much less, although he does have two homers in 30 PA. Maybe he will even get traded before he has to see Tanaka in this game. Probably not, though.

Game 4 - Wednesday, 7:05

Sonny Gray (5-7, 5.85 ERA) vs. Dylan Bundy (6-8, 4.08 ERA)

When the Yankees acquired Gray last July, this was one of those agonizing trades that showed how the rich get richer. The Yankees can trade some prospects to get a guy without blinking. Things haven’t worked out quite that way, as Gray’s first full season as a Yankee has gone poorly. The walk rate has spiked to 4.0 per nine innings and he’s giving up more than a hit per inning as well.

It is not an unprecedented struggle for Gray, who also carried an ERA closer to 6 than to 5 for Oakland in the 2016 season. The Yankees are just scoring enough runs that they can shrug off a couple of struggling starting pitchers. The Orioles offense will be a good barometer for New York to figure out how lost Gray is right now. If even they destroy him, the Yankees may have a problem on their hands and they may need to trade for a starter before July 31.

Dylan Bundy has not been a problem for the Orioles this season, although his most recent start, after returning from the disabled list with an ankle issue he suffered while running the bases - universal DH now, by the way - went poorly. Is the ankle still plaguing him? Did he just get a little rusty from a two week layoff that had no rehab outing? Was it just a bad luck bad start? O’s fans will be anxious to know the answers.

The Yankees can deploy a lefty-heavy lineup against Bundy, who has struggled against southpaws on the season, allowing a .311/.373/.497 batting line. If guys like Brett Gardner and Greg Bird light up Bundy on Wednesday, don’t say that nobody warned you.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    4 (The Orioles sweep)
    (10 votes)
  • 2%
    3
    (4 votes)
  • 7%
    2
    (11 votes)
  • 39%
    1
    (59 votes)
  • 43%
    0 (The Orioles get swept)
    (64 votes)
148 votes total Vote Now