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Orioles-Yankees series preview: The one team they can sometimes beat

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The Orioles are somehow 6-6 against the Yankees this season. They’re about to play four games together this weekend. Maybe they can keep winning against these guys somehow?

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees
Sometimes, baseball is very weird.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Orioles have played 127 games of their 2018 season and have lost more than 70% of those games. No matter how absurd it sounds, it is reality. Those same Orioles have played the Yankees 12 times and have won six of those games. In the cold and hopeless dark of this season, their performance against New York can still bring most O’s fans some joy.

It’s bad luck indeed for the Yankees that they have 79 wins and are still 9.5 games out of first place because the Red Sox have managed to win 90 already. The Red Sox are the only other team in MLB that has won more games than the Yankees, and still, they are all but guaranteed to play in the wild card game.

With the Athletics surging, the Yankees aren’t even guaranteed to host that game. They are three games up on Oakland at this moment. They have an eight game edge over the Mariners, who are the closest team to a wild card spot, so it would take a 2011 Red Sox-like fall for the Yankees to miss the postseason entirely at this point.

If the Orioles had a .500 record against the Red Sox (they’re 2-14 vs. Boston) and the Yankees dominated the Orioles instead, the Yankees would be in first place. So in a way, the Orioles are the difference in the AL East, just not in a way that anybody in Birdland wanted them to be when the season began.

Second best record in MLB or not, the Yankees are a team with some problems. Key players on the disabled list right now include Aroldis Chapman, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and CC Sabathia - though Sabathia will be activated to start the first game of this series.

They had to trade for both J.A. Happ AND Lance Lynn after last year’s July acquisition, Sonny Gray, busted his way out of the rotation. Their relief acquisition, as we know, was Zach Britton, who frankly hasn’t pitched well since he got to the Bronx.

Let us unite for a concerto of the world’s smallest violins for this misfortune. For all that they have suffered through, the Yankees have the fourth-best team ERA in the AL, at 3.72, and their .781 team OPS is second-best in the AL. The O’s, if you were wondering, have a 5.12 team ERA and .693 team OPS.

Game 1: Friday, 7:05

CC Sabathia (7-4, 3.32 ERA) vs. Alex Cobb (4-15, 5.09 ERA)

Sabathia has not pitched since August 12 due to right knee inflammation and has only started four games overall since the All-Star break. He last faced this Orioles team on July 9, a game in which he was rocked for five runs in five innings.

Two home runs were hit off Sabathia that day. One was hit by Mark Trumbo, now on the DL, and one by Danny Valencia, now in the great DFA in the sky. Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop both had doubles off Sabathia. He’ll be facing a much different O’s lineup tonight. There will probably still be no Chris Davis, who got the day off in that game and hasn’t given much reason in 2018 to suggest he should ever play, let alone against a tough lefty.

Cobb will be looking to continue a strong post-All-Star break stretch of games. He’s now riding a streak of six starts where he’s held batters to a combined .236/.278/.324 batting line and has posted a 2.03 ERA. The Orioles are 2-4 in these games because they also can’t hit, but that’s life.

Cobb has not been facing cupcake competition while racking up these stats: His August starts have included the Red Sox, Yankees, and Indians. Those are the American League’s three most prolific offenses by runs scored to date. His last game, against the Indians, was a complete game five-hitter.

Game 2: Saturday, 1:05

J.A. Happ (2018 total: 14-6, 3.84 ERA) vs. ???

Happ’s overall season numbers look pedestrian, but he’s been on fire since getting traded into the playoff race. His four starts with the Yankees have seen him post a 2.22 ERA and 0.904 WHIP. He has been the winning pitcher in each one of those games.

Adam Jones leads active players with 47 plate appearances against Happ. He doesn’t much enjoy it, posting a .239/.255/.391 batting line. In smaller samples, Tim Beckham, Craig Gentry, and Caleb Joseph have good numbers when facing Happ. Perhaps that will boost them into the starting lineup. Even Chris Davis has a pair of home runs in 25 PA, though he’s also struck out 11 times and reached base just five times.

Who will be on the mound for the Orioles in this game? That is a mystery as of this writing. MASN’s Roch Kubatko wrote on Thursday that manager Buck Showalter is expected to choose between Yefry Ramirez and Jimmy Yacabonis for a game of the doubleheader. Ramirez got torched by the Yankees in two July starts.

Game 3: Saturday, 7:05

??? (possibly Sonny Gray, according to MLB.com) vs. ??? (possibly Andrew Cashner)

Cashner last pitched on Monday and would be on regular rest on Saturday, so he’s probably starting one or the other of these doubleheader games. This will be the fourth start that Cashner has made against the Yankees this season. He’s gone 6+ innings in each of the three previous starts and given up a total of nine runs - not great, but not a disaster. That just about sums up Cashner’s 2018 overall.

The Yankees stuck with Gray in their rotation for a long time because they didn’t have any better choices, then they realized they could trade for people and got better choices. A doubleheader necessitates shifting things around, though, and so he gets the start. Gray has a 5.34 ERA on the year because he’s been giving up a lot of hits and walking a lot of guys. It adds up.

Naturally, two of Gray’s best, and only good, starts of the year have come against the Orioles. On the other hand, he’s faced the O’s four times already this season and in the most recent game on August 1, the post-trade deadline Orioles lineup wrecked him for seven runs in 2.2 innings. This was the last start he made before getting kicked out of the rotation.

Game 4: Sunday, 8:05

Luis Severino (16-6, 3.28 ERA) vs. Dylan Bundy (7-12, 5.31 ERA)

It seems almost cruel to subject a national television audience to the Orioles. It may be equally cruel to inflict the Sunday Night Baseball broadcast on O’s fans. Whatever the case, in wrestling, sometimes you need a jobber to come out and lose a match to the star in two minutes to remind everyone how good the star is. The Orioles may be that jobber, except this won’t be over in two minutes. It might not be over by midnight.

Severino is having a season to envy here in 2018. 159.1 innings pitched, 181 strikeouts, only 39 walks? You can have a starting pitcher do that? It’s easy to forget this fact when watching too much Orioles pitching, but there are really good pitchers out there and they do very well whether or not they’re facing the Orioles. Severino actually hasn’t faced the O’s yet this year. We’ll find out who’s ready for prime time on Sunday.

Most likely not ready for prime time is Bundy. He’s getting the spotlight anyway. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a hardy soul of an O’s fan who already knows how Bundy has been pitching lately.

Since returning from a short disabled list stint on July 6 for an ankle injury, Bundy’s numbers are striking. The stretch of eight starts has seen batters hitting .343/.392/.709 - that’s MVP stuff! It’s added up to a 9.08 ERA. Geez. He’s given up five or more runs in six of those eight starts and at least seven runs in three straight. That included giving up five runs in four innings against these Yankees on July 11. He says everything is fine physically. That may be so, but the results certainly don’t reflect it.

Bundy is probably not thrilled that this game was moved to Sunday night. He has a 7.96 ERA in 15 night starts compared to a 2.07 ERA in nine day starts.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    0 (The Orioles get swept)
    (27 votes)
  • 38%
    1
    (60 votes)
  • 32%
    2
    (51 votes)
  • 3%
    3
    (5 votes)
  • 7%
    4 (The Orioles sweep)
    (12 votes)
155 votes total Vote Now