The second half has been smooth sailing for the Orioles so far, but much choppier waters await.
Twelve of the Birds’ first 15 games out of the All-Star break came against sub-.500 teams, with the O’s going 9-6 in that span. Tonight, though, the Orioles enter a stretch in which 13 of 16 games come against winning teams, all in their own division. That gauntlet begins in the Bronx with three games against the revamped New York Yankees.
The Yanks have been sputtering around all season, playing well enough to keep their heads above water but not well enough to keep pace with the division behemoth Rays and Red Sox. They’re part of a crowded wild-card fight that has them, along with the Mariners, Blue Jays, Angels, and Cleveland, chasing the Athletics for the second spot.
None of those teams, though, struck as boldly and decisively as the Yankees did at last week’s trade deadline. The club, trying its best to live up to its Bronx Bombers reputation, acquired a pair of All-Star sluggers in Joey Gallo (formerly of the Rangers) and longtime Cub Anthony Rizzo.
It’s a shrewd pair of pickups for the Yankees, giving them a much-needed shot in the arm in two of their problem areas this season: power and defense. The Yanks, despite a lineup full of veteran sluggers, rank just middle in the pack in the majors in home runs, SLG, and team OPS. Gallo and Rizzo, who’ve combined for 390 career homers, provide two lefty power bats to test the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium. Both are also Gold Glove winners — Rizzo winning three years in a row at first base, Gallo earning right field honors last year — and help a Yankee defense that’s posted -21 Defensive Runs Saved this season, the third-worst mark in the American League.
Gallo and Rizzo made their Yankee debuts this past weekend in Miami, with Rizzo homering twice in their sweep of the Marlins, and now they’ll be donning the pinstripes in front of the home crowd for the first time. I realize it has zero chance of happening, but how hilarious would it be if the Yankees got swept by the lowly Orioles to spoil their much-anticipated homecoming? I would never, ever stop laughing. I’d still be talking about it on my death bed. “Do you all remember when the Yankees played their first home games with Gallo and Rizzo and their fans were all excited and the Orioles just came in and steamrolled them and completely ruined their season? BWAHAHAHAHA!” And then I’d cackle until I croaked.
A guy can dream. More likely, things could get ugly in a hurry for the O’s this week.
Game 1: Monday, 7:05 PM
RHP Jorge Lopez (2-12, 6.19) vs. LHP Andrew Heaney (6-7, 5.27)
Gallo and Rizzo weren’t the only notable Yankee additions at the deadline. They also acquired relievers Clay Holmes from the Pirates and former O’s farmhand Joely Rodriguez from Texas, as well as the veteran lefty starter Heaney, who will be making his Yankees debut tonight. Heaney gives New York some stability in the fifth starter’s slot, where they’d been using a revolving door since losing Corey Kluber to injury.
The 30-year-old Heaney holds a career 30-36 record, 4.57 ERA, and 9.2 strikeout rate in eight seasons, though he’s currently struggling through his worst year since 2017. Despite his long tenure in the bigs, Heaney has never faced any current Orioles except Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander, who are a combined 0-for-8.
For the Orioles, Lopez is coming off a rocky two-inning start against the Marlins, tied for his shortest of the year. He’s winless in his last nine starts and hasn’t even completed five innings in any of his last six outings. Lopez has faced the Yankees three previous times this year already, and — you guessed it — he didn’t win any of those games or complete five innings. The Yanks are hitting .295 with an .847 OPS against him.
Game 2: Tuesday, 7:05 PM
LHP Alexander Wells (1-1, 5.28) vs. Gerrit Cole (10-6, 3.11)
There was a time when a matchup against Gerrit Cole would spell certain doom for the Orioles, or for any team, really. But the Yankees’ high-priced ace has been less dominant of late, and is coming off his worst outing of the season, giving up a season-high seven earned runs against the Rays. Since MLB’s crackdown on foreign substances began June 21, Cole has a 4.87 ERA and .237 batting average against in seven starts, as opposed to a 2.31 ERA and .198 average in his 14 starts beforehand. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’. He faced the Orioles back on April 6, pre-ban, and threw seven shutout innings with 13 strikeouts.
Wells’ first two major league starts have been...fine. Not great, not horrible, just...fine. He’s gone five or more innings and allowed three or four runs in each. In this rotation, that’s enough to earn him a longer audition. The Aussie lefty was a master in the minors at limiting free passes — he had a season at Delmarva in which he walked just 10 batters in 140 innings — but the majors are a different animal; Wells has issued nine walks in his first 15.1 innings.
Game 3: Wednesday, 7:05 PM
RHP Matt Harvey (6-10, 6.20) vs. Jameson Taillon (7-4, 4.11)
Matt Harvey is the best pitcher in baseball right now. Those are words I wouldn’t have expected to type any time after, like, 2015. But in the second half, it’s undeniably true. Harvey has been incredible since the All-Star break, tossing three consecutive outings of six or more scoreless innings, only the fourth Oriole ever to accomplish that feat. It should be noted that his dominance came at the hands of three sub-.500 teams, the Royals, Nationals, and Tigers, so it’ll be no easy feat for Harvey to continue the scoreless streak against a thumping Yankees lineup. Harvey did beat the Yanks earlier this year, though, holding them to one run in six innings in an April 26 victory.
Taillon was the #2 overall pick by Pittsburgh in the 2010 draft, selected in between Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. While he hasn’t lived up to the lofty standards of that pair of superstars, with two Tommy John surgeries slowing his progress, Taillon has done a perfectly fine job in his first year for the Yankees after missing all of 2020 and most of 2019. He began his Yanks career by giving up two runs in 4.2 innings to the Orioles on April 7 but hasn’t faced them since.
How many games will the Orioles win in this series?
This poll is closed
3 (Orioles sweep!)
0 (Orioles get swept)