6/28-6/30 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

Man, late-June series are not supposed to be this important. The Yankees and Orioles are tied in the loss column for second place in the AL East, both three games back of the Red Sox. Needless to say, neither team wants to leave this three-game series any further back than they already are.

What Have They Done Lately?
Baltimore won yesterday and just took two of three from the Indians, but they lost four straight games before that. Like the Yankees, they’ve been playing .500 baseball since early-May. The Orioles are 44-36 with a +17 run differential overall.

At 4.9 runs per game with a team 107 wRC+, Baltimore is the one of the very best offensive teams in baseball. They are without the injured 2B Brian Roberts (153 wRC+), OF Nolan Reimold (51 wRC+), and UTIL Wilson Betemit (hasn’t played this season) at the moment, but apparently Roberts will return some time this weekend. The other two will be out a while longer though.

Davis. (Rob Carr/Getty)

Davis. (Rob Carr/Getty)

The Yankees will have to pick their poison this weekend. Do they pitch around 1B Chris Davis (193 wRC+)? What about 3B Manny Machado (125 wRC+)? Adam Jones (119 wRC+)? OF Nate McLouth (109 wRC+) has stolen 24 bases and has been pretty awesome, you know. SS J.J. Hardy (103 wRC+) and OF Nick Markakis (102 wRC+) have been solid as well. Very tough.

C Matt Wieters (82 wRC+) is in the lineup because of his defense, but he can hit lefties (105 wRC+). IF Alexi Casilla (56 wRC+) and UTIL Ryan Flaherty (62 wRC+) split time at second while 1B Travis Ishikawa (-37 wRC+ in very limited time) and IF Danny Valencia (137 wRC+ in limited time) sub in at DH and the corner infield spots. C Taylor Teagarden (-9 wRC+ in limited time) is the backup backstop, former Yankee Chris Dickerson (98 wRC+) the fourth outfielder. The Orioles have hit the most homers in all of baseball (108) and they’re a top ten team in steals as well (54 wRC+). The Yankees pitching staff will have their hands full this weekend.

Starting Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP David Phelps vs. LHP T.J. McFarland
This spot belonged to former Yankee Freddy Garcia, but he was designated for assignment earlier this week after getting his brains beat in by the Blue Jays. Tonight’s start was expected to go to right-hander Kevin Gausman, but the Orioles changed gears last night and announced McFarland, a Rule 5 Draft pick, would get the ball instead. I have very little doubt manager Buck Showalter made the switch after seeing how much the Yankees struggled against left-hander Derek Holland on Thursday.

Anyway, the 24-year-old McFarland has a 4.14 ERA (3.58 FIP) in 41.1 relief innings this year. His peripheral stats — 7.84 K/9 (19.7 K%), 3.05 BB/9 (7.7 BB%), 0.87 HR/9 (10.3% HR/FB), and 53.8% grounders — are solid, but starting is a different animal than relieving. The southpaw sits in the upper-80s with his four-seamer in relief, so he might be a tick or two below that tonight. A soft upper-70s curveball is his top secondary pitch, and he’ll also throw a low-80s changeup. McFarland’s season high is 4.1 innings and 61 pitches, both of which came five days ago. I’m guessing Showalter will be thrilled with five innings. The Yankees saw McFarland way back in April, when he held the scoreless in two innings of relief.

Britton. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Britton. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Saturday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Zach Britton
Britton, 25, has a 5.51 ERA (5.31 FIP) in three starts after spending most of the year in Triple-A. He has gotten plenty of ground balls (50%), but he’s walked as many men as he’s faced (eight) in 16.1 innings. In parts of three big league seasons, the southpaw owns a 6.16 K/9 (15.6 K%), 3.97 BB/9 (10.1 BB%), 0.78 HR/9 (10.1% HR/FB), and 54.5% grounders. Britton’s low-90s two-seamer is his calling card and the pitch he uses to get all those ground balls. He’ll also throw a straight low-90s four-seamer, with a mid-80s changeup and upper-70s slider representing his two offspeed offerings. The Yankees have seen Britton a few times over the years and have clobbered him pretty much every time (26 runs in 25.1 innings). This is a different lineup now, of course.

Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Chris Tillman
The 25-year-old Tillman is perhaps best remembered for surrendering the base hit that moved Derek Jeter past Lou Gehrig and into the top spot on the Yankees’ all-time hits list. He was a trendy breakout pick this year after a strong second half in 2012, but his 3.72 ERA (5.01 FIP) is backed up by strikeout (7.16 K/9 and 19.1 K%), walk (3.43 BB/9 and 9.2 BB%), homer (1.62 HR/9 and 16.9% HR/FB), and ground ball (38.2%) rates that range anywhere from okay to awful. Tillman uses two fastballs in the low-90s (four-seamer and cutter), and he’ll throw three different offspeed pitches: mid-80s slider, low-80s changeup, and mid-70s curveball. The slider is more of a show-me pitch than anything. The Bombers have seen Tillman plenty of times over the last few years, mostly hitting him hard.

McFarland. (Rob Carr/Getty)

McFarland. (Rob Carr/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Buck Showalter’s relievers are a little beat up at the moment. LHP Troy Patton (4.35 FIP) has pitched in three straight games while LHP Brian Matusz (3.51 FIP) and closer RHP Jim Johnson (3.81 FIP) have both appeared in three of the last four games. RHP Darren O’Day (3.56 FIP) is fresh, ditto RHP Tommy Hunter (4.04 FIP) and RHP Pedro Strop (5.72 FIP). Gausman (5.85 FIP) is the de facto long man.

Outside of Preston Claiborne, the Yankees are in good bullpen shape thanks to Phil Hughes‘ eight-inning effort on Thursday. Remember, they’re carrying eight relievers at the moment because they don’t have the heart to send Ivan Nova back to Triple-A. Here’s our Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage details. Camden Chat is my spot for Orioles coverage.

Categories : Series Preview
  • Eddard

    I think they can take 2/3. BGDP has the 2nd lowest ERA on the club. He’s the most underpaid #2 starter in baseball. He’ll kick us off with a win tonight. They might even be able to sweep if CC does his job. The Os have two LHP going but they’re not good LHP.

    • LK

      “BGDP has the 2nd lowest ERA on the club. He’s the most underpaid #2 starter in baseball.”

      Do you say this because guys like Harvey and Miller don’t qualify since they’re aces?

      • vicki

        feed a feral cat, get what you got coming, LK.

        • LK

          Oh trust me I get it’s a game. I just like playing.

  • DERP

    McFarland is a complete turd. I really hope they can hit him. At least Britton has some talent, so it won’t be quite as embarrassing if the bats can’t hit him on Saturday.

  • trr

    I know it’s June, but we really, really need to win this series.
    Spanky McFarland seems beatable, but the Yanks have seemed to struggle against pitchers they don’t have a history with. Plus, he’s a LHP, automatic trouble for this lineup. Gonna need 3 strong starts from our guys and hope somebody (anybody) steps up, just a little, on offense to alloow us to win 2/3.

  • Darren

    Even though I think the Yankees will turn a corner once we get some guys back, I think the intervening few weeks are goin to continute to be painful. There’s really nobody on the Yankees you expect to turn it around. The best you can hope for is continued good pitching, a bunch of random close victories, and maybe one of the Washed Up Crew will get streakily hot for a minute or two (Vernon, Overbay or Pronk).

    It would be nice if Cano could rise above the utter lack of protection and carry the team for a couple of weeks.

  • DERP

    Sabathia starting for Yankees. Was supposed to start Saturday. That explains #Orioles lineup


  • DERP

    Also this

    Roch Kubatko ?@masnRoch 3m

    Yankees starter tomorrow now TBA. Kuroda still Sunday.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Clearly, they were just resting yesterday to be able to lay a whooping on the Orioles this series.

    • trr

      That be the case, they should score 10 runs tonight.

      • LK

        Technically if they score 2 day’s worth of runs tonight we should expect ~7.

  • Michael

    This clearly means Phelpsie has been traded…. The domino has started to roll….

    • LK

      With the 2013 Yankees, the first assumption should probably be that he’s hurt.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      So where will Stanton bat tonight?

  • Kramerica Industries

    Britton was the guy the Yankees scored, like, nine runs against in the first inning of a game back in July of 2011. That was a doubleheader day. He then shut them thoroughly down on a Sunday in August of that year, on another doubleheader day.

    I don’t remember seeing him at all last year. I think he had TJS or something.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Usually, you don’t see young pitchers in the Orioles’ system for a while because they’re young pitchers in the Orioles’ system.

      • vicki

        crazy talk. they got a regular koufax farm down there.

        • dkidd

          duquette turned their system around by aggressively scouting the amish

          /mo’s got his cutter, but we churn butter

  • Joe

    I would have to say that is a big pet peeve for me is you look at Baltimore’s lineup right now and let’s say the Yankees were healthy this year and producing like the 2012, 2011, and 2010 Yankees team I would still have to take the Orioles lineup. I just feel looking at team record and how many runs scored for a season a team has doesn’t necessarily tell you enough about how efficient a team can be from game to game. I mean the Yankees could be first in runs scored, but they could have a ton of 10 run games which can be covered up just by looking at the total amount of a runs scored a team.

    I mean I could make an argument right now even if the Yankees were healthy and ahead of the Orioles in runs scored I would still prefer Baltimore’s lineup this year. I always felt hitters with great plate coverage have a better baseball IQ than hitters who would prefer to swing for the fences going for the homer and be content with a ton of strikeouts that come with them. Those type of hitters like Granderson or Adam Dun type player I simply don’t have any patience with. That’s why when Cano had a terrible postseason last year, I didn’t really get on him because when you have the type of plate coverage Cano does it becomes more of an indictment of what the pitcher did right as it was what Cano did wrong. When Granderson or Dunn however are terrible I don’t ever give credit to the pitcher not when those hitters have smaller plate coverages compared to a Cano or Allen Craig type hitters. Sure Granderson and Dunn provide offensive value to get on base and all, but to me their approach to be stubborn and be content with the strikeouts in exchange for the homers really gets hitters like that on my bad side.

    When I was growing up watch rallies consisting of 5-6 runs in an inning were fun because so much happened in an inning. Now it’s solo homerun and no contact at bats with the rare rally inning. Sadly so many team along with the Yankees are going to to be accepting of this style and just ignore putting the ball in plate with 2 strikes because they only care about earning contracts impressing with long balls. That’s why a hitter like Tex is overrated offensively and Allen Craig is underrated. You can’t coach a hitter like Granderson to become Cano or Adam Dunn to become Allen Craig and you’ll find more frustration with Dunn and Granderson in my eyes than someone like a Manny Machado who isn’t looking to hit everything to the moon even though enough of those moons during the regular season will cover up doing the simply things hitters like Dunn and Granderson seem all too incapable of doing.

    • vicki

      you know the o’s would commit actual murder for our pitching, right?

      (i should admit i wasn’t up for reading the entirety of your post.)

    • LK

      OK, sounds good. You can have the offense that scores less runs.

  • Bo Knows

    I think Buck did the Yankees a favor not giving them Gausman, yes he’s struggling in his promotion, but this is still a guy with a high 90’s fastball and a changeup that has more movement than a lot of pitchers breaking balls