9/9-9/12 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Despite yesterday’s walk-off win, the first four games of this incredibly important eleven-game stretch have been a disaster. The Yankees are now off to Baltimore for another four-game series after four nightmarish games against the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium. Needless to say, they can’t afford to get smacked around like that again. This is a huge series for both teams.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Orioles lost yesterday but otherwise took three of four from the White Sox over the weekend. They lost two of three in three straight series prior to that, all against teams in the playoff hunt (Red Sox, Yankees, Indians). Manager Buck Showalter’s team comes into this series with a 76-66 record and a +45 run differential, two back of the Rays and one up on the Yankees in the second wildcard race.

Although they aren’t as deep and relentless as the Boston lineup, the Orioles are one of the best offensive teams in baseball with an average of 4.7 runs per game and a team 102 wRC+. It is a lineup full of hackers through, with a team 6.7% walk rate that is the lowest in the AL. You don’t need to attack the zone to beat them. Baltimore’s only two injured position players are OF Nolan Reimold (51 wRC+) and former Yankee OF/1B Steve Pearce (92 wRC+). Neither will return this series.

(Mitchell Layton/Getty)

(Mitchell Layton/Getty)

Showalter’s lineup revolves around three guys: 1B Chris Davis (173 wRC+), CF Adam Jones (125 wRC+), and 3B Manny Machado (108 wRC+). Davis has only hit two homeruns in his last 16 games, but don’t let that fool you. He can go deep at a moment’s notice. DH Danny Valencia (163 wRC+ in limited time) has done some mighty fine platoon work while SS J.J. Hardy (103 wRC+) and OF Nate McLouth (103 wRC+) have been solid as well. OF Mike Morse (86 wRC+ overall) hasn’t done a whole lot since coming over from the Mariners.

Neither OF Nick Markakis (84 wRC+) nor C Matt Wieters (87 wRC+) is hitting like expected. 2B Brian Roberts (83 wRC+) and UTIL Wilson Betemit (-100 wRC+ in very limited time) have part-tie roles. The Orioles didn’t screw around with September call-ups; Showalter has a nine-man bench that includes C Chris Snyder, C Steve Clevenger, IF Alexi Casilla, IF Ryan Flaherty, IF Jonathan Schoop, OF Henry Urrutia, and former Yankee OF Chris Dickerson. The O’s lead baseball (by a lot) with 197 homers.

Starting Pitching Matchups

Monday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Chris Tillman
Tillman, 25, was an undeserving All-Star (over Hiroki Kuroda) because of his sexy win-loss record earlier this summer, but he has been legitimately above-average in the second half (3.26 ERA and 3.77 FIP) after a blah first half (3.95 ERA and 4.94 FIP). He’s sitting on a 3.71 ERA (4.53 FIP) overall in 28 starts this year with good but not great strikeout (7.53 K/9 and 20.3 K%) and walk (3.24 BB/9 and 8.7 BB%) rates and awful ground ball (38.7%) and homer (1.41 HR/9 and 14.0% HR/FB) rates. Tillman works primarily off a low-90s four-seamer but will also mix in the occasional low-90s cutter. A low-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball are his top two offspeed pitches, though he’ll also throw a handful of mid-80s sliders in each start. He doesn’t have much of a platoon split this year. The Yankees have seen plenty of Tillman over the years and they usually crush him. He’s had one good (two runs in six innings) and one not so good (five runs in 5.1 innings) start against New York this year.

Gonzalez. (Rob Carr/Getty)

Gonzalez. (Rob Carr/Getty)

Tuesday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez
The 29-year-old Gonzalez has been decent (3.98 ERA and 4.41 FIP) in 24 starts (and two relief appearances) this year after breaking out with a 3.25 ERA (4.38 FIP) in his big league debut last summer. He is getting a few more grounders (40.1%) in 2013 but otherwise his peripherals are almost entirely unchanged: 6.43 K/9 (17.1 K%), 2.88 BB/9 (7.7 BB%), and 1.22 HR/9 (11.6% HR/FB). Gonzalez uses low-90s two and four-seamers to set up his wipeout low-to-mid-80s split-changeup hybrid, which is a true put-away pitch. He’ll also throw mid-80s sliders and upper-70s curves. He doesn’t have a platoon split thanks to the split-change. Gonzalez completely dominated the Yankees up until last weekend, when they hung seven runs on him in four innings. Their approach in that game seemed to be to swing early in the count to prevent him from using the split-change, so we’ll see if that’s how they attack this time around.

Wednesday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Scott Feldman
Feldman, 30, has been a nice little pickup for the Orioles and solid (3.54 ERA and 3.76 FIP) in 26 starts overall this season. He’s all about getting grounders (49.9%) and limiting walks (2.53 BB/9 and 6.8 BB%) and homers (0.79 HR/9 and 9.3% HR/FB). Strikeouts (6.46 K/9 and 17.3 K%) aren’t really his thing. Feldman is basically a three-pitch pitcher: low-90s sinker, upper-80s cutter, and mid-70s curveball. He doesn’t use his mid-80s changeup all that often and like most of his rotation mates, he doesn’t have a platoon split. Feldman held the Yankees to one run in seven innings last time out and they’ve faced him a bunch of times in recent years while he was with the Rangers.

Thursday: LHP David Huff vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen
An oblique injury has limited Chen, 28, to just 19 starts this season. He’s been rock solid (3.82 ERA and 4.04 FIP) with a good walk rate (2.65 BB/9 and 7.2 BB%) and tolerable homer rate (1.01 HR/9 and 8.9% HR/FB). The Taiwanese-born southpaw has seen both his strikeout (6.32 K/9 and 17.2 K%) and ground ball (33.9%) totals drop big time this year. Chen’s five-pitch arsenal includes low-90s two and four-seamers, a mid-80s changeup, a low-80s slider, and a low-70s curveball. He doesn’t use the curve all that much but will throw the other four pitches regularly. Chen has a nice-sized platoon split — he’s held lefties to a .268 wOBA while righties have tagged him for a .331 wOBA — and the Yankees got to him for three runs and five walks in four laborious innings last weekend.

Remember this nonsense last weekend? (Rich Schultz/Getty)

Remember this nonsense last weekend? (Rich Schultz/Getty)

Bullpen Status
None of Showalter’s core late-game relievers were used yesterday but all have worked a lot of late. Closer RHP Jim Johnson (3.73 FIP) has pitched three of the last five days, RHP Tommy Hunter (3.70 FIP) has appeared twice in the last four days, and RHP Darren O’Day (3.62 FIP) threw two innings on Saturday. Opening Day starter RHP Jason Hammel (5.07 FIP) is working out of the bullpen now following an elbow strain. He threw two innings yesterday.

LHP Brian Matusz (3.07 FIP) is the team’s go-to southpaw while RHP Kevin Gausman (4.56 FIP) handles long relief assignments. RHP Francisco Rodriguez (3.71 FIP), LHP Troy Patton (4.48 FIP), and LHP T.J. McFarland (3.72 FIP) get the call in the middle innings. Again, the Orioles didn’t screw around with September call-ups. They’re carrying an eleven-man bullpen at the moment. RHP Steve Johnson and RHP Josh Stinson fill out the rest of the reliever staff.

The Yankees have a bullpen mess on their hands right now. Mariano Rivera threw two innings and 35 pitches yesterday. Both David Robertson (shoulder) and Boone Logan (biceps, forearm) are out with injuries. Shawn Kelley threw an inning yesterday after missing a week with a triceps problem. There are currently 13 relievers on the roster, but fewer than that are actually available tonight and even fewer are actually trustworthy. Like I said, a bullpen mess. Check out out Bullpen Workload page for the usage details and then check out Camden Chat for the latest on the O’s.

Categories : Series Preview


  1. Cuso says:

    Morse looks like he’s wearing a “moo-moo” in that picture

  2. Darren says:

    Hopefully we can sweep this series behind another solid outing from CC, a rebound from Nova, continued sharp pitching from Andy, and maybe we can outslug the O’s with Huff starting. Despite the doom and gloom, we can go 2-2 or even 1-3 and STILL be in the hunt, but obviously time will run out at some point, so it would be good to at least chip away one game over the next four days.

  3. Eddard says:

    I don’t like these match ups at all. You’ve got two Yankee killers(Gonzalez and Feldman) going in two of the games and two more Yankee killers(CC and Huff) going in the other games. If Nova and Andy can win they’ll be able to split. I think the Sox gave the Os the blueprint to beat Nova – Lay off the curve in the dirt and force him to throw the curve for a strike or make him a one pitch pitcher.

    • I'm One says:

      What kind of post is this from someone that voted a “10″ in the confidence poll? I liked your Lewis and Clark post from this morning better. This post is rejected. Please try again.

      • mustang (The Has Beens & Wannabes Bunch 2013) says:


        But asking the man to try and repeat what could be the number 1 posting of all time is asking a lot.

        Eddard’s Lewis and Clark posting has set the bar so high that even he can’t reach it.

    • MannyGeee says:

      I would argue that the Red Sox are far and away a better hitting team than the Os… and as Mike mentioned above, the Os are ‘hack-tastic’. That bodes well for a guy like Nova.

  4. SDB says:

    I’ll be optimistic given how CC’s pitched in his last couple of starts. Given that the bullpen’s an absolute mess right now, I’m glad he’s starting as one guy still capable of going 7 or so innings.

    • I'm One says:

      And the offense showed significant signs of life, so if he can hold the Fightin’ Showalters to 3 or 4 over those 7 innings, they’ve got a shot.

  5. Ray says:

    LHP Chris Tillman should be “RHP Chris Tillman”

  6. Vern Sneaker says:

    Maybe Cashman can get Sacajawea for the bullpen.

  7. Robinson Tilapia says:

    We’re angry. We’re ready. We’re going to fuck them with their own heads in four games. RRAAAAAARGH.

  8. ropeadope says:

    Key base running blunder by embedded Yankee Chris Dickerson bottom 9th yesterday.

  9. JGYank says:

    NEED to sweep so we can keep up with the Rays/Indians and help knock the Os out of the race. I think KC is right on our ass as well now. The offense should do just fine against the Os pitching especially after the how well they did during the RS series. This series is all going to come down to our pitching and if we can hold down their lineup which thankfully isn’t as good as Boston’s is and doesn’t have any clones of Davis. If not Eddard needs to comment more often so we can at least have something to look forward to.

  10. dkidd says:

    bodymore, murderland

    time for cc to re-up

  11. Darren says:

    So, considering we’re still in the heat of a pennant race and it’s almost mid-September, I’m wondering if all of the people who wanted the Yankees to sell off Kuroda, Cano, and the rest (hell, even Mike explored the idea of getting rid of Mo) think that buying/standing pat was the right decision?

    Or is it only the right decision if they make the playoffs?

    Cause for me, I hate that we just lost 3 of 4 to Boston, but I LOVE the fact that we made a run with Alfonso leading the charge, and that tonight means something, and most likely this will go down til the bitter, exciting end.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      “Or is it only the right decision if they make the playoffs?”

      Hindsight is the greatest friend an armchair GM could ever have.

    • JGYank says:

      I think buying was the right decision knowing that we would get guys back from the DL and seeing how close we are to a playoff spot but we had to do more than get Soriano. This team could have used another upgrade or two and we could have been in a playoff spot right now if we had improved the team more.

    • Improbable Island's Dirty Midget Whores (formerly RRR) says:

      Yes, I think we should have sold and still do think that. If we make the playoffs, then I was wrong. Pretty much it. But I’ll stand by it.

  12. mustang (The Has Beens & Wannabes Bunch 2013) says:

    The best I can see them doing is going 6-4 on this road trip which would put them at 82-71by this time next week. After that they have 9 games vs. the Giants, Rays, and Houston, which I can see 7-2 so that gets to 89-73.
    Not sure if that’s enough.

  13. Frank says:

    The most interesting thing in this series for me is finding out what the O’s organization presents Mo with for his retirement. With Buck knowing Mo from when he was in the minors, I’m betting it’ll be something pretty cool. Otherwise, I think Yanks will be fortunate to get a split.

  14. I'm One says:

    Unless, of course, ya know, you just happen to be interested in the playoff implications of this series. Then the games themselves would be the most interesting part of this series.

  15. Kiko Jones says:

    Yes, they were painful losses but it’s not like the Yankees got “smacked around”: they were on the losing end of a mutual slugfest. And they stayed exactly the same in the WC standings, to boot. It could’ve been MUCH worse.

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