The Bronx turned into a house of horrors, so maybe Oriole Park at Camden Yards will treat the Yankees better. The Bombers enter Yankee Stadium south for a Thursday opener before Saturday night and Sunday matinee starts against the high-flying Birds.
Their Story So Far
Predicted to be easily the worst team in baseball this season, the Orioles have scrambled their way to four wins in six games. They put together a four-game winning streak starting with their second game in the Bronx and carrying through until Wednesday afternoon in Toronto. Now, the lackluster O’s carry a share of the AL East division lead into their home opener, trying to take another series from the Yankees.
Alex Cobb is back for the home opener, so that leaves just Mark Trumbo (knee, 60-day IL) and Austin Wynns (oblique, 10-day IL) as the only fallen Birds.
Changing it up with the previews and going to the starters first. The Orioles haven’t announced starters for Saturday and Sunday yet, though Dylan Bundy will assuredly start and Andrew Cashner or David Hess should take the other game.
A late spring groin injury scratched Cobb from Opening Day honors, but the right-hander is back in time to face the Bombers at Camden Yards. His 2018 was disastrous in large part due to a late start. The former Rays starter missed almost all of Spring Training waiting in free agency and didn’t sign until March 21. He pitched to a 13.11 ERA in three April starts, setting the tone for an awful first half in which he went 2-12 with a 6.41 ERA.
Cobb, however, rebounded in a big way in the second half, looking like the changeup-heavy pitcher he was before. Before a blister issue limited him to two innings and four pitches in his final two starts, respectively, he pitched six innings and allowed two or fewer runs in six of seven outings, including two representative outings against the Yankees.
The 31-year-old relies upon his sinker and split-fingered changeup, mixing in a fair number of curves as well. Thanks to the changeup, he has historically had reverse splits and 2018 was no exception, something a healthy Yankees lineup could punish. His groin injury and this being his first start of the year, he’ll likely be limited in his pitch count.
Saturday (7:05 PM ET): J.A. Happ (vs. Orioles) vs. TBD
I’d expect Dylan Bundy to get the call in this start after Nate Karns as an opener started Wednesday. Bundy labored through 11 outs in his first start of the year, an Orioles win thanks to southpaw John Means’ strong relief. The right-hander, however, struggled with control by issuing five walks. He loaded the bases twice, getting out of it once while Means allowed his inherited runners to score in the other case. Still, Bundy fanned seven Yankees, including two punchouts of Aaron Judge.
Bundy is highly susceptible to the long ball, particularly with his home games at OPACY. Still, his normal strikeout and walk rates are passable and make him the most promising starter in the O’s rotation. Bundy, 26, had a 17.3 K-BB% last season and, outside of opening week this year, generally avoids free passes.
Miguel Andujar and Giancarlo Stanton accounted for three of the seven baserunners against Bundy on Sunday, so he’ll be facing a very different lineup this time around.
Sunday (1:05 PM ET) Domingo German (vs. Orioles) vs. TBD
You probably remember Cashner’s start on short rest from Opening Day, so I’ll give you the lowdown on David Hess, who allowed no hits over 6 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays in his first start. Of course, the Orioles bullpen couldn’t finish the no-hitter, blowing it two batters later.
Hess has faced the Yankees twice before, allowing home runs to Aaron Hicks and Luke Voit in an otherwise fine five-inning start last season. The other outing came on Opening Day, when he had two scoreless innings of relief.
The 25-year-old righty is generally allergic to groundballs, allowing a fair number of balls in the air. His pitches has jumped two mph from 2018 to 2019 in a small sample and he generally works with a 94-mph four-seamer and a low-80s slider. Here’s what the slider can look like:
The Yankees are trotting out two left-handed starters this series, so let’s project a lineup designed to face southpaws (Note: I’d post their statlines and wRC+, but we’re six games in):
- Jonathan Villar, 2B
- Dwight Smith Jr., LF
- Trey Mancini, RF
- Renato Nunez, DH
- Rio Ruiz, 3B
- Joey Rickard, CF
- Chris Davis, 1B
- Jesus Sucre, C
- Richie Martin, SS
Davis will likely sit against either Paxton or Happ with Rule 5 pick Drew Jackson shifting into the outfield and Mancini to first base. Sucre has gotten almost all the playing time behind the plate while center fielder Cedric Mullins, a lefty, should start on Sunday at least.
As Mike pointed out, this team has one player you’d expect to be above-average at the plate (Mancini). The veteran Villar could be a positive contributor and the rest are young, Rule 5 picks (Martin is the other) or downright bad.
New manager Brandon Hyde has been flexible in deploying his relievers at any point in the game, so he’ll likely have his best pitcher, Mychal Givens, in during the highest-leverage spot, or whenever Judge is due up. He hasn’t pitched since throwing 49 pitches (!) Sunday, so he should be fresh if that didn’t injure him.
With Wednesday’s opener game, Jimmy Yacabonis and former Yankee farmhand Matt Wotherspoon each tossed two innings while Richard Bleier got five outs on 14 pitches. That leaves Miguel Castro, Paul Fry and Means ready to go for the opener and, with Friday’s off-day, the rest of the bullpen should be fresh for the weekend.
Basically every pitcher gave the Yankees trouble last weekend, though Givens is certainly the pitcher with the best track record.
Questions for the Weekend
Can the Yankees finally catch a break?
This one is simple, but can the Yankees do what they’re supposed to do, win a series against a bad team and not lose another player in the process? And can someone other than Judge, LeMahieu and Ottavino step up?
Who looks like a keeper on the Orioles?
Fun idea to muse upon: Which of these O’s will be on the next good Baltimore team? Maybe Mancini and then who knows? I’m a sucker for a Rule 5 pick, so I want to see more and more of Martin and Jackson to see if one of them could be anything. They didn’t impress in the first series.