It hasn’t been long since we last previewed a Yankees-Orioles series, so not much has changed since then. But we’ll take a look anyway, if for no other reason than to examine the altered pitching matchups.
There aren’t many differences in terms of numbers, though I’d expect they wouldn’t change drastically during just two series. The Yankees obviously have fallen a bit on offense, and actually saw their FIP rise, almost certainly because of A.J.’s homer-happy Friday. Yet overall their runs per game did decrease.
The Orioles might have a new manager, but that hasn’t changed the team. Some teams go on a run after changing the man at the helm, but those teams are usually better than these Orioles. It’s not like changing one administrative figure — to someone who was already within the organization, at that — will turn around a disappointing team. Some of their guys might come around this year. Adam Jones might start hitting and Brad Bergesen might start pitching well. But changing from Dave Trembley to Juan Samuel isn’t going to accomplish that overnight.
Tuesday: Phil Hughes (2.54 ERA, 2.85 FIP) vs. Kevin Millwood (4.29 ERA, 4.71 FIP)
Phil Hughes has faced only one other team two times, the Red Sox, and got hit pretty hard the second time around. By then it looked like the scouting report on him got out, and the Red Sox took advantage by fouling off a ton of pitches. The Mets did the same in Hughes’s next appearance. He did recover in the next, striking out eight Indians in seven innings and then striking out seven Orioles in seven. Will the O’s respond like the Sox?
It’s doubtful, if only because the O’s offense doesn’t hold a flame to the Sox. But it might not be as easy going for Hughes this time around. It’s one thing to face a team for the second time. It’s another to face them six days apart. It’s tough to pick against Phil Hughes against a team like the O’s, but this could be a tough one for him.
On the other end, Millwood has been not so good lately. He did get off to a decent start, giving the Orioles length while keeping the games reasonably close. In three of his last five outings, though, he has allowed five or more runs. His shortest was last time out against the Yanks, in which he lasted 5.2 innings. It’s clear that the Orioles will let him keep going even when he’s getting hit hard. They don’t have many better options in the bullpen.
Wednesday: CC Sabthia (4.14 ERA, 4.53 FIP) vs. Chris Tillman (2 GS, 7 IP, 6 ER)
CC will be the story tomorrow — I’m sure we’ll have something on him in the morning. This season just hasn’t been right for him. He started off strong, but in May he’s faded a bit. This all seems odd, because he’s getting more ground balls and hitters are squaring up pitches poorly (13.1% line drive rate), but when they do hit it in the air the ball has tended to leave the park. This signals a few mistakes, or perhaps less than perfect command. Whatever the problem, it’s left CC off to what looks like a poor start, but what has really been a bad month.
We saw that at work against the Orioles last time out. Sabathia essentially made two mistakes all game, the homers to Jones and Scott. They were costly, though. As I said in the recap, he was absolutely cruising through the first six innings. He was even on pace for a complete game. Yet he appeared to tire in the seventh. Even though he was under 100 pitches, he didn’t come out for the eighth. That does seem a bit concerning.
Tillman, who came to the Orioles in the Erik Bedard trade, is one of the more promising young arms in their system. They demoted David Hernandez to the bullpen in order to clear a rotation spot for Tillman, and he hasn’t yet stepped up to the challenge. While his first start against Toronto went fine enough, the Red Sox absolutely rocked him last time out, scoring four runs and racking up 57 pitches with one out in the second. He’s a talented pitcher, so he surely has a few good games in his arm. It would be a shame to have one of them come this week.
Thursday: A.J. Burnett (3.72 ERA, 4.18 FIP) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (3.71 ERA, 4.40 FIP)
Burnett thought he pitched well on Friday night. Except, of course, for those three homer balls he hung. They do happen, especially when a power pitcher meets a power-hitting team. This time he gets a chance against the Orioles, who likely won’t go as homer happy as the Jays. Burnett continues to show improvements over last year, walking fewer batters while keeping more balls on the ground. His strikeout rate is still far below the standard he’s set, but that will change as his curveball improves.
Jeremy Guthrie has faced the Yanks twice this year, and each time they’ve hammered him. In 11.2 innings he has allowed 11 runs and struck out just six. He put together a nice string of quality starts since then, his worst coming on May 30 against Toronto in which he allowed four in six innings. Before that he went three straight starts with allowing just one run. His last start against Boston was a 7.1-inning affair in which he threw just 95 pitches. That’s very un-Guthrie-like. He normally gets around or above the 100-pitch mark by the sixth.