Game 93: Make It Eleven


Thanks to last night’s win, the Yankees are ten games over .500 for the first time since September 13th, 2013. Yes, I too was surprised to find they were ten games over at one point in 2013. The Yankees haven’t been eleven games over .500 since the preview day, September 12th, and that’s what they’re looking to accomplish tonight. Eleven games over .500 and a bigger lead in the AL East.

Ivan Nova is on the mound tonight and he has been rather uneven since coming back from Tommy John surgery. That’s not really surprising, but it doesn’t make it any more enjoyable to watch. For now, all the elbow reconstruction has done is turn Nova from an inconsistent starter into an inconsistent starter with an excuse. Hopefully he shoves tonight. Here is Baltimore’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    RHP Ivan Nova

It’s a wonderful day for baseball in New York. Clear skies and warm but not super hot. Pretty great. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and you can watch the game on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy, y’all.

Injury Update: Mason Williams (shoulder) is heading to Tampa tomorrow to continue his rehab. He’s been throwing and stuff, and the trip to Tampa usually means the player is ready to really ramp up his workouts. That doesn’t mean minor league rehab games are imminent, but Williams is getting closer.

2016 Draft: MLB announces Competitive Balance Lottery results

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)
(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

Earlier today, MLB announced the Competitive Balance Lottery results for the 2016 Draft. In a nutshell, small market and low payroll teams are given extra draft picks each year for the sake of, ahem, competitive balance. Joey Nowak has a good primer if you’re unfamiliar with the system.

Here are the results from Wednesday’s lottery drawing:

2016 Competitive Ballance LotteryThe Yankees are neither a small market nor a low payroll team, so they weren’t eligible for a Competitive Balance Lottery pick. Haven’t been since the system was implemented a few years ago and won’t be anytime soon. At least the Cardinals didn’t get a pick this year. They have the last few drafts.

Anyway, these Competitive Balance Lottery picks can be traded! Just not during the offseason for some reason. (What a silly system.) The picks can be traded right away — the Astros received a 2015 Competitive Balance Lottery pick from the Marlins at the trade deadline last summer in the Jarred Cosart deal, for example — so that’s more ammo for those teams at the trade deadline.

The Reds (Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman), Athletics (Ben Zobrist, Scott Kazmir, Tyler Clippard), Marlins (Mat Latos, Dan Haren, Martin Prado), and Padres (Ian Kennedy, Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner) are all realistic trade partners for the Yankees prior to the trade deadline, so perhaps the draft picks get involved in a deal somehow. Otherwise this doesn’t have much to do with the Bombers.

Yankees have a favorable second half schedule as they look to run away with the AL East

The Yankees are gonna be here a lot in the second half. (Presswire)

Through the first half of the season, the Yankees played 47 of their 88 games on the road, including a stretch of 32 road games in a 48-game stretch from mid-April through early-June. They had a ten-game road trip and a nine-game road trip within a month and simply didn’t spend much time at home in Yankee Stadium. The Yankees had to endure a lot of travel early on. It’s rough.

“When I looked at the schedule before the season started I saw that, but I didn’t realize how tough it would be until you actually go through it,” said Brett Gardner to Dan Barbarisi recently. “We’ve played a lot of games on the road, I think at one point we played 27 out of 35 games on the road.”

The Yankees made it through that road heavy first half in first place with a four-game lead, and they’ve managed to stretch that lead to 4.5 games early in the second half. FanGraphs gives them an 85.5% of making the postseason, third highest in the AL, and believe it or not they have the best World Series odds in the AL at 13.1%. That’s all based on projection systems and whatnot, so who the hell knows, but damn, that’s cool. Contending is cool.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. It is still only July and a 4.5-game lead isn’t much. One bad week and that lead could evaporate. For the now, the Yankees are focused on extending that lead and running away with a very winnable division. After that grueling first half on the road, the second half schedule is much more favorable, including 40 of 74 games at home. (They’ve already played four of those 40 home games and are 3-1.)

Furthermore, the Yankees don’t play a ton of great teams in the second half. They’re done with the Royals and Angels — they got lucky facing the Angels in the first half, the Halos are currently on a crazy don’t wanna play ’em 16-3 run — and their only remaining interleague series are three-gamers on the road against the Braves (late-August) and Mets (mid-September). The Braves stink but the Mets are kinda good, though knows where they’ll be in two months.

Buster Olney (subs. req’d) did the math recently and found the Yankees have only 18 games against above-.500 teams in the second half, though that is misleading. The Orioles were at .500 and the Blue Jays were a game under at the All-Star break. Games against those teams are never easily regardless of their record, and the Yankees have eight games left against the O’s and 13 left against the Jays. They close the season with three games in Camden Yards.

More important than the opponents in the second half is the sheer number of home games. The Yankees play 16 of 28 games at home in August and 17 of 28 games at home in September. Three of the September road games are at Citi Field, so no travel required. During one stretch from mid-August through late-September the Yankees will play 28 of 43 games at home. After September 1st, the Yankees will not spend more than three straight nights away from New York.

Remember, the Yankees do have an older team, especially on the position player side. Alex Rodriguez turns 40 next week and needs regular days off even as a full-time DH. Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, and CC Sabathia are all on the wrong side of 35. Brian McCann is a 31-year-old catcher with over 10,000 regular season innings on his knees. Even Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury could use time off given how much they use their legs.

On paper, the schedule favors the Yankees in the second half because they play the majority of their games at home and don’t face many good teams outside their division. That’s a good combination. Taking advantage of it is another thing. Remember the series with the Phillies a few weeks ago? No wins are guaranteed. The Yankees have some easy travel down the stretch and it should benefit their older players, not the mention the fact they play much better at home (+40 run differential) than on the road (-12).

“In September, I don’t think we’re gone for more than three or four nights in a row,” added Gardner. “In the position we’re now, if we can keep guys healthy and continue to play well, August and September will hopefully be an advantage for us.”

Scouting The Trade Market: Texas Rangers

Gallardo. (Presswire)
Gallardo. (Presswire)

As the trade deadline draws closer and closer, the Rangers are falling further and further back in the race. They won last night but have lost three of five since the All-Star break and 18 of their last 25 games overall. Yikes. That’s dropped Texas to nine games back in the AL West and six games back of the wildcard spot. FanGraphs gives them the lowest postseason odds in the AL at 3.0%. (The projection systems hate their roster, I guess.)

The Rangers are in neither buy nor sell mode — Evan Grant writes they are in “opportunist” mode, looking for ways to improve the roster. I’m pretty sure that’s a nice way of saying they’re selling. Texas has some awful contracts on the books — it’s a stars and scrubs roster, though several of the stars are playing like scrubs — and not a ton of trade chips, but they do have some rental arms to peddle. Do any make sense for the Yankees? Maybe! Let’s look.

RHP Yovani Gallardo

Gallardo is easily the most marketable rental player on the Rangers, and he’s having quite the walk year: 2.91 ERA (3.68 FIP) with career best ground ball (50.8%) and home run (0.61 HR/9) rates. His walk rate (8.7%) is identical to his career average and his strikeout rate (16.2%) is a career worst. As I noted in the mailbag last week, Gallardo has gradually been trading strikeouts for ground balls over the years (graph doesn’t include his most recent start over the weekend):

Yovani Gallardo K GB

The strikeouts for grounders things is the kind of adjustment you usually see an older pitcher make, not a guy yet to turn 30. It’s weird. Usually a decline in strikeouts is a red flag, but this has been going on so long I have to think it is at least somewhat intentional. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather have the strikeouts than ground outs, but Gallardo has found a way to make it work.

Beyond his performance this year, Gallardo has also been very durable the last few seasons, throwing at least 180 innings each year since 2009. He’s also had a minimal platoon split because of his five-pitch repertoire. There’s a little something for everyone:

% Thrown Avg Velocity Whiff % GB%
Four-Seamer 31.5% 91.7 5.4% (6.9% MLB AVG) 42.4% (37.9% MLB AVG)
Sinker 22.2% 91.7 4.6% (5.4%) 60.2% (49.5%)
Slider 29.0% 88.6 10.3% (15.2%) 48.2% (43.9%)
Curveball 12.6% 80.0 10.6% (11.1%) 61.1% (48.7%)
Changeup 3.9% 86.1 6.8% (14.9%) 54.6% (47.8%)

The swing-and-miss rates are comfortably below-average across the board while the ground ball rates are well-above-average. That fits into the whole “trading strikeouts for grounders” thing. Gallardo’s probably not going to get you a swing-and-miss at key moments — runner on third with less than two outs, etc. — which is an issue and limits him to a mid-rotation guy.

Gallardo played a half-season with CC Sabathia back in 2008, so the Yankees have some access to firsthand knowledge of him as a teammate and a clubhouse guy, though it was a long time ago. People change. At the end of the day, Gallardo is a rental starter pitching well in his walk year because he gets grounders and can neutralize lefties. His durability and affordability ($6.5M through the end of the season) are pluses as well. He’s not Johnny Cueto or David Price, but Gallardo belongs in the second tier of rental starters alongside Scott Kazmir and Jeff Samardzija.

What Would It Take?: Ken Rosenthal says the Rangers are currently listening to offers for Gallardo, for what it’s worth. Considering recent trades involving similar rental pitchers, it appears it will take a package of three pretty good prospects to land Gallardo, or perhaps two prospects with one being a high-end guy. Matt Garza was traded for four prospects two years ago, including Mike Olt, who Baseball America ranked as the 22nd best prospect in the game before the 2013 season. I do think Gallardo is a qualifying offer candidate, so the Rangers have no reason to take back something worth less than a supplemental first round pick. Gallardo’s not going to come as cheap as, say, Mike Leake or Ian Kennedy.

Magic Wandy. (Presswire)
Magic Wandy. (Presswire)

LHP Wandy Rodriguez

The 36-year-old Rodriguez is at the tail end of his career and it’s hard to think he has much trade value. He was released at the end of Spring Training, remember. So far Wandy has a 4.07 ERA (4.12 FIP) in 84 innings with Texas, though both his strikeout (18.3%) and ground ball (41.9%) rates are below-average. Not a good combination! Especially when your walk (8.9%) and homer (0.96 HR/9) rates aren’t great either.

The Yankees already have a version of Wandy Rodriguez on the roster in Chris Capuano. They’re extremely similar as finesse lefties who can soak up some innings and pitch at a slightly below league average rate. Do they really need two guys like that? Nah. Rodriguez doesn’t have much appeal beyond being a warm body who can take a rotation spot in case of injury. I’m sure the Rangers are open to trading him. There’s just not much of a reason for the Yankees to bring Wandy in.

What Would It Take?: Roberto Hernandez, the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona, was traded for two players to be named later last summer. The two players were ranked by Baseball America as the No. 22 (2B Jesmuel Valentin) and No. 29 (RHP Victor Arano) prospects in the Dodgers’ system before the trade, and both were down in rookie ball at the time of the deal. Wandy shouldn’t cost more.

Rua. (Presswire)
Rua. (Presswire)

UTIL Ryan Rua

Off the board? Yep. Fill a need? Potentially! Rua, 25, is a right-handed hitting utility guy with experience at the three non-shortstop infield positions as well as left field. (He came up as a third baseman, primarily.) Most of that experience is in the minors — Rua has only 47 games and 172 plate appearances of big league experience, during which he’s hit .251/.273/.401 (82 wRC+). That includes a 43 wRC+ in 63 plate appearances this year. (He missed two months with a broken bone in his heel.)

The Rangers came into the season expecting to use Rua as the right-handed half of a left field platoon, but his injury threw a wrench into things, and now he is a seldom-used bench player. In fact, he has only 18 plate appearances this month. Rua is a career .291/.368/.476 (121 wRC+) hitter in Triple-A, including .327/.364/.558 (.374 wOBA) against lefties. Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked him as the eighth best prospect in Texas’ system before the season. Here’s a snippet of their scouting report:

Rua is an offensive-oriented prospect who has plus power and can take the ball out of the park to all fields. He starts his swing with a leg kick, keeps his weight back and his head still. Rua can get long to the ball, with some concerns about his ability to hit good offspeed pitches, but his swing is fluid, and he squares up the ball frequently … He’s surprisingly athletic for his body type, though he’s a below-average runner and adequate-at-best defender wherever he goes, making the routine plays at third base with an average arm.

The Yankees are said to be looking for a right-handed bat, which Rua is, though there’s no guarantee he’ll actually hit Major League pitching. He has good minor league numbers, the scouting report is decent enough, and he offers some versatility. As an added bonus, Rua has at least two and possibly all three minor league options remaining. He seems like a potentially useful depth player. Not a star, probably not even a starter, but maybe a platoon bat or a guy off the bench.

Thanks to those minor league options, the Yankees would be able to stick Rua in Triple-A until rosters expand on September 1st, then use him as an extra platoon bat in the final month of the season. He still has five years of team control remaining, though that’s not a huge deal with players like this. What are the odds Rua hangs around long enough to play all five of those years with one team? I dunno, Rua just seems like a possible fit given the team’s positional needs and interest in adding a righty bat.

What Would It Take?: I’m not sure there’s a good way to approximate this. Players like Rua are often traded as part of packages for MLB players — they’re the guys who go to the team that is selling, not the other way around. Juan Francisco was traded for an MLB ready reliever (J.J. Hoover) a few years ago. That’s the best reference trade I can come up with.

Rotation help should be priority, but improving bullpen is a good Plan B


At some point in the next nine days, several starting pitchers are going to be traded in advance of the trade deadline. It’s inevitable. There are a ton of rental starters on the market, so much so that I wonder if teams are going to wait as long as possible for the prices to drop, and as a result we’ll see a flurry of deals right before the deadline next Friday. That would be wild.

The Yankees have a need for rotation help simply because Masahiro Tanaka (elbow), Michael Pineda (workload), and CC Sabathia (knee) aren’t the most reliable group. Nathan Eovaldi and Ivan Nova haven’t set the world on fire either. The Yankees do have five starters, but adding a sixth for depth seems like a smart move to me. Whether that actually happens is another matter.

“Are there available starters that are better? Yes, but the acquisitions cost are certain players that I have no intention of moving at this stage,” said Brian Cashman to Mark Feinsand earlier this week, referring to top prospects like Aaron Judge and Luis Severino. “I would say the smarter play would be to hold off on shooting any of those particular bullets.”

The Yankees could probably land a starter without trading top prospects — guys like Mike Leake, Ian Kennedy, and Mat Latos won’t cost an arm and a leg — but it might not necessarily be a top starter. It’ll just be another warm body for depth, which is fine. There’s no such thing as too much pitching. It’s not too hard to imagine a scenario in which Bryan Mitchell and Chris Capuano are taking regular rotation turns in a few weeks.

If the Yankees can’t land a rotation arm, the alternative could be adding bullpen help, and turning a strength into an even greater strength. The bullpen was supposed to be the backbone of the Yankees coming into the season, and things didn’t really play out that way in April, but the relief crew has fallen into place the last few weeks. That’s usually how it works. It takes a few weeks for guys to find their niche.

Joe Girardi now has five legitimate late-game arms at his disposal in Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Justin Wilson, and Chasen Shreve. Adding to that group seems like overkill but it’s really not, there’s always room for another quality reliever, especially when two bullpen spots belong to the seldom-used Capuano and Brandon Pinder. Bring in another arm and boom, now you’re really talking about a five-inning game.


The big bullpen name leading up to the trade deadline is Craig Kimbrel, who was already traded once this year from the Braves to the Padres. San Diego’s attempt at a quick-fix rebuild failed spectacularly and they are now reportedly looking to shed salary and accumulate prospects. Dealing Kimbrel, who is owed $29M or so through 2017 with an option for 2018, could help them accomplish both. (He’s too good to go in a pure salary dump. Stop dreaming about taking on the contract and getting him for marginal prospects.)

Kimbrel is the best case bullpen trade scenario but far from the only option. The Reds are selling and Aroldis Chapman could be available. So could Joaquin Benoit, Kimbrel’s setup man, though I’ve seen him give up enough backbreaking home runs to scare me away for life. That said, Benoit will be a free agent after the season (assuming his $8M option for 2016 is bought out for $1.5M) and the Yankees did pursue him both two offseasons ago as a free agent and again at the trade deadline last year, so maybe there’s lingering interest. Joakim Soria, Tyler Clippard, Steve Cishek, A.J. Ramos, Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez … the list of potentially available relievers is a mile long.

Point is, if the Yankees are unable to beef up their pitching staff from the front end with another starting pitcher, they can still do it from the back-end with another reliever (or two!). (Trading for a reliever could also lead to “adding” a starter by allowing the Yankees to put Warren back in the rotation.) Shorten the game even further, ask even less from the starters, and take advantage of the bullpen depth. That will be especially true should the Yankees qualify for the postseason given all the scheduled off-days. Girardi would have no issue going to ‘pen after even four innings if necessary because the bullpen would be so deep.

We’re getting way ahead of ourselves with the postseason talk though. For now, the Yankees just need to find ways to improve prior to the trade deadline next Friday, and I think the rotation is the area most in need. The bullpen is towards the bottom of the shopping list, behind second base and a righty bat, but upgrades are upgrades, and in a race this tight, any sort of upgrade is worth making, even if you’re only strengthening an area of depth.

DotF: Refsnyder, Flores double in Triple-A loss

Some roster moves, via Chad Jennings: 2B Rob Refsnyder reported to Triple-A Scranton, so RHP Danny Burawa was demoted to Double-A Trenton to clear a roster spot. Ouch. Also, RHP Eric Ruth was returned to Trenton following yesterday’s spot start and RHP Johnny Barbato has been promoted to Triple-A.

Triple-A Scranton (3-2 loss to Indianapolis, walk-off style)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B
  • RF Jose Pirela: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 SB — went 13-for-25 (.520) during his little six-game hit streak
  • LF Ramon Flores: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 E (both fielding) — first two errors of the season
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K — back with a vengeance
  • DH Greg Bird: 2-3, 1 BB
  • RHP Kyle Davies: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 6/2 GB/FB — 56 of 96 pitches were strikes (58%)
  • RHP Chris Martin: 2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 3/1 GB/FB — 12 of 21 pitches were strikes (57%) … ten straight scoreless inning since the six-run, 1.2-inning disaster last month
  • RHP Nick Goody: 1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 18 of 30 pitches were strikes (60%)

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Brendan Ryan’s RBI double lifts the Yanks past O’s 3-2

If you are in first place, it is always welcoming to beat the second place team. That’s exactly what the Yankees did tonight. Nathan Eovaldi was absolutely dealing for the first four innings but later gave up the 2-0 lead. However, the unlikely heroics of Brendan Ryan and another solid bullpen outing got the Yankees their 51st win of the season and, at this moment, a five game-lead for the AL East.


Early runs

The Yankee offense struck early. From the very first at-bat, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a ground-rule double and scored later on an A-Rod sac fly.

The bottom of second started after a 15-minute rain delay. Brian McCann and Chris Young didn’t waste any time heating things up by hitting back-to-back singles to start the frame. Chase Headley followed it up with an RBI double to score McCann and put two runners on the scoring position. 2-0 Yankees.


At that point, you’d imagine the Yankees would be able to squeeze a run or two more to get a bigger lead to carry through the game. Well, that didn’t happen. Wei-Yin Chen Chen got Didi Gregorius to strike out, Brendan Ryan to pop out and Ellsbury to ground out to get out of the frame without further damage. That’s no bueno against a division rival (or any other team, really) that could make a comeback later in the game.

In the bottom fifth, a bit of bad luck hit the Yanks. With two outs and Brett Gardner at first, Mark Teixeira hit a liner that just got past the diving Travis Snider’s reach. The ball bounced several feet away and … went over the fence! What should have been a two-out RBI double became a two-out ground-rule double that didn’t bring a runner home. The O’s caught a big break here. Chen took advantage with a strikeout of McCann to end the inning.

In the seventh, with one out and A-Rod on first, Teixeira hit another double to bring two runners in the scoring position. Chris Young came at bat after McCann was intentionally walked to load the bases. Now, by then, Chen had been removed from the game – RHP Tommy Hunter was pitching for Baltimore. I had wondered if Joe Girardi would pinch-hit Carlos Beltran in Young’s place but he went with the lefty killer to face a RHP. Well, Hunter struck out Young swinging on the nasty 98 mph fastball on the inside and got Headley to ground out to get out of the inning. So that’s that.

When it was all said and done, the Yankees won. That’s good! They were also 1-for-10 in RISP situations. That’s bad! Imagine how less of a stressful one this could have been if New York managed to squeeze out more runs.


Nasty (for the first four innings) Nate

For the first four innings, Eovaldi was absolutely dealing. His fastball hit triple digits multiple times, his splitters were either inducing weak contacts or swings-and-misses and his location looked pretty nice. He allowed only one hit and a walk in those four innings while striking out four.

Things got dicey for Eovaldi in the fifth. Matt Wieters opened the inning with a walk and J.J. Hardy followed it up with a force out at second. With Snider batting, McCann let a 83mph slider pass under his legs for a wild pitch, putting a runner in the scoring position for the first time in the game. Snider worked a walk on five pitches and on came Jonathan Schoop. The Oriole second baseman kills the Yankees and he did the same for the first two pitches … except they both hooked foul. The second one was literally a few inches away from being an RBI double. Mercifully for the Yankees, Schoop grounded into a force out to Headley. Eovaldi then got Chris Parmelee for another ground out to get out unscathed.

Nasty Nate wasn’t as lucky in the sixth. With one out, he allowed consecutive singles to Jimmy Paredes and Adam Jones. Chris Davis followed it up with a pop out (on a hanging 77 mph curveball, so go figure) to give Eovaldi a better chance to close out the inning… and then Wieters hit a hanging splitter for an RBI base hit. Girardi decided that he saw enough of Eovaldi, sub’d in Justin Wilson for him. And then of course, Wilson gave up another RBI single to J.J. Hardy to wipe away Eovaldi’s win instantly. Wilson avoided further damage.


Fear the ‘stache

As soon as the Yanks gave up the lead, the offense went back to regain it. Wei-Yin Chen got first two outs quickly in three pitches. Didi Gregorius, who showed some bad at-bats earlier today, singled on the first pitch to keep the inning alive.

With Brendan Ryan coming up, however, it seemed to majority of the Yankee fans (and O’s fans, I presume) thought the inning was going to be over soon. Well, guess what? He shattered those expectations (or lack thereof). On the second pitch of the at-bat, Ryan smashed a double down the line to score Gregorius. 3-2 Yankees. The score would not change again for the rest of the match.

Yeah yeah, his mustache looks goofy but if he can deliver hits like these as a Yankee, he could grow the world’s biggest fu-manchu and I could care less.


Holding the lead

Yankees have won three out of four since the All-Star break and all those were one-run games. A major reason for winning close games? A solid bullpen.

Justin Wilson got slapped with a blown save but he managed not to allow another run before Dellin Betances came in to pitch. In the seventh inning, with two outs, the Orioles had Nolan Reimold on second base with Manny Machado batting. The two AL All-Star teammates squared off and Betances won pretty easily – a swinging strikeout on a 2-2 count. Dellin followed that up by pitching a scoreless eighth and making way to the “closer” Andrew Miller.

Andrew Miller is Andrew Miller. He’ll overpower guys and strike some out – that’s exactly what he did against the O’s in the ninth: two ground outs and a three-pitch swinging strikeout. Game over.

Box score, standings, highlights, WPA

Here’s the box score, updated standings, video highlights and WPA:

Source: FanGraphs

Good win, guys. Tomorrow, the Yankees are back at it again versus the Orioles at YS3. Ivan Nova squares off against Kevin Gausman on another weeknight match.