Yankeemetrics: Dingers, runs, wins, oh my! (June 9-11)

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Well, that was a fun series, eh? As we like to say here at River Ave. Blues … Love. This. Team.

Just getting warmed up…
Friday’s game began as a pitchers duel but turned into an easy victory for the Yankees, who scored six runs in the final three innings after entering the sixth deadlocked at 2-2 with the Orioles.

Aaron Hicks provided the power boost, clobbering two home runs. Only three other Yankee centerfielders have ever had a multi-homer game against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium: Bernie Williams (1996), Mickey Mantle (1960) and Joe DiMaggio (four times, when they were known as the St. Louis Browns). #YankeeLegends

Starlin Castro also got a free trot around the bases with his 10th homer of the season in the second inning. Combined with Hicks reaching the double-digit mark, that made the Yankees the first major-league team to have five players with 10-plus homers in 2017. In case you were wondering, the Red Sox didn’t have a single player with 10 homers through Friday.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Holy Sweet Sixteen
Friday’s 8-2 win was a nail-biter compared to the 16-3 shellacking that the Yankees put on the Orioles Saturday night. The offensive numbers were mind-boggling – 18 hits, seven singles, six doubles, five homers – but perhaps the most impressive part was how productive the lineup was from top to bottom.

Five different players had at least two hits, including a homer, and drove in multiple runs. It was just the third time in franchise history they had five guys do that in the same game. The first time was a 23-2 win on June 28, 1939 against the Philadelphia A’s, and the other instance was July 22, 2007 in a 21-7 win over the Devil Rays.

In a yet another example of how different this team is compared to last year, the Yankees have become the Blowout Kings of baseball in 2017. Saturday’s win was their major-league-leading 18th victory by at least five runs; Last year they had 17 wins by five-plus runs the entire season.

Aaron Judge kicked off the offensive explosion with a laser shot in the first inning that left the bat at an otherwordly 121.1 mph, the fastest base hit ever record by Statcast (which began in 2015). He added a scorching 116-mph two-run double in the fifth inning, making him the only player in the Statcast Era with multiple hits of 116 mph or more in the same game.

Gary Sanchez capped off the Yankees unreal power-hitting performance with a bullet line-drive homer in the eighth inning that had an exit velocity of (a mere) 115 mph and a launch angle of 15 degrees. That was the hardest-hit homer in Sanchez’s career, and matched Justin Smoak (on May 14) for the lowest launch angle of any home run hit this season.

With Sanchez’s 115-mph longball and Judge’s 121-mph longball, they became the first set of teammates in the Statcast Era to hit homers of 115-mph or more in the same game. Yea, Baby Bombers.

Amidst all the fireworks, it was easy to forget Luis Severino delivering yet another ace-like performance. Let’s take a look at Severino’s last five starts: 33 1/3 innings, 1.35 ERA, 37 strikeouts, eight walks. That’ll do.

He has at least seven strikeouts and no more than two earned runs allowed in each game, becoming the third right-handed pitcher to put together a streak of five such starts in Yankees history. The others were pretty good: Roger Clemens in 2001 and Mike Mussina in 2003.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

#TooManyRuns
In Sunday’s 14-3 rout, the Yankees ‘statistically’ may not have topped their offensive numbers from Saturday, but that didn’t keep them from obliterating the record books.

We need bullet points, just the facts, because recapping these ridiculous feats don’t require fancy words. First, the team perspective. This is the …

  • First time ever the Yankees have scored at least eight runs and hit multiple homers in five straight games.
  • Second time in franchise history they hit at least three homers in four straight games. The 1956 team also did it July 27-30.
  • Second time ever the Yankees have won five straight games, each by six or more runs. The 1938 team holds the record with an 8-game streak.
  • Fifth time in franchise history they’ve outscored their opponents by at least 46 runs in a five-game stretch. The others were in 2007, 1939, 1938 and 1937.
  • Ninth time that a Yankees squad has a run differential of plus-115 or better at the 60-game mark. They won the World Series in each of the previous eight seasons this happened (1998, 1953, 1939, 1937, 1936, 1932, 1928, 1927). So you’re telling me there’s a chance?

Before we get to Mr. Judge, let’s heap some praise on El Gary Sanchez. He broke the game open with a three-run 450-foot bomb in the first inning to make it 5-0, the longest homer of his career. It was also his 30th home run in the big leagues, a milestone that only three other players in major-league history reached as quickly as Sanchez did (in his 90th game): Rudy York, Mark McGwire and Jose Abreu.

Judge takes center stage now, as we put into perspective his four-hit, four-run, two-homer performance, which included a ho-hum 495-foot blast that CLEARED THE BLEACHERS in left-center at Yankee Stadium.

  • He is the third Yankee age 25 or younger to have at least four hits, two homers and four runs scored in a game. You might have heard of the others: Mickey Mantle (1956), Joe DiMaggio (1937) and Lou Gehrig (1928, 1929).
  • The only other Yankees in their age-25 season or younger to hit 20-plus homers before the All-Star Break (since 1933) are Roger Maris (1960), Mantle (three times, lol), and DiMaggio (1937). Yup, we’re still more than a month away from the break.
  • He’s just the fifth Yankee – regardless of age – to hit 21 or more homers in the team’s first 60 games. This list is good: A-Rod (2007), Maris (1961*), Mantle (1956) and Babe Ruth (six times, LOL).
  • His 495-foot home is the longest in baseball this season and the longest by an American League player since Statcast began tracking distances in 2015. The only longer one in MLB was a 504-foot shot by Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton on August 6, 2016.

And, oh by the way, he’s currently leading the AL Triple Crown categories after Sunday’s slate. The only Yankees to win the Triple Crown are a couple fellas with the last name of Mantle (1956) and Gehrig (1934).

6/9 to 6/11 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

Trey Mancini after a walk-off (Rob Carr/Getty Images North America)
Trey Mancini after a walk-off (Rob Carr/Getty Images North America)

After taking two of three from the Red Sox, the Yankees close out their two weeks in the AL East with a three-game set against the Baltimore Orioles. The O’s sit 3.5 back (four in the loss column) and are in third place.

The Last Time They Met

Long time, no see, eh? Yankees faced the Orioles just a week and a half ago, losing two of three starting on Memorial Day.

  • Jordan Montgomery struggled through the first game, needing 34 pitches to finish the first inning. He gave up three runs in five innings and the Yankees fell, 3-2, despite another home run from Aaron Judge.
  • Brett Gardner and Matt Holliday each hit two home runs and the Bombers rode 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball from Luis Severino to an 8-3 victory. Severino lowered his ERA to 2.93 and struck out eight.
  • Masahiro Tanaka was tagged for seven runs and the Orioles took the series finale, 10-4, with eight RBI between Adam Jones and Chris Davis.

Be sure to check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post from the set at OPACY.

Since They Last Met

  • The O’s split a four-game set at Camden Yards with the Red Sox, winning the first two before losing the final pair.
  • They then swept a pair at home with the Pirates in dramatic fashion. They came back from 4-1 down, 5-3 in the 9th inning, on Tuesday thanks to a game-tying two-run shot from Jonathan Schoop and a 10th-inning walk-off single from Mark Trumbo.
  • The next night, Tony Watson blew another save (with the help of old friend Johnny Barbato) and the Orioles won despite being down to their last out. Trey Mancini did the honors with a game-tying two-run homer in the 9th and a three-run shot in the 11th to win it.
  • The O’s lost a makeup game with the Nationals, 6-1, in Washington on Thursday. They struck out 15 times.
  • They’ve called up veteran RHP Edwin Jackson and former Scranton RailRider Ruben Tejada, replacing LHP Donnie Hart and SS Paul Janish on the roster.

Injury Report

Big injury news with Baltimore: Third baseman Manny Machado suffered a strained left wrist, which caused him to sit out Thursday’s loss to the Nationals. He took a spike from Andrew McCutchen to the wrist on Wednesday and had to leave the game early. For more on the injury, check out the Baltimore Sun.

In his place, the Orioles put Davis at third on Thursday. He avoided making any errors, but his replacement at first, Trumbo, wasn’t so lucky.

Zach Britton is still on the DL and won’t be back during this series. Utility man Ryan Flaherty (right shoulder strain) is still on shelf and could return soon. Starting catcher Welington Castillo is still on the DL after a ball deflected off Didi Gregorius‘s foot on a HBP into Castillo’s groin area. Yikes. Get well soon, Wellington.

Lineup We Might See

With Machado out on Thursday, the O’s put together a weird lineup while in a National League park. Jones also got a day off. Buck Showalter always mixes up his lineups depending on opposing pitchers, platoons, etc. He’ll face an extra question mark with Machado’s health.

Here’s something resembling what Showalter will throw at Montgomery on Friday.

1. Joey Rickard, LF
2. Adam Jones, CF
3. Mark Trumbo, RF
4. Trey Mancini, DH
5. Chris Davis, 1B
6. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
7. Caleb Joseph, C
8. J.J. Hardy, SS
9. Ruben Tejada, 3B

Against RHPs, he tends to take out Rickard and move Seth Smith into the leadoff spot, playing RF. If Machado’s healthy, the lineup Domenic wrote up in last week’s Series Preview is a pretty good idea of what it’ll look like. Heck, you should read his piece regardless.

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Friday (7:35 PM EST): LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. RHP Dylan Bundy

These are literally the same three pitching matchups as we saw in Baltimore last week, so I won’t bore you with the details on each pitcher, referring you again to Domenic’s terrific work on that series preview. Instead, let’s look at each of the three O’s last time out.

After holding the Yankees to two runs on Memorial Day, Bundy was a little shaky in a 5-2 loss to the Red Sox on Saturday. He allowed just two runs in five innings but wasn’t very economical, needing 100 pitches to get through the frames. A 31-pitch fourth inning did him in. He gave up a two-run homer to Hanley Ramirez in that inning. Still, he allowed just five baserunners, but long at-bats were his downfall.

Saturday (7:15 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. RHP Chris Tillman

Tillman was battered by the Yankees for five runs last Tuesday, including three home runs. He didn’t get much better results come Sunday against the Red Sox.

He lasted six innings this game but earned a loss with five runs (three earned). He put 10 Boston hitters on base, four with walks, and allowed a home run to Andrew Benintendi. Believe it or not, his 43 game score was actually his best performance since his May 19 start vs. the Twins. He’s allowed at least three earned runs in every start since his season debut on May 7.

Sunday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. RHP Kevin Gausman

Thirteen Yankees got on base vs. Gausman last Wednesday, yet he held them to three runs (two earned) while beating Tanaka. He had a better outing with superior control on Monday.

Facing the Pirates, he gave up four runs in 6 2/3 innings, although he was better than that line makes him seem. The Pirates strung together three runs in the second while Gausman scattered eight hits over his outing. He walked just one and struck out five. He was in line for the loss until the Orioles’ late-game heroics.

The Bullpen

They needed three innings from Ubaldo Jimenez and one inning from Richard Bleier on Thursday night. It was Bleier’s second straight night of work (just two pitches on Wednesday). They needed work from their two other long relievers, Jackson and Mike Wright, on Wednesday while Brad Brach and Mychal Givens each pitched both games vs. the Pirates.

Yankees Connection

Vidal Nuno is down in the minors, but there’s still Buck Showalter, Bleier and Davis, the latter who was a former Yankees draft pick who didn’t sign.

But there’s a new one with Tejada, who spent spring training with the Yankees and was in Triple A Scranton until he was traded to the Orioles last week.

Who (Or What) to Watch?

The big thing to watch will be Machado. If he comes back, will he be at full health? If not, how will the Orioles manage their defense without the two-time Gold Glove winner? Machado played 319 out of a possible 324 in 2015-16, so he’s typically durable.

Beyond that, this is the last time the Yankees face the O’s until Sept. 4. Closing out this stretch of division play strong before heading on a trip out west would be a nice feather in the Bombers’ collective caps.

Yankees trade Ruben Tejada to Orioles for cash

(Justin K. Aller/Getty)
(Justin K. Aller/Getty)

The Yankees have traded infielder Ruben Tejada to the Orioles for cash considerations, the team announced. That likely means Tejada exercised an opt-out clause in his minor league contract, and rather than lose him for nothing, the Yankees found a team willing to add him to their roster, so they got some cash out of it.

Tejada, 27, hit .269/.345/.462 (125 wRC+) with six home runs in 37 games for Triple-A Scranton this season. The Yankees gave him a look for the utility infielder’s role following the Didi Gregorius injury in Spring Training, but that went to Pete Kozma, who was lost on waivers a few weeks ago. Now Tejada is gone too. He was not on the 40-man roster, by the way.

The recent Gleyber Torres promotion gave the RailRiders a few too many infielders, so the Tejada trade helps clear up that logjam. The Yankees still have Ronald Torreyes and Rob Refsnyder in MLB, Donovan Solano as veteran depth in Triple-A, and youngsters Tyler Wade and Torres in Triple-A as well.

Yankeemetrics: Camden Yards, House of Horrors (May 29-31)

(AP)
(AP)

The Full Monty
The Orioles entered this week on a seven-game losing streak and playing their worst baseball of the season. Yet they were probably happy to see the Yankees coming to town given their recent run of success in Baltimore against their division rival.

After the 3-2 loss on Memorial Day, the Yankees dropped to a miserable 8-23 at Camden Yards since 2014, the second-worst mark at the ballpark among all American League teams over the past four seasons; only the Indians (2-8) have been worse.

Jordan Montgomery struggled early, needing 34 pitches to navigate the first inning, and that inefficiency foreshadowed the rest of his labored performance. He consistently fell behind hitters and got into deep counts, reaching a full count on seven (!) of 23 batters. That’s the most full counts faced by any Yankee pitcher this season – and he did it while pitching only 4 1/3 innings.

The lone offensive highlight came from the bat of – no surprise – Aaron Judge, who sent a screaming line drive into the center field seats in the seventh inning. It was Judge’s 17th blast of the season as he moved into first place on the MLB home run leaderboard.

If he can maintain that top ranking, he’d join a select group of Yankee outfielders to win the major-league home run title: Roger Maris (1961), Mickey Mantle (1956), Joe DiMaggio (1937) and Babe Ruth (nine times … LOL).

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Bald Bombers
The Yankees got their offensive mojo back on Tuesday as they pounded out 14 hits and hammered the Orioles, 8-3. It was their 15th game scoring eight-or-more runs, the most in the AL and tied with the Rockies for the MLB lead entering Wednesday. The last season that the Yankees scored eight-plus runs this many times before their 50th game was 1998, a pretty good year if we remember correctly.

Four of the 14 hits left the ballpark, with Brett Gardner and Matt Holliday each going deep twice. Those were the 10th and 11th homers of the season for both guys, making the Yankees the first AL team this season to have three players reach double-digit homers.

For Gardner, it was his third game with at least two homers this season – which somehow gave him the most multi-homer games among all AL players through Tuesday. He also became just the third player in franchise history to have three or more multi-homer games while hitting out of the leadoff spot, joining Alfonso Soriano (2002) and Bobby Bonds (1975).

Holliday’s two-homer night was less surprising but still put his name on a fun list of Yankee designated hitters to hit two-plus homers in at Camden Yards: Gary Sheffield (2005), Jason Giambi (2002) and Darryl Strawberry (1996) are the others.

Gardner and Holliday were the first Yankee teammates to homer twice in the same game since … May 2 when Gardner and Judge each went deep twice against the Blue Jays. Over the last 60 years, there’s been just one other season in which the Yankees had two games where two players hit multiple homers: 2005.

Luis Severino continued to make his case as the early-season ace of the staff, lowering his ERA to 2.93. He scattered seven singles over 6 1/3 innings, and most of those hits were weak grounders that never left the dirt or somehow found holes through the infield. The average exit velocity on batted balls against Severino was 82.4 mph, the lowest mark for any start in his career. As you can see in this batted ball spray chart from Tuesday’s start, there’s a ton of blue (low exit velocity) and barely any red (high exit velocity):

luis-severino-1

Following his gem against the Orioles, Severino has five starts with no more than one earned run allowed while striking out at least six batters. The only other pitchers in the majors to have five such starts (through Tuesday) were Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Ervin Santana and Dallas Keuchel.

Deja Vu, Terrible Tanaka
Camden Yards, once known as Yankee Stadium South, has officially become a House of Horrors for the team up north. The Yankees have lost 11 straight series at the ballpark after getting blown out by the O’s on Wednesday night. That’s the second-longest road series losing skid against any opponent in franchise history, behind only a 12-series streak at Oakland from 1985-91.

How long has it been since the Yankees celebrated a series win in the Charm City? The last time Yankees won a series at Camden Yards, Mariano Rivera was the winning pitcher in the series-clinching game on September 12, 2013.

(Getty)
(Getty)

The Orioles broke the game open with a four-run third inning, though Masahiro Tanaka did reach a milestone in that ugly frame. He whiffed Manny Machado on a slider for the second out, the 500th career strikeout of his career. Tanaka is the fifth Yankee to reach 500 Ks within his first four major-league seasons, a group that includes Andy Pettitte, Lefty Gomez, Orlando Hernandez and Mel Stottlemyre.

That was the lone highlight for Tanaka, who got shelled for seven runs on nine hits before exiting in the sixth inning. It was the third time in 11 starts this season he allowed at least seven earned runs; in his first three major-league campaigns, spanning 75 starts, he never gave up more than six earned runs in any outing.

This awful performance capped a miserable month of May for Tanaka: six starts, 8.42 ERA, 11 HR, 48 hits, 31 innings pitched. The most glaring number from that mess is the 11 homers, which ties the most ever by a Yankee pitcher in a calendar month. The good news is that the guy he matched is named Ron Guidry (September 1985). The bad news is that he allowed 11 freaking home runs in 31 innings. Welp.

5/29 to 5/31 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(Rick Yeatts/Getty Images North America)
(Rick Yeatts/Getty Images North America)

Happy Memorial Day, folks!

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees hosted the Orioles for a three-game series to close out April, winning two. It was a high-scoring affair – the Yankees outscored the Orioles 30-22 – with two of the games going into extra innings, and it left the two tied atop the AL East. It was an excitingly frustrating (or frustratingly exciting) series. Some notes:

  • The Yankees were trailing 11-8 heading into the bottom of the ninth in game one. Jacoby Ellsbury brought them within 2 runs with an RBI groundout, and then Starlin Castro tied it with a two-run home run. And then Matt Holliday walked it off in the bottom of the tenth.
  • Didi Gregorius made his season debut in that first game, and he returned in style by going 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI. He went 7-for-15 in the series, putting the ball in play in 14 of his 15 plate appearances.
  • Aaron Judge had himself a series, going 5-for-9 with 7 runs, 3 HR, 5 RBI, a steal, and more walks (6) than strikeouts (4).

Injury Report

Closer Zach Britton has been sidelined with a left (pitching) forearm strain since early May, and is not expected back until late June. The Orioles had a top-five bullpen by most measures last year, due in no small part to Britton’s staggering 0.54 ERA in 67.0 IP (as well as his 47 saves in 47 chances). They’re a middle-of-the-pack group this season, and they’ve already blown eight saves, as compared to fourteen in 2016 as a whole.

Utility player Ryan Flaherty is also on the DL (right shoulder strain). There’s a slim chance that he could be back during this series, but a June return seems much more likely. And Adam Jones was out of the team’s lineup on Saturday and Sunday due to hip and ankle soreness; he isn’t expected to head to the DL, but he may be limited this week.

Their Story So Far

The Yankees are meeting the Orioles at a fairly opportune time, as they have lost seven in a row by a combined score of 38-17. The Orioles have had a rough May in general, posting a 10-15 record over the last four weeks. They currently sit third in the AL East at 25-23, and their -7 run differential suggests that they are a true talent .500 team (as has been the case for much of Buck Showalter’s tenure).

Underperformance may well be the defining characteristic of their first two months. Manny Machado (98 wRC+), Adam Jones (91 wRC+), Mark Trumbo (93 wRC+), and J.J. Hardy (52 wRC+) have disappointed with the bat, and Chris Tillman (95 ERA+), Kevin Gausman (67 ERA+), and Ubaldo Jimenez (58 wRC+) have struggled in the rotation. Most of these players were expected to perform much, much better, and there’s reason to expect them to rebound – but the Orioles must be getting antsy.

The Lineup We Might See

Showalter has mixed-and-matched his lineup more often than in years past, due to injuries, underperformance, and attempting to find a fit for new additions. He also utilizes a couple of platoons, notably in the corner outfield. Assuming that Adam Jones will be playing, however, it’s a fairly safe bet that we’ll see something like this:

  1. Seth Smith, RF
  2. Adam Jones, CF
  3. Manny Machado, 3B
  4. Chris Davis, 1B
  5. Mark Trumbo, DH
  6. Welington Castillo, C
  7. Trey Mancini, LF
  8. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
  9. J.J. Hardy, SS

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Monday (1:05 PM EST): LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. RHP Dylan Bundy

Bundy was a consensus top-five prospect heading into 2013, due to his overpowering stuff and advanced pitchability (especially for someone who would spend the entirety of the 2013 as a 20-year-old). A series of injuries limited him to 63.1 IP over the next three seasons, and many wondered if he’d ever be able to contribute at the highest level as a result. He had a solid (and mostly healthy) 2016 as a swing man, tossing 109.2 IP of 4.02 ERA (107 ERA+) ball as a rookie. And he’s been even better this year, with a 142 ERA+ in 64.2 IP through ten starts.

All of those injuries took their toll on Bundy, as he’s now limited to a low-90s fastball. He also throws a low-80s slider, low-80s change-up, and a mid-70s curveball. The slider and change-up are his best pitches, and both are used to pick up whiffs.

Last Outing (vs. MIN on 5/23) – 7.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 7 K

Tuesday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. RHP Chris Tillman

Shoulder bursitis kept Tillman out until May 7, so he has only made four starts in 2017. He was the nominal ace of the Orioles from 2013 through 2015, and, despite a poor 2016, hopes were fairly high that he would be healthy and effective this year. The early returns have been less-than-stellar, but he did come back a bit earlier than expected.

Tillman’s fastball usually sits in the low-90s, but it has been limited to the upper-80s since his return from the DL. He throws a four-seamer, two-seamer, and cutter, and all are right around the same velocity. He also throws a slider, a change-up, and a knuckle-curve.

Last Outing (vs. MIN on 5/24) – 5.0 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 3 K

Wednesday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. RHP Kevin Gausman

Gausman may well be the most disappointing player on the Orioles, given his prospect pedigree and the promise he showed in 2016. His strikeout (from 23.0% to 14.9%), walk (6.2% to 8.6%), and home run (1.40 per nine to 1.67) have trended in the wrong direction, and an increase in velocity implies that there isn’t an injury limiting him. The Yankees have hit him heard both times they faced him this year, so here’s hoping that trend continues.

Last Outing (vs. HOU on 5/26) – 6.2 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 2 K

The Bullpen

The repercussions of the loss of Britton cannot be overstated, as the Orioles bullpen was very dependent upon pre-assigned roles (sound familiar?). The rest of the bullpen is just 11 for 19 in save opportunities, and Brad Brach has struggled since inheriting the closer’s mantle. Him, Mychal Givens, and Darren O’Day are Showalter’s high-leverage arms, and the aforementioned Jimenez has become the long-man out of the bullpen (he went 6 IP yesterday, allowing 2 runs). Brach didn’t pitch this weekend, and Givens and O’Day only went once apiece, so the core group is fairly well-rested.

Yankees Connection

I mentioned Buck Showalter, Vidal Nuno, and Chris Davis last time around. You can now add the immortal Richard Bleier to the list, as he has thrown 11.2 IP out of the bullpen since his call-up on May 3. He spent all of 2016 in the Yankees organization, posting a 1.96 ERA in 23 IP in the majors. And, as much as I’d like to make a joke about the Yankees giving up on him, he’s a 30-year-old journeyman with an extremely limited track record.

Who (Or What) To Watch

I’m interested in watching Dylan Bundy, given his tumultuous journey to the majors and his still-impressive stuff. The Yankees saw him four times last season (two starts), but his stuff has improved dramatically this season.

4/28 to 4/30 Preview: Baltimore Orioles

Future Yankee Manny Machado. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images North America)
Future Yankee Manny Machado. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images North America)

The Yankees are heading back to the Bronx to continue their three-series stretch against divisional opponents. It’s too early for this to feel terribly significant, but it’s interesting nevertheless that this series could determine who is in first place in the AL East on May 1.

The Last Time They Met

It was just three weeks ago that the Orioles hosted the Yankees, taking two out of three in a rather frustrating series. The Yankees dropped the first two despite holding leads of four and three runs, respectively, with the bullpen taking the loss in both games (one-run losses, at that). In fact, the Yankees outscored the Orioles 16-14 that weekend, while also accumulating seventeen more base-runners. And, as if that wasn’t bothersome enough, it was also the series in which Gary Sanchez went down with a shoulder injury.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more interesting tidbits.

Injury Report

Closer Zach Britton is on the disabled list with a left forearm strain, and was initially expected to be back sometime in May. He’s slated for a rehab assignment on Friday, though, and could be activated for Sunday’s game. Starter Chris Tillman is also on the disabled list, and has been since Spring Training due to right shoulder bursitis that required a platelet-rich plasma injection. He made a rehab start at High-A Frederick on Thursday, so he won’t be back in time for this series.

Their Story So Far

The Orioles sit atop the AL East (and the American League as a whole) with a 14-6 record. Their offense has struggled at times (95 wRC+, 3.95 runs per game), but their pitching has been excellent, placing fifth in the majors with a 3.42 ERA. As per usual, and despite Britton’s injury, the bullpen has been particularly strong, maintaining a 2.73 ERA thus far; surprisingly, the rotation has been more than adequate, as well, with a 3.82 ERA.

Starter Dylan Bundy is their feel good story of the moment, as the former top prospect has been excellent through four starts (26.1 IP, 20.4 K%, 4.1 BB%, 1.37 ERA, 1.88 FIP). He missed the vast majority of 2013 through 2015 due to various injuries, and was all but written off as a result. It’s still very early in the season, of course, but it’s a promising start on the heels of a decent (and mostly healthy) 2016 season.

The Lineup We Might See

Buck Showalter employs a few platoons, so the lineup will likely be dependent upon who is starting for the Yankees. CC Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery will probably see something like this:

  1. Craig Gentry, LF
  2. Adam Jones, CF
  3. Manny Machado, 3B
  4. Mark Trumbo, RF
  5. Chris Davis, 1B
  6. Trey Mancini, DH
  7. Welington Castillo, C
  8. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
  9. J.J. Hardy, SS

Whereas Michael Pineda will probably face a lineup along these lines:

  1. Seth Smith, RF
  2. Jones, CF
  3. Machado, 3B
  4. Davis, 1B
  5. Trumbo, DH
  6. Castillo, C
  7. Hyun Soo Kim, LF
  8. Schoop, 2B
  9. Hardy, SS

The Pitchers We Will See

Friday (7:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Kevin Gausman

The Yankees roughed Gausman up on April 8, to the tune of 4 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks in just 4.2 IP. It was a welcome sight, considering that the 26-year-old held the Yankees to a 1.10 ERA in 41.0 IP last year (and a 4.35 ERA against every other team). Last year did appear to be something of a breakout for Gausman, as he pitched a full, healthy season, but the early returns have not been too encouraging (particularly his 5.63 BB/9 and 7.50 ERA).

Gausman is a three-pitch guy, featuring a mid-90s fastball, a mid-80s splitter (against which hitters whiffed 20.7% of the time last year), and a low-80s slider.

Last Outing (vs. BOS on 4/23) – 5.1 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 4 K

Saturday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Michael Pineda vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez

The Yankees knocked Jimenez around, as well, scoring 5 runs on 7 hits (including two home runs) in his 4.1 IP. Jimenez somehow avoided the Yankees in 2016, which seems all but impossible for a pitcher that spent the entire season in the AL East, making 25 starts along the way; that may have been by design, though, given his career 5.50 ERA in Yankee Stadium. Am I alone in remembering when fans of most every team wanted a shot at Jimenez back in 2011? That seems even more impossible, with the benefit of hindsight.

Jimenez used to pump his two- and four-seam fastballs into the mid-to-upper 90s, but they currently sit right around 90 MPH. He also throws a splitter and a slider, both of which sit in the low-80s. He’ll also sprinkle in a mid-70s curveball every now and then.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 4/24) – 3.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 5 BB, 3 K

Sunday (1:05 PM EST): LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. LHP Wade Miley

Miley held the Yankees scoreless on April 9, despite walking seven in 5 IP. The Yankees won that game anyway, scoring 7 against the bullpen, but it was an irritating first five innings. The 30-year-old Miley has quietly been an innings eater for some time now, having made at least 29 starts and thrown at least 166 IP in each of the last five seasons. He’s a rock solid back of the rotation starter, although he is coming off of his worst full season by ERA (5.37) and FIP (4.45).

It may be a bit of a cop-out to call Miley a crafty lefty, but that’s exactly what he is. He throws a couple of low-90s fastballs, a low-80s change-up, a low-80s slider, and a mid-80s curveball, and he threw all of his offerings regularly last season. As per PITCHf/x, Miley has thrown his change-up significantly less this season, so that may be something to watch.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 4/25) – 7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 6 BB, 8 K

Yankees Connection

Buck Showalter’s four-year tenure as the Yankees manager (1992 to 1995) is always brought up when these teams meet, so much so that you’d think that the Orioles stole him from the Yankees. He was a fine manager in the Bronx, winning AL Manager of the Year for the strike-shortened 1994 season (they had the best record in the league when the season was cut short), and guiding the Yankees to the playoffs in 1995. His departure from the organization wasn’t on good terms, though, as he resigned after George Steinbrenner demanded that he fire his pitching coach.

LHP Vidal Nuno is the only other real connection, having pitched for the Yankees for parts of two seasons. He was dealt to the Diamondbacks for Brandon McCarthy back in 2014. I suppose you could also count Chris Davis, who was drafted by the Yankees out of high school in the 50th round of the 2004 draft, but opted to go to college instead.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Machado’s defense at the hot corner is must-see TV, and that may well be the only reason to watch the Orioles this weekend. The offense does hit plenty of home runs, too, if dingers are your thing, which reminds me – you should also follow Sung Min Kim on Twitter, on the off-chance that Hyun Soo Kim goes deep (or just because he’s a great follow).

Yankeemetrics: Baltimore Chopped (April 7-9)

Get well soon, El Gary. (Getty Images)
Get well soon, El Gary. (Getty Images)

Leads are for wimps
The season-opening road trip headed north to Camden Yards, a house of horrors recently for this Yankees team. They entered the weekend with a 7-20 record at the ballpark since 2014, the second-worst mark by any AL team in that span, and were 1-8 in nine series openers there over the previous three seasons.

Make that 7-21 and 1-9 in road series openers against the Orioles after Friday night’s 6-5 loss.

Luis Severino got a no-decision, extending his winless streak to 13 starts dating back to his final start of 2015. Over the last 15 seasons, that’s tied with Phil Hughes (2013) for the most consecutive starts without a win by any Yankee pitcher.

The big blow came off the bat of Manny Machado, who drilled a 96-mph fastball for a three-run homer into the left field bleachers to cut the Yankees lead to 5-4 in the fifth inning.

Of the 21 homers Severino has allowed in the majors, more than half (14) have come on pitches 95 mph or faster. Since the start of last season, opponents have slugged .522 on his 95-plus mph four-seam fastballs, the fourth-highest mark among major-league pitchers in that span (min. 75 at-bats).

Gary Sanchez broke out of his early slump with a 2-for-3 effort that included a monster 426-foot home run in the top of the fifth. Since August 1 of last season, Sanchez has four homers of at least 425 feet, and the rest of the Yankees have combined for three such bombs.

It was his 21st career homer in his 59th career game – the second-most homers for any player in major-league history before their 60th game. Boston Braves outfielder Wally Berger had 22 homers in his first 59 games in 1930.

Brett Gardner sparked the offense with three hits, three runs scored and two stolen bases. He’s the first Yankee to reach those totals since … Gardner did it six years ago (July 17, 2011) vs Toronto. The only other Yankees to have multiple games with at least three hits, three runs and two stolen bases in their career are Rickey Henderson (3), Snuffy Stirnweiss (2) and Chuck Knoblauch (2).

Mr. 2,000. (Getty Images)
Mr. 2,000. (Getty Images)

Another painful loss
It was deja vu for the Yankees on Saturday afternoon, as they once again built an early multi-run lead, coughed it up in the middle innings, resulting in yet another frustrating one-run loss. It also clinched yet another losing road series to the Orioles, the 10th consecutive set they’ve lost at Camden Yards.

How long has it been since they actually won a series in Baltimore? When they clinched their last series win there on Sept. 11, 2013, Mariano Rivera posted the 651st save of his career and Andy Pettitte tossed a quality start; Curtis Granderson, A-Rod and Robinson Cano each homered in the 5-4 victory.

For the third time in the last five seasons, the Yankees are 1-4 through five games. They are the only MLB team to start 1-4 or worse three times since 2013.

Masahiro Tanaka looked solid through the first four innings before unraveling in the fifth. He really struggled with his command, hitting a guy and walking two others while giving up two runs. Adam Warren relieved him in the sixth inning, making it the fifth time in five games that the team’s starter didn’t go more than five innings.

This is just the second time in the last 100 years that no Yankee starting pitcher recorded an out in the sixth inning in the first five games of the season. It also happened in 2007, with a rotation of Carl Pavano, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina and Darrell Rasner.

Milestone Alert! Matt Holliday provided one of the few highlights, notching his 2,000th hit with a single in the first inning. He joined Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera as the only active players with at least 2,000 hits and a .500-or-better career slugging percentage.

Rally Time
The Yankees flipped the script in the final game of the series as they avoided the sweep with a much-needed comeback win. On Sunday they fell behind early, rallied late and left Baltimore with a 7-3 victory.

And the Yankees take the lead! (AP)
And the Yankees take the lead! (AP)

Starlin Castro delivered the game-winning hit with a tie-breaking RBI single in the ninth inning. Since the start of last year, Castro has seven go-ahead RBIs in the seventh inning or later — that’s two more than any other Yankee over the last two seasons.

Before Castro’s heroics, Aaron Judge tied it up with a solo blast leading off the eighth inning. He’s the third Yankee with a game-tying home run in the eighth inning or later at Camden Yards, joining the legendary duo of Travis Hafner (2013) and Roberto Kelly (1992).

The Orioles pitchers couldn’t find the strike zone all afternoon — issuing 11 walks, including seven by starter Wade Miley — and Holliday took advantage. He walked five times, tying a franchise single-game record. It had been done nine times prior to Sunday, with the two most recent being Mark Teixeira in 2009 and Roger Maris in 1962.

Besides Holliday, two other Yankees drew five free passes in five plate appearances and didn’t score a run: Hersh Martin in 1944 and Lou Gehrig in 1935. #FunFact: Martin and Holliday both went to high school in Oklahoma, and Martin attended Oklahoma State University in Holliday’s hometown of Stillwater.

Miley was effectively wild, giving up seven walks, one hit and zero runs in five innings. It had been more than 80 years since a pitcher had that many walks, allowed no more than one hit and held the Yankees scoreless — Washington Senators lefty Earl Whitehall achieved the feat on May 30, 1934. The No. 3 and 4 hitters in that lineup were Gehrig and Babe Ruth, who both went 0-for-2 and drew two walks each.