O's Series Preview

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As the Yanks and Orioles prepare to do battle in Baltimore this weekend, Lauren Tilley, lead writer at Birds Watcher, was nice enough to join me in doing a series preview. Check it out after the jump.

Yankees: 10-6; first place in AL East; runs scored 88, runs allowed 76

Orioles; 8-10; tied for third place in AL East; runs scored 71, runs allowed 77

Probable Pitchers:

Game 1: CC vs. Brad Bergesen

Lauren: Sabathia has a 8-1 record at Camden Yards with a 2.97 ERA.  The O’s offense will definitely have some work to do against him, especially as Bergesen will most likely need run support going against this line-up.  When these teams went at it earlier this month, Bergesen did pitch but as member of the bullpen, not the starting rotation.  He went 2 perfect innings including 2 strikeouts.  If he could pitch like that (I’m not saying perfect game, but a few perfect innings), it would be magnificent.  He’s looking to come back from a 6 hit, 3 run start against the Indians.  I feel like he pitches pretty well, but may end up with the loss due to lack of run support from the offense.

Me: CC is 0-1 with a 2.52 ERA on the year, and boasts a .275/.325/.355 opponents line with 56 K to 22 BB, 1.349 WHIP, 7.2 SO/9 and just two homers in 10 games (69 2/3 innings, 262 at-bats) with an 8-1 record and a 2.97 ERA at Camden Yards in his career. This season he’s been pretty good, but has not received much run support. The only real shellacking he took was on Sunday night against the Rangers, and now that it’s getting warmer out he’s only going to get better (hopefully).

Game 2: Freddy Garcia vs. Chris Tillman

Lauren: Garcia is coming off a gem of an outing (and his only one so far) going 7 innings with only 2 hits and no runs.  There’s no way he goes lights out like that again on Saturday, but he’ll still be pretty solid.  Tillman on the other hand really needs to perfect his command.  I know he’s young, but if he gets that command, I think he can be unstoppable.  He’s coming off 6 2/3 inning outing against Minnesota where he also gave up 6 hits and 3 runs (apparently all the starters like to pitch the same game practically). His worst start of the season unfortunately came against the Yankees where he didn’t even make it through 2 innings giving up 6 runs on 9 hits.  Hopefully, he’ll be looking for some revenge against this lineup and be brilliant.  I’m thinking 6 no-hit innings again?  Yeah, right.

Me: Fabulous Freddy was lights out in his first start last Saturday against the Rangers after getting pushed back a few starts by the rain. He threw six innings of scoreless, two-hit ball with a strikeout and a walk to pick up the win (I know it’s early and pitcher wins don’t mean much, but I find it funny he has a better record than CC while he’ll make $1.5 million this season and CC will earn $24.2 million). I obviously don’t expect him to duplicate his performance against the Rangers, but I’m hoping for around 5-6 innings of seven-hit ball with three runs given up. Throughout the course of his career, FF has a .268/.331/.428 opponents line with 20 K to 13 BB, 1.456 WHIP, 5.2 SO/9 and four homers in five games (34 1/3 innings, 138 at-bats) with a 2-2 record and a 2.88 ERA at Camden Yards.

Game 3: Ivan Nova vs. Jake Arrieta

Lauren: Nova (or SuperNova as named by Yankees fans) has been a disappointment this season.  His last start of the season he only lasted 4 1/3 innings giving up 5 hits on 4 runs.  He also got a loss against Toronto by pitching 2/3 in the 10th inning and giving up 2 hits and a run.  Arrieta had an awesome start helping end the O’s 8 game skid against Minnesota by pitching 6 innings of scoreless, 4 hit ball.  This seems to be the best match-up for the O’s in this series, so Arrieta really needs to be on his game.

Me: SuperNova got smacked around in his last two starts and took the loss in Toronto on Tuesday by pitching the 10th in relief. He’s still very young but looks a lot worse than he did last year. He’s never pitched in Camden Yards and has thrown just six innings against the O’s in his very brief career and given up six hits and two runs with six K and two BB. If I was a gambling man, I would parlay the O’s and the over in this one.

Who’s Hot?

Lauren:Vladimir Guerrero: His bat is finally wide awake.  Although the team just scored one run in Thursday’s loss to the Twins, Vladdy went 2 for 4 at the plate and sending in the only run.  He also had a 3-run homer on Tuesday’s 11-0 win and a solo jack in Wednesday’s 5-4 win. His average is up to .280.

Matt Wieters: He is the only other Oriole with a multi-hit game Thursday, going 2 for 4 as well, including a double.  Wednesday, he went 1 for 2 with a 2 run home run. Tuesday, he went 3 for 3 with 4 RBIs and he’s currently 6 for 6 with RISP, the best in the league.

Me: Curtis Granderson. Grandy has a six-game hitting streak, and has four homers (in three straight and four of the last five), six RBI and 10 hits (2 2B, 1 3B) over that span. Throughout the course of his streak, C-Grizzle has managed to raise his average from .156 to .273.

Robinson Cano. Robbie has an 11-game hitting streak, and is batting .333/.326/.644 with three homers, 11 RBI, five doubles over that span. He has failed to register a hit in just two of the team’s 16 games this season, and boasts five multi-hit games. BTW, RBInson is hitting .376/.414/.624 with 10 homers, 28 RBI and 19 doubles in 48 games (197 at-bats) at Camden Yards.

Who’s Cold:

Lauren: Nick Markakis: He has been pissing me off this season, and not to mention, very disappointing.  Thursday, he went 0 for 4, including an at-bat with a runner on 1st and 2nd with 2 outs to possibly take the lead in the game. Wednesday, he did go 2 for 4 but that was his FIRST multi-hit game of the season!! He also went 0 for 4 Tuesday when the O’s won 11-0.

Me: Brett Gardner. Grady is 0-for-12 and 1-for-his-last-26. He has eight strikeouts and NO walks over that span, and his line is a laughable .128/.196/.191. To make matters worse, he has just four walks on the year and is 3-for-6 in stolen base attempts. Brett has got to get it together this season.

Derek Jeter. The Guy Who Can Do No Wrong is hitting .219/.282/.234 (his OBP is HIGHER than his slugging percentage!!!!) with no homers, four RBI, six BB and five K. He’s also 2-for-his-last-17 with a walk and an RBI. If this guy’s name wasn’t Derek Jeter he wouldn’t even be sniffing the top of lineup, let alone getting the contract he did this past offseason. I’ll always love Jeter, but sooner or later he’s going to have to accept a demotion in the lineup.

Injuries:

Lauren: Good news fans! Brian Matusz has rejoined his teammates in Baltimore.  Today he is scheduled to continue his rehab by throwing off a flat surface.  He could begin throwing bullpen sessions as early as next week! Just to get you all even more excited: last season he led the AL rookies with 143 strikeouts.  He started in 32 games and finished 10-12 with a 4.30 ERA.  Once he’s healthy, he’s going to be awesome.

Me: Phil Hughes threw a bullpen on Wednesday in Toronto for the first time since going on the DL with a dead arm. He threw 30 pitches and said he “felt good.” He’s going to take Thursday off and then do some long toss on Friday, but there’s still no timetable for a rehab start.

Six Questions:

Me: Although you guys have won two in a row (maybe three depending on how tonight goes) the team had still lost eight in a row prior to that. Are you worried that the team will revert back to the losing ways? Also, are you worried that the team is too streaky?

Lauren: Well it definitely feels good to win again and like every O’s fan I was getting very frustrated during the losing streak but that’s also something I’m used to.  I think a team that relies on a young pitching staff like the O’s do tend to be more streaky as they’re learning and developing their pitched.  Unfortunately, when the young pitchers struggle AND the proven veteran hitters struggle, you go through losing streaks.  I think the team will be better this season without a doubt, especially when Matusz comes back.  I think fans can hope for a .500 season.

Me: How do you feel about Zach Britton? He’s been good, but do you think he can keep this success up over the course of the season?

Lauren: I have to say I’m very fond of Britton.  For him to be able to pitch the gem he did against the Rays on such short notice as he was brought up from the minors the day before was amazing.  He bounced back nicely Wednesday after his worst-of-the season outing against Cleveland.  I think he will be fine as he continues to be a part of the rotation, but after he’s pitched for a while teams and players will start to figure him out somewhat.

Me: What were your thoughts on the Vlad Guerrero signing when it happened? Have they changed now that he’s been hitting the last couple of games?

Lauren: Signing Guerrero was very exciting especially since that meant the Orioles had to spend some money when the team is normally pretty cheap.  He got a slow start to the season but his batting average is raising and it’s great that he hit a home run in back-to-back games this week and got the only RBI in Thursday’s game.  It’s no secret that he’s old, however, and I don’t seem him hitting more than 25 home runs this season.  But, more importantly, he should be able to get 80-100 RBIs, which is why the O’s brought him in in the first place.

*     *     *

Lauren: With ARod sitting out for two games this week with left oblique stiffness, does this make fans a little nervous? This is the same problem that J.J. Hardy had, which has now placed him on the 15-day DL.  If ARod’s stiffness gets worse and he misses more games, what does that mean for the Yankees line-up?

Me: Although it’s now moot since he played on Wednesday, A-Rod missing games wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Eric Chavez has stepped up and produced on the field and at the plate. Although it’s a very small sample, Chavez is hitting .389/.450/.500 with two doubles, three RBI, two walks and a strikeout in seven games. He also made some great stops at third on Sunday against Texas and Tuesday against Toronto. Of course the lineup would miss a guy of A-Rod’s caliber, but if it’s only a brief period of time they’ll get by just fine.

Lauren: Brett Gardner was expected to lead-off against righties but has been put in the number 9 spot due to his slow start.  If he continues with his decline from last season, how do you think his position at number 9 instead of number 1 will effect the team? Do you expect him to possibly move back to the lead-off spot again against any of the 3 righties the O’s have going to the mound during the series (Bergesen, Tillman, and Arrieta)?

Me: Gardner’s slow start is getting a bit ridiculous now, as mentioned above he’s below the Mendoza line in all three categories of his slash numbers. The Yanks need him to get on base and steal bases in order to produce runs. For what it’s worth, I think Jeter is hurting the team more at the top of the lineup with his production, or lack thereof.

I’ve got a feeling, and I’m basing this on nothing of substance, that Gardner will be leading off in the series opener against the O’s on Friday night. He didn’t play on Wednesday in favor of Andruw Jones and the team had off on Thursday, so I think those two days of rest will make Girardi think he’s ready to produce. I’m not saying he’s going to return to form, but I think they’ll give him a chance to.

Lauren: Out of the 3 starters the Yankees have going to the mound (Nova, Garcia, Sabathia), who do you expect to have the best game against the O’s and why?

Me: I expect CC to have the best game because he’s got the best track record. Nova has been less-than-stellar in his few starts this season and was pushed back a day due to his relief appearance. Garcia was incredible in his one start but I just don’t think he can duplicate that, I think he’ll throw a few great innings and the O’s hitters will then figure him out. Although he got smacked around in his last start, I think CC bounces back and throws a gem. He’s always been known as a guy who starts slow, and I think he finally picks up his first win Friday night.

LET’S GO YANKS!!!!!

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