On Wednesday night, the Yankees finally snapped their six game losing streak with a 6-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. Now, they head back up north to take on the Baltimore Orioles. The Bombers are 4-0 against Baltimore this season, but the O’s have shown a ton of promise this season under Buck Showalter and are not an easy team to beat. Here is my tale of the tape with Lauren Tilley of Birdswatcher.com
New York Yankees: 21-19, 2 GB of the Rays
Baltimore Orioles: 19-21, 4 GB of the Rays
Starting Pitching Matchups
Wednesday, 7:05, YES: Bartolo Colon (2-2, 3.74 ERA) vs. Zach Britton (5-2, 2.42 ERA)
Lauren: Britton has clearly been the Orioles best, most consistent and reliable starter. Ironically, he wasn’t even supposed to be on the 40-man roster but an unlucky injury to ace Brian Matusz gave him his chance and he has proven why he should be a starter, if not the ace next season. In his last outing, he pitched a complete game shut-out against the Mariners in which he only gave up 3 hits, no walks, and fanned 5. Unfortunately, he got the no decision in this game because it went into extra innings but that’s obviously a great start. Wednesday will be his first look against the Yankees and it’s sure to be a good one.
Me: With the Orioles having their game against the Red Sox cancelled on Tuesday, the Bombers now have to face who I think is the AL Rookie of the Year thus far in Zach Britton. Britton was dominant in his last start, throwing nine scoreless innings against the Mariners. If the Yankees are going to lose a game in this mini-series, it will be to this young kid who had a good start against them back in Spring Training. As for Colon, I was very impressed with his last start against the Red Sox. With all the HGH investigation rumors going through his head, he held a good Red Sox lineup to just two runs over six innings. He has not faced the Orioles in a start this year, but he did have three shutout innings against them back in April. I look for Colon to outduel Britton in this game, but Yankee fans will get to see the potential Britton has to change this Orioles’ staff for years to come. Colon wins a 5-3 game with his low 90’s sinker and his re-found velocity on his fastball.
Thursday, 7:05, YES: C.C Sabathia (3-3, 3.47 ERA) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (1-6, 3.98 ERA)
Lauren: Both of these numbers do not really do justice for Guthrie’s true abilities. He has pitched many gems this season, pretty much every start he’s had except one, but has been a victim of no run support. A good example: his last outing he pitched a complete game giving up only 3 runs (all homers) on 7 hits with 2 walks and 5 strikeouts. However, he got a loss in this game because the offense failed to score a single run. In his 8 starts this season, the O’s have only scored a total of 13 runs. In comparison, the O’s have scored 53 runs in Jake Arrieta’s 9 starts. That’s pretty pathetic. The Yankees have a career .296 batting average against Guthrie as well as a .368 OBP and a .507 SLG
Ricky: Ever since Sabathia joined the Yankees back in 2009, he has had the upper hand against the O’s. Actually, his last dominant start came on April 23rd when Sabathia gave up three runs in seven innings back in Camden Yards. He has really been the beneficiary of some bad luck this season because if not for some Soriano collapses, he should have a better record than 3-3. CC is 15-2 lifetime against Baltimore while Jeremy Guthrie can’t seem to figure out the Yankee bats. He is 0-3 with a 6.65 ERA against the Bombers and has given up 17 ER in 23 innings, including six runs in two games this season. This is a game where the slumping Yankee bats should find their groove again and give CC a win.
Vladimir Guerrero: He’s currently hitting .295 and in the last 7 days he’s hitting .440 (11 for 25) with 2 RBIs and 5 doubles and 5 runs scored.
Adam Jones: His batting average is at .283 and in the last 7 he’s batting .414 (12 for 29) with 3 runs scored and 7 RBIs.
Curtis Granderson – Even when the Yankee bats were slumping during the six game losing streak, the Grandy Man was the only slugger hitting. He is second in the Major Leagues with fourteen home runs, but what is impressive is his success against lefties. He has nine of his home runs against lefty pitchers this season. This all stems from the work he did with hitting guru Kevin Long in the second half of last season to change his swing. He knows how to get the big hit as well. Without him, the Yankees would not be over .500 right now.
Mariano Rivera – The only member of the core who has not come under scrutiny this year has been the great Rivera. The last time the Orioles saw him, he blew a save on Easter Sunday and his second blown save over the course of that week. Now, the Sandman is back to being nothing but dominant. The only problem is he has only pitched three times in the last week due to the lack of save opportunities. Still, he is the best reliever in the Major Leagues with 13 saves in 15 chances along with a 1.45 ERA.
Mark Reynolds: His batting average is an abysmal .191. He seems to be heating up a teeny tiny bit with a .208 average in the last 7 days with 4 RBIs and 2 homers but he has yet to even begin to live up to expectations for the season.
Luke Scott: He’s a pretty streaky hitter in general and this is a cold streak. In the last 7 games, he’s 3 for 21, a .143 batting average, with 2 RBIs. He also got a walk in every plate appearance Monday against the Red Sox.
Nick Swisher – The player who always creates a relaxing atmosphere in the clubhouse for the Bombers has not made Yankees’ fans very relaxed lately. He is only hitting .218 with two home runs and 14 RBI’s on the season. The one stat that puzzles fans is that Swisher is 0-17 with RISP this season, which is a huge cause for concern. Hopefully he will bounce back now that he has had a day off to clear his head and his replacement Chris Dickerson did play well in Wednesday’s 6-2 win.
Freddy Garcia – I wanted to include a pitcher and hitter and Garcia has been inconsistent in his last several starts. Even though he has been a pleasant surprise, Garcia has given up at least 4 ER in three of his last four starts. With Phil Hughes out till at least late June-early July, the Yankees need someone to be stable at the back end of the rotation until Brian Cashman is able to make a huge move at the trade deadline. Although, if the Yankees begin to hit again, only giving up four runs would probably be enough to get Garcia more wins.
P Brian Matusz: He’s expected back in late May after being on the 15-day DL with a strained intercostal. He made a Class A rehab start on Monday.
P Justin Duchscherer: He is expected back as early as May 30 from the 60-day DL with lower back discomfort. He is expected to throw a 45-pitch simulation game Wednesday.
1B Derrek Lee: After coming out of the Red Sox game Monday in the 3rd, it is confirmed that he has a strained left oblique. He is currently day to day but is very unlikely to be in the line-up against the Yanks.
SS Cesar Izturis: This is not official yet, but the back-up SS is expected to go to the 15-day DL with numbness in his right hand that he experiences every once in a while since in Tommy John surgery in ’05.
3B Eric Chavez – broken toe – 15 Day DL
SP Phil Hughes – fatigued arm – 15 Day DL
RP Pedro Feliciano – shoulder – 15 Day DL
RP Rafael Soriano – elbow – 15 Day DL
1. Zach Britton and Jake Arrieta have taken huge steps in their development during the early part of this season. Has Showalter played a huge role in their progression or is it just these young pitchers’ maturation process? Who has been the best out of those two pitchers and can their success carry over to the rest of the staff?
Lauren: I definitely think Showalter has played a part in both Britton and Arrieta’s greatness this season. Looking back at Arrieta’s numbers last season, he was 6-6 with a 4.66 ERA. He’s one win away from getting 6 wins already in May. Granted, he made his debut at the majors in June (against the Yanks) but still he’s clearly improved. I think that Showalter has influenced Arrieta’s better consistency and command that we’ve seen recently and I think he’s helped Britton definitely but I’d have to say Britton, to me, seems to be pure talent whereas Arrieta may have had a bit more influence from Showalter.
2. Peter Angelos went out and got some big bats in the offseason in Derek Lee, Mark Reynolds, Vladimir Guerrero, and J.J Hardy. How has that changed the offense for the O’s?
Lauren: I was extremely excited to see the O’s spending money to get proven veteran hitters in Reynolds, Lee, Hardy, and Guerrero. However, they’ve all not lived up to expectations so far this season. In the beginning, each one of these hitters had pathetic averages. Luckily, Guerrero has really come along and after Hardy’s stint on the DL, he’s come back with an offensive bang. Guerrero seems to get on base quite a few times, which is good because recently Adam Jones has been an RBI-machine behind him in. Guerrero isn’t getting a ton of RBIs because Roberts and Markakis are struggling recently. Lee was terrible until recently when his bat started to heat up and he got some doubles and RBIs but he got hurt Monday so he’ll probably be out for a while. Mark Reynolds is still not producing and has already been benched once because of how bad he’s been. Something really needs to change with him.
3. Who has been the MVP for the O’s? The LVP?
Lauren: MVP so far has to be Britton. As you said in your preview, you think he’ll be the AL Rookie of the Year. I agree completely and not just because he’s a player on my team. He’s been incredible, especially since he is supposed to be in the minors. His command is always spot on, he’s already got a few pitches down pact, and he’s consistently winning games. As for LVP, I’d have to go Mark Reynolds. His batting average is at .191 and he’s only hit 5 HRs and 19 RBIs. Everyone would expect the homers to be doubled at this point in the season and for him to have AT LEAST 30 RBIs. He’s just flailing every time at the plate. Runner-up for LVP: the ENTIRE bullpen.
1. I’m sorry but I have to ask. What do you think of all this Posada business? How does it hurt the team and do you think he should stay or get going?
Me: All of this Jorge Posada business has been crazy. When it comes to this whole situation, I side with Brian Cashman. Posada has been struggling, only hitting .179 despite two hits in Tuesday’s win over the Rays. When you are struggling that bad, you do not complain about where you hit in the order regardless of what your legacy in. Also, it was uncalled for for Jorge to go to Brian Cashman and say he wants out just because he was going to bat 9th. I would have cut him right there, but he will be cut in the coming months if he can’t hit. It has been a huge negative to the clubhouse because of the influence Posada has on this team. With the comments about Jeter and the whole contract issues in the offseason, this is not what the Yankees were looking for in the midst of a long losing streak.
2. What does it mean for the team with Rafael Soriano placed on the DL?
Me: This Rafael Soriano injury hurts the Yankees late in games, but it does not hurt them in terms of their clubhouse morale. What i mean by that is the comments Soriano made about the bullpen not being the problem were completely out of line. He has been a huge bust for the Yankees so far this season and has proven Brian Cashman right that he was not necessary, but the Steinbrenners wanted to make a move after striking out on a big signing in free agency. This now elevates the roles of David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain, who have been successful as of late. My favorite of the two is Robertson. He always gets huge outs with the bases loaded, which is a plus for any team. As long as they get to Mo consistently in the next 2-3 weeks, they will be fine.
3. Before tonight, the Yankees were on a 6-game losing streak. Why do you think they’ve been struggling so much recently?
Me: The struggles during their six game losing streak came from a lot of different things. The one thing that made me angry the most was the offense, particularly with runners in scoring position. The game that exemplified the struggle was last Wednesday’s game against the Royals. The team had 15 hits, but went 2 for 17 with RISP while allowing Kansas city to win the game with only four hits. This is an offense that has been known for their clutch ability, but guys like A-Rod, Tex, Cano, and Swisher have not been able to contribute in the middle of the order. The starting pitching has also tailed off with Sabathia’s struggles as well as Nova and Garcia coming back to earth a little bit. Finally, as I said before, the tension in the clubhouse between the core and management has also created a little schism amongst the players, but I think just like May of 2009, they will be able to right the ship.