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Series Preview: Yankees @ Orioles III

Proof that baseball fans sometimes are smarter than baseball decision makers, the Camden Yards dugouts were more crowded than the stands the last time the Yankees and Orioles tried to play through a hurricane, in 2003. (AP)

The Yankees and Orioles are scheduled to play five games in the next four days, adding a make-up for their April 12 rain-out to Saturday's schedule via a day/night double-header, but, in case you haven't heard, it might rain. Saturday night's game seems sure to be washed out, and Sunday's and Saturday afternoon's could be called as well.

The two teams discussed moving one of Saturday's games to Friday, but ultimately decided to react rather than act. A very likely scenario is a double-header on Monday to makeup Saturday night's game, though if any additional games are rained-out, there may be no clear solution as this is the Yankees' last trip to Baltimore this season. The two teams do have shared off days on September 8 and 15, the former following a series between the two teams in the Bronx, though the Yankees have a night game in Anaheim on the 9th.

These two teams have found themselves in this situation before. On September 18, 2003, the Yankees and Orioles moved a night game to 12:35 in the afternoon because Hurricane Isabel was bearing down on Baltimore, but they were still washed out after just five innings with the game tied 1-1. Then as now, the Orioles were criticized for their decision making surrounding the hurricane.

Weather aside, as if it's possible to ignore it, the Yankees are 9-1 against the Orioles this season. I know I quoted a similar performance before the A's took two of three from the Yankees this past week, but as weak a team as the A's might be, the O's are worse. Prior their three-game sweep of the Twins at Target Field this week, the O's had won just 5 of their last 19 games, and before that had dropped three of four the last time the Yankees visited Baltimore. Since the start of July, the O's are 15-34, that's a .306 winning percentage. They allowed 6.7 runs per game in July, an astonishing figure that makes the 5.05 runs per game they've allowed in August look downright stingy.

Weather Update: The mayor of Baltimore has declared a state of emergency. It could well be that the first four games of this series get cancelled.

A.J. Burnett (9-10, 4.96) vs. Tommy Hunter (1-1, 6.20), Friday, August 26, 7:05, YES

Part of the return from Texas for Koju Uehara, Hunter is a 25-year-old righty with a couple of years in the Rangers' rotation under his belt. His most notable accomplishment this year was straining his groin at the end of spring training, leaving an opening in the Texas rotation that the Rangers opted to fill with Alexi Ogando. He returned from that injury in July and spent some time in the Rangers' bullpen before being flipped to the Orioles, for whom he has made his only four starts of the season. Only one of those starts, against the usually punchless A's, was quality, and he has posted a 6.08 ERA with just six strikeouts in 23 3/3 innings in those four outings, though he has also walked just one man over that span.

That's Hunter. He has struck out just 4.8 men per nine innings over the last three seasons, but walked less than half that many. He throws a fastball/cutter/curve cobo with the odd changeup mixed in. The hard stuff is around 90 miles per hour, the curve ten ticks slower, and none of it tends to make batters miss. That said, he beat the Yankees with a career-high eight strikeouts in five innings last August, and though the Yankees got their revenge in the ALCS, they struck out five more times in the process, inexplicably going down 13 times in 8 1/3 innings against a pitcher who typically strikes out less than a third as many men.

Last year, Burnett had an 81 ERA+ and a 1.86 K/BB. This year it's 85 and 1.89. I suppose that's "better." He has a 6.93 ERA in nine starts since his last quality start, on June 29.

Saturday, August 27: Double-Header

Ivan Nova (13-4, 3.97) vs. Brian Matusz (1-6, 8.92), 1:05, YES

Nova's teammates bailed him out when he coughed up seven runs against the Royals two starts ago, handing him a 9-7 win. His last time out, he returned the favor, pitching around a pair of misplays to throw seven scoreless frames at the Twins. Nova has matured in numerous ways this season, but one of the more quantifiable ones has been his diversity of pitches. Using the data from, 85 percent of the pitches Nova threw prior to his early July demotion were four-seam fastballs or curveballs. Since his return, however, he has worked in far more two-seamers, cutters, and sliders, those last two being particularly effective at missing bats. The slider was his out-pitch for all three outs when he worked out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in his last start. Meanwhile, though he's not throwing more change-ups, that pitch is missing bats roughly twice as often as it was prior to his demotion, possibly as a result of his ability to keep hitters guessing.

Matusz was supposed to be the team's 24-year-old lefty ace coming into this season, but an intercostal strain wiped out the first two months of his season, and he was awful upon his return (8.77 ERA in six June starts). Send down to get straightened out, Matusz was good but not great for Triple-A Norfolk and has since picked up right where he left off in the majors, allowing six runs in both of his starts since his mid-August recall, good for a 9.28 ERA. That all from a highly-touted prospect who turned in four quality starts in as many games against the Yankees last year. I find it hard to believe he's fully healthy.

Freddy Garcia (10-7, 3.16) vs. Zach Britton (7-9, 4.54), 7:05, YES

Britton, another highly-regarded lefty prospect, replaced Matusz in the rotation and in the hearts of Orioles fans early this season, turning in eight quality starts in his first ten major league games and boasting a 2.35 ERA at the end of that initial burst, but he wasn't getting strikeouts or groundballs at the rates that made him so well regarded to begin with and the correction came in the form of a 6.86 ERA over his next eight starts, prompting a demotion in early July. He returned at the end of that month to pitch the the last double-header between these two teams, but was again roughed up in two starts, this time landing on the disabled list with a strained pitching shoulder. In his one start since returning he was just okay (5 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 4 K, more fly balls than grounders).

Garcia returns to the Yankee rotation after missing two turns due to a cut on his finger. On Monday he made a rehab start for Triple-A Scranton, allowing two runs in four innings while striking out no one. In his last ten major league starts, he has posted a 2.53 ERA with just 5.5 striekouts per nine innings, but also without any unusual luck on balls in play. What has been fluky, however, has been his lack of home runs allowed over that span, none in 64 innings from a fly-ball pitcher who plays his home games in a home-run ballpark and also pitched in Wrigley Field, the Great American Ball Park, Rogers Centre, and Fenway Park over that span.

Bartolo Colon (8-8, 3.71) vs. Alfredo Simon (4-6, 4.30), Sunday, August 28, 1:35, YES

Simon's year started with legal trouble stemming from a shooting incident in his native Dominican Republic that led to him spending two months in jail without being charged. Freed, he joined the Orioles bullpen in late May and the rotation in early July. Since then, he has posted a 4.17 ERA in nine starts, not spectacular, but solid, particularly by Baltimore standards. His last start, against the Twins, was his best (8 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 8 K), though the Twins have been making everyone look good this season.

The hard-throwing 30-year-old is a sinker/slider pitcher, though there's a good 15 miles per hour of separation on those two pitches and he does mix in a splitter and can miss bats with his cutter. He pitched exclusively in relief for the O's last year, even spending some time as the team's closer, facing the Yankees three times with similarly unspectacular results (3 IP, 4 R but just one earned, 3 K).

Colon has allowed five runs in each of his last two starts and in four starts this month has a 5.73 ERA, 5.7 K/9, and 2.5 HR/9. Don't expect much from him going forward.

CC Sabathia (17-7, 2.99) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (6-16, 4.42), Monday, August 29, 7:05, YES

Former Indians teammates CC Sabathia and Jeremy Guthrie have faced each other for their current teams six times prior to this series with Sabathia and the Yankees dominating that series-within-a-series five games to one, three of those wins coming last year. This is the first time the two will match-up this season, however.

Guthrie had three poor outings in a row to start August before perking up in his last start against those helfpul Twins. He also turned in a strong outing in his only start against the Yankees this year (7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 4 K).

Sabathia has a 5.72 ERA in his last four starts, but has also struck out 29 men against three walks in 28 1/3 innings over that span and his last two starts were quality, seven-inning outings. Blame some bad luck on balls in play for the hic-cup, but be wary of fatigue. Sabathia has already thrown 205 innings this season and it's still August.

Baltimore Orioles

2011 Record: 51-77 (.398)
2011 Third-Order Record: 49-79 (.386)

Manager: Buck Showalter
General Manager: Andy MacPhail

Home Ballpark: Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Bill James Park Indexes (2008-2010):
LH Avg-102; LH HR-126
RH Avg-108; RH HR-121

Who has replaced whom:

• Ryan Adams (mL) has replaced Derrek Lee (PIT)
• Matt Angle (mL) has replaced Felix Pie (DFA)
• Jake Fox (mL) has replaced Josh Bell (mL)
• Willie Eyre (mL) has replaced Blake Davis (mL)
• Tommy Hunter (TEX) has replaced Jake Arrieta (DL)
• Brian Matusz (mL) and Zach Britton (DL) have replaced Mark Hendrickson (mL) and Jason Berken (DL)
• Jo-Jo Reyes (TOR) has replaced Koji Uehara (TEX)

25-man Roster:

1B - Mark Reynolds (R)
2B - Ryan Adams (R)
SS - J.J. Hardy (R)
3B - Robert Andino (R)
C - Matt Wieters (S)
RF - Nick Markakis (L)
CF - Adam Jones (R)
LF - Nolan Reimold (R)
DH - Vladimir Guerrero (R)


R - Jake Fox (UT/C)
L - Matt Angle (OF)
R - Craig Tatum (C)


R - Jeremy Guthrie
R - Tommy Hunter
L - Brian Matusz
L - Zach Britton
R - Alfredo Simon


R - Kevin Gregg
R - Jim Johnson
L - Mike Gonzalez
L - Troy Patton
R - Brad Bergesen
R - Chris Jakubauskas
L - Jo-Jo Reyes
R - Willie Eyre

15-day DL:

IF - Cesar Izturis (left groin strain)
1B - Chris Davis (right shoulder straon)
RHP - Jason Berken (right forearm strain)

60-day DL:

OF - Luke Scott (right labrum tear)
2B - Brian Roberts (concussion)
RHP - Jake Arrieta (bone spur in right elbow)

Typical Lineup:

R - J.J. Hardy (SS)
L - Nick Markakis (RF)
R - Adam Jones (CF)
R - Vladimir Guerrero (DH)
S - Matt Wieters (C)
R - Mark Reynolds (1B)
R - Robert Andino (3B)
R - Nolan Reimold (LF)
R - Ryan Adams (2B)