The Yankees just saw the Orioles last week, and they will surely be glad to see their division rivals again. New York went into Baltimore and swept the O’s behind an avalanche of home runs, and they’ll get another chance to crush the AL East’s cellar dwellers in this four-game set, starting with a doubleheader later today.
Baltimore comes to the Bronx in the midst of a brutal stretch. They hosted the Astros after losing three in a row to the Yankees and dropped two of three to Houston, including a nightmarish 23-2 loss on Saturday. They’ve lost five of six and enter the series at 38-79, 37.5 games back of first in the division.
Let’s take a look at the pitching matchups.
Game One: James Paxton vs. Gabriel Ynoa
Paxton is coming off of a pair of strong starts, one of them last week, when he allowed just one run across 6.2 innings against the Orioles. I detailed a pitch mix change that could have helped Paxton improve post-trade deadline, namely, emphasizing his curveball more. With any luck, Paxton will be able to continue that good stretch of form against the overmatched Baltimore lineup.
The Yankees and Paxton should have the upper hand on Ynoa, who has not fared well in 2019. The 26-year-old right-hander owns a 1-6 record on the year, posting a 5.57 ERA in 76 innings. He’s struck out 47 and walked 21. He’s flitted between the bullpen and starting rotation this year, but hasn’t found much success in either role, allowing a 6.45 ERA as a starter and a 4.70 ERA as a reliever.
Game Two: Battle of the Bullpen Games
With another doubleheader among this packed stretch of schedule for the Yankees, they will again turn to a bullpen game. Chad Green just started a bullpen game on Saturday afternoon, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him do it again two days later. Stephen Tarpley followed Green two days ago, but Green would need a new follower with Tarpley now on the IL.
The Orioles also do not have a starter listed for game two of Monday’s doubleheader, so it’s probably safe to assume both clubs will use relievers to bridge the nightcap. Tom Eshelman stands out as someone who could plausibly give the Orioles some length, having both started and relieved this year, albeit to the tune of a 6.39 ERA. Jimmy Yacabonis and David Hess have started at times as well, but Baltimore optioned both to Triple-A last week.
Game Three: Domingo German vs. John Means
German was uneven his last time out, surrendering three earned runs in five innings against the Blue Jays, fanning just three. Even so, German has pretty much been the Yankees’ best starter ever since he returned from a four-week IL stay. His only truly poor start since then was his 3.2-inning blowup against the Twins, in which he yielded eight runs. Otherwise, he hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in a start since injury.
Means stands out as one of the most positive developments in what has otherwise been a very bleak campaign in Maryland. A 26-year-old southpaw, Means made the All-Star team as a rookie this season. He did not progress the minors with any sort of prospect buzz or pedigree, yet has managed a 3.36 ERA, good for a 140 ERA+, in his first full season. He’s struck out 83 batters against 28 walks in 101.2 innings.
He hasn’t excelled thanks to overpowering stuff. Per Statcast, his four-seam fastball, which he uses over half the time, has averaged just under 92 mph. He also features a slider and a changeup, both of which have held hitters to sub-.300 wOBA marks this season.
Plus command likely has helped Means succeed despite middling stuff. He ranks in 88th percentile among pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched in Baseball Prospectus’ called strikes above average metric, which serves a proxy for command.
Game Four: J.A. Happ vs. Dylan Bundy
Happ’s strange, frustrating season was exemplified in his last outing. He allowed three home runs to Toronto, though Danny Jansen’s three-run shot of Happ only came after the Yankees’ defense twice fumbled away what should have been the final out of the inning. Thus, Happ was saddled with six runs across five frames. He was shaky, and his final line was made even uglier than it perhaps should have been thanks to poor luck and homer issues.
On the other side, Bundy stands as one of the more deflating figures on the Orioles. Once an uber pitching prospect, Bundy has continued a long-standing legacy of young pitchers failing to reach their potential with Baltimore. The 26-year-old righty has a 93 ERA+ on his career, and a 94 ERA+ this year. That said, after adjusting for park environment and the Orioles’ miserable defense, Bundy actually rates fairly well by most value metrics. Baseball Reference pegs Bundy’s 2019 contributions at 1.8 WAR, while FanGraphs rates him for 1.3 WAR.