As MLB tries to deal with the Marlins COVID-19 outbreak, it was clear from the very beginning that the Yankees wouldn’t be staying in Philadelphia’s visitors’ clubhouse. After the weekend series between Miami and the Phillies, coronavirus cases on the former’s active roster reached 15, exactly half of the team. That’s why the Bombers are now traveling to Baltimore to start a two-game series with the Orioles, to be played on Wednesday and Thursday.
The last couple of days have been chaotic for the Yankees from a logistics standpoint. According to Lindsey Adler of The Athletic, an hour before they were scheduled to return to New York from Philadelphia, the Yankees learned that they would go to Baltimore instead. Manager Aaron Boone said the team equipment was already starting to head back to New York and had to be called back.
However, as the Marlins will not play for the remainder of the week, the show goes on for the Yankees. They will visit Camden Yards to take on the O’s. Both teams are 2-1 in the AL East standings.
The Yankees took two out of three in the nation’s capital against the Washington Nationals, and the birds won their series vs. the Boston Red Sox, in a somewhat surprising turn of events. They dropped the season opener 13-2, but earned two victories in a row on Saturday (7-2) and Sunday (7-4.)
It is obvious to say that Gleyber Torres should be delighted by the change of plans regarding the MLB schedule. As a reminder: he destroyed the Orioles last season, to the tune of a .395/.467/1.045 line, with four doubles, 13 homers, 20 RBI and 22 runs.
Let’s look at the pitching matchups:
Wednesday: Gerrit Cole vs. Asher Wojciechowski
Although Orioles manager Brandon Hyde hasn’t made it official given the constant change in plans, it is likely that he will use right-hander Asher Wojciechowski in the first game of the series to rival Yankees’ star Gerrit Cole. Wojciechowski was supposed to start on Monday against the Marlins, so he would be the logical choice to take the ball today.
Wojciechowski can rack up the strikeouts if he is right (8.7 K/9 in 2019) but he struggles to keep the ball on the yard, as his 1.86 HR/9 mark suggests. He had a 4.92 ERA last season, but he did enjoy a nice stretch between July 12 and July 26, with a 3/25 BB/K ratio and a 2.21 ERA in 20.1 frames.
Other options to take the ball for the Orioles are Kohl Stewart and Tommy Milone, who was battered by the Boston Red Sox in the first game of Baltimore’s season.
No matter how you slice it, today’s game is the most lopsided of the series, at least on paper. Gerrit Cole showed last week on Opening Day against the Washington Nationals that he is in midseason form, racking up five strikeouts in a complete-game victory, shortened by the rain. He only allowed a solo home run in five innings of work.
Just as a reminder, Cole was arguably the best pitcher in the American League last year, going 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA (2.64 FIP) and 326 strikeouts.
Thursday: J.A. Happ vs. John Means
Boone already announced J.A. Happ as Thursday’s probable starter, but Hyde’s plans remain a mystery. The rotation had Wojciechowski starting on Monday, Stewart on Tuesday and Milone today.
However, left-hander John Means, the Orioles’ best pitcher in the 2019 season, told reporters on Saturday that he expects to be activated from the injured list to start on Thursday. That was before the COVID-19 outbreak with the Marlins, and he was supposed to face the Marlins, so it remains to be seen if Hyde goes with his ace or if he deploys Stewart or Milone instead.
Means started the year on the injured list due to left arm fatigue, but he is over the issue now. Last season, his breakout year, the 27-year-old had a 3.60 ERA in 155.0 innings. He isn’t overpowering (7.0 K/9) but relies on one of the league’s best changeups (12.3 pitch value per FanGraphs) and an effective slider to keep hitters off balance.
For the Yankees, it will be Happ’s season debut. The veteran southpaw had a season to forget in 2019, with a 4.91 ERA and a 5.22 FIP. It was the first time since 2014 that his ERA jumped over the 4.00 threshold.
There are reasons for optimism with Happ, though. In 27.1 September innings, he had a 1.65 ERA and a 2/28 BB/K ratio. Will he be able to rebound this year?
Notable BAL performers so far:
- Jose Iglesias (BAL): .538/.538/.769
- Hanser Alberto (BAL): .500/.571/.583
- Rio Ruiz (BAL): .250/.333/1000, 2 HR
- Anthony Santander (BAL): .273/.333/.727, 1 HR