The Yankees finally kickstarted their offense, winning three games out of four in Cleveland, and will look to carry that momentum into another four-game series, this time against the Orioles. The Bombers took two of three last time they faced Baltimore, and could certainly use similar — if not better — results this time around. If they can sweep their second season series against the birds, the Yankees will finally find themselves above .500 for the first time since April 6th.
We all know how well the Yankees tend to hit in Oriole Park. Gleyber Torres and Gary Sánchez in particular feast on the hitter-friendly confines with a 223 and 135 wRC+ respectively and 17 homers between the pair. The two sluggers are crucial members of the lineup. When they’re bopping, the Yankees tend to win, so a trip to Camden could be just what the doctor ordered to remedy their early season struggles at the plate.
Monday: Deivi García vs. Matt Harvey
García will finally make his season debut after being somewhat curiously optioned to the alternate site for the first four weeks of the season. García recently travled with the team as a member of the taxi squad, and his impending addition to the active roster could signal a stretch of the Yankees using six starters. The diminutive righty had a mixed debut season in the bigs, going 3-2 with a 4.98 ERA in 34.1 innings.
García’s stuff didn’t quite play up in the majors, as he went from striking out over a third of the batters he faced in the minors to only a 22.6 percent strikeout rate in 2020. On the flip side, his control actually improved after making the jump. He walked over 11 percent of batters faced in Double-A and Triple-A, but maintained a stingy 4.1 percent walk rate in the majors including zero free passes issued in his six inning big league debut against the Mets.
It’s actually a win-win situation for the Yankees front office: If García pitches well, they will have another dependable candidate for the rotation; whereas if he pitches poorly they will have an excuse to option him back to the alternate site and *definitely not* manipulate his service time. Then again, he may get sent back down regardless. His start conveniently coincides with Michael King’s option window reaching its conclusion, so we could very well see García optioned on Tuesday following his outing.
García will face off against Matt Harvey in the series opener. The Dark Knight is quite a long way removed from his halcyon days with the Mets. Through four starts this season, Harvey is 1-1 with a 5.12 ERA in 19.1 innings. That said, a 3.41 FIP is his best mark since 2015 with the Mets, and indicates that he is pitching better than his ERA would suggest.
Tuesday: Corey Kluber vs. Bruce Zimmermann
Kluber makes his fifth start of the year and honestly I’m just looking for him to complete five innings. It has been a rocky start to his career in pinstripes, as he is 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in 15 innings, although his 6.43 FIP suggests he has even gotten lucky in his outings. Once the premier precision pitcher in the game, Kluber’s control has been totally out of whack so far.
The veteran is walking a career-worst 15.1 percent of batters (other than his one inning in 2020), and when he isn’t missing out of the zone, he’s leaving cookies over the heart of the plate. A good 10.5 percent of his pitches are classified as meatballs; combine that with a fastball that barely touches 90, and that’s why he is getting slugged for a career-worst 13 percent barrel rate and surrendering almost two home runs per nine. Certainly not what the Yankees envisioned when they handed him an $11 million contract this season.
Coming from the list of players I’d never heard of before today, Bruce Zimmermann gets the start against the two-time Cy Young winner. He has been pretty meh for the Orioles, as in four starts, he owns a 4.57 ERA and 5.08 FIP in 21.2 innings. The 26-year-old righty will give you five innings of three earned run baseball, which in all fairness, is fine for a rebuilding Orioles squad.
Wednesday: Domingo Germán vs. Dean Kremer
Domingo Germán gets the nod on Wednesday. As good as he looked in spring training, he has looked equally poor in his first three starts of the regular season. He is 1-2 with a 6.23 ERA and 5.79 FIP across 13 innings, and all I can say is thank goodness his start is against the Orioles. He is striking out a career-low 20.6 percent of batters while almost half the batted balls against are classified as hard hit.
Granted, Germán did have his best start of the year last time out against Cleveland, but the bar was quite low. After allowing a pair of home runs in each of his first two starts, Germán managed to suppress the long ball in those six innings of work and recovered after a rocky first. However, equipped only with a mediocre fastball, a flat curveball, and a changeup that he continuously leaves in the zone, every outing is a white-knuckle affair.
This one could be a high-scoring affair, as the Yankees are set to face Dean Kremer. In his last outing against the Bombers, he gave up three runs in three innings including Jay Bruce’s lone home run in pinstripes. In three starts so far, Kremer is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA, 4.59 FIP, and 14 strikeouts in 10.2 innings.
Thursday: Jordan Montgomery vs. Jorge López
Jordan Montgomery is set to start the finale of the series. His season has been a mixed bag - he twirled a brilliant six-inning gem in his first start (coincidentally against the Orioles), got hammered for four runs in each of his next two starts against the Rays, and then battled back after a shaky first inning in his most previous start against Cleveland. I’m sure the Yankees would settle with a repeat of his last outing against the Birds.
On the season, Montgomery is 1-1 with a 4.57 ERA, 4.62 FIP, and 23 strikeouts in 21.2 innings. As a lefty precision pitcher, he needs to live on the edges to maintain effectiveness, and it’s when his offspeed pitches leak over the plate that he gets crushed. It’s encouraging that he feels comfortable enough to use the sinker, cutter, changeup, and curveball each at least 20 percent of the time. The better he can command these four pitches, the more off balance he will keep the hitter.
Montgomery’s counterpart looks to be Jorge López, and I’d wager the Yankees are licking their lips at that prospect. In his previous start against them, he surrendered four runs in 4.2 innings including a solo shot to Aaron Judge as well as loading the bases for Giancarlo Stanton’s grand slam. For the season, he sits at 1-3 with a gaudy 8.15 ERA and 6.83 FIP in 17.2 innings.