The 9-12 Yankees roll into town for four games against the Orioles. Can Baltimore pitching keep this slumbering giant from waking?
This is not quite the start to 2021 that the Yankees envisioned. The juggernaut everyone expected to just roll into the World Series is 9-12, tied with the Orioles for last in the AL East. There have already been injuries, Bronx cheers, and fans throwing stuff on the field in protest at the poor play. “You kind of hate seeing that,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone. Oh yeah, me, too. Totally hate to see that.
Pitching, especially the rotation—bolstered in the offseason by the Corey Kluber signing—hasn’t been the issue for the Yankees. The team ranks in MLB’s top-10 in most pitching categories this season: ERA, average against, WHIP, and K’s.
The problem is the offense. So far, many of the Yankees’ big bats are failing to deliver as promised. The Yankees’ team batting average of .206 is, shockingly, second-worst in the majors (compared to Baltimore’s .227, 19th) and they’re dead-last in slugging (.353). The “Machine,” DJ LeMahieu, is hitting a mediocre .260, and he’s at the top of the team in average. Giancarlo Stanton is leading the team with five home runs, but his slash line is an ugly .186/.250/.414.
Still, you figure the Yankees can’t keep up this dismal performance as a unit forever. [Wonders: could they?] After a 3-1 series win over Cleveland on the road, there are signs they may be heating up as a unit. It would be upsetting if that were to happen during their four-game trip to Baltimore.
One piece of good news: the Orioles get to avoid the dominant Gerrit Cole this time around. (One other piece of good news: John Means’s ERA (1.50) < Gerrit Cole’s ERA (1.71). That is all.)
Here are the matchups:
Game 1: Monday, April 26, 7:05 pm
RHP Matt Harvey (1-1, 5.12 ERA) vs. RHP Deivi García (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
The prospect García, whom the O’s saw a little bit of in 2020, has struggled with command and started the season in the Yankees’ alternate training site after failing to make the team out of spring training. He makes his season debut tonight.
Matt Harvey has defied the pundits’ worst predictions so far while showing, not exactly swing-and-miss stuff, but enough to compete. The rebuilt right-hander’s 3.41 FIP looks much better than his 5.12 ERA, and his walk rate of 1.4 is excellent. But he’s still allowing too many hits. I’m excited to see whether he can dance around this Yankees lineup tonight.
Game 2: Tuesday, April 27, 7:05 pm
LHP Bruce Zimmermann (1-2, 4.57 ERA) vs. RHP Corey Kluber (0-2, 5.40 ERA)
So far, the Klubot’s Yankee debut hasn’t been stellar, although his last start against Atlanta, with 4 2/3 innings of two-run ball, suggests he might be righting the ship. The big issue for the 2016 All-Star has been command: he’s walked 11 in 15 innings. The Orioles will be glad to rack up the pitch count against Kluber if they can.
Bruce Zimmermann’s season start has been a mixed bag (although keeping in mind the rookie wasn’t expected to make the team puts things in perspective somewhat). He’s taken the loss in his last two starts after posting quality starts in his first two, which were both against Boston. One thing Zimmermann has done well, however, is go long: he’s given his team six innings twice in four starts. Hopefully he keeps this up tonight.
Game 3: Wednesday, April 28, 7:05 pm
TBD vs. Domingo Germán (1-2, 6.23 ERA)
The Orioles are still keeping mum about Wednesday’s starter, though it looks likely they’ll recall the righty Dean Kremer from the alternate site. The Orioles optioned their fifth starter on April 18 after his best start of the season against Texas, but if this was a ploy to shake him up a little, it was also largely a depth move, seeing as how Cole Sulser and Travis Lakins Sr. have played important parts for the team in the bullpen since then. There’s an outside chance lefty Zac Lowther could take the mound, but that’d be an awfully big situation to throw a just-called up prospect into.
Germán has missed a lot of time due to injuries and disciplinary problems. He’s been homer-prone this season, and missing with his fastball, and the Yankees optioned him after one particularly bad start on April 10th. In his last start he worked a win against the Indians, his first since September 2019 (almost as long a gap as Matt Harvey). Of the Orioles who have faced Germán in the past, Trey Mancini is 3-for-12 against him and Rio Ruiz 3-for-8.
Game 4: Thursday, April 29, 1:05 pm
RHP Jorge López (1-3, 8.15 ERA) vs. LHP Jordan Montgomery (1-1, 4.57 ERA)
The Orioles last faced the lefty Montgomery on April 5th, when they were blanked over six innings on four hits. Since then, Montgomery has allowed at least three runs in each of his three starts. Trey Mancini is 4-for-16 against the lefty, while Cedric Mullins and Ryan Mountcastle are each 1-for-5.
Jorge López has been frustratingly inconsistent, and he may always be that way. His velocity has been at career bests this season, touching 97 mph during his five-inning start against Texas on April 16, but he’s been very homer-prone, with six long balls allowed in 17.2 innings. Also, like clockwork, he collapses in the fifth inning. If he can give the Orioles five good innings this time around, they’ll take it.