The Baltimore Orioles return to Camden Yards this evening, after two COVID-19 inspired days off, to face the New York Yankees in an impromptu two-game series.
The Yankees are coming off two days with no games as well, as their series with the Philadelphia Phillies was postponed.
Due to the postponement, the Orioles have the “fortune” of facing off against Gerrit Cole tonight and J.A. Happ tomorrow night.
Cole looked strong in his debut last Thursday against the Washington Nationals, going five innings while giving up one hit and one run. Signing a $324 million contract in the offseason, Cole had a stellar 2019, going 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA, while striking out 326 for the Houston Astros. Cole’s efforts earned him a close second in Cy Young Award voting.
J.A. Happ will be pitching in his first game of the season Thursday night. Happ did not have the season the Yankees were hoping for last year, after bringing him over mid-season in 2018 from the Toronto Blue Jays.
Happ finished 2019 with a 4.91 ERA, while striking out 140 in 161 innings. The Orioles fared well against lefty Martin Perez of the Boston Red Sox on Saturday, tagging him for four runs and five hits in five innings. During that game, the Orioles filled the lineup with eight right-handed batters, leaving Chris Davis as the only lefty.
The Orioles will send 31-year-old righty Asher Wojciechoski to the mound to face Cole on Wednesday. Wojciechoski will be making his first appearance of the year, after going 4-8 with a 4.92 ERA for the team last year.
Wojo finished 2019 strongly, giving up five runs in 15.1 innings over his last three starts. A former first round draft pick by the Toronto Blue Jays, Wojciechoski will need to pick up where he left off last season to keep the Orioles in the game and to prove that he can pitch in the big leagues.
On Thursday, Orioles ace John Means appears ready to make his 2020 debut, after missing the opening of the season with arm fatigue. The 27-year-old lefty has a lot to prove this season, as he’s looking to dispel the critics that have deemed his 2019 a fluke.
After posting a 3.81 ERA with 125 strikeouts last year, many models put Means’ ERA in the upper fours this season. Means certainly slowed down after the All-Star Break last season, giving up five more home runs in five less games.
He also saw his batting average against increase from .220 to .249 over the same period and opponent’s OPS increased by 103 points. By shutting down the Yankees on Thursday, Means will go a long way towards making his case as the ace of the team.
Three Keys to the Series:
After a great 2-1 start to the season against the Boston Red Sox, the Orioles come into this series with some momentum. Unfortunately, the Yankees have some momentum of their own, going 2-1 against the defending champion Washington Nationals.
After a rocky start to the season at the plate and on the mound on Opening Day, the Orioles were able to put up 14 runs and 20 hits over the final two games of the series against Boston.
1. Stay aggressive early in the count and in the game:
The Orioles were at their best this weekend when they were aggressive early in the count, often swinging at the first pitch and many times, with success. This helped the Orioles jump out to a 5-0 lead after two innings Saturday and a 2-0 lead in the first inning Sunday. The Nationals found success by jumping all over James Paxton Saturday in a 9-3 win, forcing the Yankees to go to their bullpen early and often.
2. Quality starting pitching:
Wednesday night, in particular, runs will be tough to come by. Wojciechoski and Means will need to keep the Orioles in the game while the Yankees starters are in the game and force the game to the bullpens.
3. Timely hitting and base running:
The Orioles had several chances to blow games open this weekend, while getting the first two batters on base. Very rarely did that translate into runs, as the team could not come up with timely hits and refused to bunt runners into scoring position. Base running was an issue in back-to-back games, as both Hanser Alberto and Chris Davis forgot the number of outs and got doubled up.
Inside the Numbers:
- J.A. Happ has given up 23 home runs to the Orioles in his career, more than he has given up against any other team.
In Other News:
The Orioles have traded RHP Héctor Velázquez to the Houston Astros in exchange for a Player To Be Named Later.
Tonight’s game is available to watch on MASN, while tomorrow night’s game will be on MASN2. Both are also available to listen on the Orioles Radio Network. Wednesday’s first pitch is scheduled for 7:35 p.m. EST, while Thursday’s is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. EST.