After splitting a two-game series with one New York team, the Mets, the Orioles welcome the New York Yankees to Camden Yards for a four-game set beginning with a doubleheader on Friday.
To say that the Yankees have certainly had the Orioles’ number as of late would be an understatement. The Yankees have won 19 of the last 21 games, including 18, yes 18, games in a row. The Yankees swept the Orioles in a two-game series earlier this season.
The Orioles come into the series at 16-20, nine games behind the Rays in the AL East and four games behind the Yankees for the final playoff spot. This series could go a long way in helping to knock the Yankees further down the playoff list, or, with a sweep the Orioles could… well… we won’t discuss that just yet. The Orioles are 4-6 in their last 10 games and 4-12 in their last 16.
After starting off the season 16-6 and looking like a lock to win the AL East, the Yankees have sputtered as of late, going 4-10 in their last 14, with a seven-game losing streak mixed in.
The Yankees currently sit at 20-16, tied with the Blue Jays for second in the AL East, five game behind the division-leading Rays. Injuries have been the story for the Yankees on the season, as they are currently missing three of their best hitters, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Oriole killer, Gleyber Torres.
The problem over the last 16 games for the Orioles has not been primarily on the offense, though it hasn’t helped much. The Orioles entered their game against the Nationals on August 15 scoring 5.2 runs per game. Since that time, the Orioles have scored 3.9 per game.
The team’s batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage has remained roughly the same. The most telling statistic has been the lack of plate discipline over the last 16 games.
Before August 15, the Orioles were striking out 7.8 times per game and walking 3.2. Since then, they have struck out a troubling 9.6 times per game, while walks have dropped to 2.5.
The Orioles’ offense continues to run through Anthony Santander and Renato Núñez, though both sluggers have struggled to reach base recently. After starting off the season looking like an MVP candidate, Santander has cooled a bit as of late.
After starting the season with nine home runs and 23 RBI with a slash line of .298/.333/.702 during the first 23 games, Santander has hit for a .218/.295/.400 with two home runs and seven RBI in his last 13 games.
Similarly, Núñez started the season batting .313/.395/.627 during his first 18 games, and over the last 19 those numbers have been .229/.267/.429.
Recently, the Orioles offense has been led by a relatively unknown utility man and a recent call-up. Over the last 12 games, Pat Valaika has batted .421/.450/.711 with three home runs. Popular prospect Ryan Mountcastle has made quite a splash since entering the Orioles’ lineup on August 21, as the 23-year-old has hit .341/.400/.547 with two home runs and six RBI.
Even with the injuries, the Yankees can hit the ball. The Bronx Bombers rank third in the AL with 56 home runs and second in OBP with a .334.
The loss of the big bats are beginning to take their toll, however. The Yankees slash line over the last 14 games has been .208/.305/.366, down from .263/.362/.487 to start the season. The team went from hitting 1.8 home runs per game to hitting 1.1.
The Yankees offense is led by first baseman Luke Voit. Voit is tied for the MLB-lead with 13 home runs and is batting .293 with an OPS of 1.023. Second baseman DJ LeMahieu is batting .382 on the season with four home runs and 12 RBI.
It is no secret that Orioles pitching has struggled on the season and may get worse with the recent departures of Tommy Milone, Miguel Castro and Mychal Givens.
Since August 11, the O’s pitching staff has logged an ERA of 5.12, while giving up 1.6 home runs per game. Former closer Cole Sulser has seen his ERA rise to 5.94, and John Means has an ERA of 8.10.
With the trade of Milone and the season-ending injury to Wade LeBlanc, the Orioles have used Thomas Eshelman, Jorge López and rookie Keegan Akin to start games. Akin was impressive in the first start of his Major League career, going 4.1 innings without giving up an earned run and striking out six.
Paul Fry and Tanner Scott have both been very effective out of the pen, each sporting an ERA of 1.80. Recently activated Hunter Harvey figures to see his usage increase as well.
While the offense of the Yankees has taken a hit recently, the team’s pitching staff has struggled as well. Over the last 14 games, the team’s pitching staff has an ERA of 5.02 and has given up 1.9 home runs per game.
Gerrit Cole has not quite been Gerrit Cole, with an ERA of 3.91, 67 points higher than his career ERA and 1.41 higher than last years. Over his last two starts, Cole has given up nine earned run in 10 innings. Mashahiro Tanaka has been their most effective starter on the season with an ERA of 3.38.
The Yankees pen is advertised as one of the best in Major League Baseball. Four of the team’s five regular bullpen arms on the season have an ERA under 3.30, and the other has a 3.55. Recently, however, the bullpen has shown that they are human.
Former friend of ours, Zack Britton, has given up three earned runs in his last 2.2 innings, while setup man Chad Green has given up five in his last five innings. Hard-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman has been suspended for three games for his part in an incident with the Rays.
Keys to the Series:
1. Hit with runners in scoring position
Over the last several weeks, we have documented the Orioles’ struggles with runners on base and runners in scoring position. This season with RISP, the Yankees have allowed a batting average of .268 with 16 home runs in .257 at-bats.
2. Bring those right-handed bats
The Yankees’ pitching staff has struggled on the season against right-handed batters. Against the team’s left-handed pitchers, hitters are batting .287 with an OPS of .903. As right-handed batters, the Orioles are batting .297 against right-handed pitchers and .284 against lefties.
3. Get the first batter out (pitchers)
With runners in scoring position on the season, the Yankees are batting .262 with 16 home runs in only 248 at-bats. With men on, they have hit 28 home runs in 468 at-bats.
Additionally, with a runner on first and less then two outs, the Yankees have hit 14 home runs in 233 at-bats, with an average of .275. The Orioles have struggled a bit with hitters to lead off an inning, allowing more than 30% to reach base and giving up 16 home runs in 292 at-bats.
How do you think this series will play out? Let us know in the comments below, and make sure to follow The Baltimore Battery on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!