Extensive Series Preview: New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles

After being the victims of a three-game sweep by the Toronto Blue Jays, the Yankees responded with a dramatic 5-4 win in a make-up game against the Detroit Tigers Thursday night. The Yankees urgently need a series win in Baltimore against the scuffling Orioles this weekend to stay with the pack. The Bombers are currently 6.5 games behind the AL East leading Boston Red Sox, and are 5.5 games behind the Orioles in the wild card — who have won just four of their last 11 games. While the Yankees rotation continued to impress throughout the month of May, the Yankees hitting has been abysmal as of late. Before plating five runs in Thursday’s contest, the Yankees mustered just five runs over their previous four games. Yankees hitters have their work cut out for them, as they will face three above-average starters in Chris Tillman, Tyler Wilson, and Kevin Gausman. Fortunately, New York will send Nathan Eovaldi, Ivan Nova, and CC Sabathia to the mound against the Birds, who have all exceeded expectations as of late.
GAME ONE (Friday, June 3 | First pitch: 7:05 PM ET)
Nathan Eovaldi (6-2, 3.71 ERA) vs. Chris Tillman (7-1, 2.92 ERA)
“Nasty Nate” has undisputedly lived up to his nickname lately, as he boasts a 6-0 record, 2.72 ERA and 35/12 K/BB ratio over his last seven starts — including a no-hit bid taken into the 7th inning.  He will look to keep his hot streak rolling Friday night against Orioles RHP Tillman, which should be an intriguing pitching duel as the righty has been the Orioles most consistent starter all season. Tillman has been particularly dominant at home, as he is undefeated (5-0), and has pitched to a 2.04 ERA while striking out 43 in 39.2 innings.

GAME TWO (Saturday, June 4 | First pitch: 7:15 PM ET)
Ivan Nova (3-3, 3.98 ERA) vs. Tyler Wilson (2-4, 3.83 ERA)
Nova has pitched to a respectable 3.41 ERA in his five starts since being inserted into the starting rotation. After allowing four runs and taking the loss in back-to-back starts against the Blue Jays, Nova will look to get back into the win column Saturday night. He will square off against rookie starter Tyler Wilson, who is winless at home on the season (0-3), and has pitched to a sub-par 4.13 ERA at Camden Yards. Wilson has allowed three or fewer runs in six of his seven starts this season, but the veteran Yankees lineup will look to take advantage of the inexperienced righty.

GAME THREE (Sunday, June 5 | First pitch: 1:35 PM ET)
CC Sabathia (3-4, 2.85 ERA) vs. Kevin Gausman (0-3, 3.78 ERA)
After struggling through disastrous, injury-riddled seasons from 2013-2015, the former Yankees ace has turned back the clock and is pitching like it’s 2008. After returning from an injury in early last month, Sabathia pitched to an AL-best 1.04 ERA in May, and picked up 25 strikeouts while allowing just a .178 BAA. The lefty has said throughout his career that he loves pitching under the hot summer sun, and Sabathia will aim to continue to heat up in his first June start this Sunday. Gausman, a once highly-touted prospect, has been solid yet unspectacular as of late for the Orioles. In the month of May, he posted a 4.17 ERA in six starts, and did not record a win. His 35/8 K/BB is very impressive though, and the Yankees offense will need to be aggressive early in the the count to succeed against Gausman.
Picture Credit: Nick Turchiaro | USA TODAY Sports
Three players to watch for the Yankees
1. Mark Teixeira
The Yankees desperately need Teixeira to start sending “Tex messages” again. Since returning to the starting line-up this past Monday after dealing with a neck injury, the fan favorite has mustered just one hit in 16 at-bats. With Greg Bird and Dustin Ackley both out for the season, the Yankees have no other legitimate 1st base options. Teixeira grew up just outside of the Baltimore area, and hopefully this trip to his home city will finally get his bat going.

2. Rob Refsnyder
After Ackley’s season-ending labrum injury earlier this week, the Yankees turned to Refsnyder to man the utility role, and he has had an immediate impact. Refsnyder broke up a no-hitter in the 6th inning last night, and went on to bring in the go-ahead run with a single to left. He is hitting .400 through his first 10 at-bats this season, and I believe that in the near-future, Refsynder will prove to be a better option than Chase Headley at third base — both offensively and defensively.
Picture Credit: Rick Osentoski | USA TODAY Sports
3. Jacoby Ellsbury
The speedy leadoff hitter has found his stroke as of late, as he has hit at an impressive .308 clip, with an on-base percentage of .345. The Yankees offense desperately needs to find ways to generate runs, and if Ellsbury can continue to get on and steal more bases, he has the power to act as a catalyst for the rest of the lineup. Coming off his three-run RBI night on Thursday, Yankees fans can look for Ellsbury to stay hot in Baltimore.

Three players to watch for the Orioles
1. Manny Machado
Machado has been the best third basemen in the AL this year, and is one of the most exciting players to watch in the game today. He his hitting .318 with 14 home runs and 34 RBIs, and boasts a robust 1.002 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) — good for fourth best in the MLB.
Picture Credit: Patrick Semansky | AP
2. Mark Trumbo
Trumbo’s resurgence has been one of the biggest surprises of the 2016 season. After hitting just 13 home runs throughout the 2015 season, Trumbo has already hit 17 home runs as of June 3rd. The right-handed slugger knocked two out of Camden Yards in Thursday night’s contest vs. the Red Sox, and the Yankees will aim to keep him in the ballpark this weekend.

3. Chris Tillman
As previously mentioned, Tillman in undefeated at home, and has a 2.04 ERA at Camden Yards to show for it. If the Yankees have hopes of being a contending team this season, they need to prove that they can hit the best pitchers in the league, and they need to come out swinging against Tillman in the opener Friday.

Three keys to a series victory
1. Get Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira going at the plate
It’s tough to be a contending team when your four and five hitters in the order are hitting below .200. Through the end of May in 2015, A-Rod and Teix had combined for 25 home runs and 62 RBIs. Through the end of May in 2016, the two have hit just nine home runs and 27 RBIs. The two hitters have the power (quite literally) to make or break this Yankees offense, and need to get hot immediately.

2. Get BMC back in the groove
For the first time this season, Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman all surrendered a run in the same game in Thursday’s contest. I wouldn’t quite fret about this yet, Betances has allowed three runs in his last two appearances, and it is important that the Yankees need to aim to carry a lead into the 7th inning each game to get this three-headed monster back throwing fire.

3. Get on the board early
Yankees fans have dealt with the fear of being no-hit twice in the last week, which is obviously unacceptable. With the unbelievable bullpen tandem of BMC, the Yankees need to score runs early on the game so the three hurlers can enter the game in the 6th or 7th with a lead and secure a Yankee win.

Take away the two series against the Blue Jays in the past 10 ten days and the Yankees have been playing solid baseball as of late. Although the Yankees bats were dormant throughout the Blue Jays sweep, they seemed to wake up in the late innings in Thursday night’s game in Detroit. The Yankees know how important this series is as the Orioles currently occupy the second wild card game. I think this Yankees team has more potential than most Yankees fans have seem to have in the team, and I think this team will turn a lot of heads around the league this series. I think Teixeira will feel motivated by the constant booing Orioles fans give him for not signing with them seven years ago, and will finally break out of his slump. Call me crazy, but I’m calling for a series sweep by the bombers. Eovaldi, Nova, and Sabathia will continue to pitch extremely well, and none of the pitchers the Yankees are facing have untouchable stuff. If everything goes right, the Yankees could be just 2.5 games out of a wild card spot come Sunday afternoon.

Article by: Sammy Criscitello
Follow me on twitter @SCriscitello11
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