Series Preview: New York Yankees @ Baltimore Orioles (5/29-5/31)

After taking two of three from the lowly Oakland Athletics this past weekend in the Bronx, the Yankees begin a stretch of 13 straight games against American League East opponents. The Baltimore Orioles currently sit in third place in the division with a record of 25-23. For most of the season, the Orioles have been one step behind the Yankees. The Orioles have lost seven games in a row, and enter this series against the Yankees in the midst of a tough last few weeks. These three games provide the Yankees with a prime opportunity to capitalize against a struggling team, while simultaneously distancing themselves from a division rival, though the Bombers should remain vigilant because the resurgent Red Sox are hot on their tails.

Game 1: Jordan Montgomery (2-3, 4.30 ERA) vs. Dylan Bundy (5-3, 2.92 ERA)
(1:05 PM ET)

This memorial day matinee will likely be the toughest game of the series for the Bombers due to the pitching matchup. In his outing against the Royals, Montgomery pitched well enough to win, only giving up one earned run and two hits over 6.2 innings of work, in arguably the best start of his major league career. Unfortunately for both Montgomery and the Yankees, manager Joe Girardi's decision to pull the young left hander in favor of Adam Warren backfired. The Yankees bullpen proceeded to blow Montgomery's gem. Montgomery has provided the Yankees with everything they could have hoped for from a number five starter this season. Unlike most of the Yankees starting pitchers, Montgomery has not had an awful start. Sure, he's been mediocre on a few occasions, but not flat out awful. Montgomery will hope to build off of the progress he made in his last start, and keep the struggling Orioles at bay.

Baltimore will send arguably their best starter of the season to the hill to face Montgomery. Though his numbers in May are nowhere close to the success he exhibited in April, Bundy has been a consistent force in the Orioles rotation thus far. Bundy is coming off of a loss to the Twins in which he only gave up two earned runs in seven innings of work. One of the reasons the Orioles enter this series with a seven game losing streak is because they haven't hit, particularly with runners in scoring position. Bundy will hope to shut down the potent Yankees offense, and his give his team a chance to snap their recent skid. This will be a tall order considering Camden Yards' reputation as a hitter, specially home run, friendly ballpark.

Game 2: Luis Severino (3-2, 3.11 ERA) vs. Chris Tillman (1-1, 4.43 ERA)
(7:05 PM ET)

Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Lately there has been talk about who the Yankees ace has been this season. While many analysts are quick to point to Michael Pineda, a commendable argument can made that Severino deserves that title. Though Pineda currently has double the amount of wins as Severino, the latter has seen the bullpen blow a few leads late in games. Coming off the best start of his career in which he tossed eight scoreless innings against the Royals, Severino hopes to further foment his status as a frontline major league pitcher. It appears that Severino has finally moved past the sophomore slump that ruined his 2016 season. In five May starts, Severino pitched to a 3.21 ERA over 28 innings, even though he only has that one win to show for his efforts. Needless to say, Severino has been central to the rotation's recent success.

Tillman has only made four starts so far this season, and with the exception of the five scoreless innings he tossed in his season debut, the body of work has been unimpressive. In his previous start, which came against the Twins, Tillman surrendered four runs on nine hits over five innings of work. For the Orioles to get back on track, they will need to get better results from their starting pitching. At this point in time, Tillman is part of the problem. Stopping this Yankees offense at Camden, however, will be a challenge.

Game 3: Masahiro Tanaka (5-4, 5.86 ERA) vs. Kevin Gausman (2-4, 6.17 ERA)
(7:05 PM ET)

For most of the season, Tanaka has been horrendous. His last start, on the other hand, offers the Yankees a glimpse of hope that the Japanese righty will be able to turn his season around. At a game that I had the unfortunate privilege of attending, I saw Tanaka be let down by what has proven itself to be one of the best offenses in the league. After giving up a combined 14 earned runs and seven home runs over 4.2 innings in his previous two starts, Tanaka came into his most recent start against the A's with something to prove. Tanaka surrendered only one earned one, which Tyler Clippard allowed to score in the 8th inning after Tanaka departed from the game, in 7.1 innings. He struck out a career high 13 batters. The Yankees can only hope that Tanaka has finally put it together and returns to the pitcher he was for most of the 2016 season. Wednesday's start against the Orioles will either signal an important step forward, or an unfortunate regression.

Though his overall numbers aren't impressive, Gausman has been better during his last two starts, giving up two runs in six innings, and two runs in 6.2 innings, respectively. The Orioles will need a quality start out of Gausman during this game. The starting rotation has been a mess for Baltimore, and having another reliable starter can go a long way towards turning their season around. The Yankees have the opportunity to beat up on two subpar starters this series, so we can only hope they capitalize on this Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

Players to watch: Yankees

Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images

Aaron Judge: All must rise once again for the star right fielder. Aaron Judge is must-see TV. This is now an undeniable fact. Entering Sunday's game against Oakland with 15 home runs, he was soon passed by Mike Trout, who hit his 16th of the season. Coming up with the bases loaded and two outs in the third inning, Judge crushed a line drive grand slam over the right field wall to hand the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish that afternoon. Coming into the series with 16 home runs and 34 RBIs, the Orioles will have Judge's name circled on their scouting reports. It might be a sight to see at Camden for these next three games.

Aaron Hicks: Filling in for the injured Jacoby Ellsbury, Hicks has continued playing the best baseball of his career. The 27-year old outfielder has seen his fortunes change drastically after an abysmal 2016 season in pinstripes. Hicks provides the Yankees with quality defense, power, and speed. He has shown that he deserves to be a starting outfielder. Ellsbury's absence, for however long it may be, allows Hicks to build on his hot start.

Chase Headley: Unlike Judge and Hicks, Headley's name is on this list for all the wrong reasons. After being pinch hit for in the bottom of the ninth during Friday's loss, Girardi gave the struggling third baseman Saturday and Sunday off, in favor of everyone's favorite short man, Ronald Torreyes. After a red hot April in which he hit .301 in 83 at bats, Headley has cooled off considerably. In the month of May, Headley has hit .147 in 75 at bats. Torreyes had two hits in Sunday's game. It's worth noting that while starting in place of the injured Didi Gregorius to start the season, Torreyes showed that he can hit well with consistent playing time. Top prospect Gleyber Torres was recently promoted to Triple-A. He's been getting more reps at third base. Chase Headley is officially on notice. He needs to turn it around SOON, or his time in the Bronx may be coming to an end.

Players to watch: Orioles

Photo Credit: Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY Sports

Manny Machado: In any series against the Orioles, Machado will make the list of players to watch. In a weird turn of events, however, Machado has gotten off to a horrid start (to his standards, at least) to the 2017 campaign. Hitting just .220 with 10 home runs and 25 RBIs, Machado has been a shell of his former self. That being said, it's only a matter of time before Machado figures it out. For all intents and purposes, we can only hope he doesn't do so in this series against the Yankees.

Jonathan Schoop: In a season that began with so much promise, but quickly devolved into a free fall, Schoop has played with a certain level of consistency missing from most of his teammates. In 167 at bats this season, Schoop is hitting .275 with 7 home runs and 22 RBIs. Schoop has hit well against the Yankees over the past few years so I'd pinpoint him, along with Machado, as the two guys to watch out for on offense for the Orioles.

Brad Brach: With closer Zach Britton still sidelined on the disabled list, Brach has stepped up to fill in as the closer. Brach has performed well enough thus far, pitching to a 3.52 ERA in 23 games. He has blown 3 saves in 12 opportunities though. Pitching has not been the Orioles strong point this season. If they take a slim lead into the late innings against the Yankees, Brach will be the player to watch. This Yankees team has had a tendency to rally late games this season, so Brach will up for quite the challenge.

The Yankees enter this series in first place at 29-18, with a three game lead over the second place Red Sox. The Orioles, currently in third place, find themselves 4.5 games behind the Bombers, and falling quickly. This series is important for both teams, but the Orioles have more riding on these three games than the Yankees. Losing two out of three, or even getting swept, would place Baltimore into a hole that will be tough to rebound from, even this early in the season. After analyzing the pitching matchups and current trajectories of these two teams, I'll hypothesize that the Yankees take two out of three before heading to Toronto for four games with the last place, but suddenly improving, Blue Jays.

Article by: Steven Eareckson


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