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It feels like a year ago since the Yankees took two games at Camden Yards at the end of July. That’s 2020 for ya, I guess. Baltimore is 16-20, yet just 4.0 games behind both the Yankees and Blue Jays. Not that the Orioles are a real threat, but the Yankees can separate themselves from them this weekend.

Their Story so far

The Orioles got off to a surprisingly good start. You may remember that they lost 108 games last year, after all. This season, Baltimore was 12-8 through a third of the season and had a 27.8 percent chance to make the playoffs, per Fangraphs. It’s not like they were beating up on bad teams either. Baltimore swept three games at home against the Rays as the calendar flipped to August, for instance.

Things have fallen apart since mid-August, though. They endured two long losing streaks in the final weeks of the month, one of six games and another lasting five. The play has dropped the Birds’ playoff odds to just 3 percent.

During the good times, Baltimore had the league’s third-best offense per wRC+ and scored roughly 5.4 runs per game. Ever since, that’s down to 4.4. The pitching has been a little worse (4.89 ERA since 8/16 vs. 4.55 ERA before), but clearly it’s the lack of hitting that’s hurting.

The stumble to the finish of August made Baltimore sellers. They traded away relievers Mychal Givens and Miguel Castro. Starter Tommy Milone was also sent packing. Additionally, ten days before the deadline, the Orioles called up prospect Ryan Mountcastle who’s expected to be one of the main pieces of this franchise’s return to contention. More on him in a bit.

Injury Report

  • 1B/OF Trey Mancini: Surgery on malignant tumor
  • 1B Chris Davis: Patellar tendinitis
  • SS Richie Martin: Wrist surgery
  • OF Austin Hays: Non-displaced rib fracture
  • LHP Wade LeBlanc: Elbow stress reaction
  • RHP Shawn Armstrong: Back soreness

Spotlight: Ryan Mountcastle

The Orioles brought up consensus top-100 prospect Ryan Mountcastle roughly two weeks ago. He’s a bat-first player who’s going to be relegated to a corner position or DH, but the offense is real. The 36th overall pick in the 2015 draft is off to a good start in the big leagues too. In 45 plate appearances, Mountcastle has a .341/.400/.537 (155 wRC+) with two home runs and two doubles.

Mountcastle, 23, should be up for good in Baltimore. He doesn’t have anything left to prove in the minor leagues. Last year, Mountcastle hit .312/.344/.527 (117 wRC+) with 25 homers in 553 plate appearances at Triple-A. There’s no reason for him to go back there unless he struggles mightily in 2021.

If there’s any knock on Mountcastle, it’s his plate discipline. His strikeout rates aren’t necessarily bad, but he’s extremely aggressive. He posted a 4.3 percent walk rate and 23.5 percent strikeout rate last season in Triple-A. He’s at 8.9 percent and 22.2 percent, respectively, early in his big league career.

Mountcastle has swung at 42.3 percent of pitches out of the zone, which would put him in the top-10 of MLB qualified hitters. His 60.9 percent overall swing rate would be fourth-highest too. Look how swing-happy he is:

That said, it does look like the best place to pitch him his upstairs.

Definitely want to steer clear of anything down and/or in. We’ll see how the Yankees pitch him. In any case, it sure seems like Mountcastle will be a good hitter in Baltimore’s lineup for years to come. We should be seeing a lot of him.

Projected Lineup

  1. Hanser Alberto, 2B (.321/.342/.450, 114 wRC+)
  2. Anthony Santander, RF (.268/.319/.591, 135 wRC+)
  3. José Iglesias, SS (.405/.414/.548, 162 wRC+)
  4. Renato Núñez, 1B (.270/.331/.526, 128 wRC+)
  5. Pedro Severino, DH (.310/.384/.520, 146 wRC+)
  6. Chance Cisco, C (.238/.385/.492, 140 wRC+)
  7. Ryan Mountcastle, LF (.341/.400/.537, 155 wRC+)
  8. Rio Ruiz, 3B (.198/.283/.396, 79 wRC+)
  9. Cedric Mullins,CF (.266/.338/.328, 87 wRC+)

Bench:

  • Bryan Holaday, C (72 wRC+)
  • Dilson Herrera, UTIL (-100 wRC+ in 2 PA)
  • Pat Valaika, UTIL (123 wRC+)
  • Andrew Velazquez, UTIL (30 wRC+)
  • DJ Stewart, OF (24 wRC+)

Pitching Matchups

Tonight, 5:05 p.m. EDT: RHP Michael King (first game against Orioles) vs. RHP Alex Cobb (vs. Yankees) TBD

Cobb was supposed to start today, but was placed on the injured list. No reason why yet. Cobb stayed put at the trade deadline, though the Orioles shopped him. The veteran righty has been OK this season: 4.33 ERA and 4.72 FIP in 35 1/3 innings. He doesn’t miss many bats (15.4 percent strikeout rate), and given some of the Statcast data, it seems like a correction could be coming. Sure would be nice to see that today.

Cobb.

This is King’s third start and sixth game of the year. It’s also his second start in a row; he gave up six hits and two runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Mets five days ago.

Later tonight, 30-45 minutes after game 1: Deivi García (second career start) vs. Jorge López (vs. Yankees)

I have almost no recollection of this, but López faced the Yankees twice last year. On April 21st, he allowed five runs in seven innings (Clint Frazier hit a three-run homer). Later in the season, the Yankees knocked out López with no outs in the second inning of a start (he allowed five runs). Those outings were with Kansas City, who DFA’d the 27 year-old righty earlier this season. Then Baltimore claimed him.

López

Happy Deivi day! Watching the Yankees has been far from a joy of late, but it’ll be fun to watch the 21 year-old phenom get the ball in one of today’s two outings. He was absolutely terrific against the Mets in his last start. More please.

Tomorrow, 7:35 p.m. EDT: RHP Gerrit Cole (vs. Orioles) vs. LHP Keegan Akin (second career start)

This will be just Akin’s fourth career game and second start. The 25 year-old lefty was Baltimore’s second round pick back in 2016 and has some promise as a back-end starter.

Cole’s second start of the season came against the Orioles. He lasted 6 2/3 innings and allowed 3 runs. Cole’s allowed seven homers over his last three starts, so let’s see if he does a better job keeping the ball in the yard tomorrow.

Sunday, 1:05 p.m. EDT: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. Orioles) vs. Asher Wojciechowski (vs. Yankees)

The Yankees hit Wojciechowski pretty good earlier this season. He gave up five runs in five innings, including three home runs. DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, and Aaron Hicks all took him deep. The righty hasn’t thrown more than five innings in any start this season.

Wojchiechowski.

Tanaka’s allowed two or fewer runs in five of his six starts this season. Last time out, the impending free agent dealt six innings of two run ball against Tampa Bay.

Bullpen Status

RHP: Hunter Harvey, Travis Lakins Sr., Cole Sulser, Dillon Tate, Evan Phillips, Tom Eshelman, Cesar Valdez

LHP: Tanner Scott, Paul Fry

Baltimore was off yesterday, so the team’s bullpen is fresh for this weekend’s action. The only pitcher to throw multiple days in a row recently is Scott, who pitched three straight days from August 30th to September 1st. That said, he threw no more than ten pitches in any of those appearances. This is a bullpen the Yankees should hammer, especially with Castro and Givens no longer with the team.


I don’t know how else to put it, but the Yankees should win all four of these games. Even depleted, the Yankees are far superior to Baltimore. The Bombers need to right the ship and there’s really no better team to face than the Orioles when in need.