Yankees Vs. Orioles: A Preview In Three Parts

Part 1: Tranquility.

“Calm down. Haven’t you ever heard of sample size? Sheeeesh.” That’s the phrase that came instantly to mind after Phil Hughes struggled to get through 4 and 2/3 innings. There are 159 games left in the season. The last time the Yankees started 0-3, they went on to win 114 games with a team that has been widely acclaimed as one of the greatest of all time (1998). If not for a blown save (MARIANO IS OLD OH GOD…amiright, Ian O’Connor?) this team would (only) be 1-2, and this wouldn’t be an issue. CC Sabbathia always starts slow, so there’s nothing to worry about. The offense has been great (well, except yesterday).

All of that is true. And let’s add this: the Yankees have managed a 13-5 record against the O’s in every season since 2009. Plus, tonight’s starter, Brian Matusz, was absolutely thrashed in his two starts against the Yankees last season, allowing 11 runs in 6 and 2/3 innings–but that was pretty much par for the course last year, as Matusz finished the season at 1-9 with a 10.69 ERA.

Oh, and how about this? Thanks to MLB.com, I found out that Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, and Mark Teixeira are a combined 22-for-53 (.415) with 10 extra-base hits against Matusz. Want more? Ivan Nova is 2-0 with a 3.55 ERA in four starts against the Orioles in 2010 and 2011, and he struck out 21 O’s batters in 25 and 1/3 innings (his highest mark against any team).

So, is it likely that the Yankees will leave Camden Yards at 0-6? Probably not. They are playing the O’s after all. Let’s not get to carried away yet.

Part 2: Trepidation. 

“Yeah, but what if they lose tonight? I mean, 0-4, that’s pretty freaking bad. Not catastrophic. But bad.” That was my second thought. If Brian Matusz isn’t 2011 Brian Matusz, and he actually throws like the super-hyped prospect he used to be–you know, the guy with a 94 MPH fastball, and two plus breaking options? If he’s the Brian Matusz that everyone assumed would be the ace of the O’s staff? If he’s that guy? And the Yankees lose? Well, we’re in some unfamiliar terrain. The last time the Yankees started a year 0-4 was 1973, when they finished 80-82. Hmm.

If the Yankees lose, Joe G will rely on Freddy Garcia to defeat an MLB newcomer, lefty Wei-Yin Chen (first pitch Tuesday, 7:05 PM EST on MY9). We pretty much know what we’re getting from Freddy: 2-5 runs, five to six innings, and a game that shouldn’t get away from the hitters. Chen? Well, he’s another story. The Taiwanese lefty was quite good in the Japanese league, posting a 2.48 ERA, and a 1.06 WHIP over the past four years, but his main plus atribute is his control, not his ability to miss bats. In fact, his 2011 saw some of his peripherals drop, as his velocity dipped, and his K/9 rate fell to 5.14 from 7.32. It’s unclear how his stuff will translate to MLB; but it’s entirely possible that he will be able to make his arsenal work well for him.

This one is completely up in the air right now. It’s entirely possible that the Yankees will hammer Chen; and it’s entirely possible that Chen (like so many newcomers) will dominate the Yanks his first time against them. (And hey, you never know, Freddy might throw a no-hitter. Come one, you know it’s possible.)

Part 3: Hysteria. 

“This season is already over. It’s time to rebuild. Fire Girardi. Cashman dumping Jesus Montero, one of the greatest prospects of all time, and a perennial All Star, for always-injured Michael Pineda ruined this season, and all of Yankee history.”

And if the Yankees drop to 0-5? What then? Well, Girardi will hand the ball to perennial slow starter CC Sabathia, who will match up with already-threw-a-seven-inning-shutout Jake Arrieta (first pitch Wednesday at 7:05 PM EST on YES). CC is good in April. But he’s great later in the season. But shouldn’t “good” be enough to get by this light-hitting O’s lineup? (The answer is probably yes). Arrieta, on the other hand, has a career 4.73 ERA–and that was actually overperforming the expectations: his 4.99 FIP, and 5.15 tERA suggest that he’s closer to a 5.00 ERA pitcher than a 4.50 ERA guy.

But ahhh! The problem with losing games early in the season is that it makes it harder to lose games later in the season. Think about it like this: if you’re working on a project on a deadline, and you take a break at the beginning, then you won’t have time to take a break later when it’s actually necessary. Losing games at the beginning of a season reduces, however slimly, the margin of error at the end of the season. And that might mean that the Yankees end up in a Wild Card playoff instead of a Division Series.

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Yankees Upcoming Schedule: 

Monday, April 9: @Orioles. Nova (0-0) vs. Matusz (0-0)

Tuesday, April 10: @Orioles. Garcia (0-0) vs. Chen (0-0)

Wednesday, April 11: @Orioles. Sabathia (0-1) vs. Arrieta (1-0)

Thursday, April 12: Off.

Friday, April 13: Angels. Santana vs. Kuroda

Saturday, April 14: Angels. Wilson vs. Hughes

Sunday, April 15: Angels. TBA vs. Nova