The O's have had to play the Rays twice and the Red Sox once, but in between those tough match ups, they got swept by the Blue Jays and Mariners, and lost 3 of 4 to the A's. They've managed to shoehorn losing streaks of 5 and 9 into their first 19 games of the year and, not coincidentally, have seen their home attendance reach record lows.
A visit from the Yankees following a 10 game road trip is a sure remedy for thin crowds, but not for the poor play that has plagued the Orioles so far. As Joe Pawlikowski pointed out at FanGraphs yesterday, the 2010 O's hitters have been decimated by a few injuries and a slew of slow starts. Brian Roberts and Felix Pie are both on the DL while Nolan Reimold started the season there and has struggled since returning to the team.
Adam Jones, Garrett Atkins, Luke Scott, Caesar Izturis and Julio Lugo have all played in 13 or more games and have an OPS+ below 80. Nick Markakis, Matt Weiters, Miguel Tejada and surprisingly Ty Wigginton have been the only positive producers and as a team, they are hitting just .244/.304/.383. That line drops to an excruciating .183/.270/.294 with runners in scoring position, which has no doubt contributed to their struggles.
The dismal run support has made life extremely difficult on their starting pitchers. Despite having an ERA of 3.38 and averaging 6 2/3 IP in 4 starts, Kevin Millwood has a record of 0-3. Millwood has allowed as many home runs as he has walks (4) so the Yankees can expect to see a lot of balls in the strike zone.
Interestingly, today has played host to more no-hitters than any other day, one of those being the one that Millwood pitched for the Phillies back in 2003 against the Giants.
Phil Hughes gets the ball for the Yanks tonight and looks to build upon his impressive outing in Oakland last Wednesday during which he carried a no-no into the 8th inning. In 12 1/3 frames so far this year, Hughes has struck out 16 and allowed only 11 baserunners - 4 hits and 7 walks. He's been nothing short of excellent in his two starts since emerging from extended Spring Training and hopefully he can continue rolling against a team that he has struggled against in his time as a starter (5 starts, 7.94 ERA).
The point of the article that Joe wrote over at FanGraphs was to illustrate that the Orioles aren't as bad of as team as their record at this point indicates. That might be true, but they are going to have to start winning some games pretty soon to prove it. Perhaps the O's are due to turn it around but with the Yankees coming into town, this is going to be a tough time to do it. As Yanks' fans, it's tempting to look at Baltimore's record and assume that this should be an easy series, but from the O's perspective it probably seems like they are due for a win. Hopefully the Yanks can do their part to keep the Birds down.
At his command,He's got the fire and the fury,
Well you don't have to worry,
If you hold on to Jesus hand,
We'll all be safe from Satan,
When the thunder rolls,
Just gotta help me keep the devil,
Way down in the hole.
[Song notes: As many of you probably know, "Way Down In The Hole" is the theme song for The Wire (which is set in Baltimore). Steve Earle has a small but excellent part in the series playing a recovering addict named Walon.]
Nick Johnson gets another night off to rest his aching back and Nick Swisher takes his place in the DH spot, although he'll be hitting 8th. Randy Winn, who is 0-10 this season but 11 for 18 off of Millwood in his career, gets the start in right field and bats 9th. Brett Gardner, back in left field, occupies the second slot behind Jeter.
Adam Jones CF
Nick Markakis RF
Matt Wieters C
Miguel Tejeda 3B
Luke Scott DH
Ty Wigginton 2B
Rhyne Hughes 1B
Nolan Reimold LF
Cesar Izturis SS