5 Keys for Baltimore Orioles Taking Road Series vs. New York Yankees
The Baltimore Orioles have now completed their second series of the season and have sputtered out of the gate with a 2-4 start.
The Orioles' starting pitching and hitting has been almost non-existent, as the Orioles are dead last in the AL in starting pitching ERA (5.94) and 20th in runs scored (20) in all of MLB through six games played.
If the Orioles want to win their first series of the season against the New York Yankees, they'll need to address five key areas in order to take two from the Bronx bombers.
All statistics courtesy of MLB.com, ESPN.com and BaseballReference.com.
The Long Ball
The O's have only hit three homers thus far, coming off the bats of outfielder/designated hitter Nelson Cruz in the first two games of the season and catcher Matt Wieters in yesterday's contest vs. the Tigers.
If the Orioles hope to capitalize on having one of the most potent offenses in the majors, they'll need to tap into their home run potential starting with this series at Yankee stadium, a park that was the 9th most favorable to hitters in the home run department in 2013.
As a club that led the majors with 212 long balls hit last year—with the next highest being a whole 24 homers behind—they relied heavily on their mashers to get them leads in order to make up for their inefficiency in pitching.
The O's will need to take advantage of Yankee Stadium's dimensions and launch multiple long balls to give the Oriole pitchers plenty of cushion.
Get on Base
It goes without saying, but the O's need to simply get on base and be more selective in their at-bats in order to get into scoring position and put pressure on opposing pitchers.
The Orioles are currently getting on base at a .274 clip, which is the fifth lowest in the majors up to this point in the season. While it's still too early to tell if the club will struggle with getting on base this season, last year's 2013 campaign was no different, featuring a Baltimore club that finished 19th in the majors with a .313 OBP.
In this particular series against New York, running up the pitch count on the Yankee starters will be crucial in getting to a weakened Yankee bullpen that suffered losses to its corps, which included the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera, retiring and free-agent casualties Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan signing with the Detroit Tigers and Colorado Rockies, respectively.
When the Orioles get runners on, they're going to need to have a better showing than they have so far of bringing them in.
The Orioles have yet to have a big inning and their lack of offensive production with runners on base is a clear cause of that.
If the Orioles hope to match up against a Yankee lineup that boasts plenty of seasoned hitters, they'll need to capitalize on the majority of these situations.
Starting Pitching Goes Deep
As previously stated, the Orioles are dead last in the AL in starting pitching ERA, which, as of now, is the greatest concern to the struggling ball club.
The offseason signing of veteran starter Ubaldo Jimenez and the club's decision to have stud prospect Kevin Gausman start the year at Triple-A Norfolk were signs that the club's rotation was improving and was competent heading into the 2014 season.
But, things haven't gone as planned, as no Oriole starter has managed to log more than six innings pitched in a start so far besides Chris Tillman, who threw for eight and a third innings in yesterday's series finale against the Tigers.
The Orioles are hoping that Jimenez can build off of the example that Tillman set and start the series off on the right foot by pitching deep into his matchup against the Yankees' probable starter Hiroki Kuroda.
A Leadoff Hitter Emerges
A true leadoff hitter needs to emerge if the O's want any shot of establishing an identity and having consistency within their daily lineup.
Lately, manager Buck Showalter has been utilizing left fielder David Lough as his leadoff man. Through two games played as the club's leadoff hitter, Lough is 1-for-1 in stolen base attempts and holds an OBP of .200 from that slot. There is no doubt Showalter wants a speedster at the top of his lineup to get into scoring position with his legs in order for the club's premier hitters to knock him in. The only real question is whether or not Lough can improve in the on-base department.
MLB.com Orioles reporter Brittany Ghiroli sent out this tweet yesterday morning regarding Showalter's preferred man to bat leadoff:
"Buck said he hopes Lough can be their every day leadoff guy. That's the way the O's manager would prefer it."
A speedster like Lough could be just the spark the O's need to light up the scoreboard in the Bronx this week.
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