If the Orioles are to continue their strong early-season play and finish the year with a winning record, they will need their young pitchers to keep the Yankees' strong lineup in check.
The Orioles' young rotation led by rookie Zach Britton has fared well thus far this season against lesser lineups of the Rays and Tigers. In their first test last weekend, against the Texas Rangers, the Orioles' streak of series wins came to an end as they lost two of three to the red hot Rangers.
Chris Tillman takes the ball in the series opener, which was pushed back to Wednesday from Tuesday due to rain. Tillman dominated the Rays lineup in his first start, but was hit hard by the Tigers in his second start, a game eventually won by the Orioles.
Tillman did not have good command against Detroit, throwing 97 pitches in 4.2 innings, with only 59 strikes.
Against a lineup like the Yankees, Tillman must throw strikes. Their hitters are disciplined and will gladly take a walk. Tillman must make the Yankees put the ball in play.
Tillman has been one of the Orioles' highest-rated prospects since coming over in the Erik Bedard trade, but he has had limited success at the major league level. Coming into the season, he was not a lock to make the rotation. Facing the Yankees will be a good barometer for whether he belongs in a major league rotation.
Jake Arrieta will pitch the second game of the rain-shortened series. Arrieta was shelled by the Rangers in his second start. Arrieta felt that he had good stuff, but did not work well with backup catcher Jake Fox and became predictable.
Arrieta pitched well at the end of last season, and was expected to be a key member of the Orioles rotation this season. He must continue to develop his pitch sequence.
Arrieta has a good fastball and slider. He must learn how and when to throw them if he is to have a lasting impact at the major league level.
The Orioles may be putting too much trust in young, unproven pitchers this season. As they face the Yankees for the first time, hopefully Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta will show they belong in the bigs and can handle the stacked lineup of the New York Yankees.