Stats to know: Kevin Gausman vs. Yankees

One of the appeals of tonight’s "Sunday Night Baseball" matchup between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles will be the start for touted Orioles pitching prospect Kevin Gausman.

Kevin Gausman

GausmanLet’s take a look at some of the things that our broadcast crew will be talking about with regard to that storyline.

Continued development

Gausman’s major league career didn’t start well. After his first six starts (five last season and one in 2014), he was 0-4 with an 8.16 ERA and .336 opponents’ batting average.

But Gausman is 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA in five starts since then, and opponents are hitting only .236 against him.

One of his biggest areas of improvement has been his performance against right-handed batters. They hit .393 off him in his first six career starts but only .238 since then.

Kevin Gausman vs. RHB
Career as Starting Pitcher

There are two distinct differences between what Gausman is doing to right-handed hitters compared to what he used to do.

He has doubled the use of his splitter/split change from 8 percent of pitches to 16 percent. He has also attacked right-handed hitters inside more often, upping the rate of pitches on the inner-third of the plate or off the inside corner from 33 percent (first six starts) to 56 percent (last five).

Key matchup: Brian McCann

Yankees catcher McCann has gotten his bat going the last two games, with five hits in eight at-bats in this series. He is hitting .359 with 14 hits and an .868 OPS in his last nine games.

McCann is attempting to pick up from a start that puts him on pace for one of the worst offensive seasons of his career. He is hitting .217 with a .326 slugging percentage against right-handed pitching this season. Both of those rank seventh worst among left-handed hitters.

He has had to deal with a lot of defensive shifts this season and can expect to see more of those from the Orioles. Baltimore has had 388 shifts against balls in play this season, the sixth-highest total in the majors.

McCann is hitting .171 on 82 ground balls and short line drives against shifts this season.

Help from the bullpen

Should Gausman and the Orioles have a late lead, expect to see closer Zach Britton try to protect it. Britton is 15-for-17 in save chances and has a 1.67 ERA in 27 innings since being named closer on May 15.

Britton’s shift into that role has produced a change in approach. Last season, he threw 68 percent fastballs. This season, he is throwing them 90 percent of the time.

His success is keyed by getting opposing hitters to beat the ball into the ground. His 78 percent ground-ball rate is the highest for anyone who has thrown at least 40 innings this season.