Game 36: Yankees (19-15) @ Orioles (22-13), 7:05pm

Jason Hammel's two-seam fastball has gotten him off to a great start for the Orioles. Will the rain let him try to continue his run of success tonight? Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE
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I am not a weatherman. I do not know if this game will be played on this date at this time. What I do know is that the Yankees are in town for what is supposed to be a two-game series. I also know that no matter what the outcome is of these two games, the Orioles will end the series with a better record than the Yankees have, and that they will emerge with a better-than-.500 record in the "rough stretch" of 15 games we all talked about. One more thing that I know is that last sentence is grammatically incorrect because I ended it with a preposition.

Back after a skipped start brought on by knee soreness, Jason Hammel is set to pitch for the O's tonight. In a start on April 30, he took the loss against New York despite giving up only two runs over six innings; on that day the Orioles' offense managed only five hits and a single run. The early success of Hammel has been one of the biggest stories for the O's. A 2.09 ERA after six starts? Yes, please. The best part is if you want to look at peripheral stats such as FIP to see if he's due for regression, even this is 2.54, still plenty impressive. Hammel has dramatically increased his K-rate while walking fewer batters and getting more ground balls - a 61% GB rate against last year's 43.9. That's a great way to have a pitching renaissance at the age of 29.

His opponent is Ivan Nova, who's already seen the O's twice this year. Once he gave up two runs and won, and once he gave up five runs and lost. This is about what you might expect. Actually, Nova's been a walking poster boy for the uselessness of pitcher wins; his 4-1 record comes in spite of a 5.02 ERA. In fact, the O's in that May 2 victory gave Nova his first loss since last June 3. How much of that ERA is bad luck? He has a BABIP of .381, which is absurdly high. He has given up eight home runs in only 37.2 IP. Perhaps his true misfortune is pitching in Yankee Stadium with its comical right field dimensions, in front of a Yankee defense featuring Derek Jeter (-6.4 runs in 2012) and Curtis Granderson (-9.7 runs - yikes!)

The Orioles lineup is loaded with lefties with power potential to capitalize on the homer-prone Nova. Actually, this might have been close to their usual lineup with any pitcher, but sports are more fun when there are narratives; we just have to concede that deep down they are probably incorrect. Anyway, consider: Matt Wieters has all 8 of his home runs against RHP (as a lefty batter); five of Nick Markakis' six homers are against RHP; so are four of Wilson Betemit's five homers, four of Chris Davis' five homers, and both of Nick Johnson's homers. Even rookie Xavier Avery, leading off for a second straight game and still in search of his first MLB hit, is a lefty who might like to face off against a homer-prone righty.

I almost sound confident here. This is going to take some getting used to.


Lineup

BALTIMORE ORIOLES NEW YORK YANKEES
Xavier Avery - LF Derek Jeter - SS
J.J. Hardy - SS Curtis Granderson - CF
Nick Markakis - RF Alex Rodriguez - DH
Adam Jones - CF Robinson Cano - 2B
Matt Wieters - C Mark Teixeira - 1B
Wilson Betemit - 3B Nick Swisher - RF
Chris Davis - 1B Raul Ibanez - LF
Nick Johnson - DH Eric Chavez - 3B
Robert Andino - 2B Russell Martin - C

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