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Game 24: Orioles (14-9) @ Yankees (13-9), 7:05pm

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O's fans can only hope that Brian Matusz is the least disappointing young  starting pitcher to take the mound tonight. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE
O's fans can only hope that Brian Matusz is the least disappointing young starting pitcher to take the mound tonight. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

Tonight's contest between the Orioles and the Yankees will feature a pair of young-ish pitchers who have never quite lived up to their potential at the big league level.

You probably remember the years of Yankee fans drooling and gloating over having Phil Hughes, who was a 2010 All-Star thanks mostly to the fact that his manager was the manager of the All-Star team. Since then, Hughes put up a 5.79 ERA in 2011, and has a 7.88 ERA so far this year while averaging only four innings per start. Hughes has already allowed five homers in only 16 innings, and he's sporting a WHIP of 1.875. One problem for Hughes is he's getting crushed by BABIP - a .373 that could signify bad luck even on a sub-par defensive team as the Yankees have been thus far.

Good news for Hughes, and bad for the O's, is that in the 100 plate appearances that Orioles hitters have had against Hughes, they have only batted a combined .234/.270/426. Mainstream outlets love to quote these sorts of statistics, which are most likely meaningless. The most any Oriole has batted against Hughes is Nick Markakis with 30 plate appearances, which isn't exactly predictive - not to mention you can probably say that the versions of Markakis and Hughes who accumulated those outcomes from 2007 to 2011 no longer exist anyway.

Moving on to the Orioles' disappointing young-ish pitcher: Brian Matusz. We know all about Brian Matusz's problems, and we hope that people who are being paid money to know these things are doing something to fix them. By not sucking in his most recent outing against Toronto - six innings with only two unearned runs allowed - Matusz has done a cruel thing, allowing us the possibility that he might turn out to be decent after all.

Our fragile hopes now rest in his hands, and he will constantly be balling them up to throw to Yankee hitters who will, should the opportunity present itself in the form of a lifeless fastball dangled out belt-high over the middle of home plate, happily crush those hopes by launching them to the worst kind of hell that the mind of man can conceive - the bleachers at Yankee Stadium.

Current Yankee hitters vs. Matusz, in a combined 139 plate appearances, have batted .301/.353/.561. 39 more plate appearances does not imbue this with a whole lot more meaning than did the Hughes numbers. All this tells us is that when a pitcher sucks, extremely talented hitters such as Derek J***r, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson will absolutely light them up to the tune of a 1.100 OPS or higher, as is the case for each of those four men against Matusz in his career.

If Matusz is still not right, we will find out in a hurry. If he gives us another sign that he is figuring things out, it'll be an interesting summer in Baltimore.


Lineup

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