A few days ago, when the Orioles ascended into a first place tie in the American League East, they and the Yankees played different teams the next day. That is simply not the case tonight. Sole possession of first place in the American League East - for one night, at least - is the stakes. Further breathing room over Tampa Bay is a side benefit. Things are close. There are no prizes awarded yet.
Compared to preseason expectations, this season might feel like a surprise to Orioles fans, but now that the team is here, we'd sure like to see them manage to pull this thing off. Wherever the ride stops, unless it goes all the way to an early-November parade, there will be disappointment. That sting may fade, in time, but who wants to feel it, anyway?
It's just one game. There are lots of games left, still. And last night was one statement by the Orioles that they aren't going anywhere. There are three games just in this series and they need to come out playing to win these, too. I've said it before and I'll say it again: no letting off the gas now.
Wei-Yin Chen will be the one tasked with helping to lead the team into the win column for the second straight night. The Taiwanese sensation pitched nicely in New York and was stiffed with a tough result thanks to the bullpen. Hopefully that will not continue again. We saw enough of it last night, even if the team did come back.
Will that kind of maybe-it-even-affected-the-game crowd show up again tonight? The numbers seem like they could be just as high. At least, I just looked at orioles.com and the only thing I could buy was Standing Room Only. Standing room is no great curse in Oriole Park at Camden Yards now, thanks to the lowered fence at the flag court, the open space in front of Legends Plaza, and the roof top bar in center field. Will it be as pro-Orioles as it was last night? More out-of-towner Yankee fans may have bought up weekend tickets. I guess we'll just have to find out.
As for those Yankees, they will be pinning their hopes on Phil Hughes, who's 13-12 with a 4.15 ERA on the year - but in 12 road starts he has a 5.03 ERA. Though he is homer-prone, Hughes actually gives up way more home runs in Yankee Stadium than on the road. Not too surprising given the stadium he plays in most of the time. 11 homers in 68 road innings is still kind of a lot. Mark Reynolds is waiting for your mistakes, Hughes. So is Chris Davis. So is the whole rest of the Orioles lineup.
It's still the Yankees, and they are still fearsome, but after last night, perhaps they are just a bit less fearsome. And the Orioles were clearly never afraid in the first place.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||NEW YORK YANKEES|
|Nick Markakis - RF||Derek Jeter - SS|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||Nick Swisher - RF|
|Nate McLouth - LF||Robinson Cano - 2B|
|Adam Jones - CF||Alex Rodriguez - DH|
|Matt Wieters - C||Russell Martin - C|
|Mark Reynolds - 1B||Curtis Granderson - CF|
|Chris Davis - DH||Andruw Jones - LF|
|Manny Machado - 3B||Steve Pearce - 1B|
|Robert Andino - 2B||Casey McGehee - 3B|