A year ago, the Yankees and Orioles dueled for first place in the American League East. This year, they find themselves in another early September contest with playoff implications, but it turns out that all they are doing is battling each other to see which could ascend into the second wild card spot, if Tampa Bay completes its fall and Cleveland does not do even better than either of these teams.
It's not exactly going to be the atmosphere of Cal Ripken Statue Night out there, but maybe the Baltimore faithful can manage. That probably depends a lot on what kind of energy level the team brings. Maybe if we're really lucky they'll get to CC Sabathia early, pile on some runs, get some hits with runners in scoring position. There is this unfortunate detail: over their last 15 games, the Orioles are 20-115 with RISP. It takes one big game to break a trend. Now would be the time to break it.
The O's sit two games out of the second wild card spot. The Yankees are a half-game behind the Orioles. The team that wins the series can probably keep dreaming of the playoffs. It's lights out for the team that loses. A split of two games apiece may bury both teams. These are the stakes with 20 games remaining.
For quite some time, the Orioles have been playing at a .500 clip. They have never made their big move and they have never fallen farther back than that. .500 over the last 20 games would put them at 86-76, which beats the heck out of 90+ loss seasons, but is not getting them into the playoffs.
Needing to put their best foot forward, the O's have... Nick Markakis leading off. You know, let's just move on.
The good news is Chris Tillman is pitching for the O's, and since he is the closest thing they have to an ace, this crucial game may as well be in his hands. Where he'll then be facing Robinson Cano, who bats .500/.542/.818 off of him in 24 plate appearances. Lyle Overbay and Alex Rodriguez both have a pair of home runs off of Tillman. The game hasn't even started yet, but go ahead and hold on to your butts.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||NEW YORK YANKEES|
|Nick Markakis (L) - RF||Brett Gardner (L) - CF|
|Manny Machado (R) - 3B||Alex Rodriguez (R) - 3B|
|Adam Jones (R) - CF||Robinson Cano (L) - 2B|
|Chris Davis (L) - 1B||Alfonso Soriano (R) - DH|
|Danny Valencia (R) - DH||Curtis Granderson (L) - LF|
|J.J. Hardy (R) - SS||Eduardo Nunez (R) - SS|
|Michael Morse (R) - LF||Lyle Overbay (L) - 1B|
|Matt Wieters (S) - C||Ichiro Suzuki (L) - RF|
|Alexi Casilla (S) - 2B||Austin Romine (R) - C|