The Story So Far:
The Orioles free-fall continues. True, they didn't get swept in Toronto, but so what? Friday night's game could have been the start of something, but instead it looked more like the end. Now, at 65-71 and barely avoiding last place in the division, they head to New York for a three game set with the Yankees.
The Yankees are at 76-59 and have a very strong hold on the first Wild Card spot. But at only 1.5 games behind Toronto for the division that crown is still within reach for them. They're probably not too worried about this series - the Orioles are 1-6 so far in the Bronx this year.
Monday: Wei-Yin Chen vs. Michael Pineda
With a lineup full of left-handed hitters, Chen getting the start may seem like a good start, but the Yankees as a team have an OPS forty points higher against lefties this season. Individual hitters have decent records against him as well - Ellsbury is hitting .348, Drew is hitting .308, Chris Young is hitting .364 with a home run in just 11 plate appearances. Chen is 2-4 with a career 4.17 ERA at Yankee Stadium.
Here's what MLB.com has to say about Pineda in previewing this matchup: "Pineda's finest out of his career came against the O's on May 10, when he struck out 16 on Mother's Day". Emphasis mine. It's true that about a month after game when the Yankees came to Baltimore the Orioles knocked him out of the game after putting up five runs, but if I remember correctly Pineda was also coming back from injury in that start and the Orioles were in the middle of their best run of the season. Neither of those things are true now.
Tuesday: Kevin Gausman vs. Masahiro Tanaka
Gausman is 3-2 with a 2.94 ERA against the Yankees, which is a pretty good start. On the other hand, he hasn't won a game since August 1st, and while he hasn't been pitching great lately, he has put up some pretty good starts since then that have been wasted by a struggling offense.
The Orioles have performed decently against Tanaka since he joined MLB last season. Jonathan Schoop in particular has two home runs against him, both of them last year. And if I remember right, those were both in Yankee Stadium. The fact that Tanaka is even pitching and that his elbow didn't go out on him is just another one of those bets the Yankees made going into this season that has worked out for them.
Wednesday: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. C.C. Sabathia
Hello, offense. Jimenez hasn't been great this season, and certainly hasn't done well lately, but Sabathia has certainly been worse...both teams will likely see good hitting on Wednesday. What's more Sabathia is just coming back off the DL so who knows how this start will turn out. On the other hand, the Yankees lineup has some ridiculous numbers off of Jimenez: Dustin Ackley - 6 for 11 with a home run, Carlos Beltran - 7 for 20 with two home runs, Ellsbury - 7 for 12 with a home run...you get the idea.
- The only good thing for the Orioles this time around is Mark Teixeira, the Yankees best hitter this season, is currently on the DL. I'm not wishing for anyone to be hurt, but frankly it's time one of their guys over the age of 30 took some time off. I mentioned above how betting on Tanaka paid off for them this year...counting on guys like Teixeira, Rodriguez, McCann, and Beltran to stay healthy and productive is paying huge dividends.
- Not that I'm trying to excuse the Orioles for this season, but for all the talk about how this was going to be a terrible division before the season started, I think you can argue its been anything but. For example, the Orioles' 4.35 runs per game is pretty good (tied with Houston). Unfortunately, New York, Toronto, and Boston all rank ahead of them in that category and are the top three in the American League. The O's have even allowed less runs per game than the Yankees have, but not enough to make the difference. Of course, the Orioles still have a healthy run differential on the year, so that hasn't really been the problem.
- If you had to pick one thing about the Yankees that wasn't good, it would be defense. They rank below average in Defensive Efficiency, Fielding Percentage, and Errors. That said, the Orioles rank near the top of all those categories and look how much good its done them.
I have no reason to think the Orioles won't get swept here. The only thing we can hope for is they come out on the winning side of that Jimenez/Sabathia matchup. But do we even want that? As a fellow CC writer has pointed out, the Orioles currently have the 11th worst record in MLB. If they fall into the Top 10 and get a protected pick, how is that a bad thing? True, its not like the O's would then go on a spending spree and sign everyone with a QO attached to them, but they might sign one or two. I think sports fans have always had an internal struggle with rooting for their team to lose to help in the draft, but its hard not to see the benefits here.