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Orioles-Yankees series preview: September 30th - October 2nd

Only the evil empire stands between the O’s and a playoff spot.

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The O’s have played 159 games, and they’re currently sitting in a playoff position. Not many people expected this, but here we are. Naturally, the Orioles don’t have a home series against Minnesota or something to finish off the season.

Nope, they’ve got to go to New York and face the hated Yankees, who are still the Yankees even if they’re out of contention. They didn’t lay down after trading half their team at the deadline, and they’re not going to lay down this weekend either. Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday, 7:05 PM: Yovani Gallardo vs. Michael Pineda

Gallardo has obviously struggled this year, but he’s coming off of a decent six-inning, two-run start against Arizona on Saturday. It’s hard to read much into that considering it was the Diamondbacks, but it’s certainly better than the six-run, three-inning pounding he took in his previous game against the Rays.

Meanwhile, Pineda has a pedestrian 4.68 ERA this year but his peripherals show a guy who has pitched much better than that. His xFIP is 3.24, thanks mostly to a career-high strikeout rate of 10.61 that ranks him fifth among all MLB starters.

Pineda has allowed just one run total in his past two starts, and just two runs in his two outings versus the O’s this year. He’s generally been a “boom or bust” type pitcher, and that’s held true against the Orioles; in eleven career starts against Baltimore he’s allowed one or less runs four times, and 4+ runs five times.

Saturday, 4:05 PM: Wade Miley vs. Mashiro Tanaka(??)

Neither starter has been officially announced for this game, but O’s beat reporters have said that it’ll be Miley. It’s his turn in the rotation and he’s coming off his best start of the year (if not his career), so it makes sense.

It’s less clear who will be starting for New York. Masahiro Tanaka is recovering from a muscle strain in his forearm, but he public announced that he felt good after his bullpen session and would like to start Saturday’s game.

With the Yankees officially eliminated last night, it doesn’t make much sense for them to put Tanaka out there. They haven’t announced anything else, though, so who knows. My guess is that someone else will get this game.

Sunday, 3:05 PM: TBD vs. TBD

Neither team has announced a start for this one, but if the game matters to the Orioles (which it almost certainly will, for home field at the very least), it’ll probably be Kevin Gausman.

For New York, it’s anybody’s guess. C.C. Sabathia pitched yesterday and Bryan Mitchell pitched Wednesday, so it won’t be either of them. It could be Luis Cessa, or it could just be a bullpen game.

The 24-year-old Cessa was moved into the rotation in August and has pitched pretty well since then. He’s got a 3.72 ERA in eight starts, but he’s hiding a 5.36 FIP behind that ERA, so there may be some smoke and mirrors going on.

He’s also been remarkably consistent. Cessa has given up between two and four runs while pitching between five and six innings in each of his last seven starts.

Other notes

  • In case you forgot, this series will be the send-off for Mark Teixeira, who’s retiring after the season. Teixeira has been atrocious this year, racking up a sparkling -1.1 WAR thanks to a .205/.295/.365 batting line. He homered in his last two games, though, including a walk-off grand slam against Boston.
  • Gary Sanchez is still ridiculous. He hit a cold streak after taking the baseball world by storm in August, but he’s come out of his rough patch and is still hitting .303/.378/.672 with 20 homers in just 222 plate apperances. He’s been worth 3.0 fWAR in just 51 games.
  • What in the world is going on with Dellin Betances? After yet again looking like one of the best relief pitchers in the game for most of the year, he’s allowed runs in five of his last eight appearances. Since September 6th, he has a 15.00 ERA.

This is it, ladies and gentlemen. Three games against the hated Yankees for a playoff position. A sweep clinches it, and a series win clinches at least a tie for the last spot. Buckle up.