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Orioles-Yankees series: The new most important series ever

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The Orioles have played some brutal games against the Yankees earlier this season. Seven more await down the stretch, including the series that starts today.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Each successive series is going to be the most important one yet for the Orioles until they lose enough games that it doesn’t really matter any more. How well they play over the last few weeks of the season will determine how long games mean something. They may already be at the point where they can afford no more than 10 losses for the rest of the year.

With that in mind, here come the Yankees into Baltimore for the latest ultimate series of ultimate destiny for the O’s. The good feelings about the O’s that they built up during their seven game winning streak did not survive a weekend split with the Blue Jays, with pitching problems continuing to rear their ugly head and the offense having enough problems to make you worry about the bats, too.

There can’t be any sleepwalking through this series or any other. The Yankees have plenty to play for in September. Not only do they still have an outside chance of chasing down the Red Sox for the AL East title, with a 3.5 game deficit to overcome, they’re also holding on to their home wild card spot by just two games over the Twins. If they lose two games and the Twins win two, the AL wild card picture becomes even more complicated.

A lot of the press about the Yankees this year has been focused on Aaron Judge, the 25-year-old rookie with a .979 OPS who’s almost certainly going to be the Rookie if the Year. It’s been a total team effort to get the Yankees where they are, though. Their offense has scored 704 runs, which is the second-best in the AL, while the pitching staff has allowed just 567 runs, also second-best in the AL.

The Orioles, by comparison, have scored 668 runs, in the middle of the AL pack, with the pitching staff allowing 691 runs, third-worst in the AL.

For the Yankees, it adds up to a team that seems to be underachieving. If you go by the Pythagorean win expectation for their run differential, they “should” have an 81-55 record - eight full games better than their actual record. Their one run game record is not great, at 15-23. Bad luck, or bad play at all the wrong moments?

Game 1 - Monday, 2:05

Starters: Jordan Montgomery (7-7, 4.15 ERA) vs. Dylan Bundy (13-8, 3.94 ERA)

Montgomery, a lefty, has pitched against the Orioles three times this season. Across those games, he’s pitched 16.1 innings with six earned runs allowed: A 3.31 ERA. The last of these was the best, a June 9 start in which he held the O’s to two runs in seven innings while allowing just six baserunners.

The lefty problem isn’t as much of one this season. The O’s have a 25-19 record in games started by lefties. Meanwhile, Montgomery has struggled since the All-Star break, giving up a 5.35 ERA in eight starts, pitching at least six innings just twice. He is nearing the highest innings count he’s ever had as a professional, which was 139.1 innings last year. Montgomery has 130 innings pitched now.

Bundy is fresh off a complete game shutout where the only hit he allowed was one bunt single. The Orioles are continuing to pay the price of having Chris Tillman in the rotation in order to get Bundy an extra day of rest. In two starts against the Yankees last year, Bundy has allowed five runs in 13 innings.

Game 2 - Tuesday, 7:05

Starters: CC Sabathia (11-5, 3.71 ERA) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (2-3, 6.55 ERA as Oriole)

Sabathia recently took exception to the Red Sox bunting on him a bunch. I don’t think he’ll have to worry about Orioles batters doing that a whole lot. Sabathia has rebounded nicely over the last couple of seasons after three straight near-5 ERA years. He faced the O’s twice back in April, including a game where he gave up seven runs. You may recall the Orioles still lost that game.

Batters have hit 15 home runs off Sabathia this season. All 15 were hit by righties. In fact, Sabathia is holding lefties to just a .243/.349/.270 batting line this season. It’ll be interesting to see how much Buck Showalter considers that in setting his lineup for the game.

I don’t want to talk about or think about how Hellickson will look against Judge and friends.

Game 3 - Wednesday, 7:05

Starters: Sonny Gray (2-4, 3.16 ERA as Yankee) vs. Kevin Gausman (10-9, 4.79 ERA)

The Yankees were in major need of a starter, so they just went out and got Gray. That’s worked out well for them in terms of his results so far, although thanks to the offense in those games, they haven’t won most of his starts. Some of that bad luck in when they’re scoring runs has hit them in August and September, as they’re 16-16 since August 1 despite outscoring opponents by 18 runs.

Early 2017 Gausman, who was decidedly not the best version of Gausman, faced the Yankees four times this season, giving up a combined 18 runs in just 20.1 innings. That’s... not very good. So let’s hope that the Gausman who has arrived since July 19, the one who has a 2.03 ERA over his last nine starts, is the one who shows up on Wednesday night.

Poll

How many games will the Orioles win in this series against the Yankees?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    0 (The Orioles get swept)
    (31 votes)
  • 20%
    1
    (48 votes)
  • 48%
    2
    (114 votes)
  • 17%
    3 (The Orioles sweep the Yankees)
    (42 votes)
235 votes total Vote Now