The Baltimore Orioles are now just 2 1/2 games back of the AL East leading Toronto Blue Jays, but the New York Yankees are a game ahead of the Orioles in the standings as well which makes this weekend's three game series against the Bronx Bombers all the more important.
Compared to where they were just five days ago, Baltimore should have much more optimism as they have gained two games in the standings over those five days and now have the opportunity to leap frog the Yankees.
Here are the pitching matchups for this weekend's three-game series that begins tonight:
- Tonight – Ubaldo Jimenez (2-8, 4.86 ERA) vs Hiroki Kuroda (4-5, 4.32 ERA)
- Saturday – Bud Norris (6-5, 3.73 ERA) vs Vidal Nuno (1-3, 5.90 ERA)
- Sunday – Chris Tillman (5-4, 4.82 ERA) vs Masahiro Tanaka (11-1, 1.99 ERA)
Obviously the one that scares you is the simple fact that you have to face Tanaka, who is probably the AL Cy Young Award winner if the season ended today. Tanaka has been absolutely phenomenal this season after coming over from Japan and it is hard to tell where the Yankees would be without him.
Overall, the Orioles offense has a significant advantage over the Yankees offense thus far this season. Baltimore is currently hitting .262 with 78 home runs, 296 runs, and own a .325 on base percentage, while New York is hitting .255 with 57 home runs, 291 runs, and own a .318 on base percentage. Only seven teams in all of baseball have fewer home runs than the Yankees do, while the Orioles are fourth in the Majors.
There is one area where the Yankees have a significant advantage on the offensive side and that is on the base paths. New York has stolen the sixth most bases in the bigs with their 52, while the O's have the fewest stolen bases in the league with just 19. Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley will have to be ready for attempted steals, especially tonight with Jimenez on the mound, who has a fairly slow delivery time to the plate.
On the flip side, New York's pitching staff has the slight edge over the Orioles staff as they beat Baltimore in most pitching categories. The Yankees have a team ERA of 3.95 while allowing 76 home runs, 178 walks, a .254 opponents batting average and a 1.26 WHIP. In comparison, Baltimore has a 4.01 ERA, while allowing 71 home runs, 230 walks, a .260 opponents batting average and a 1.35 WHIP.
Both teams pitching numbers rank in the bottom third of the league, so it is not as though either team is a dominant force on the mound, but Baltimore's starters have been pitching very good as of late and the Orioles will have to face arguably the best pitcher in the American League in Tanaka, so it should be interesting. One thing to note is that Tanaka's only loss came to the Chicago Cubs when they faced him for the second time, and this will be the second time the O's have seen him.
It should be a competitive series and a lot is on the line with these two teams battling with the Toronto Blue Jays for the AL East lead. The series kicks off tonight with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m.
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