This just in: the Yankees are cruising to their first AL East title since 2006. There, I said it. The Yankees have a six-game lead with 32 left to play and nearly half of those remaining games, 15 of 32, will come against the Royals, Blue Jays, and Orioles, three teams with a combined .416 winning percentage.
The Yankees are 9-3 against the Orioles this season and 9-1 since dropping the first two games of the season in Baltimore due to poor starts by CC Sabathia (who has since turned back into CC Sabathia) and Chien-Ming Wang (who has since landed on the 60-day DL).
Since the Yankees last saw them, the Orioles have traded away first baseman Aubrey Huff, closer George Sherrill, and veteran backup catcher Gregg Zaun. Lone All-Star Adam Jones has been fighting back pain and hasn’t had a hit in over a week, and supposed rookie phenom Matt Weiters has been slower to adjust to major league pitching than was expected (.258/.307/.366 in August with 24 Ks against 6 walks in 25 games). The debuts of top pitching prospects Chris Tillman (yet another product of the Erik Bedard trade) and Brian Matusz have kept the O’s interesting, but the Yankees will miss both this week.
So, really, there’s nothing to see here. The Orioles are 10-19 (.345) on the month and have won just one series in August. The Yankees have lost just two series since the All-Star break, have scored 7.5 runs per game in their 11 contests since being shutout by the A’s and Brett Tomko, are coming off a sweep of the White Sox, and have their top three starters lined up for this series in Andy Pettitte, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett. The O’s will be lucky to avoid a sweep.
Jeremy Guthrie takes the hill for Baltimore tonight coming off a pair of strong starts against the White Sox and Twins. In both outings, Guthrie allowed just one run on six hits in seven innings. In the latter he struck out five against no walks or homers. Of course, his season ERA is 5.26, and he’s 1-2 against the Yankees in three starts this season. Guthrie’s first two starts against the Yanks were similar quality starts (6 IP, 7 H, 3 R). He won the first thanks to Sabathia’s bad outing and lost the second when CC got his revenge with a four-hit shutout. He last faced the Yankees on May 20 and gave up five runs in seven innings to lose to Phil Hughes.
Despite a hiccup in Boston hidden by the offense’s 20-run outburst, Andy Pettitte’s second-half numbers are still fantastic: 2.79 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 9.4 K/9, 3.6 K/BB, just 2 HR allowed in 8 starts averaging more than 6 1/3 innings per start. Andy started that run with 7 1/3 dominant innings against the O’s (1 R, 8 K). Surprisingly, that was his only start against Baltimore this season prior to tonight.
Alex Rodriguez gets the night off tonight. Jerry Hairston Jr., hitting a fluky .316/.413/.553 as a Yankee, plays third and bats eighth. Everyone else moves up a spot.