After Yankees Loss, Orioles Can Move into First-Place Tie with Win Tonight
After a difficult four-game series split with their rivals from the north, the Toronto Blue Jays earlier this week, the Baltimore Orioles (90-67) welcome the under-achieving Boston Red Sox to Camden Yards for one final weekend series of the year last night.
Unlike the previous ten seasons or so, the Birds are finally happy to see the struggling Sox visit at this point in the season.
Entering Friday night’s contest, the Orioles had won 10 of the 15 contests and they continued that trend as they routed the Sox in a 9-1 defeat. Chris Tillman (9-2, 2.67 ERA) tossed eight innings of one-hit ball, and Ryan Flaherty smacked a grand slam and a career-high five RBI coupled with a two-run home run by the scorching-hot Chris Davis .
Although they picked up their second consecutive win, after dropping the previous three of five games, the New York Yankees continued their winning ways as they cruised to an 11-4 victory over the Jays.
However, the Jays beat the Bombers earlier today and New York currently holds just a 0.5-game lead in the East, and if the Birds can pick up another victory tonight, they would move into a first-place tie with just four games left.
With last night’s win, they continue to keep pace at leading the way in the Wild Card as they continue to hold a one-game lead over the Oakland A’s and a three-game lead over the surging Los Angeles Angels .
On paper, tonight will be a difficult match-up for the Birds as Boston will send LHP Felix Doubront (11-9, 4.91 ERA) to the hill to make his third start against Baltimore. In his previous outing on Sunday, he dominated the Orioles by striking out a career-high 11 batters while tossing seven innings of one-run baseball; he did not factor in the decision, as the Sox rallied in the 8 th inning 2-1.
In his five outings this season against the Birds, three relief appearances, he sports an 0-1 record with an impressive 2.81 ERA.
The Boston southpaw has been one of Boston’s more consistent starters over the last two weeks or so. He has not allowed a home run over his last three starts, while he surrendered four long-shots in his previous three outings.
Buck Showalter will counter with quite possibly the most-surprising starting pitcher, even more than Tillman, this season. RHP Steve Johnson (4-0, 1.62 ERA) has picked up a win in each of his three outings as a starter. Over those three contests, he sports a sparkling 2.12 ERA.
In his last outing in the first game of the doubleheader against the Jays on Monday, he tossed five scoreless innings in the Orioles 4-1 win. Although he has not started a game versus the Red Sox in his young career, he pitched two scoreless innings of relief on August 16 th.
The Orioles won seven-of-the-nine games at Fenway Park this season, and have only played to a 4-3 record at home. Regardless, the Orioles have a great shot at winning tonight’s contest, and if they do, they will wake up on Sunday, September 30 th with a share of first-place with the Yankees.
There are only five games left in the year and that means the Orioles have a shot at finishing the season with 95 victories, after scratching out just 69 wins in Showalter’s first full season at the helm.
Even without Nick Markakis for the last three weeks, the Birds have been able to put up victories. Nate McLouth and Mark Reynolds have stepped up their game at the dish, while starter’s Tillman and Johnson have paved the way in the pitching department.
McLouth is batting .275 with four home runs and five RBI at the top of the order in the absence of Markakis, while Reynolds has crushed nine home runs and driven in 24 RBI this month. Both Adam Jones and Davis have delivered six home runs each.
Over their last 12 games, the Orioles are 9-3 and in September, the Birds are 13-9 and continue to keep pace with the power-house Yankees. Who would have thought the Orioles would be battling the Bombers for the Eastern Division title at this point in September.
The weather is certainly changing as falls rolls into the area and the first of October is right around the corner.
The rest of the games are all very important for the Orioles and they need to win as many as they can. The Birds have played very strong against the Red Sox this season and need to finish strong. If they can win both tonight and tomorrow afternoon, they’ll head into the final three-game set with the rival Tampa Bay Rays with more confidence.
By: Alex Van Rees
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