Birds Head to New York for a Blockbuster Series This Weekend
Tomorrow is the first day of September and the Baltimore Orioles (72-58) are entering this weekend’s series just three games behind the New York Yankees (75-55) for first place in the American League East.
All they would have to do is sweep the Bronx Bombers at Yankee Stadium.
That seems like a tall order for the overlooked and sneaky Birds. It’s going to be a tough series, regardless of the fact that the New Yorkers have been struggling as a team right now. Not to mention, the huge loss of All-Star and Gold Glove-winning first baseman Mark Teixeira has already impacted them in a negative way.
Since July 18th, the Bombers’ sport an 18-21 record and at the time, they were leading the Birds by 10 games in the standings. On the flip side, the Orioles have won 20 of their last 29 contests and are putting together a strong last two months of the season after a tough July.
Regardless, the Yankees are the Yankees and can get hot at any time and especially in their home ballpark.
Tonight, the Orioles and Yankees open a three game series as Buck Showalter sends rookie RHP Miguel Gonzalez (5-3, 3.66 ERA) to the hill in search of his sixth win of the season.
In his only outing against New York earlier in the year, Gonzalez picked up the win. However, it was a rough outing. He lasted 6.2 innings, and allowed four earned runs, including three home runs, which is what makes you nervous to see.
Gonzalez’s spot was skipped in the rotation this past time, and he has not started a game since August 20th; he allowed four earned runs in five innings and was tagged with the loss against the Rangers.
Joe Giardi will counter with Former Dodger Hiroki Kuroda (12-9, 2.98 ERA), who has been the most consistent and successful starting pitcher in an ever-changing rotation this season.
The RHP out of Japan is putting together a great season for his new club; he’s tossed 175 innings, surrendered just 58 earned runs on 153 base hits. Not to mention, he has racked up 131 strikeouts, while issuing just 40 free passes.
Kuroda has only faced the Orioles one time this season back at the beginning of the season. On April 30th, he picked up his second win of the year after going seven strong innings, allowing just one earned run on four base hits.
In his last outing, Kuroda was tagged with the loss after he lasted eight innings, and surrendered three earned runs on just four base hits in Cleveland.
The season series got off to a rough start for the Orioles in April as the Yankees swept the first series of the year in Baltimore. The Birds lost the first game of the next series, but since then, they have won five of the last six games.
It seems like the perfect timing for these two teams to collide.
The Orioles are 7-3 over their last 10 games, while the Bombers are struggling to keep pace atop the division as they are just 4-6 over the last week and a half.
These two teams have hooked up this season for four series. Besides being swept in Baltimore, the Orioles have fared well. They won the second series of the year in New York, split a shot two game series in Baltimore and then won another three-game set in the Big Apple.
The Orioles are coming off of a very strong home stand this past weekend as they posted a 5-1 record that began with a rain-shortened two-game sweep of the division rival Jays.
They capped the week by taking three of four games against the first place Chicago White Sox (72-58). For the most part, with the exception of newly acquired Joe Saunders who allowed six earned runs in 5.2 innings, the Orioles’ starting hurlers pitched well.
Dan Duquette is not done. He continues to try and fortify the pitching staff by adding more arms, and well-known names might I add. Today, the Orioles announced the signing of veteran LHP Randy Wolf.
After Zach Britton (4-1, 4.80 ERA) tossed a great eight innings of one run baseball including setting a new career-high with 10 strike outs, he is optioned to the minor leagues. He was only optioned down there to make room for Wolf on the roster. Reports say that he will make his next start scheduled for September 4th.
The 36-year old, 14-year veteran Wolf sports a career 130-117 record with a 4.19 ERA. This season in Milwaukee, he struggled as he went 3-10 with a 5.69 ERA in 24 starts. The Brewers released him on August 22nd, and he is thrilled to call Baltimore a home.
I read reports earlier that stated he wanted to come to Baltimore. A free agent actually wants to sign with the Orioles. That is something that hasn’t happened since the late 90’s. It’s great to see both fans and other players recognize that the Orioles are a strong team and are in it for the long haul.
With LHP specialist Troy Patton on the DL, Wolf will mainly be used out of the bullpen. But, if there is ever a need for a long-man or even a spot start, the veteran will be one of Showalter’s many options, but the only left-hander.
I think this was a smart move for the Orioles. They didn’t have to give up anything for him, so even if he doesn’t pan out, it’s not a strain on the organization. Plus, the fact that he wants to come and pitch for the Orioles, is a good sign.
It’s already almost the beginning of September and the Orioles are just three games out of first place and leading the wild card race. The Birds were deemed the basement dwellers of the American League for yet another season.
It’s definitely a very exciting time to be an Oriole fan. Entering September, the Orioles are playing a meaningful game against one of their toughest rivals. Tune into the game at 7pm on MASN.
By: Alex Van Rees
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