As the battle for the first and second wildcards in the AL gets more and more tight heading down the stretch of the final few weeks in the regular season, the Yankees (78-68) face the Baltimore Orioles (77-68) this evening at Camden Yards. The O's took the opener of this 3 game series Monday evening before the Yankees responded with comeback wins on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. The Yankees trail the second wildcard spot currently held by Tampa Bay by one game heading into action.
Phil Hughes (4-13 5.11) received the inauspicious and tentative nod from Joe Girardi to replace David Huff citing experience as his justification. However, Hughes has lost his last 6 decisions since July with a 5.48 ERA in July. Hughes faces an Orioles lineup that is hitting .263 overall, averaging about 4.8 runs per contest and leads the majors with 194 HR overall. Chris Davis (.295 49 128) who had 35 long balls by the ASB leads the majors and is second in RBI to Miguel Cabrera. Adam Jones (.291 31 102) has done well providing protection for Davis in the cleanup spot and looks to finish 2013 with career highs. JJ Hardy (.256 25 72) recently broke an 0 for 13 slump and has been consistent during both sides of the ASB. While it's been a virtual down year for Matt Wieters (.229 21 71), he has also come through with some clutch hits that have kept the O's right in the middle of the wildcard chase. Manny Machado (.292 13 69) has been nails at the hot corner showing plenty of poise and production at the plate. Nick Markakis (.255 9 55) recently returned to the lineup after his wife gave birth, but has not come close to career averages and expectations due to injuries and inefficiency.
Baltimore counters with Weii Yin Chen (7-7 3.82) who has also not been sharp as of late going 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA over his last 3 starts. After showing some early flashes he's struggled with his control and has had a hard time retiring heavy hitters in the opposing lineup. Chen faces a Yankees lineup that has used their offense to crawl back into the wildcard race up 11 points in their batting average to .247 since the midway point. Robinson Cano (.309 27 100) is getting hot at the right time and is putting up All Star numbers right before his status could turn to free agency. Alfonso Soriano (.252 32 98) has clubbed 15 HR since his trade from The Cubs, and continues to hit tape measure shots that have helped the Yankees come from behind on numerous occasions. Brett Gardner (.273 8 52) has become a lot more patient at the plate while using his speed to manufacture and score runs out of the leadoff spot. Ichiro Suzuki (.266 7 330 got off to a slow start but just recently passed the 4,000 hit plateau between his MLB and Pro Japan careers. While the Yankees have overcome a lot of injuries and controversy, they have Alex Rodriguez (.299 6 13) and Curtis Granderson (.248 5 12) back in full swing. Both homered in Wednesday night's win in addition to Cano's tie breaking drive in the 9th. While it was announced that Derek Jeter (.190 1 7) will miss the rest of the season after appearing in just 17 games, Eduardo Nunez and recently acquired Brendan Ryan have nicely filled the void. Former Oriole Mark Reynolds (.229 18 62) hasn't exactly gotten a warm returning welcome, but could also provide the Bombers some pop if he just learns to cut down on his strikeouts.
We get a price here that is just right in one of America's favorite and hitter-friendly ballparks in the league. The way the Yankees have been scoring runs it's easy to realize they are turning back the clock several years back, with Baltimore showing the power and production all season based on their stacked lineup. With both pitchers not at their best and with the ball carrying out to virtually all fields especially in right and left center, these two should slug it out toe to toe early and often. We hope to have more of these closing out what has been nothing short of a successful season, and our goal is to finish north of 60% which has the potential of turning the final outcome into record success. Best of luck however you play!