The Baltimore Orioles allowed a total of four runs during a four-game sweep this week, a stunning series for a pitching staff that owns the major leagues’ worst ERA.
Perhaps the New York Yankees can provide a reality check.
The Yankees scored at least four runs in each of the final four innings of their astonishing turnaround Thursday, a wave of momentum they’ll hope to ride as they look to continue their dominance of Baltimore on Friday night in the opener of this five-game set at Camden Yards.
New York (78-50) ceded control of the AL East to Boston after dropping its first two games against Oakland this week, and it looked like it was heading toward a frustrating sweep after falling behind 7-1 in the third inning of Thursday’s finale.
Russell Martin(notes) hit a solo shot in the fourth, but that was just the beginning of the Yankees’ rally. New York scored 20 more times between the fifth and eighth innings, becoming the first team in major league history to hit three grand slams in a game in a remarkable 22-9 whitewashing of the A’s.
With Boston’s win, the Yankees remained one game out.
“The fact that we as a team have done something that all the teams have never done before, it’s pretty neat,” said center fielder Curtis Granderson(notes), who followed grand slams by Martin and Robinson Cano(notes) with the third of his career. “I think it speaks to what this offense is - that anybody and everybody can deliver at any time.”
That’s certainly been the case when the Yankees have played the Orioles (51-77) this season. They’ve outscored their AL East rival 82-30 while winning nine of 10, scoring at least 13 runs in three of those victories.
Games like those have been all too frequent for Baltimore, which arrived in Minnesota this week with a major league-worst 4.92 ERA after giving up 24 runs in three losses to the Angels.
So while it was certainly surprising that the Orioles managed to sweep the Twins - they had been 5-14 in August and hadn’t even won a series since late June - it was positively stunning the way it unfolded. Baltimore gave up just one run in each of the four games, culminating with Thursday’s 6-1 win that sealed its first four-game sweep in Minnesota.
“Sooner or later,” manager Buck Showalter said, “the baseball gods kind of let you up for air.”
The Orioles’ reward is five games against the Yankees, though Hurricane Irene may wipe out at least one of those. Baltimore turned down the possibility of playing twice Friday.
They may not have wanted to mess with perhaps their best chance at a victory. A.J. Burnett(notes) (9-10, 4.96 ERA) gets the ball for New York hoping to forget about his start Saturday, when he surrendered seven runs and lasted just 1 2-3 innings in a 9-4 loss to Minnesota.
Burnett’s ERA in four starts this month is 10.70, and he’s 1-9 with a 7.62 ERA in August since joining the Yankees in 2009. Those numbers are enough for manager Joe Girardi to cast some doubt on Burnett’s rotation spot.
“We need him to pitch well, there’s no doubt,” Girardi told the team’s official website. “It’s a big start. We’re trying to determine how to get down, if we’re going to get down, to a five-man rotation.”
Burnett is 1-1 with a 5.02 ERA in two starts against the Orioles this season. He’s allowed four homers in 14 1-3 innings, including one to Matt Wieters(notes) - who’s 2 for 22 in his career against him.
Hunter is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in two career starts versus New York. Granderson is 4 for 6 with a homer against him.