From August 31-September 2, the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles collided in Yankee Stadium with each team going in a different direction. The Yankees were in the midst of a slide that saw them lose a ten-game lead in the American League East, while the Orioles were rolling and shrinking that same lead. Baltimore won two of the three games to pull to within two by the end of that Series in New York. They were tied for first as recently as September 4.
Now, from September 6-9, the two teams will battle again, this time in Baltimore's Camden Yards. The Yankees have lost 10 of their last 15 games overall while the Orioles have surged to 10 wins in their last 15 games. The series begins with the Yankees currently leading the A.L. East by one game over Baltimore.
The Yankees' problems have happened both on the mound and at the plate. The offensive power outage has coincided much with the absence of first baseman Mark Teixeira, who last played on August 27. In Teixeira's absence, the Yankees have averaged 3.25 runs per game. That is very low for a Yankee team that has averaged 4.76 runs per game for the season. Teixeira may have a low average, but he drives in runs. The Yankees need his bat back very soon to help end the losing. Teixeira could possibly return to the lineup during this series.
On the mound during the same stretch, the Yankees have given up 4.88 total runs per game, over a full run higher than their team ERA of 3.84 for the season. True, ERA does not include unearned runs, but a full run per game is still quite a difference. If the Yankees do not right it both offensively and on the mound for these next four games in Baltimore, the two teams could switch places quickly.
The Yankees will send David Phelps (3-4. 3.13 ERA) to the mound against Jason Hammel (8-6, 3.54) It looks like a close pitching match-up, but Baltimore is scoring much more runs of late than the Yankees.
Phil Hughes (13-12, 4.18) faces Wei-Yin Chen (12-8, 3.79). Hughes has traded wins and losses in his last four games, and the Orioles scored five runs in five innings to beat him on September 2. Chen took the loss in the previous series in New York, but he can pitch.
Yankees' ace CC Sabathia (13-4, 3.42) faces Joe Saunders (7-11, 4.26). Sabathia has been brilliant since coming off the disabled list. Saunders has lost three of four but pitched very well his last time out.
The Yankees send Freddy Garcia (7-6, 5.09) against Baltimore's Zach Britton (5-1, 4.15) in the series finale. Garcia has struggled of late but can still hold his own. Britton has won four straight starts while giving up three runs total.
I see the series as a split. On paper, it appears that the Yankees will win on Thursday and Saturday. I doubt they will sweep, but they need to win three put some separation between the two teams. A split would at least keep the standings the same with four games off the schedule. Baltimore needs to win at least three to take first place. This could be the most crucial series of the season for both teams. I have my DVR ready.
Yahoo! Sports, Scores and Schedules (Games linked above), sports.yahoo.com/mlb.
Raymond was born in Connecticut into a family spilt between the Red Sox and Yankees. Although he grew up in Florida, Raymond became a Yankees fan. He played baseball through high school and soon after became a varsity coach. Raymond previously produced radio sports talk shows and hosted a weekly MLB radio call-in show. Follow Raymond on Twitter @RayBureau
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