For years the Baltimore Orioles have been a good team for the Yankees to pad their stats against. However, this team has a different feel to it. They probably won’t contend for a playoff spot, they may not even be a .500 team, but they are improved and they won’t be as easy to beat these days.
“They’ve been good,” CC Sabathia told Marc Carig of the Newark Star-Ledger. “They played us tough, even that first series here. Every game was grind-it-out tough, even Tuesday. So, that’s a really good team over there.”
Take the starters they faced this week, Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen, two young pitchers with 2.something ERA’s that have already shown more pitchablity than almost anybody else the O’s have thrown at the Yankees in recent years.
Then there is the bullpen, which has been where the Yankees hitters have traditionally feasted over the years. Closer Jim Johnson looks solid and is off to a good start with a 0.54 ERA.
Then there are setup men Pedro Strop and former Yankee Luis Ayala. Strop looks electric out there and showed off skills that may translate into a closer eventually. Ayala has also gotten off to a good start in Baltimore. Yankees fans like to get on him, but he’s a solid groundball pitcher that has done well for himself in the last year and a half.
The most important reason the Orioles may stick around longer than expected this year is the veteran presence in their lineup. Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Matt Weiters, and J.J. Hardy are a strong core. Mark Reynolds will be back in the lineup soon and there are a few others that have some decent talent surrounding them in the lineup.
They’re in first place now and it’s not a total fluke. They probably don’t have the depth to maintain that over 162 games, injuries will take their toll and their rotation, improved, probably still isn’t deep enough. However, the Orioles aren’t pushovers anymore.