The Yankees/Orioles matchup this weekend will be big

The Yankees had better bring it full throttle this weekend.

With a day off today, they’ll need to be thinking long and hard about the two teams edging up from behind; one of which they’ll be hosting in the Bronx starting Friday – the Baltimore Orioles.

Optimists be damned, the Bombers are in very dangerous territory as this path could lead them to become the heir apparent to the collapse kings of 2011- the Red Sox and Braves.

It will also be imperative that the Yankees don’t get too far ahead of themselves as they reflect on going 15-12 in August, allowing the O’s and Rays to creep back within 3.5 games. The upcoming schedule is an AL East gauntlet of 10 road games against the Rays, Orioles, and Red Sox. Then a return home for another round against the Rays, the troublesome Blue Jays, followed by the upstart Athletics.

Here is what the Yankees have to deal with this weekend against Baltimore.

(Probable) Starting Pitching:

Miguel Gonzalez is scheduled to kick the series off on Friday against Hiroki Kuroda. In 9 starts Gonzalez posts a 5-3 record with a 6.6 K/9, a 3.4 BB/9, a 1.30 WHIP, .248 BAA, and a very AL East-respectable 3.66 ERA. He’s faced the Yankees once back on the 30th of July which resulted in a 5-4 O’s victory. Not a quality start, but Gonzalez K’d eight and walked none while giving up four earned runs (three HRs) on six hits. Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez had good games each going two for three with a home run. Gonzalez’s victims included Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher who both K’d twice.

Lefty Wei-Yin Chen pitches Saturday afternoon opposite Freddy Garcia. He’s 1-1 against the Yanks with a 5-4 loss in April and strong 5-2 victory in May. Chen, through 26 starts this year has been a great starter for the O’s going 12-7 with a 3.78 ERA and roughly a 4-1 K/BB ration. Being that Chen is a lefty, its no surprise the Yankees have not hit well against him. They are currently hitting .231 with 3 homers and a nearly 1-1 hit/K ratio. Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter are the only Yanks to have faired well against Chen going two for six with a Jeter home run.

Sunday will see Chris Tillman face David Phelps. Tillman, another strong O’s starter is a 7-2, has held batters to a .225 BA, and a .675 OPS against. Career wise, New York has had their way with him. The current Yankees are hitting .375 with 4 home runs vs. Tillman. Cano (.571, 1 HR), Jeter (.500), and Swisher (.385, 1 HR) have had the most success, while Swisher and Granderson have both gone down swinging four times. This season, Tillman won his July 31st start 11-5 despite going only five innings giving up eight hits and four earned runs.

Offense:

In the past month, Nick Markakis has been the hottest O’s hitter with a .372 wOBA, .509 SLG, and 15 runs scored. Mark Reynolds is also hitting very well with four home runs, .394 OBP, and a .376 wOBA. Adam Jones, while hitting .272, is on somewhat of a cold streak. His wOBA is .301 with just one home run in 111 plate appearances.

As far as facing the trio of Kuroda/Garcia/Phelps, Kuroda has been the most dominant, Phelps has a small sample size, and Garcia has been shaky at best. Kuroda has held the current O’s to a .183 batting average with 17 Ks. He also won his April 30th start going seven innings and yielding one earned run.

Phelps has yet to make a start against the O’s while appearing in relief against them three games this season.

Garcia has had a rough time with the current O’s lineup posting a .293 BAA and giving up 12 home runs along with a 2-1 K/BB ratio. Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are standouts against Freddy going a combined 12 for 32 with six walks and one home run. Garcia has seen the O’s four times this year, two starts and two bullpen outings. None of which were particularly remarkable.

The dog days are closing.

No more excuses.

If the Yankees want to be champions, they are going to have to get back to playing like one.

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