The Yankees have led the AL East for most of the year and at times have seemed like a lock for a spot in the postseason, but things have changed as Baltimore and Tampa Bay continue to creep closer to New York in the race. After last night’s win for the O’s and Rays and loss for the Yanks, New York’s lead is just a slim one game over Baltimore and just two and a half over Tampa. Things just got more interesting indeed.
The Orioles have really been on the move over the last month, as they have won 20 of their last 28 games, which included taking two out of three from the Yankees over the weekend. The O’s began their three-game series with an impressive shutout win over the Toronto Blue Jays last night 4-0, as the Yankees lost to the Rays 4-3, closing the gap to the closest margin it has been since the middle of June.
O’s starter Joe Saunders and three relievers combined to shutout the Jays. Saunders pitched into the seventh inning until he got in a bases-loaded jam, which reliever Luis Ayala was able to get out of by striking out one hitter and getting the next to hit a harmless fly-ball out.
J.J. Hardy led the O’s offensive attack by driving in two of the team’s four runs on an RBI double in the fifth and an RBI single in the eighth. Adam Jones added two hits, as did Nate McLouth, who also started Baltimore’s scoring with a sacrifice fly in the first inning.
The O’s will look to keep things rolling as they face off against the Jays in game two of the series tonight. They will send starter Zach Britton to the mound to face Carlos Villanueva of Toronto. The two pitchers squared off against each other last on August 24th, with Britton and the Orioles taking home the win. Britton, who has won three straight starts, is coming one of his best outings of the year, a 10 strikeout performance in a win over the White Sox.
The O’s are hot and the Blue Jays are not. I like the Orioles to cover the -1.5 runline in this one with Britton going deep into the game against an anemic Jays lineup.
Meanwhile, the Yankees are slipping a bit and at the wrong time. New York has dropped its last two and four of its last ten, including last night’s game against the Rays. James Shields pitched eight strong innings for the Rays, nabbing his 13th win of the season. He left the game tied 3-3, but Chris Gimenez drove in what would be the winning run in the bottom half of the inning to make it 4-3. Fernando Rodney then shut the door on New York in the ninth, picking up save number 41 on the year.
The good news for New York is that last night marked the return of Alex Rodriguez, who had missed the last six weeks with a broken hand. He went 1-4 in the loss on Monday, but the Yankees are hoping that with A-Rod back in the lineup, their production at the plate will increase once again.
New York will send 7-5 Freddy Garcia to the mound to take on 8-8 Alex Cobb of the Rays. Even with the Yankees struggling, I have to think they will bounce back in this one. They simply have too much talent to continue to lose close games. Look for the Yankees to cover the +1.5 runline and get back on track today.