First place in the AL East is going to be on the line at Camden Yards this weekend, and here at Bang the Book, we have all of the action covered for the first of those games, as the New York Yankees visit the Baltimore Orioles.
A team meeting might have been just what the doctor ordered to get the Yankees headed back in the right direction again. They blew a 10-game lead in the AL East in a matter of about two months, and they were officially just in a tie for first place at the start of the day yesterday. Yet they had their meeting in Tampa Bay, came out, beat the Rays, and now have first place to themselves coming into this pivotal four-game set. David Phelps will be the first man to try his luck against Baltimore on Thursday. The rookie righty has mostly been used out of the bullpen this year, though he does have seven starts to his credit as well. Phelps’ splits aren’t great by relief pitcher standards, but what we are more concerned about is the way that he has pitched lately. Five days ago, he pitched against these very same Orioles and allowed three runs in 4.2 innings of work, but he walked a whopping six batters against just three strikeouts.
The Orioles fell out of first place again yesterday, but they have to get back on the horse in a hurry, or they’re going to be in a heck of a lot of trouble. Remember that this isn’t just the Yanks that we’re talking about, but the red hot Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland Athletics, Detroit Tigers or Chicago White Sox, and Los Angeles Angels that we’re discussing, too. Jason Hammel is going to get the first look at the Yanks, and this is going to be his first start since July 13th. He had some arthroscopic surgery done on his right need and has been out since that point. Hammel is 8-6 on the year, and he has a 3.54 ERA to show for his work. However, for his career, Hammel really is nothing more than a replacement level pitcher, as he has been right around the .500 mark with an ERA in the mid-4.00s at best, and batters have hit .270-.280 against him. His numbers are significantly better this year, and we are wondering if he is due for a major turn in the wrong direction now that he is off the DL.
With apologies to the Orioles, we still don’t think that they are as good of a team as the Yankees are. Hammel is no better pitcher today than he was when he lost his last four games before going on the DL, and he is going to get beaten in this one. Giving us plus odds on the Yankees just seems to be absurd. The visitors should be favorites in this game. New York 7 – Baltimore 4