The Yankees are off tonight, and they’ll have one eye on the television to see if Baltimore gets past Seattle in the opener of their three-game set (first pitch around 10:10 ET). Two huge wins to close the weekend over the Rays and a scuffling series loss to Oakland by the Orioles puts the Bombers a game up on Baltimore and five games up on Tampa in the division.
The Rays appear beaten back for now, and though they could have another 2011 Rays charge in them, I don’t see it. Tampa has a near-certain win every fifth day when David Price takes the mound — the lefty ace guided the Rays to their only victory all week in a 4-2 win over the Yankees on Friday. But other than Evan Longoria, the team is not hitting, and rookie hurler Matt Moore looked awfully tired Sunday, when the Yankees worked him over (five runs and 80 pitches in three innings). With seven games against the White Sox and Orioles to end the season, the Rays could actually play spoilers for the Yankees by splitting wins with two other AL East/wild card contenders.
The Orioles? I… I don’t even know what to say about the Orioles at this point. Baltimore is playing so far over its head that it makes the 2011 Denver Broncos seem unlucky. The Orioles, by run differential, should be 71-75 right now, 11 games behind their current record and 12 games behind the Yankees. The Cincinnati Reds are the next “luckiest” team in baseball, outperforming their run differential by six games. The Orioles are 27-7 in one-run games and an astounding 13-2 in extra-inning affairs this year. In back-to-back games in April, Baltimore went extra innings against the Yankees and lost. The second loss came on a walkoff homer by Nick Swisher, and since then the Orioles have won 13 straight extra-inning games. Grumble about over-reliance on statistics if you must, but that streak is extraordinary, and it’s a big part of why the Yankees are in a division race right now.