AL East tied again, White Sox fall, another walk-off win in Oakland
September 30, 2012Eastern Indiana Sports
Five thoughts after another wild day at the races in which the Orioles pulled even with the Yankees, the White Sox imploded again, the A's pulled out another improbable victory and the Dodgers earned a stay of execution ...
1. The four- (or five-) game season starts Sunday
With the Yankees having already lost the Blue Jays in Toronto on Saturday afternoon in a listless 3-2 game in which neither team nor the umpires distinguished themselves, the Orioles went out and beat the Red Sox 4-3 in Baltimore Saturday night, despite a strong start from Boston starter Felix Doubront, to move into a tie for first place in the American League East for the first time since Sept. 14. That leaves those two teams just four games in which to determine a champion in their league, five if they finish the 162-game schedule tied and need a one-game playoff on Thursday to settle the matter.
The Jays are doing an excellent job of playing spoiler in this race, having gone 4-2 against the two combatants over the last six days, but after their series finale against the Yankees on Sunday, which pits Henderson Alvarez against Phil Hughes, they'll be out of the picture. Sunday's games favor the Orioles, as they'll face Zach Stewart and the Red Sox at home while the Yankees wrap up in Toronto. But after that, the outlook changes considerably. On Monday, the Yankees come home to face Boston with CC Sabathia taking the mound, while the Orioles head to Tampa Bay to face the hottest team in baseball, the Rays, who have won nine of their last 10 and are still clinging to their own postseason hopes.
The Orioles are 9-6 against the Rays this season, including taking two of three in Tampa in early August, the last time they met, and the Rays' elimination number is two, meaning they could be out of the wild-card race by the time the O's arrive. Still, it's hard to argue that the Yankees' don't have the more favorable matchup in the season's final series, as they'll be playing at home against team that has played .296 ball since the calendar flipped to August. The Yankees, meanwhile, have won 10 of their last 14 games, including series wins against the A's and Rays, so it's not as if they're limping to the finish.
Still, the Orioles seem to be the team of destiny here. Since finishing July six games above .500 -- despite being outscored by 51 runs on the season -- the O's have gone 36-18 (.667) and outscored their opponents by 59 runs to bring their differential into the black on the season. The Yankees, meanwhile, coughed up the 10-game lead they held in the division on July 18 and have done well simply to hang with the upstart Orioles since Baltimore first pulled even with them on Sept. 4.
Amazingly, not only are these two teams tied in the season standings, but they also split their head-to-head series this season, meaning that if they are tied after Wednesday's regular season finale, homefield advantage in Thursday's playoff game would be determined by the better intra-division record. That means the game would be played in Baltimore, as the Orioles are 40-27 against the rest of the AL East while the Yankees are 37-31. Both teams play their remaining four games against intra-division opponents, but to finish tied, they'd have to have matching records over those four games, leaving the Orioles with the advantage in that tie-breaker.
Here, then, are the projected pitching matchups for each team for the remainder of the season: