Yankees or Orioles who will finish better these next three games?
Meet your division title contenders. With three games left on the regular season schedule, the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles have both assured playoff spots. Of course, with identical records, both teams will play this final series looking to win the elusive division title and avoid having to play a sudden death wildcard game to continue into October.
Though they have the same exact measured success to this point, both teams have taken two very different paths to arrive at 91-67.
The Orioles have scored eight runs more than they have surrendered. The Yankees best their Maryland rivals by a difference of 114 in that category. The Orioles are lead by a manager who helped build the team Joe Torre would lead to a dynasty. The Yankees are lead by the guy who took over directly afterwards.
Baltimore’s home and road splits are nearly identical. The Birds are one game better at home with 46 wins and four runs better in differential, besting opponents by just six runs the entire season at Camden Yards.
While respectable on the road, the Yankees prefer home cooking a little more. New York has a .615 winning percentage at home and .538 on the road, but have outscored opponents by 58 and 54 runs respectively. Whether they are home or away this weekend, (Yankees are home, Baltimore, away) it shouldn’t make much of an impact.
That’s where the commonalities would seem to end.
The Bronx Bombers once shared a 10 game lead in the division, and have never seen a six game deficit. They had an amazing first half, going 52-33 before cooling off to 39-34 in the second half. In 2012, the Boys in Pinstripes have grown accustomed to the top, sharing at least part of the division lead for 103 of the 159 games. They have been as much as 25 games over .500 and never worse than three games under.
On the flip-side, the Orioles were the team who once trailed by 10 games in the division and never lead by more than two games. They have had an amazing second half, sporting a 46-27 mark after a pedestrian 45-40 first half. The Orioles are new to winning as a franchise and are not as used to being in first place having stayed there for just 52 games, a lot of which has come since September 3rd. The Orioles are at the season high water mark of 24 games over .500 and not once in 2012 ever lost more games than they won.
New York has combined to go 35-17 against the NL and in games decided by five or more runs. However, the league’s highest payroll has managed just a 21-25 record in one run games and 5-3 in extra innings.
Baltimore is the complete opposite. The Orioles are 36-30 in interleague and blowouts, but an amazing 44-11 in one run games and extra inning matchups (16-2). This is a team who has won 16 consecutive extra inning games and has pasted Major League Baseball with a 36-18 record since its first game in August.
The Orioles will make you sweat, the Yankees will bludgeon you. One method is more efficient, the other less predictable.
The Yankees have had two months where they won as much as they lost (May and July) and just one month where they did better than five games over .500.
The Orioles have two such months (August and September) and were under .500 in July (13-14).
The Yankees started the year getting swept by the Tampa Bay Rays (the Orioles’ opponent to finish the season) before sweeping Baltimore.
The Orioles started the year sweeping the Twins before coming back to earth against the Yankees.
So who will finish better these next three games?
Recent history implies the Orioles, but the Yankees have the scheduling advantage. New York takes on its arch rival Boston Red Sox, who they have a 10-5 record against this season and that includes when Boston was a competing, 170 million dollar team. Still, Boston and its fans would likely try to justify the entire season if it found a way to damper the Yankees’ playoff hopes.
The Orioles have the Rays, a team still fighting for the final playoff spot, coming off a sweep at the hands of the Orioles in its most recent face off and winners of 10 of its past 11 games. Of course, the Orioles are 9-6 against Tampa on the year.
One thing is for certain, this could very well end in a tie and a one game playoff, a game New York has already declared Andy Pettitte would pitch.
One thing should also seem pretty familiar. The Yankees, Orioles, Rays and Red Sox combined for a large portion of arguably the greatest regular season day ever, the final day of the regular season in 2011. That was when the Yankees blew a seven run lead to the Rays after six innings, giving up a one run lead with two strikes and two outs in the bottom of the ninth before losing in extra innings.
That was the same day Jonathan Papelbon retired the first two Orioles in the bottom of the ninth before allowing two runs to score. The Red Sox lost on the final out and were kicked out of the playoffs by Baltimore and Tampa Bay, the Rays entered October thanks to Baltimore and New York.
This year the Rays and Red Sox will try to make life difficult on either the Orioles or Yankees, but once again all four teams will play a large role on the American League’s playoff landscape.
Except this time, all three games count.