With the Yankees rained out tonight, all eyes turn to the west, where the Mariners host the pesky Baltimore Orioles. Tonight's game will give the Orioles a chance to at least symbolically get back into a first-place tie; a win would give them 84 wins to the Yankees' 83, but would still have one more loss. This would all be undone by the Yanks' doubleheader on Wednesday.
The Mariners are going after the Birds with 22-year-old rookie right-hander Erasmo Ramirez (who I insist on thinking of as "Orgasmo Ramirez," after what was perhaps not the most inspired bit of work in the South Park guys' canon), a control freak with a low-90s fastball. He was known for an ability to induce grounders in the minors, but so far his groundball-rate has been nothing exceptional. The Nicaraguan import has made five starts in the majors and has struck out 26 in 26.2 innings, while walking only four. His RA as a starter is 4.72.
The Orioles counter with one of the sensational character finds of 2012, Wei-Yin Chen. When Dan Duquette was general manager of the Red Sox, his talent for finding talent hidden underneath a rock was misplaced; any GM who can unearth but is willing to sign the Morgan Burkharts of the world deserves respect, but you can't beat the Yankees that way. For the Orioles, who under previous administrations couldn't find talent if it wore a big neon sign saying, "Sign me, stupid!" he was exactly what was needed. Chen hasn't been Yu Darvish, but then, he didn't need to be. He just needed to show up and be competent, and his combination of low-90s stuff and offspeed pitches has been exactly that. Sure, he missed on Tsuyoshi Wada (at least so far), but when you go dumpster diving, you're going to come up with thousands of banana peels for every lost diamond.
Orioles hitters are on fire this month, hitting .277/.353/.481 and scoring 5.8 runs per game (compare with the Yankees at .235/.324/.392 and 4.9). Sometimes winning a pennant is just a matter of getting hot at the right time-or not getting cold at the wrong time. Stay tuned.