The Yankees (35-22) get to play the worst team in baseball for a three-game set for the second week in a row, and the only negative to be drawn is that after the culmination of this series they only get six more games against Baltimore (16-41).
Phil Hughes (2.54 ERA; 2.85 FIP; 3.60 xFIP) faces erstwhile Orioles ace Kevin Millwood (4.29 ERA; 4.71 FIP; 4.04 xFIP) tonight. Hughes has been in a dogfight with Andy Pettitte all season long for best starting pitcher on the staff, and hopefully it continues to stay neck-and-neck, although Hughes actually has Pettitte beat right now. In two starts against Baltimore this season he's given up two runs on eight hits in 12 2/3 innings. Millwood still doesn't have a win in 2010 despite not pitching all that poorly, but there's really no reason to think he'll pick up that elusive first victory against the top offense in the league at a park that's basically their home away from home.
CC Sabathia (4.14 ERA; 4.53 FIP; 3.97 xFIP) looks to continue his ownership of the Orioles while facing Chris Tillman (7.71 ERA; 7.10 FIP; 5.34 xFIP). On paper this should be a cakewalk for the Yanks, with their ace going up against the rookie Tillman.
And in the finale, A.J. Burnett (3.72 ERA; 4.18 FIP; 4.43 xFIP) draws Jeremy Guthrie (3.71 ERA; 4.40 FIP; 4.81 xFIP), arguably the O's best pitcher but also someone the Yankees almost always seem to be able to figure out (New York has an .831 OPS against Guthrie in 81.1 career innings; for comparison's sake Boston has an .842 OPS in 81.2 career innings). Burnett has pitched superbly well against the O's this year (no earned runs in 15 1/3 innings) and I see no reason for that not to continue.
I bet hard-luck loser Brian Matusz is quite happy he doesn't have to face the Yankees this go-round.
Here are the two teams' offense and pitching numbers:
The Yankee offense lost several points off all three slash stats after being shut down by the Jays this weekend -- even their long-standing grip on leading the league in wOBA is in jeopardy, as the Red Sox are just .002 points behind. Thankfully, Baltimore's atrocious pitching should be just what the doctor ordered.
As you can see, the Orioles are last or near last in every meaningful pitching category, although they are surprisingly only middle-of-the-road in issuing walks. The Yankees' overall pitching numbers remain strong, although that ugly HR/9 rate is going to have to start coming down at some point. Still, hard to quibble with a league-leading BAA and the second-best WHIP in the AL.
Additionally, the Yankees' pitching numbers should only improve during this series against the worst offense in the American League -- believe it or not, Seattle is actually barely out-wOBAing the O's at .302.
I hate calling a sweep, so I won't, but the Yankees really should take all three games against this lowly Orioles team this week. I mean, look at the numbers -- the Orioles are absolutely terrible! The Yankees then get to play a team with an even lousier offense -- the Astros -- this weekend. Anything less than 4-2 over the next six games is pretty close to unacceptable, and they really should only be dropping one game at most during that span.