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The Orioles are still rocking a NEGATIVE 26 runs scored differential on the year, but at this point in the season, the only relevant numbers are those found in the wins column. Tonight can possibly signal the reestablishment of the Yankees’ division lead, or the beginning of an uphill struggle. I hate to say it, but a loss makes Baltimore and New York all square once again.

“Hold the line! Stay with me! If you find yourself alone, riding in the green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium, and you're already dead!” Perhaps only the first three words from this Gladiator quote are even remotely relevant, but it is time to battle my friends.

In a few short hours, rookie David Phelps will face off against Jason Hammel to determine where the weight will be distributed on the seesaw that is the AL East standings. Phelps was shaky at best in his last start against Baltimore on September 1st, handing out six walks in 4.2 innings. Although he did not factor into the decision, this hiccup was rather unsettling. Even before throwing only 50 strikes out of 98 attempts in that disaster, the only compliment I could offer is that he is serviceable as a starter.

Jason Hammel has had a respectable first season in Baltimore outside of one garbage start against the Angels. On the other hand, he hasn’t pitched in the majors since mid-July, and this is his first start since undergoing knee surgery.   Although he recently threw five scoreless in a rehab start, you don’t know what to expect from him.

Besides the walks, nobody on Baltimore hits Phelps particularly well besides Matt Wieters, who is 2-4 with a bomb in his career against him. While Matty’s bat has been cold the last month, he has crushed the Yanks this year (Hitting .233 in the last month but .396 against the Yankees this season). The always streaky Mark Reynolds is hitless in 2 AB’s against Phelps, but he does have 2 walks and is hitting over .400 against the Bombers this season. JJ Hardy has also piled up 2 hits in 5 career at bats, but as long as Phelps can paint the strike zone, I don’t think Baltimore will have an easy go at things.

Hammel has faced more Yankees in his brief time in the big show, and hasn’t fared particularly well. Nick Sweeeesh is 2-5 but both of those hits were doubles, and Ichiro is also hitting a very solid .500 in 10 career at bats. Jeter and Robbie are both hitting over .300 with a bomb a piece in roughly 20 career at bats vs. Hammel. Pretty sexy. Fortunately, A-Rod is the guy with the keen eye against Mr. H. Over 20 career at bats against this dude, he has collected 8 hits. Oh, and 4 of them were straight up tater tot four-baggers.

So after all the number crunching, what is the conclusion? Who the hell knows. It is a pretty level matchup on paper and even the betting line is basically even. Hopefully you stayed awake during the number crunching, but during times like these, sometimes you gotta put jokes aside. Hopefully we get to hear CYC’s wonderfully positive ranting soon enough.



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