By: Willie Bee
Just when I thought Ivan Nova might be susceptible to a Baltimore Orioles lineup that ranks first in the majors in long balls and fourth in scoring, the New York Yankees righthander turns in his first career shutout.
Nova's effort in Game 2 of this series has the Yankees on the verge of a sweep, and lifted New York a half-game ahead of the Orioles in the AL East and wild card races. The Yankees now go for what could be a knockout blow of the O's on Sunday with veteran Andy Pettitte on the Bronx bump, and the MLB odds have them as small home favorites on the moneyline. Baltimore tries to get up off the mat with its own southpaw Wei-Yin Chen, with the baseball betting options also including a 9 run total (U-125).
The Yankees got all the offense they needed Saturday from Robinson Cano who had a homer and RBI double in the 2-0 triumph. Nova surrendered just three hits while striking out five as New York rolled to its sixth consecutive win with him on the mound. The victory pushed the Yanks to within three games of the Tampa Bay Rays for second place in both the division and AL wild card standings.
Chen was actually optioned to the minors earlier this week in what was mainly a procedural move as MLB teams maneuver their rosters for the playoffs and Sept. 1 call-ups. His August performance made him the odd-man out of the rotation after losing four of five starts with a 6-flat ERA. His only appearance vs. the Yankees this year came in New York on April 14, and he was bested by Hiroki Kuroda's 3-0 shutout that evening.
Pettitte has won three straight starts while New York is victorious in his last four, and a victory today would give him 20 vs. the Orioles over the years. He picked up career win No. 19 on July 6 in the Bronx, working into the seventh and allowing three earned runs in a 5-4 Yankees decision.
The weatherman says the start of today's game should come off without a hitch, but there's a 60% chance of a thunderstorm by mid-afternoon. Crew chief Jeff Kellogg (16-11-1 O/U/P) should close out the set calling balls and strikes, his second plate assignment in an Orioles-Yankees game this year. The 23-year veteran previously had the dish when the clubs met in Baltimore to open a series on May 20, and the 6-4 final that went 10 frames skipped past a 9 run total in that game.
The Yankees have the momentum and a well-rested bullpen to back Pettitte today in order to pull off the sweep, and that's exactly where I'm going with my free pick.
My pick: Yankees -125 at Bet365
By: Willie Bee
After having most of the last three months to itself, Major League Baseball will battle college football for viewers and bettors on Saturday. Not helping MLB is a lineup of less than stellar pitching matchups on the 15-game slate.
That's the case in New York where the Yankees send Ivan Nova to the hill against Scott Feldman and the Baltimore Orioles. The second of an important 3-game set currently shows New York around -130 chalk on SBR's live MLB odds, with a 9 run total that is carrying extra juice on the low side.
Friday's opener was a pitching duel for three innings between Miguel Gonzalez and CC Sabathia, but bats on both sides broke the game open in the middle innings. Home runs from Alfonso Soriano and Ichiro Suzuki were key blows for New York, and Mariano Rivera nailed the 8-5 win down with a perfect ninth for his 39th save of the season, and 647th of his Hall of Fame career.
Feldman is making his 10th start for the O's following a July trade from the Cubs, and looking to build on a short 2-game win streak. The lanky righty is coming off dubyas at home vs. the Rockies and A's, combining for 11.2 IP while allowing three runs in the two contests. Baltimore is 5-4 in his nine assignments while Feldman has pitched to a 4.55 ERA since joining the Orioles.
He made two starts against the Yankees last season while still toiling for the Rangers; Texas split the decisions with Feldman throwing 9.1 innings and surrendering five runs.
Nova struggled with his control last Sunday at Tampa Bay, issuing six walks while working into the seventh. But the end result was still a good one as the Yankees won for the fifth consecutive time with the Dominican on the hill. New York split his two starts vs. Baltimore this season, those outings coming in back-to-back appearances in late-June, early-July. Nova went the distance in the victory at Yankee Stadium on July 5, whiffing a season-high 11 and giving up just three hits.
Chad Fairchild is expected to call balls and strikes in Saturday's matinee, and the Sandusky, OH native brings a level 13-13 O/U mark into the match. Five of Fairchild's last seven plate assignments skipped past the total, and he worked a start by Nova back in late April that also went OVER.
There is a 30% chance of a passing thunderstorm this afternoon in the Bronx, but the likelihood of rain doesn't really pick up until about the time the contest should be concluding. A humid 82º with a 10 mph SSW wind (out to LC) is the first pitch forecast.
I like the Orioles to get to Nova with some early runs to help put Baltimore back in the win column. The road 'dogs will be my free pick in Game 2.
My pick: Orioles +121 at Bet365
By: Willie Bee
Roughly 30 games remain and there are several series this weekend with playoff implications, matchups like the Rays in Oakland to meet the Athletics while the Cardinals and Pirates duel in Pittsburgh. But even more crucial than the other clashes between playoff contenders is the series in New York where the Yankees host the Baltimore Orioles.
Locked in a fight to secure one of two American League wild card slots, the Yanks and O's get it on Friday night with New York -130 chalk behind CC Sabathia. Baltimore counters with Miguel Gonzalez with SBR's live MLB odds showing a split on the total that finds both 8.5 and 9 run figures being offered.
Tampa Bay and Oakland own the two wild card spots, meaning their series on the left coast will offer someone like Baltimore, Cleveland, New York and Kansas City an opportunity to at least gain a little ground. The Orioles are 3.5-games behind the A's for the second wild card while the Yankees are sitting five back. Between them are the Indians with the Royals only a game south of New York.
It's the fifth series between the Yankees and Orioles this season -- they'll meet for four in Baltimore a little more than a week from now -- and it's Buck Showalter's Birds that have the 7-5 advantage in the previous 12 contests. The Yankees are 4-2 at home; five of the six played in the Bronx failed to reach the total for their backers' MBL picks, with the other landing smack-dab on the number for a push.
Gonzalez & Sabathia Square Off For A Second Time
After spending the last 10 days working in relief, Gonzalez is back in the rotation for the Orioles to begin this set. He worked a third of an inning out of the 'pen on Tuesday in Baltimore's 13-2 loss at Boston, and his last start was Aug. 20 vs. Tampa Bay, a 7-4 loss for the O's with Gonzalez pitching into the sixth and allowing three runs (2 earned).
Gonzalez was in line for the dubya the last time he faced the Yankees on July 5, but the bullpen blew the lead and allowed the Pinstripes to walk off with the victory. All told this year, the O's are 1-2 in his three assignments vs. New York with Gonzalez posting a solid 2.37 ERA, but issuing 10 free passes in those 19 frames.
In fact, walks hurt Gonzalez when he and Sabathia hooked up very early in the season on this field with CC and the Yankees taking a 5-2 decision. That was one of two wins for the Yanks in three Sabathia assignments against the Birds; the big lefty has a 3.80 ERA in those outings along with a sparkling 17/0 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Sabathia's struggles in July have carried over to August with New York 2-3 in his five outings to go with his 5.58 ERA. Four of those five starts came on the road, and the Yankees are 8-5 in his 13 appearances at home where Sabathia's ERA is just over 4.00.
Cano Expects To Play; Orioles Eye Another Slugger For Lineup
It's been a season filled with injuries for Joe Girardi and the Yanks who got a scare earlier this week when Robinson Cano took a pitch off his left hand. It proved to be just a bad bruise and after Cano sat out Wednesday's finale at Toronto, he's hoping to return to the lineup tonight. Former Oriole Mark Reynolds played second in Cano's absence Wednesday, just the fourth time he has played 2B in his career and the first time he started at the position.
One reason Reynolds was forced into playing second is that Eduardo Nuñez is nursing a sore right knee. An MRI came back showing just a sprain, but he remains doubtful for Friday.
Meanwhile in Baltimore, the Orioles are reportedly pursuing deals to acquire either Michael Morse from Seattle or Josh Willingham from the Twins...or possibly both. Baltimore put in waiver claims on both outfielders, and it's very possible we'll see at least one of them in orange-&-black before this set in New York comes to an end.
There are scattered t-storms in the weekend forecast, so check the latest weather reports before going to the window. Friday's game should be fine with temps in the upper-70s at first pitch and a SW wind in the 7-10 mph range (out to right).
Gonzalez has risen to the occasion when pitching at Yankee Stadium, and that has resulted in UNDER winners each of his four starts from this mound. I'm going that direction with my free pick in Friday's tilt.