It's a rubber game of sorts for me when the New York Yankees finish off their series with the Baltimore Orioles. Joe Girardi and his pinstriped posse only wish it was a rubber game for them as well.
New York looks to avoid Baltimore's brooms Sunday evening with ESPN's cameras on hand to document the affair at Camden Yards. Girardi hands the ball to Hiroki Kuroda with designs on stopping a 4-game slide. Buck Showalter counters with Chris Tillman, his most consistent arm in an otherwise inconsistent rotation that has already seen 12 different pitchers take a turn.
Overnight MLB odds listed the Orioles in the -120 to -125 range, and they remain there Sunday morning. One day after Baltimore plated nine runs in the first three frames, bettors are looking at an 8.5 run total that carries a steeper price on the high side.
The Charm City crew opened this series Friday by rallying past CC Sabathia and the Yankees for a 4-3 win, a contest that saw the New York ace no-hit the O's through five innings before they finally broke through. Chris Davis did most of the damage for Baltimore on Saturday, clubbing a couple of home runs to help the Birds to an 11-3 triumph and easily send the contest past the 9-run total as Joe Freda predicted.
Those two triumphs gave the Orioles a 5-3 edge in the series with New York this season, and 4-game win streak vs. the Yanks heading into Sunday's series ender. Scoreboard bettors have watched a 2-2-1 O/U/P split in the five games at Oriole Park.
Kuroda Faces Orioles For Third Time This Year
The rubber game aspect for yours truly comes from this being Kuroda's third start of 2013 against the O's. He has split the previous two trips to the mound while I have split his assignments vs. Baltimore at the betting window backing the Japanese righthander, which has me down 10¢ worth of juice to the man.
Kuroda's two starts have been very, very different, starting with a complete-game shutout in New York on April 14. He limited Baltimore's bangers to five hits without issuing a walk in what was the second of a 5-game stretch of wins for the Yankees with him on the hill. About five weeks later, the Orioles got to Kuroda early with a pair of 1st-inning homers, including one by Davis, and a 3rd-inning clout by Matt Wieters ended his evening at Camden Yards.
Baltimore has won Tillman's last seven starts with the California native a perfect 5-0 in June (2.61 ERA). This will be his first look at the Yankees this year with the Orioles 4-3 in his previous seven career outings vs. New York, though that winning mark has nothing to do with Tillman dominating the Bronx Bombers. A little less than 29 innings of work vs. the Yanks have yielded an ERA in excess of 8.00, and Tillman has served up four homers in that span.
Weather Could Be A Factor In Baltimore
Rain is in the forecast the entire length of the Atlantic seaboard, and the start of this contest could be delayed with a 50% chance currently listed for the late-afternoon, early-evening hours in Baltimore. The thermometer will still be in the low-to-mid 80s when the game is scheduled to get underway, along with an 8-12 mph breeze out of the south (out to center).
Slated to call the balls and strikes for this one is Paul Schreiber who is 4-9-4 O/U/P in the totals column so far this year. Two of the four pushes have been with Kuroda on the mound, including his May 22 start against the O's in Baltimore that landed squarely on the 9-run mark.
New York's slide is troubling, but so is Tillman's track record against the Yankees. Plus there's the weather which could interrupt the two starters and force both managers to go to their bullpens early. In the end, I'm going to follow Kuroda once again against the Orioles and make my play on New York to dodge a sweep in Baltimore.
My pick: Yankees +110 at Bet365