I have to admit. I'm sick and tired of the Orioles. It's not that they give the Yankees a hard time. The Yankees haven't lost a season series to the O's since 1997, when the O's were the last non-Yankee team to win the AL East. This year, the Yanks are 6-3 against Baltimore, taking 2 of 3 in each of their three series, including a weekend set at Camden Yards just over a week ago. So it's not that the O's are troublesome. They're just oppressively uninteresting.
By this point in the season, Miguel Tejada is typically phoning it in (something we saw in that last series in Baltimore), and without Tejada giving a full effort, who is there on this club that you're excited to see play? The only guy I can muster much enthusiasm for is closer Chris Ray, but I don't want to see him pitch because it generally means the Yanks are about to drop a game to a team that shouldn't beat them. The three game series that starts tonight will be even worse because it's already being overshadowed by this weekend's five-game death match in Fenway Park. Still, you have to take it one day at a time and tonight, it's those flat lining Orioles (who just got swept by the Red Sox) yet again.
The O's look about the same as they did two weekends ago. They've activated Kris Benson and recalled Daniel Cabrera from triple-A, but the Yankees won't see either in this series. Those two have bumped Bruce Chen and Russ Ortiz back into the bullpen and knocked Winston Abreu and Julio Manon off the roster. Thrilling, ain't it?
Tonight Mike Mussina takes on Erik Bedard. Moose has had trouble pitching around defensive errors and questionable umpiring of late as he's reverted to his 2004 and 2005 form, in which well pitched games would often be ruined by one bad inning in which he just couldn't stop the bleeding. He was the hard-luck loser in the one loss in that last series in Baltimore, allowing three runs in five inefficient innings while Adam Loewen and company one-hit the Yanks. Bedard did not pitch in that series, but has been excellent since late June after a rough start to his season. Starting with eight dominant innings against the Marlins on June 21 (2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 12 K), he's posted this line:
The good news for the Yankees is that his two non-quality starts, and only two loses, over that stretch have been his last two. Then again, both were near-misses: 5 1/3 innings, two runs against the Mariners at home, and four runs in seven innings against the Blue Jays in Toronto. Still, the 27-year-old Bedard is another pitcher, like Chien-Ming Wang and Justin Verlander, who is entering uncharted innings territory. After losing most of his 2003 season to Tommy John surgery he threw 142 1/3 innings between the minors and majors in 2004 and 148 2/3 innings in 2005, both setting career highs. This year he's already thrown 142 2/3 innings. The good news for Bedard and the Orioles is that they can baby him through the rest of the season and won't lose anything by shutting him down early. The Yankees and Wang don't have that luxury.