Jonathan Schoop and Adam Jones both homered in the eighth to lift the Orioles past the Yankees. Jason Vargas allowed just three hits and retired the final 23 batters for the shutout.
There is not an official “X” next to their name in today’s morning paper but it appears that the Baltimore Orioles will be the ones who are likely candidates to have that marking in the next month.
They will have that distinction because the Orioles look to be the class of the American League East, which is something that many had already suspected. This was a team that some picked to be fourth with the anticipation of a three-way race between the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays.
The Orioles have held first place for over a month but when a team wins two games against the Yankees, that serves as notice for something we might have suspected. No matter the state of the team, beating the Yankees is still significant and the meaningful development from this series is a confirmation that the Orioles are likely going to run and hide from the Yankees and possibly finish comfortably ahead of the Blue Jays.
Teams chasing the Orioles had already been put on notice. The Orioles are 32-15 since June 20 when Carlos Beltran’s three-run home run off Zach Britton seemed destined to re-energize and awaken the Yankees.
Instead the Yankees never took off despite showing infrequent glances and the Orioles have maintained the consistency and gone on the kind of run it takes to win divisions.
So, because of that, the Orioles are more likely to clinch their first AL East title since 1997 shortly. They’re looking a lot like the Yankees did in the 1990s when late-inning comebacks and frequent clutch home runs were the norm.
Also for the talk about Baltimore’s pitching not matching up to the levels of Detroit and Oakland, here’s what the Orioles pitching staff has done of late. Since June 30, the Orioles have won 15 of 20 home games with a 2.79 ERA and in 38 games, the Orioles have won 27 of 38 while having a 2.79 ERA
Those are the new norms for the Orioles, who won their two games over the Yankees by getting late-inning home runs.
After long drives from Chris Davis and Nelson Cruz Monday, it was Jonathan Schoop and Adam Jones Wednesday night.
Those hits came during a four-run eighth inning against an opponent on the ropes and living dangerously.
The Yankees have been living dangerously all year with an offense that often stops at three or four runs and with starting pitchers that don’t get past the seventh forcing extensive bullpen use.
That was the scenario that the Orioles were all too happy to capitalize on, especially Wednesday when Joe Girardi lifted Michael Pineda after five innings and 67 pitches and then tried to get three innings out of Dellin Betances.
Divisions don’t get wrapped up from a mathematical perspective in August. They get closer to being secured with things like Wednesday happening.
The Orioles still have 40-something games to secure that title by maintaining their high level. While a collapse is possible, the flaws appear to be less on this team than some other teams who collapsed, notably the 2011 Red Sox and 2007-2008 Mets.
It’s hard not to believe that the Orioles are starting to run and will soon starting hiding from the nearest competition in the AL East.
The Blue Jays are lurking seven and a half games behind with Edwin Encarnacion shortly returning but they have not put together a great run of consistency since June. The Yankees are eight games out are too volatile, hot one week and cold the following week.
It’s hard to trust a team that scores 10 runs in one random game and then scores seven over the next 36 innings. It’s not hard to trust a team that can hit home runs in the late innings and does so many other things well.