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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, August 12, 2014 at 9:00 PM

It wasn’t that long ago that pundits were penciling in the Toronto Blue Jays as the likely winner of the AL East. The Jays had a potent offense that was running roughshod over the whole league. And, nobody else in what is usually the class division of the Majors could get their acts together. Boston and Tampa Bay had inexplicably fallen off the map as Preseason co-favorites. Baltimore and the NY Yankees were nothing special.

A lot’s changed since!

Baltimore has been on fire the last two months (36-19 since mid-June…an even better 16-8 since the All-Star Break), and now has put considerable distance between themselves and the rest of the pack. In fact, entering their current series with the Yankees, Baltimore had the biggest lead in any of the six divisions! A good way to visualize their current advantage is to look at games over .500. At this current snapshot, the five AL East teams have comparable home/road splits. So, there’s no schedule pollution. Here are the won/lost differentials through the games of Monday Night.

 

GAMES OVER/UNDER .500

Baltimore +18

Toronto +6

NY Yankees +4

Tampa Bay -2

Boston -13

If Baltimore can just play .500 ball the rest of the way, Toronto has to be 12 games over. 500 from this point forward to tie them! And, if the O’s can continue to inflict losses on the Jays and Yanks when they play head to head, the pathway to the pennant is even easier. That’s why Wednesday’s game (nationally televised by ESPN) looms so large. It’s a must-win for the Yanks given their precarious position in the playoff chase. It’s a victory Baltimore would love to have as they try to close out the division early.

Some key numbers for handicappers…

 

OFFENSE

NY Yankees: 3.99 runs per game, .313 on-base, .383 slugging

Baltimore: 4.35 runs per game, .314 on-base, .420 slugging

Baltimore’s advantage in slugging has led to the difference you see in scoreboard production. The Orioles have been more impressive during their hot run than those numbers make it look. They largely treaded water for a few months because the offense wasn’t clicking. As soon as it started clicking…nobody else in the division could keep up with them.

 

WEDNESDAY’S PITCHERS

Miguel Pineda: 1.83 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 6.9 K-Rate

Chris Tillman: 3.73 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 6.1 K-Rate

Pineda’s numbers look fantastic…but he only made four starts in April before hitting the Disabled List…and we all know that his career norms are nowhere near that. His lifetime ERA is 3.54, which was helped a bit by throwing in good pitching environments. That’s certainly Major League quality…and Pineda can be a big factor when the Yankees rebuild on the fly in the post-Jeter era. His return to the rotation after four months away might help signal one last hurrah in the Jeter era if the team can get hot as they try to chase down the Orioles from behind.

Tillman always seems to pop up whenever we do an Orioles preview. We spent much of the season talking about his pedestrian numbers. Lately, we’ve been talking about he he’s turned back into an ace again! He’s thrown quality starts in eight of his last 10 outings. And, he’s likely to be the more effective pitcher tonight regardless of what the “season-to-date” numbers up above are suggesting. If Pineda immediately finds career level form, then it’s a wash. Assume a slight to large edge in sharpness for Tillman.

To see if this game made the final cut of WEDNESDAY WINNERS, purchase the full ticket right here at the website with your credit card. What a great way to build your bankrolls for the huge football weekend ahead!  If you have any questions about longterm service in either baseball or football, call us in the office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155.

It’s back to the NFL Thursday as the Preseason schedule resumes. We’ll knock out the last four divisional previews this weekend…each timed to highlight a TV game of importance on that day’s slate. Here’s the NOTEBOOK football schedule for the next few days…

Thursday: AFC South Preview (Jacksonville/Chicago on ESPN)

Friday: AFC East Preview: (New England hosts Philadelphia on NFL Network)

Saturday: AFC North Preview: (Baltimore/Dallas on NFL Network)

Sunday: AFC West Preview: (Denver/SF on NFLN, Kansas City/Carolina on FOX)

Monday: NFL Big Game Preview: Johnny Manziel vs. RGIII in Cleveland/Washington!

That’s right, FIVE STRAIGHT DAYS of pro football are upon us! Starting with tonight’s ESPN baseball thriller…WIN WHILE YOU WATCH with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK. Every dollar you make in August will multiple itself over several times between now and the Super Bowl!

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