Heading into Monday night's game, the Yankees and Orioles are tied at the top of the AL East with 92-67 records. With three games to go, the Orioles are attempting to complete a dramatic comeback from 10 games out over the summer to gain sole possession of the AL East lead.
But how have they done it so far? Looking at the numbers, the Yankees are superior to the Orioles in nearly every category. But there's one area the O's have been dominant in. Will that be enough for them to make a magical postseason run?
The offense (leader in italics)
The only categories the Orioles lead in is strikeout percentage and stolen bases (by 12). But they've scored 69 less runs and have a significantly weaker offense than the ailing Yankees.
The starting pitching
Once again, the Yankees come out on top. The Yankees' starting staff is 19 games over .500 while the Orioles' are only four over. The Yankees' starting pitchers have a better ERA than the Orioles' by 38 points. The only category the Orioles lead in is home runs per nine innings, and that's by 0.01.
The relief pitching
The bullpen is the real difference-maker for the Orioles. The tables are turned here, with the Yankees leading in just one category: strikeout percentage. The bullpen is the major factor in the Orioles success, as seen by their 28-9 record in one-run games and 16-2 record in extra-inning games.
This should be both comforting and disconcerting to Orioles fans. Having a strong bullpen is essential to a deep October run, and being able to hang tough in close games also bodes well for continued success. However, bullpens are also generally the most volatile part of a team, and a reliever who is lights out during the regular season can become totally unreliable in the playoffs (see: Hughes, Phil circa 2009).
Which fate will befall the Orioles?