Baltimore Orioles: 7 Potential AL Wild-Card Pitching Matchups

James MorisetteCorrespondent IIISeptember 6, 2012

Baltimore Orioles: 7 Potential AL Wild-Card Pitching Matchups

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    The AL race to the postseason is proving to be one of the most memorable in years.

    For seven MLB ballclubs in the hunt, nothing is guaranteed. As the New York Yankees have experienced in recent days, no division lead is safe.

    Same goes for the Texas Rangers, who have the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim looming in the American League West.

    Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Rays continue to apply pressure in the AL East. And the Chicago White Sox have stolen thunder from a surprisingly underachieving Detroit Tigers ballclub in the AL Central.

    Then there are the Baltimore Orioles. At 76-60, this proud and resolute team has stuck a wrench fit for Paul Bunyan’s hands into MLB’s playoff gears. With 26 games to play on the regular season schedule, Baltimore's faithful are slowly (though hesitantly) getting playoff fever. 

    Winners of nine of the past 12 ballgames, the Orioles have the opportunity to rise from two miserable decades of baseball to win the AL East.

    Yet, say the Orioles do not win the AL East. Say this team earns one of the two wild-card spots and is forced to play one of the seven teams above in a one-game playoff.

    Barring injury or poor performance, Jason Hammel would get the nod for Baltimore.

    But who would Hammel match up against?

    In this slideshow, I will showcase seven stud pitchers Hammel could potentially face in a one-game playoff.

Matt Harrison (Texas Rangers)

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    At 80-55, it is very hard to imagine the Athletics or Angels dethroning the Texas Rangers in the AL West. But if they did and the Rangers had to play the Orioles, Hammel would match up against left-hander Matt Harrison.

    Harrison has put together a solid season for Texas. In 27 starts, Harrison is 15-9 with 109 strikeouts and a 3.37 ERA in 179.0 innings pitched. Harrison’s WHIP is 1.27.

    While opposing batters are hitting .260 against Harrison, this 45-28 lifetime hurler boasts some serious firepower behind him.

    But this is not to say Harrison is unbeatable come playoff time. In five outings in the 2011 postseason, Harrison posted a 1-2 record with a 5.40 ERA and 1.58 WHIP.

Brandon McCarthy (Oakland Athletics)

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    It was tough to watch 6’7”, 200 lb. right-hander Brandon McCarthy go down in a heap after getting hit in the head with a line drive Wednesday.

    Fortunately, McCarthy was able to walk off the field under his own power before being taken to a local hospital for precautionary tests (per ESPN).

    Should McCarthy receive clearance to pitch, and should Baltimore play Oakland in a one-game playoff, Hammel will match up with this 29-year-old right-hander.

    While McCarthy’s record (8-6/3.24 ERA/1.25 WHIP) does not look impressive on paper, when he is on, he is on.

    If the McCarthy that began the year with a 6-3/2.54 ERA shows up, Hammel could be in for a big dogfight. However, if the McCarthy that has lost four of the last six decisions appears, the Orioles may be off to the races.

    One fact of note: Per ESPN, McCarthy has a 2.55 ERA at home this season. But he has a 3.66 ERA on the road.

    McCarthy has no postseason experience.

Chris Sale/Jake Peavy (ChiSox)

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    Chicago White Sox skipper Robin Ventura would have a tough choice about whether to start Jake Peavy or Chris Sale in a one-game playoff against Hammel and the Orioles.

    While Sale certainly has had a Cy Young-type season for the Sox (15-6/2.93 ERA/1.08 WHIP), Peavy has playoff experience (though he has pitched terribly in two starts). But one thing about Peavy—when he gets into a groove, he is one of the toughest pitchers to decipher in baseball.

    Sale has also shown tendency his past two starts (vs. the Orioles and Tigers) to let his frustration get the best of him. Sometimes this frustration has led to Sale losing both his composure and his command. In a postseason where hurlers need to bring their best against the best, Chicago can’t afford to endure this.

    A tough decision. Ventura’s pick may come down to who has the hot hand going into the postseason.

Jered Weaver (L.A. Angels)

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    This is where things begin to get really tough for the Orioles.

    It is indisputable Jered Weaver is one of the most demoralizing pitchers in baseball.

    Always a threat to toss a gem, this towering 29-year-old right-hander is a highlight reel every time he takes the mound.

    In his career, Weaver has posted a 98-51 record with a 3.25 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP.

    This season, Weaver has taken his game to an other-worldly level. Despite enduring an early-season back injury, Weaver boasts a 16-4 record with a 2.86 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP.

    Once in the postseason, Weaver has been equally impressive. In six playoff games, Weaver has posted a 2-1 record with a 2.63 ERA and 1.06 WHIP.

    Like Harrison, Weaver also has a potent lineup behind him when he pitches.

    Again, Hammel would have to pitch a gem for Baltimore to overcome Weaver’s wrath.

CC Sabathia (N.Y. Yankees)

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    The meat grinder continues in the form of New York Yankees’ ace CC Sabathia.

    A proven winner, this hard-throwing-yet-crafty left-hander is a career 189-100 with a 3.51 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Still just 32, Sabathia has 2,178 strikeouts in 2,527.1 innings of work.

    But it is Sabathia’s postseason experience that should give him the edge over most competition. In 16 career appearances, Sabathia has posted a 7-4 record with a 4.81 ERA and 1.62 WHIP in 86 innings.

    Granted, these numbers can be inflated a bit; Sabathia’s best playoff season was in 2009 when he had a 3-1 record with a 1.98 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in five starts.

    The Yankees won the World Series that year.

    Sabathia’s proven playoff performance makes him a tough matchup against Hammel and the Orioles.

David Price (Tampa Bay Rays)

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    Another left-hander that can straight-up deal, Hammel would have to pitch a gem to beat David Price.

    Combining Price’s 17-5/2.54 ERA/1.18 WHIP in 2012, this 6’6”, 220 lb. flamethrower boasts a five-year career record of 58-31 with a 3.18 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.

    Come postseason, Price has pitched all right. Yet his 1-3 record and 3.96 ERA in eight career playoff games point to a hurler that is beatable.

Justin Verlander (Detroit Tigers)

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    Last but not least, if Baltimore were to face Detroit in one-game playoff, they would have to go right into the teeth of dominant right-hander Justin Verlander.

    Verlander, 29, is a walking, talking distributor of embarrassment on the mound. Like Weaver, Verlander has the potential to toss a no-hitter with every start.

    In his career, this 6’5”, 225 lb. workhorse is 120-64 with a 3.43 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP.

    Fresh off an MVP season, and a Cy Young season, Verlander is 13-7 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. He has struck out 209 and walked just 52.

    But for all of Verlander’s dominance, he is not completely invincible in the playoffs. In eight postseason starts, Verlander is 3-3 with a 5.57 ERA and 1.55 WHIP in 42.0 innings.

    Regardless, Hammel would have to bring his A-game to beat Verlander, especially if Verlander is locked in.