5 Reasons AL Playoff Teams Would Prefer Facing the Yankees over the Orioles

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2012

5 Reasons AL Playoff Teams Would Prefer Facing the Yankees over the Orioles

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    After controlling the division all season, the Yankees have slipped up a bit in the AL East as the Orioles have pulled even with them atop the division and the Rays currently sit just two games back.

    While the Yankees have the horses to be a legitimate title contender come October, the Orioles are looking more and more like an equally dangerous team.

    For opposing teams, it is beginning to look more and more like the Yankees would be a better draw come October, and here are five reasons why fellow AL playoff teams should prefer facing New York to Baltimore this postseason.

Deep Orioles Bullpen

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    As big of an asset as it is to have a frontline veteran starter or two to lean on in the postseason, having a lights-out bullpen that can shorten games is just as big of a weapon in October. The Orioles have just that in a relatively unsung group of five key guys, and they have helped offset what has been a shaky starting rotation at times this season to put the Orioles in the position they are in today.

    The Key Guys

    Jim Johnson (60 G, 1-1, 42 Sv, 2.93 ERA, 5.6 K/9)
    Luis Ayala (58 G, 4-4, 1 Sv,  2.57 ERA, 5.5 K/9)
    Pedro Strop (62 G, 5-2, 3 Sv, 2.23 ERA, 7.9 K/9)
    Darren O'Day (59 G, 7-1, 0 Sv, 2.34 ERA, 9.1 K/9)
    Troy Patton (50 G, 1-0, 0 Sv, 2.58 ERA, 8.3 K/9)

    Those five guys have all been fantastic this season, and have proven more than capable of pitching whenever needed. If the likes of Wei-Yin Chen, Joe Saunders, Chris Tillman, Zack Britton and Jason Hammel can give the team five or six strong innings, the Orioles can close things out from there. 

Banged-Up Mark Teixeira

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    The Yankees have dealt with injuries to key players all season, and the latest has been to first baseman Mark Teixeira who has been battling a calf injury and recently shut things down for two weeks.

    In his absence, Nick Swisher has shifted to first base, Raul Ibanez has moved to left field, Eric Chavez has started at third base and Alex Rodriguez is now at DH.

    Not only are the Yankees now without one of their biggest power threats in Teixeira (23 HR, 81 RBI), but their bench depth has taken a hit as a result.

    While he could return before the season is over, the calf injury will likely plague Teixeira the remainder of the season and the Yankees offense no doubt takes a hit as a result.

Surging Mark Reynolds

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    On the Baltimore side of things, the first base position has suddenly become an area of strength as Mark Reynolds has found his groove after struggling most of the season and finding himself in and out of the starting lineup.

    Over his last 11 games, Reynolds has hit .308/.400/1.00, 9 HR, 17 RBI. That has been a full 180 after he hit just .221 BA, 12 HR, 42 RBI through his first 103 games this season.

    There is no doubt the Yankees have the more feared offense of the two, but a streaking Mark Reynolds could go a long way towards the Orioles offense being a major asset this October.

Hungry Orioles Team Hasn't Seen October Since 1997

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    Since 1997, the Yankees have made the playoffs 13 of 14 seasons, winning four World Series titles and another two AL pennants during that span.

    The Orioles on the other hand have not posted a winning record since going 98-64 and advancing to the ALCS in 1997 as they have struggled through one of the worst stretches in franchise history.

    The team and the city are hungry for a winner and if they can hold on and make it to October, their lack of experience will be offset by their sheer appreciation and excitement to be playing in the postseason.

Orioles Are Streaking, Yankees Are Slumping

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    Simply put, the Orioles are playing better baseball than the Yankees right now, as the Orioles have erased the Yankees six-game lead in the AL East to pull even with them.

    Over their last 20 games, the Orioles have gone 13-7, compared to the Yankees 7-13 slide during that span as the Orioles are finding ways to win.

    The two teams split a pair of three game series against one another in the past two weeks, and the Orioles have 13 games remaining against subpar teams in the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Mariners. That should result in continued success and plenty of confidence and momentum come October.