NEW YORK – The Orioles are still chasing the American League's best record and are 2 1/2 games back of the Los Angeles Angels for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs after both teams lost Monday.
Following the Orioles' 5-0 loss to the New York Yankees on Monday night, manager Buck Showalter admitted it will be tough to catch the Angels with just six games remaining.
Other than that, the only question remaining is who the Orioles' opponent will be in the American League Division Series. The Orioles clinched home-field advantage in the ALDS after the Detroit Tigers' loss Monday.
Showalter had been focused on giving his starters one extra day of rest heading into the postseason, but left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, the Orioles' starter Monday, will return to pitch Saturday's game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on regular rest. Showalter pulled Chen from Monday's game after just 95 pitches.
Chen has pitched well on four days' rest, going 9-2 with a 3.51 ERA in 16 starts, but he's also pitched well on five days' rest, going 3-0 with a 2.31 ERA in four starts. He is 4-3 with a 4.12 ERA in 10 starts with six or more days' rest.
The move also puts Chen in line to start Game 2 of the ALDS at Camden Yards next Friday. He would make that start on five days' rest, which might be the reason behind bringing him back on regular rest Saturday.
Chen has pitched well both at home (8-2, 3.76) and on the road (8-3, 3.35) this season. He's 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA in two career starts against Detroit, with the win coming at home.
Chen is 1-1 with a 4.17 ERA in six career starts against the Royals, but he is 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in two career starts at Kauffman Stadium.
Showalter's decision to start Chen on Saturday also means that right-hander Miguel Gonzalez likely would be the team's ALDS Game 3 starter on the road. Since Showalter said Monday that he plans to use four starters in the ALDS, right-hander Bud Norris likely would slot into the Game 4 starter spot.
* In case you missed it, I caught up with Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy after Monday's game following some reports out of New York saying that Hardy – a pending free agent – would consider signing with the Yankees, who need to find Derek Jeter's successor at the position.
Hardy reiterated that he would like to stay in Baltimore. He likes playing with the Orioles, enjoys playing for Showalter and relishes the clubhouse dynamic built here. He also said that if he does go to free agency, it changes a bit because he will be able to test the open market for the first time.
That's not much different than what Hardy's been saying since spring training. Since then, there hasn't been progress on an extension.
It will be interesting to see what the Orioles' offseason plan will be. Nick Markakis likely will become a free agent at the end of the season. And Chris Davis and Matt Wieters are set to go to free agency following the 2015 season, but Davis is coming off a suspension and Wieters is coming off a season-ending injury.
There's no question that Hardy is an incredibly important piece to the Orioles' success. His power numbers haven't been there this season, but he has been the team's best clutch hitter and is having another fine defensive season following an early-season hiccup.
He remains the glue of the infield, and his presence there is even more important as he has mentored both Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop.
But if the Yankees target Hardy – who would be a nice successor to Jeter – it would be difficult for the Orioles to outbid them. But that's really a discussion for another day.