Matthew Taylor: A closer look at some historical tidbits

I love the historical tidbits that regularly work their way into baseball game stories. Two such tidbits came out of the Orioles' series win this week against the Yankees in the Bronx, and both had to do with strong pitching performances.

First, on Wednesday, Jake Arrieta became the most recent Orioles pitcher to toss eight or more shutout innings against the Yankees since September 2004, when Sidney Ponson recorded a complete-game shutout. Specifically, Ponson shut out the Yankees on Sept. 4, 2004, with his league-leading fifth and final complete game of the season. Former Oriole Mike Mussina took the loss for New York.

Mussina had a strong outing that afternoon. He pitched seven innings, allowed seven hits and two earned runs, and recorded eight strikeouts with no walks. However, that wasn't enough to topple Ponson, who allowed only two hits with four strikeouts and one walk. Brian Roberts led the way offensively for the Birds, going 3-for-5 with a double, a home run and three RBIs. Rafael Palmeiro also homered.

The O's took two of three in the Bronx in 2004 with a loss in the finale of the three-game set ending the team's six-game winning streak. Baltimore finished the '04 season in third place with a 78-84 record. It is the only time since 1997 that the Orioles have finished better than fourth place in the American League East. The team's 5-14 record against the Yankees helped keep a .500 record out of reach.

The next historical tidbit related to this week's series against New York is that it was the first time since 1978 that the Orioles have held the Yankees to two runs or fewer for three consecutive games.

In 1978, Mike Flanagan gave up two runs as part of a 3-2 victory May 31, Jim Palmer tossed a 1-0 shutout the following day, and Flanagan and closer Don Stanhouse limited the Yankees to one run in a 2-1 victory Aug. 4.

Former Oriole Paul Blair plated the Yankees' only two runs with a double against his old team in the May 31 game. Blair spent three seasons in New York after playing 13 seasons for the Orioles. The O's traded him to New York in 1977 for Rick Bladt and Elliot Maddox.

Perhaps most notable from those three 1978 victories was the fact that the August win stuck Ron Guidry with one of his three losses on the season. Guidry won the Cy Young Award on the strength of his 25 wins, 1.74 ERA and 0.946 WHIP, all three of which were the best totals in baseball that season. Guidry finished second in MVP voting to Boston's Jim Rice.

The 1978 Orioles finished 90-71 and went 6-9 against the eventual World Series champion Yankees. The Birds' 90 wins were only good enough for fourth place in the seven-team AL East behind the Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Milwaukee Brewers. The fifth-place Cleveland Indians finished 1978 with 86 wins. And here I thought the current AL East was tough.

Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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