Postseason experience? 42 starts to zero. Rested? 8 days to 6 days. World Series Champion? Five times to zero again. Game 2 of the American League Division Series pitting the New York Yankees against the Baltimore Orioles, with the Yanks up 1-0 after last night’s 7-2 victory has a 40-year-old veteran facing a MLB rookie and both teams are equally confident in their man.
Andy Pettitte will be taking the pill tonight in Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Pettitte, 40, is the all-time wins leader in MLB postseason history. Yes, he’s made 42 starts in the postseason as well, but it’s not like he’s even in the win/loss columns. Pettitte is a smooth 19-10 with a 3.83 ERA and 173 strikeouts over those starts. So Pettitte definitely fits the bill as postseason experienced. He last pitched eight days ago, so the veteran southpaw is well rested. Finally, Pettitte knows how to win these games because he’s been an integral part of five World Series Champion teams.
Wei-Yin Chen on the other hand, through no fault of his own, only maintains one of the three attributes described above in that is he is rested (six days since his last outing) and ready for tonight’s start. This is important because Chen’s ERA with six or more days of rest is 2.28. But, he like many of the Orioles is getting his first taste of a MLB postseason so there is nothing for him to reach to for guidance other than the pressure of the last few weeks of the season where the Orioles had to continue to win to reach the playoffs.
Unfortunately for the Birds, Chen was not part of the winning over the last few weeks. In his final six starts Chen was 0-4 with a 5.91 ERA. For the season he was 12-11 with a 4.02 ERA. He was 6-6 with a 4.10 ERA at Camden Yards and 1-2 with a 5.25 ERA against the Yankees in four starts. Batter splits are minimal, but of note is Chen allowed five homers among 18 hits in 80 AB the Yankees had against him this season. That’s only a .225 BA and the Bombers OBP against Chen was just .287. So, while the ERA is inflated he wasn’t exactly awful against the Yankees this season, in fact he more than held his own.
While Chen limped into October, Pettitte was fortunate to get back on the mound in time to have an impact in September. Pettitte tossed 16.2 innings over three September starts allowing just three earned runs (all in the final start) on twelve hits and six walks with ten strikeouts. There were no ill effects from his broken ankle suffered in late June from a line drive comebacker off the bat of Cleveland Indians first baseman Casey Kotchman.
Pettitte was 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA during the 2012 regular season. He did not make a start against the Orioles this season and O’s hitters have a nominal number of plate appearances against Pettitte. While his record in Baltimore is excellent, 16-4, it means little because the team is comprised of only four players who have 10 or more at-bats against him; Jim Thome (.263, 2 HR, 6 RBI in 42 PA), Adam Jones (6-for-17), J.J. Hardy (1-for-17) and Matt Wieters (2-for-10). This would seemingly be another advantage for Pettitte and the Yankees in that the Orioles do not know much about Pettitte in so far as direct competition. They definitely know who he is and what he has accomplished.
As everyone seems to say in the postseason, you’ll only go as far as your pitching staff can take you. We saw it last night with both starters and Baltimore’s middle relief. Jim Johnson imploded and that ended up being the difference in the game. The Yankees have an advantage with Pettitte on the mound in that the bullpen did not have to do much of any work last night (only David Robertson recorded one out and CC Sabathia the other 26). This is important because Pettitte didn’t throw more than 100 pitches in any of his last three starts and lasted six full innings or more once out of the three outings.
It looks as though the starters could hold each offense in check much like we saw last night. The Yankees will hope that the momentum they may have gained with the big-five run ninth inning carries over to the beginning of this game. They’ll have to make sure they do not run themselves out of the game and keep other mental errors to a minimum if not erased altogether in order to not counteract any offensive pressure they can generate against Chen.
The Yankees have a chance to step on the Orioles’ necks tonight and take a commanding 2-0 lead in the series. The pressure is on Baltimore, as they know going to New York down 2-0 and having to win three straight would be a tough task. The Yankees completely understand the circumstances and have a chance to ensure rest between the next series which is very important to the older group. It’s time to cage these Birds and drag them home to the Bronx with a stranglehold on the series.
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference and MLB.com.