Two games into the American League Division Series between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles and there are some significant storylines developing. Some of them are positive and others will need to change if the Yankees want to move on to the American League Championship Series.
Let’s look at them in alternating fashion in a point/counterpoint style with an outlook following each.
Starting pitching has been solid
Point – CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte did their jobs. Sabathia’s effort was obviously a bit better than Pettitte’s, but in reality the Yankees could have won last night’s game with a break here or there.
Outlook - With Hiroki Kuroda on the mound Wednesday against Miguel Gonzalez and Phil Hughes set for Thursday against either Joe Saunders or Chris Tillman, the Yankees do not have a distinct advantage over the Orioles in the matchups.
Late inning success with the bat
Point – The Yankees got to Jim Johnson on Sunday for five runs (four earned) in a tie game. It should give them confidence that they can reach him for runs.
Counterpoint – Johnson didn’t let it get to him at all, tossing a 1-2-3 inning against the top of the order last night.
Outlook – Don’t expect the Yankees to crack Johnson again, at least not like Sunday. But, they have to feel good they did once. Unfortunately, the rest of the O’s bullpen has held them in check.
Point – The Yankees were 3-for-8 on Sunday and they’re 5-for-16 (.313) for the series.
Counterpoint – OK, they did most of that (2-for-2) in the ninth inning on Sunday night. So, besides that inning they are 3-for-14 with RISP (.214).
Outlook – It’s the usual suspects failing which is going to result in more and more intentional walks for Robinson Cano.
Mark Teixeira‘s swing looks great
Point – Teixeira is 4-for-8 and he’s been hitting the ball on the screws.
Counterpoint – Teixeira is a detriment on the bases. Beyond his baserunning gaffe on Sunday, he can’t reach second AND he can’t score from second on a hit unless it rolls into a corner. Even then it will likely be a close play.
Point – Well, it’s only been David Robertson so far, but he has pitched well (1.1 IP, 0 R with 2 Ks).
Counterpoint – Now, having your starters pitch as well as they have should hardly be a complaint or a criticism. But fair warning to Yankees fans; if the Yanks are nursing a late lead, anyone other than Robertson who comes in will have not pitched in game action in over a week. There has to be some rust on these arms.
Outlook- The best thing that could happen for the Yankees is to somehow get out to a big lead tomorrow and use the late-inning relievers to get the webs off from the seventh inning on where a run or two would not be an issue.
Mental and physical errors
Point - The Orioles have been hurt more by errors than the Yankees. Despite baserunning issues and three errors by the Yankees in two games, the Orioles have yet to take advantage.
Counterpoint - Playing sloppy baseball and mental errors will eventually come back to haunt any team.
Outlook - The Yankees need to get focused on the mental aspects on the game and hope the physical errors fade over the rest of the series.
Alex Rodriguez‘s woes
Point – He’s hitting the ball hard but it is finding fielders.
Counterpoint – He also has five strikeouts in nine at-bats.
Outlook – For every at-bat in which he hits the ball well he looks lost in others. If he fails to get going by the end of Game 4 and the Yanks are in a do or die situation in a Game 5, he’ll be dropped in the batting order.
Nick Swisher‘s issues
Point - Strong finish to regular season indicated possible reverse to poor postseason history.
Counterpoint - The lack of run-production continues as he is now 1-for-33 with runners in scoring position for his career.
Outlook – Regression to the mean! Or should it be progression? It’s got to change at some point doesn’t it?
There may well be other storylines that you can think of. These are some of the things I have noticed over the course of the first two games. In each area where the Yankees have been solid there is nothing to suggest they cannot continue the trend. However, in the areas where the outlook is not so rosy, the Yankees should hope for at least a couple of reversals. The series has been extremely close, picking up exactly where the regular season battle left off. The team that takes advantage of the other’s mistakes most often will likely be the one moving on to the ALCS.