The New York Yankees have played 22 games against the Baltimore Orioles including the postseason in 2012 and have scored two more runs than the Birds. The result has been 11 wins for each team. Today’s game will determine who had the better 2012 season and earns the right to face the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series.
Elimination games are, well, not exactly fun. They are stressful, leave little room for error and momentum is no longer a factor (if it ever was). Both teams have proven that pitching in the postseason is extremely important and each squad has had fabulous outings.
Neither team’s offense is doing much of anything. The Yankees are hitting .216 as a team and the Orioles are sitting below the Mendoza line (.197). As each inning has passed throughout the series, it has become more and more evident that the slightest error, mental lapse or managing gaffe could single-handily derail the game. Today, one of those instances not only puts the game in peril but could end a season.
While the Yankees would have loved to have won last night so that CC Sabathia could have been available to start Game 1 of the ALCS, they couldn’t ask for anyone better to start an elimination game. Of course this will be an all hands on deck affair, but if there is a starter on the team that could give length and come up big in this spot it is Sabathia. Some may contend that Andy Pettitte would be a better option for this game if on regular rest, but he’s not and even if he was, I think I would prefer the big southpaw over the elder lefty.
The Orioles pounded Sabathia during the regular season; beating the lefty twice and producing the highest ERA he allowed against any team at 6.38 along with a 1.636 WHIP. But, in Game 1 of the ALDS Sabathia was excellent. He tossed 8 2/3 innings of two-run ball and picking up the win. Sabathia pitched well in the Bronx this season going 7-4 with a 2.69 ERA. The Big Man did not make a start against the O’s in the regular season at the Stadium.
Sabathia’s opponent this evening is Jason Hammel. The 29-year-old righty pitched very well himself in Game 1, allowing just two runs in 5 2/3 innings.
It is easy to run on the assumption that this series will continue to revolve around very good pitching. Every part of my logical thinking says this will be the case. However, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that today is the day that at least two of the Yankees having incredibly poor series (Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez assuming he plays, Nick Swisher or Curtis Granderson if he cracks the lineup) come out of their slump in a big way. Cano just isn’t this bad. A-Rod is about as due as anyone on the planet to have a good game. Swisher just missed a couple bombs last night. And Granderson; well everyone has a good day once in a while.
A couple lineup questions I alluded to include; where does Jeter play, is Raul Ibanez in at DH and do either A-Rod or Granderson sit today? Each brings its own set of questions and undeniably Yankees manager Joe Girardi has some tough calls to make.
No matter how the lineup is written, it would be great to get Sabathia some breathing room early on as it is just as likely (or unlikely) the Orioles bats wake up. So it is up to the Yankees to get runs any way they can. If it is small ball, fine. I’m not a fan of bunting, but every run is important today so if that’s how they come then so be it. My guess it’s going to be the long ball to the rescue. The Yankees have been an all or nothing team for a good part of the season. Today is the day we get the ALL part of their game. Call it a GUT instinct, much like Girardi’s call to pinch-hit for A-Rod with Ibanez in Game 3; because it is certainly not based on recent trends. Without a big effort from Sabathia, the offense or both, we may be watching another team celebrate on the Yankees turf.