Originally posted on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 10/9/12

The Yankees and Orioles have played a total of 20 games this season between the regular season and the playoffs. The outcome of those contests? Yankees 10, Orioles 10. The score of those combined games? Yankees 99, Orioles 97. Basically what I’m getting at is, it really shouldn’t be any surprise that after the first two games of the AL (East) DS, we’re all knotted up at one apiece. Both games have been tightly fought battles, despite the 7-2 final in Game One.


For the Orioles, their greatest strength has been the reason for defeat in one game, and the key in winning the other. The Orioles bullpen, as shown by their 30-9 record in one run games (including Game 2) has been remarkably reliable the entire season. You wouldn’t have guessed that Sunday night, however, as Baltimore closer Jim Johnson allowed 5 earned runs while just recording one out in the top of the ninth. That nightmarish outing turned a 2-2 nail-biter into a reason for Yankee fans to get mad at Joe Girardi for not letting CC finish the game with a five run lead. Game Two was a different tale. In the O’s most important game since before Monica Lewinsky was a household name, the ‘pen shut down any chance of a New York comeback. The trio of Brian Matusz, Darren O’Day, and Johnson went a combined 2.2 innings, allowing just one hit and one walk. O’Day quieted a brewing Yankee rally with a strikeout of Alex Rodriguez (stop me if you’ve heard that one before), and in his relief, Matusz got Nick Swisher to fly out with runners on second and third (stop me if you’ve heard that one before). Johnson’s 9th went smoothly, going 1-2-3 to send the series back to New York.



Credit: Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff



Offensively, the Orioles, as they have for most of the season, have not put up crooked numbers, but make their opportunities count. In both third innings of this series, Baltimore has put up two runs on a combination of walks and singles. There is power on this team (Baltimore actually finished second in the league in longballs behind the Yankees), but we haven’t seen it so far. They’ve only scored a combined 5 runs in the first two games, but it’s almost been enough to be up 2-0. If they’re able to score JJ Hardy after his leadoff double in the 8th inning of Game 1, then they might have very well been in that position. Baltimore played very well in Yankee Stadium this season, especially late in the season. The Orioles won 6 of the last 9 games played in the Bronx, outscoring the Bombers 49-32. Once the series moves to New York, don’t be surprised if you see the likes of Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Yankee Killer of the Year Mark Reynolds leaving the ballpark.


For the Yankees, they did exactly what they sent out to do, given the setup of this year’s postseason structure-take one game in Baltimore. The big question of seemingly every Yankee postseason is just how reliable is the starting pitching going to be, and so far, the answer is: pretty darn good. With CC Sabathia, who isn’t actually the playoff master he sometimes gets credited with being, almost going the distance, and Andy Pettitte, albeit in a loss, pitching strongly into the 8th, the starters have been great so far. The only arm out of the pen that we’ve seen so far is David Robertson, but he has been his usual overpowering self. We are still waiting for the Yankee postseason debut of Rafael Soriano, but by all accounts, he is someone that will relish the role of having the game in his hands under the pressure.



via Bleacherreport.com



Throughout the entire regular season, a regular season in which the Yankees hit a franchise-high 245 home runs, people wondered if the team relied too much on the long ball. While Joe Girardi and the players seemed to scoff at that idea when asked about it, it appears, at least after the first two games, the critics might have been right. The Yankees biggest problem in the first 162 games was their inability to get a timely hit that wasn’t a home run, their issues with hitting a fly ball with a runner on third with one out, and their lack of late-inning heroics, all far cries from the last time the team went all the way in 2009. After the dramatics of the 9th inning in Game One, in which the Yankees did manage to put together hit after hit late in a game, the team reverted to its typical 2012 form in Game Two. They left the based loaded in the 4th inning. They left two runners in scoring position in the 7th, when they seemed on the brink of taking the lead. They wasted a leadoff single from Public Enemy #1 Mark Teixeira in the 8th. As a team, they left ten runners on. A strong 1st inning led to almost nothing else the rest of the game. At some point, the Automatic Out Trio of Rodriguez, Swisher, and Curtis Granderson will need to snap out of their funks. Rodriguez has been nothing but a K machine so far, and Swisher is just 1-for-his last-33 with RISP. 1-for-33. The top of the lineup, Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki, have done their jobs so far, but they need more help if the Yankees are to advance. Timely hits are all it takes, and if the Yankees got one or two more of those in Game 2, they’d be in a much better position.


What this series comes down to is a best of 3, with all 3 games being played in the Bronx. When people took issue with the sort-of-new playoff format, this series is exactly the scenario the MLB gave as to why it’s not ridiculous (in addition to the reason it was used for 15 years before the advent of the Wild Card). The Yankees have the upperhand, but so much of that rides on Hiroki Kuroda’s performance in Game 3, and if the team can either A) hit enough home runs to mask their inability to string together a “small ball” inning, or B) figure out how to get hits in key situations in close games.  The Orioles are not intimidated by the Yankees, so that should not be an issue. The Orioles, if they are to take 2 of 3 in the Bronx, need to do their best Yankee imitation and slug away, as well as continue their dominance in close and late games.


Prediction: Yankees in 4.


-Appel

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