After battling it out with each other down to the last day of the regular season the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles will be back at it again in the American League Division Series which begins on Sunday in Baltimore.
During the regular season the two teams split the season series 9-9 and were neck and neck down to the last day of the regular season. The Yanks and O's were either tied or separated by only one game for 22 days in September but the Yankees would eventually win AL East by two games.
The Yankees will open up with CC Sabathia on the mound in game one. In his 16 post season appearances (15 starts) Sabathia has a record of 7-4 with an ERA of 4.81. With Yankees Sabathia is 5-1 in the post season. Sabathia has to set the tone for the series. He has to come out and dominate. If he does and the Yankees score early that will take the crowd out of it.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi most likely will go with Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes in the rest of series we're just not sure of who will pitch what game at this time. As of right now the Orioles have yet to annouce their starter for game one.
In my opinion in order for the Yankees to win this series they need to get a lead and hold it. If the Orioles are leading late in a game I don't think it will be easy for the Yankees to come back against the O's bullpen. Baltimore was 74-0 when leading after the seventh inning and they also were 18-0 in extra inning games this season. Their closer Jim Johnson saved 51 games this season so coming back against them is a tall order. The Yankees need to get some timely hitting to score some runs. They can't sit back and wait for the homerun like they did for much of the regular season. Put the ball in play and let O's defense make the play or make a mistake. As a team Baltimore committed the fifth most errors in the league with 106 errors. The Yankees on the other hand had the third least errors in the AL with 74.
Like most post season series it always come down to pitching. One thing the Yankees could always count on was closer Mariano Rivera. Well they no longer can look to him at the end of the game they will now be looking for Rafeal Soriano to shut the door. Soriano did good job this year filling in for the injured Rivera. Soriano was 2-1 with an ERA of 2.26. He had a WHIP of 1.17. In 67 2/3 innings he struck out 69 and was third in the AL with 42 saves. Those numbers were certainly admirable but you can throw them out the window because this is October baseball ! Can you imagine how Yankees fans will react if he blows one save ? OMG ! They'll want to run him out of town. If he blows a game one things for sure Yankees fans will realise how much Mariano Rivera meant to this team over the years. If it wasn't for him they might not have won anything.
Some experts are calling this the David vs Goliath or the Cinderella vs the Evil ( Empire) Step-Mother series. Personally I call it " Bucks Revenge". It seems to me that Orioles manager Buck Showalter is still angry towards the Yankees for letting him go after the 1995 season. In the early 90's he rebuilt the Yankees to get them back in the playoffs in 95 only to be replaced by Joe Torre. Torre stepped in and the rest was history. One thing Showalter does differently than Yankees manager Joe Girardi is he goes with his gut. Girardi is a by the book numbers guy. In the playoffs I say go with your gut and the hot hand. We will see who out manages the other.
The last time Baltimore was in the playoffs was 1997. The Orioles have been on a magic carpet ride for most of the season. Will that magic continue ? The Yankees have been in the playoffs every year except one since 1995 so they've been there before. The Yanks played meaningful games down the stretch and could not let their foot off the gas all of September. They now know what it takes to win in under pressure. This should make for a fun series.
Stay tuned !!
Let's Go Yankees !!
Let's Go Yankees !!