Sunday, October 7, 2012


The Yankees postseason machine is now running at full speed, and they are facing the Baltimore Orioles in the first round. The Orioles have been, arguably, one of the toughest teams since the All-Star break, so the Yankees have their work cut out for them.

The good news is that their hitting has been looking very strong in the last few games, scoring eight or more runs in five of their last eight games. Derek Jeter has not missed a beat with the bat, leading the major leagues with 216 hits. Robinson Cano finished the season with nine consecutive multi-hit games, and looks like the guy to be feared more than any other in the lineup. Ichiro Suzuki has been on a tear, hitting .385 in September with a .916 OPS. Russell Martin and Raul Ibanez have found their respective strokes, and have been the men we have want at the plate when the game is on the line. Their wounded warriors - Andy Pettitte, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Joba Chamberlain, and others - have returned, and look ready to go. While I like our odds, and I believe we will take the series, there are a few points of concern that will determine how successful the Yankees will be in reaching the League Championship Series.
Starting Pitching 

Okay, if you've followed the game of baseball at all, this should be no surprise to you. The first three starters - CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and Hiroki Kuroda - seem to be well positioned to give the Yankees the best chance at winning. Sabathia, who has had resurgence in the month of September, having put his fastball velocity back up at around 94, has been here before. He has faced Baltimore three times this season, all at Camden Yards, and has struggled each time. He has not had a quality start this season against them, and they are hitting over .300 as a team against him.  However, all of those starts were during times when his velocity was down, and historically he has owned the Orioles. If you see his velocity hitting 93 and up, we should have a good night. Pettitte, the all-time leader in postseason wins, will start Game 2. He has not faced Baltimore this season, but his abilities are unparalleled. Hiroki Kuroda faced Baltimore twice this season, both times at Yankee Stadium, and won one. In the game he lost, he kept them in the game, holding them to four runs into the 9th inning.
Game 4 is the primary concern here. I am assuming Phil Hughes will get the start. If it goes this far, it will all ride on which Phil Hughes shows up. Hughes had four starts against the Orioles this year, and they have been very "this and that." In the two that he won, he held them to two earned runs or less for 6+ innings. In the games that he lost, he gave up at least four runs and never completed the sixth. Therefore, the key here is to get to this game without our backs to the wall.
Relief Pitching 

The hallmark of the Baltimore revival has been the ability of their team to play all nine innings and beyond. They have had a ton of come-from-behind wins, and they have not lost an extra-inning game since early April (note: their only two losses in extra innings this season have been to the Yankees). Getting an early lead and a strong bullpen performance is the key to beating the Orioles. This is going require David Robertson to continue to be the flawless 8th inning reliever, and Joba Chamberlain to keep up his latest hot streak. Boone Logan has been looking overworked, but he, David Phelps, Clay Rapada, and the others will be critically important in shutting down late-inning rallies.
Rafael Soriano has been looking uncharacteristically hittable lately, especially in the home runs allowed. He allowed only one home run all season going into the last week of August. Since then, he has allowed five. Two of them led to blown saves, and one of them landed in the seats at Camden Yards. Has he run out of gas?  He will have had 4 days rest going into Game 1, so hopefully he will be ready.

Hitting with RISP

Okay, this one is a well-worn thread in Yankee circles. All season long, and perhaps as far back as the 2011 ALDS, this has been an issue with the Yankees. There is an old saying in baseball on how to win - get 'em on, get 'em over, get 'em in. The Yankees have gotten 'em on, and sometimes gotten 'em over, but they have not gotten 'em in. They have relied mostly on the home run to bring in their runs. The Yankees might be in a little bit of luck, as the Orioles have not been particularly good at keeping balls in the park (8th most in the majors for HRs allowed). Still, without the home run, the Yankees look remarkably mediocre. You cannot expect to hit multitudes of home runs against playoff teams. They have to find a way to bring in runners in scoring position.

Finally, despite the strong play of the Orioles, I believe the Yankees will eliminate Baltimore. If they lose, they would have beaten themselves. I am optimistic because they have better starting pitching, they have better hitting, and they have home-field advantage!

Here's to a great ALDS! Let's go Yankees!

--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Writer
Twitter: @KingAgamemnon
My blog is: Shots from Murderer's Row

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