The ALDS matchup between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles has been a year-long battle that will end in this race to three wins proving who is the true “Beast of the East,” and possibly the front-runner to represent the American League in the World Series.
Baltimore, playing their best baseball of the season looks to continue its recent success tonight against New York and finally knock out the team they chased all season. Game 1 is at 6:07 pm in Baltimore, as New York will send ace CC Sabathia to the mound (15-6 3.38 era) and Baltimore counters with Jason Hammel (8-6 3.43 era).
New York and the Baltimore have been setting this matchup up all season, with Baltimore never getting too far back of the team some fans dub “The Evil Empire”. Baltimore has been fighting to stay in the rear view mirror of the Yankees all season, with this underdog striking again Friday against the Texas Rangers with a 5-1 victory advancing to the ALDS.
The two teams played each other 18 times and split the season series after New York started off winning the first three. Than Baltimore did what they have all season battling back, evening the season series up. Just another tell-tell sign for New York, this is not the same Baltimore team from years past – starting out hot, crashing and burning, getting themselves out of the race before anyone noticed they were in it.
Some could argue Baltimore is the hottest team in the playoffs right now and are not afraid of the bright lights or the big stage. But you can’t discount New York, who has one of the best lineups in all of baseball and the stats to back it up with New York leading the MLB in homeruns, OPS, slugging percentage, total bases, and just about every major “scare the pants off opposing pitchers” categories. They do not have a lineup where you can pitch around any hitter to get to that one guy, especially with the “out of nowhere” hitting late in the season by catcher Russell Martin.
The biggest key for New York will be the pitching staff, headed by Sabathia who does not exactly excel against the Baltimore lineup, sporting a 6.38 era and a 0-2 record this year against the O’s in three starts. He has a troubling post-season era of 4.81, but Baltimore fans shouldn’t be booking their tickets to the ALCS just yet. New York can, on any given night, get to pitchers with homeruns, hits or being patient at the plate, getting even the best pitchers to a high pitch count and into the opposing teams bullpen faster than they would have liked.
New York is led by “The Captain” Derek Jeter, who seems to have found the fountain of youth, having one of his most productive seasons in years. Jeter is the “table setter” for a few hitters but one really big one, who will keep Buck Showalter and the Baltimore pitching staff up at nights is second baseman Robinson Cano. To call the way Cano ended the season as hot would be like comparing the sun to a hot stove. Cano has recorded multi-hit games in each of his last nine regular season games and destroyed opposing pitchers to end the season going on a 24-39 tear. But it does not end there. If Baltimore finds a way to slow Cano and Jeter down, than they have to look down at Curtis Granderson who had 43 homeruns hitting in the seven hole.
An important key to New York’s success is not playing the “Where’s Waldo game?” with Alex Rodriguez in October…will he finally earn that enormous salary? Another important piece to a successful series for New York will be the usually durable Mark Teixeira being able to come back strong in the playoffs after spending so much time on the DL late in the season.
This is going to be a good one, and as the last weeks of the season unfolded, it just seemed as if these two teams where destined to meet in the playoffs. So hold on, because this is going to be a fun ride. It may only be game one of the series tonight, but it is the start of the 12th round in this year-long slug fest.
Who will get hit first? When they do will they be able to rebound?
Each team has it soft spots, the key to winning this series will be finding and exposing them. This series is as close to a fight, as is allowed in baseball and there does not seem to be all that much love lost between these two AL East teams. This series shows all indications it will be going five, with every game being more exciting and gut wrenching.
Let’s just hope that this time no kid comes into the equation and turns a fly ball into a homer, so there is no doubt when this heavyweight fight is over who the real winner is.