Joe Girardi is undecided on possibly moving Alex Rodriguez down in the order.
Thus far, the MLB playoffs have looked a lot like the regular season...very competitive. None of the division round matchups will end in sweeps, and there’s a chance that at least the Orioles-Yankees series will go the maximum five games.
As we said, that’s no surprise, considering the nature of the 2012 campaign.
Whether the Baltimore-New York series goes to a deciding fifth game will depend upon the outcome of Thursday night’s riveting Game 4 matchup in The Bronx. Birds manager Buck Showalter sends the startlingly-effective Joe Saunders to the mound to oppose the Yankees’ Phil Hughes.
First pitch is scheduled at 7:35 p.m. (ET) on Thursday night, with TBS providing the TV coverage.
The Orioles announced their intention to stay in this series after battling back for a 3-2 win in Game 2 on Monday night. That result came after the Yankees had erupted for five runs in the ninth inning of Game 1, when Russell Martin’s homer triggered an avalanche of runs and provided CC Sabathia with more than enough cushion for a 7-2 win. Baltimore, however, battled back to level the series on Monday.
Battling back has been a Birds trademark all season. Especially against the Yankees, who had long dominated this rivalry vs. their AL East rivals and won the first four games between the teams this season. Entering Wednesday night’s Game 3, however, Baltimore had won 10 of the past 16 meetings.
One of the main topics of discussion as this ALDS headed back to The Bronx was what Joe Girardi might want to do with the struggling Alex Rodriguez, who struck out five times in the first two games at Camden Yards and managed just one hit in nine at bats over the two games in Baltimore. A-Rod’s numbers dipped this season, and his production has waned since returning from a hand injury in September, with 67 consecutive at bats without an extra-base hit.
There have been suggestions (if you can call them as much) in the New York media that Girardi ought to drop A-Rod from his third spot in the batting order. But Girardi, recalling how much controversy predecessor Joe Torre caused when dropping A-Rod to the eighth spot in the batting order during the 2006 ALDS against the Tigers, might want to avoid causing such a stir...especially since he believes A-Rod is close to a breakout after making solid contact on a few of his outs in Baltimore.
But many Yanks fans would rather see 2B Robinson Cano, who had nine straight multi-hit games to finish the regular season, plus an RBI double on Monday night, moved up to the three spot in the batting order.
Rodriguez, however, wasn’t the only Yankee to struggle in Monday’s loss, as the Bronx Bombers were just 2 for 10 with runners in scoring position, stranding ten in the 3-2 defeat.
Whatever the batting order looks like on Thursday night, the Yanks will be trying to solve the lefty Saunders, who has been remarkably effective since joining the O’s from Arizona, with whom he had posted a mediocre 6-10 record, in late August. After a shaky first outing vs. the White Sox, Saunders was superb in his six subsequent regular-season starts, posting a 2.75 ERA. Baltimore won four of those six starts and lost the other two only when providing Saunders with minimal run support.
One of Saunders’ starts with the O’s was a modestly-effective 5 2/3 inning stint vs. the Yankees on September 8, allowing two runs and five hits in an eventual 5-4 Birds win. He’s 3-1 in his career vs. the Yankees but has yet to pitch in the new stadium in The Bronx, which opened in 2009.
Hughes' recent efforts are cause for concern. Over his last three regular-season starts, Hughes was hit hard, allowing 18 hits and 13 runs (all earned) over 16 1/3 IP, with an ERA of 7.16. In two September starts vs. the Orioles, Hughes was not especially sharp, allowing 14 hits and eight runs (7 earned) over 11 IP in games Sept. 2 and 7, splitting decisions. Over his career, Hughes is 6-4 vs. the O’s with a 5.10 ERA.
Hughes, however, did pitch better this season at Yankee Stadium than on the road, as his 11-4 record and 3.74 ERA in the Bronx would indicate.