Timing is everything:
Remember when I said that momentum is fleeting in the playoffs? This is what I meant. The Yankees had all of the momentum yesterday after breaking out for five runs in the ninth inning of Game One, but it feels like that’s swung back in Baltimore’s favor after a close loss last night I dare say that things would feel 100% differently is the exact same results had been achieved in reverse order, but here were are. The important thing is this: the Yankees and Orioles split the first two games, and now someone will have to win two out of the next three games in Yankee Stadium. You’re supposed to win your home games in the playoffs anyway, but the inverted format of the round this year makes it feel like the Yankees are at a bigger disadvantage than they are.
Deja vue all over again:
I said last night that this was starting to remind me of last year’s ALDS in a very general sense, but that was probably something of an overstatement. There are parallels there, like losing a close game two after a late outburst in game one, but those are pretty muted compared to last year. Eve the prospect of leaving Alex Rodriguez in the three spot isn’t nearly as bad as the three auto-outs that Joe Girardi left stacked between Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada for the entire five game series last year. That’s because they’re playing better on the whole this year as an offense, and the pitching has been very good so far as well. That they dropped a close game on the road in October to the best close game team in baseball history doesn’t really tell you as much about the teams as it feels like it does right now. That said, they really do need to start getting after Baltimore’s starting pitchers and getting a lead before Buck Showalter can go to his bullpen.
Doesn’t sound quite as intimidating, but Omar’s got nothing on Miguel Gonzalez when it comes to terrorizing the Yankees. The Orioles’ scheduled game three starter has faced the Yankees twice this season, both times at Yankee Stadium, and set personal highs for strikeouts in each game, and his 17-1 strikeout to walk ratio in those 13.2 innings is just downright absurd. I have no idea how the Yankees got four runs off of him, but there you go. Tomorrow night would be a heck of a time for him to remember that he’s, ya know, Miguel Gonzalez, but failing that the Yankees could really need Hiroki Kuroda to step up and become a True Yankee.
Alright, that’s a bit over dramatic, but how about Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher so far this series? For two guys routinely derided for their lack of postseason production in the previous three seasons, they’ve done a heck of a job so far in this series. Tex has gotten two hits in both of the first two games and also worked in a walk to boot. Two of those hits probably would have been doubles as well, but for his gimpy calf. As for Swisher, he got on base three times Sunday night and added an RBI sac fly to cap that ninth inning rally, and though he went 0-4 last night, he had some solid at bats all the same. That might not sound like much, but it’s a ig step up from the last couple of years when he’s looked totally lost in the postseason. That seventh inning fly ball to end the inning is a pretty good example: he worked a full count and didn’t swing at any bad pitches against a tough reliever before flying out to left on a ball that would have brought home the tying run if there weren’t two outs already. That sucks, but I’ll gladly take those kinds of at bats from Swisher right now.
The above notwithstanding, what the heck was Joe Girardi thinking by not having Brett Gardner pinch run for Tex in the eighth inning last night? Teixeira has a bad calf, and you’d just watched him decide not to try for an extra base for the second time in the game (though in fairness, I doubt Rob Thompson would have sent even a healthy Teixeira home on Curtis Granderson’s single earlier in the game, given how quickly the ball got to Adam Jones and the strength of Jones’ arm), and Gardner is a pretty easy move there. Not only is he a guy you have to trust in the situation, but he’s an easy move logistically as well, as he can come in to play the outfield with Swisher moving over to first base. I’m not trying to ding Tex here, because it’s pretty impressive how well he’s swinging the bat right now despite the injury, but he’s also visibly slowed up, so Girardi is going to have to start running for him late in close games until he can run at 100% strength. That’s what Gardner’s there for, and you don’t have to burn an extra bench player to do it.
The series now moves back to New York, where the Yankees have a better record than any other A.L. team does in their own home stadium. That doesn’t really mean anything in the grand scheme of a short series, but it should probably mean that I at least have a little more confidence in their ability to take two out of three games than I do right now. I guess I could blame it on the weather or the cold, but it’s probably the deep, foreboding feeling that the offense is going to lay another egg at the worst possible moment.