The Yankees have certainly heard of Gonzalez, however, and the Orioles’ righty is no stranger to big moments at Yankee Stadium. He made two starts there this season, and both times he set a career high for strikeouts in a game. The first was an eight strikeout performance back on July 30th, a game in which Gonzalez allowed three home runs but still came out as the winning pitcher in a 5-4 decision. The second was on August 31st,a marvelous performance in which Gonzalez shut out the Yankees for seven innings while striking out nine Bombers and walking just one.
To make matters worse, Gonzalez absolutely dominated the middle of the order batters the Yankees will be counting on to bring the thunder tonight. Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, and Mark Teixeira are a combined 0-21 against him with 12 strikeouts and zero walks. Swisher has been particularly bad, going 0-6 and striking out five times. Alex Rodriguez has yet to face him this season, but also has yet to pick up a hit against a right-handed pitcher in this series. On the other side of the ledger, Ichiro Suzuki, Raul Ibanez, and Eric Chavez all have multiple hits against him in six at bats each, and each hit a home run back in that July contest. Derek Jeter is also 2-6 against him with a couple of singles.
As far as stuff goes, Gonzalez is a crafty right-hander who relies more on deception than over powering stuff. He works primarily with a fastball that averaged 91.4 MPH this season, but that features good running action and proved difficult for Yankee hitters to get a bead o this year. Especially in that most recent start, their left-handed hitters in particular looked as though they simply couldn’t pick up the movement of the pitch, and seemed to alternate between being frozen by the pitch or hacking at it in vain. “He’s a great example to pitchers not only with our team but in the organization about pitching instead of throwing,” manager Buck Showalter said of Gonzalez yesterday. “He’s a guy that understands the art of pitching.”
He certainly seems to understand the art of pitching to the Yankees, anyway, something the guys wearing pinstripes will want to turn around in a hurry tonight, lest they find themselves needing another rally off of the vaunted Orioles’ bullpen that reasserted itself Monday night. If they can’t get Hiroki Kuroda some run support tonight, they could easily wake up tomorrow on the verge of elimination.