ALDS Game 2 preview: Yankees @ Orioles

Andy Pettitte:

The winningest postseason pitcher in MLB history makes his return to October tonight, pitching in a stadium in which he owns a 16-4 career record and a 4.11 ERA. Of course, most of those games came against Orioles teams that weren’t as good as this one, so it’s safe to say that the hitters he’ll be facing tonight won’t put much stock in that past performance. This will be the first time Pettitte has faced Baltimore this season, though here’s a fun fact that could work in his favor: the Orioles were the third worst team in the American League at hitting the cutter, which Pettitte has been using as his put away pitch this year.

Wei-Yin Chen:

Buck Showalter’s string of making starting pitching decisions I wouldn’t have made in his position officially reaches three consecutive games tonight when left-hander Wei-Yin Chen takes the mound for the O’s. Chen was certainly the Orioles most consistent, durable starter this season (the only Oriole to make more than 20 starts, actually), but the playoffs are very much a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately endeavor, and Chen certainly didn’t play his best baseball down the stretch.…

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Pettitte makes postseason return tonight

Before announcing his surprise comeback in March, the last memory Yankee fans had of Pettitte was his strong performance in Game 3 of the 2010 ALCS. As per usual, Andy was very strong in that outing, holding the eventual American League champion Rangers to two runs on five hits in seven innings, though the Yankees would ultimately lose the game 8-0 as the offense was shut out by Cliff Lee and Neftali Feliz and the bullpen allowed Texas to blow the game open after Pettitte exited. Ultimate results aside, that would have been a fitting last impression of Pettitte in my mind, but as we later learned, it wasn’t how Pettitte ultimately wanted to go out.

For all of the ups and downs of this season, without question my favorite part of the year has been Pettitte’s return. It always bothered me that he went out with such a great performance, and with no solid indication that he wouldn’t be returning in 2011.…

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Familiar faces make BA’s Top 20 Florida State League prospect list

As always, Sanchez’s bat has been widely considered his strongest asset, and this has not changed. While Ballew only quietly acknowledged the young backstop’s defensive improvements, he primarily focused on the improvements Sanchez needs to make defensively and what he viewed as a “lackluster” work ethic. Cooper didn’t seem to see things quite as bleakly, though he notes it is still uncertain Sanchez will stick at catcher. Cooper thought Sanchez made some good progress defensively and showed more energy, better receiving and a strong arm.

Injuries continue to be the main concern for Heathcott, who has had two surgeries on his left shoulder since being drafted by the Yankees. BA’s scouting report, however, will remind you why he is such an exciting prospect. In fact, Chris Truby, the manager of the Clearwater Threshers, is quoted as saying that Heathcott was his favorite player in the league, noting his ability to play strong defense, hit for power and run. It is easy to forget how exciting a player he is given his injuries, but if Heathcott can stay healthy it could be a fun couple years watching him develop.…

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Shouldn’t Gardner Be Starting?

There was a lineup issued yesterday that mistakenly placed Brett Gardner in left field over Ichiro Suzuki. At this point in the season, it’s hard to justify defensive and offensive changes from what worked throughout the 162 game season, but when you get a player of Gardner’s caliber, you make that...

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Should A-Rod be on a short leash?

It’s easy to overreact to one game in the postseason, especially the first game, and it’s possible that Alex can change the perception of him quite quickly with a good game tonight, but there was some real reason to worry about his ability to remain effective in the middle of the Yankees’ order. Most of all, and somewhat paradoxically, he didn’t chase pitches out of the zone last night. Via Texas Leaguers, here’s a visualization of all of the pitches A-Rod hacked at in Game One:

As you can see, with the exception of one slider away, all of these pitches are in or around the strike zone, and they’re all fastballs. We saw A-Rod have trouble with fastballs in last year’s ALDS, but that was when he was just coming back from a thumb injury. He’s had some more time to get over the wrist injury he suffered this year, but he’s been struggling with his timing on fastballs for most of the year anyway.…

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CC Sabathia pitches into the ninth inning, Yankees bust out late to take game 1 of the ALDS

The big guy was dealing all night.

For the second consecutive year rain delayed the start of the Yankee postseason. The start of the Bombers’ 2011 ALDS was a greater debacle, with the teams actually beginning the game before delaying it a...

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Diverse offensive attack leads to crucial big inning

But if they subtly undermined that narrative all season long, as night they chewed it up, spit it out, and stomped on the tattered remains literally from the beginning of the game. After Derek Jeter singled, he took off for second on a 3-2 pitch to Ichiro Suzuki, allowing him to score from first with ease when Ichiro lined a double into the left-center field gap. The again in the fourth, Alex Rodriguez was running on an 0-2 pitch to Robinson Cano, a fact that allowed him to avoid the double play when Mark Reynolds smothered Cano’s liner at first base. That proved crucial when, two batters later, A-Rod scored from second on Mark Teixeira‘s long single to tie the game at 2-2 just an inning after the Orioles had taken the lead.

All of that was a mere tune up for the ninth inning, however. Sure, the big hit was a lead off long ball by Russell Martin, who crushed a 2-0 pitch high into the Baltimore night for a no-doubt go ahead homer, but that merely allowed the Yankees to go nuts with the running, highlighted by nothing so much as Joe Girardi calling for a hit-and-run with Raul Ibanez on first base and no outs two batters later.…

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Big ninth inning gives Yanks 7-2 win in Game One

Then the Yankees’ bats finally took over. The Orioles called on their closer, Jim Johnson, in the tie game at home, but that turned out to be the worst move either team made all night. Johnson surrendered a home run to the first batter he saw, Russell Martin, to put the Yankees ahead for the first time since the top of the third inning, and from there the flood gates opened. Raul Ibanez followed the home run with a single, moved to third on a hit and run, and then Eduardo Nunez scored in his place on a perfectly placed swinging bunt by Ichiro Suzuki. To add insult to injury, the Orioles didn’t get any outs on that play. Johnson finally recorded an out by striking out Alex Rodriguez, but Robinson Cano came through with a double to left field that scored both Derek Jeter and Ichiro, then moved to third base on the throw home and scored himself on a Nick Swisher sac fly to push the lead to 7-2.…

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