A Yankees-Orioles Preview
The Yankees found out their American League Divisional Series opponent on Friday night when the Orioles convincingly defeated the flailing Rangers, 5-1, in the Wild Card matchup.
Many people would have preferred the Bronx Bombers facing Texas, considering they ended the regular season by losing 9 of their last 13 games and choked up a 13 game lead in the AL West standings. I, however, am thrilled that the Pinstripes are playing Baltimore. Here are five reasons why I like the Yankees to be victorious in the ALDS not only because of who they are facing, but because of the players donning the Pinstripes this year.
1.) They are facing Baltimore: I am not writing this with Orioles teams of recent past in mind. I know that this franchise has been at the bottom of the division for the better part of a decade, but this team is different. They have experienced a magical run that defies baseball logic. For the entire season, the Orioles run differential was only +7, which is the mark of a team hovering above .500, which Baltimore clearly is not. Baltimore was a historic 29-9 in one run games and won 16 straight extra innings games. However, Texas is the two-time defending American League champions and it would have only taken a little spark like winning the Wild Card game to get them going again. Also, if the Rangers won, they would already be in Texas and ready to host the Yankees on Sunday. The Orioles had to travel from Tampa Bay to Texas and now to Baltimore while the Yankees have been enjoying their week-long stay in New York.
2.) The new playoff format: While traditional baseball fans were against the addition of another Wild Card team, I loved it. It put much greater emphasis on winning the division which was desperately needed. I am an even bigger fan of it since the Yankees won the AL East. Baltimore had to use a starting pitcher, their bullpen, and have their players go through the high emotions of a single-elimination game while the Yankees were able to enjoy a relaxing practice at the Stadium. When the Orioles won last night, they celebrated with another champagne shower, and rightfully so. However, that is two big celebrations in a week and before a pitch is even thrown in the ALDS. Will Baltimore be able to come back down to earth by Sunday night? Also, many people disagreed with this year’s format of the lower seeded team hosting the first two games, but I think it can be used an advantage. If the Yankees are able to split the two games in Baltimore, then they have the clear advantage by hosting the final three games in the Bronx.
3.) Pitching is coming around: The Yankees pitching at the beginning of the year was awful, plain and simple. Michael Pineda, New York’s big off-season acquisition, went down with a shoulder injury before a single game was played. Hiroki Kuroda was shaky at best. Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia got slammed almost every start. And to add insult to injury, literally, Andy Pettitte broke his ankle on a line drive comebacker on June 26th and C.C Sabathia went on the DL twice. The Yankees were somehow able to salvage the season and now their pitching can be looked at a strong point. Sabathia has been great in his last three starts, going eight innings in each outing and striking out 28 over that span. Kuroda ended the year leading the team in ERA with a respectable 3.34. Pettitte has been great since coming off the DL and his postseason experience will be a huge plus for the Yanks. And if New York needs a fourth starter they have Hughes who ended up with 16 wins, which is amazing since he was 1-3 in April.
4.) Hitters are getting hot: First off, Robinson Cano is the hottest hitter in baseball right now. The second baseman has gone 24 for 39 (.615 avg) heading into the playoffs and has raised his average from .293 on September 24th to .313 at the end of the year. As long as Cano stays on this impressive streak then New York will get constant offense. Speaking of hot hitters, Derek Jeter officially led the majors in hits this season with 216; the most ever by a 38 year old. Another veteran player getting the job done is Ichiro Suzuki. The Japanese star has been given a breath of life ever since putting on the Pinstripes, batting .322 compared to batting .261 with Seattle earlier in the season. And with Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira finally back together in the lineup and now completely healthy, the Yankees should put up a lot of runs in the playoffs.
5.) Experience: This is the intangible that New York brings to the postseason this year, especially against Baltimore. The Orioles are an exciting, unexpected team but they are extremely young with little to no playoff experience. The postseason is an entirely different animal compared to the regular season and it will be interesting to see how they can handle the pressure of the ALDS. Meanwhile, the Yankees have postseason veterans at literally every position. The Yankees are an older team, but that is really only a negative during the 162 game season. The wear and tear of the long year can break down the older players, but New York has been able to weather that storm and is now primed to use their age and experience to their advantage in short series such as the ALDS.
I like the Orioles. It is good to see a Cinderella story such as theirs and it is good to show how competitive the AL East really is. However, I think the Yankees have this series. They have the advantages of being the top seed, are hitting stride at the right time, and have the experience to propel them past Baltimore. The O’s are a good team, so I will not say New York sweeps them, but I believe the Yankees win the ALDS in four games.