(Long Island, N.Y.) Even as recent as August, the Baltimore Orioles were not considered a contender and their mostly young lineup was said to be all getting hot at the right time. That talk continued through September, as the team was able to cut into a once-large Yankees lead in the division. At one point, the two teams were deadlocked for the top spot.
Although the Bronx Bombers were able to hold off the resilient O’s and win the American League East, they were only able to do so on the last day of the regular season. That put Baltimore into one of the Wild Card spots and they disposed of the reeling Texas Rangers by a score of 5-1, setting up a playoff round versus New York.
If you ask either team, both are content with the split of the first two games held in Baltimore and now they will play three games (if necessary) at Yankee Stadium. The Orioles could have folded up after dropping the first game, but they persevered and knotted things up with a Game 2 victory. Taking this team lightly is certainly not on Joe Girardi’s agenda.
“I think (that) they’re a talented group, number one,” the Yankees manager said. “It’s a pitching staff that knows how to pitch behind in the count, pitch ahead in the count. They’ve had a very good bullpen throughout the course of the year. They’re a team that hits the ball out of the ballpark. It’s how they score a lot of their runs.”
“They’ve been very good in tight ballgames, so they’re used to playing them,” he continued. “To me the biggest difference is the improvement in their pitching staff from last year to this year, where they’ve always had some talented position players, but they’ve lost some games late at times and some tough games, and those games they’re winning this year.”
If the Yanks are to regain the momentum in the American League Division Series, they will need a big outing from their number three starter, Hiroki Kuroda. “We’ve seen he’s been pretty good on extra rest the times he’s went on his sixth day – and I know that it’s his seventh day – but we feel with the innings that he’s logged, that this will be beneficial for him. When you look at his statistics, this is the most innings he’s thrown in a long time, so I think this will be beneficial.”
As far as Kuroda is concerned, the long season and the abundance he has thrown in it does not concern him. “I don’t really feel fatigued, or I don’t think I can afford to think like that because I always prepare myself for the next game, and that’s what I’m doing right now,” the veteran righty said. “So I’m going to do my best and pitch my best game possible.”
The Yankees won 95 games this season and bested Baltimore by two games, so both teams are formidable enough to advance. But it would still come as a shock if the underdog Orioles are able to take two out of three in the Bronx. This Yankee team was built to win it all now and getting ousted by an upstart surprise team will be a tough pill to swallow.
Even at this stage of the game.