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October 8, 2012

Playoff Prospectus

ALDS Game Two Preview: Yankees at Orioles

by Daniel Rathman

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The Orioles are not allowed to lose one-run games, so after Russell Martin led off the ninth inning of Game One with a home run, Jim Johnson decided to serve up a four-run rally, turning a 2-2 nailbiter into a 7-2 rout. Can the O’s even the series before heading up to the Bronx? Here are the PECOTA odds and projected starting lineups for Game Two:

Yankees (Andy Pettitte) at Orioles (Wei-Yin Chen) – 8:00 p.m. ET

PECOTA Odds of Winning: Yankees 52.2 percent, Orioles 48.8 percent

Projected Starting Lineups:

Yankees vs. Chen (L)

Orioles vs. Pettitte (L)

Derek Jeter (R)

Nate McLouth (L)

Ichiro Suzuki (L)

J.J. Hardy (R)

Alex Rodriguez (R)

Chris Davis (L)

Robinson Cano (L)

Adam Jones (R)

Nick Swisher (S)

Matt Wieters (S)

Mark Teixeira (S)

Mark Reynolds (R)

Russell Martin (R)

Jim Thome (L)

Curtis Granderson (L)

Manny Machado (R)

Eduardo Nunez (R)

Robert Andino (R)

With CC Sabathia toeing the rubber, PECOTA gave the Yankees a 63 percent chance of winning Game One. But although it expects Joe Girardi’s team to earn a second consecutive win, it sees tonight’s game as more of a tossup.

One of the many players responsible for the Orioles’ surprising wild-card run, Chen delivered a 1.9 WARP rookie campaign, proving worthy of the three-year, $11.4 million contract that general manager Dan Duquette proffered to bring him over from Taiwan. The 27-year-old lefty held his own against the Yankees in his major-league debut on April 10 and in his seventh stateside start on May 15, but he struggled in back-to-back assignments at the beginning of last month. In just those two outings, the Yankees’ bats accounted for four of the 29 homers Chen allowed during the regular season.

Take a look at the pitch-type breakdowns from Chen’s quality start on May 15 and his dud on Sept. 7:

Chen on May 15

Chen on Sept. 7

Notice that in the first outing, Chen leaned heavily on three pitches—his fastball, changeup, and slider—throwing them 59 percent, 22 percent, and 16 percent of the time, respectively. Conversely, four months later, Chen threw his heater nearly 80 percent of time and paid the price. Whether that pitch selection was driven by supreme confidence in his fastball or a lack of belief in his off-speed arsenal, the Yankees took advantage. And unless Chen finds a way to be less predictable, they will do so again tonight.  

Pettitte, on the other hand, should not have much trouble keeping Buck Showalter’s hitters on their toes. He has not faced the O’s since Sept. 19, 2010, when Wieters was in his first full big-league season and only two other current Orioles were in the starting lineup. Wieters is 2-for-10 with six strikeouts in his few encounters with Pettitte, while Jones is 6-for-17.

The Matchup of the Game, though, is Pettitte versus Hardy. One of the secrets of Pettitte’s longevity has been his ability to retire right-handed batters, holding them to a 662 OPS over the course of his career, just a tad higher than the 643 OPS against he has amassed versus fellow lefties. Baltimore’s shortstop has witnessed that ability firsthand, managing just one hit and no walks in 15 plate appearances.

If Hardy bats in the two-hole of Showalter’s lineup, as he has in virtually every game this season, the Orioles will rely on him to get on base in front of their big bats. That means finding a way to break his slump against the veteran lefty. If he does, the O’s should be able to provide support for Chen. Otherwise, they may be in for a long night at the plate.

Update (4:48 p.m. ET): The Yankees' lineup is now updated to reflect the actual one; there was no change to the game odds as a result of the new lineup.

Update (5:52 p.m. ET): The Orioles' lineup is now updated to reflect the actual one; Baltimore's odds of winning improved by 0.9 percent as a result of the new arrangement.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

Related Content:  Playoffs,  Yankees,  Orioles

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