October 13, 2012
ALDS Recap: Yankees Defeat Orioles
One night after the American League’s other surprise team saw its season brought to end by Justin Verlander, the Orioles suffered the same fate courtesy of CC Sabathia. If you’re a Yankees or Tigers fan (or an executive at TBS or FOX), you’re probably pleased with the way things turned out. If you’re anyone else, you might be mourning the underdogs. Like the A’s, the Orioles pushed their opponent to the brink: all told, the Yankees outscored the O’s by just four runs in 23 head-to-head games this season. But in the end, the better team advanced.
The Yankees scored single runs in the fifth, sixth, and seventh—aside from their five-run outburst in the ninth inning of Game One, all of their scoring in this series came in dribs and drabs. DH Raul Ibanez, starting for the first time since Game One, got the Yankees on the board with a grounder up the middle that barely skipped by second baseman Robert Andino, scoring Mark Teixeira from second.
Texieira was on second because he’d led off with a single and then stolen it. The steal was unexpected—both by Baltimore and by Ibanez—which is why it worked so well. Teixeira had never so much as attempted a steal in his 35 previous postseason games, and he’d been nursing a tender calf that had visibly slowed him up earlier in the series. He’s averaged just two steals per season in his 10-year career, and stole two in 2012. In other words, he’s about the last player on the roster one would have expected to change a game with his legs, unless it was by being too slow to score, as he was in Game Two.
When Teixeira has tried to swipe a base, though, he’s succeeded almost 78 percent of the time. According to Girardi, he and Teixeira had discussed the possibility a day or two before, and Girardi had told him, “If you think you can get it, go ahead, go get it.” The Orioles weren’t holding Teixeira on, and he picked the perfect pitch to run on: a 76-mph curveball. It was a smart small-ball play by a player and a team better known for their big bats.
The next inning, Derek Jeter drew a one-out walk, and Ichiro Suzuki drove him in with a double to center. Cano struck out looking, and Hammel intentionally walked Mark Teixeira, putting men on first and second with two outs. With the left-handed Raul Ibanez due up, Buck Showalter brought in southpaw Troy Patton. That led to one of a couple times in the game I would’ve done something differently than Joe Girardi did. Ibanez disappeared into the dugout during the pitching change, and I expected to see Alex Rodriguez emerge. Benching A-Rod in order to set up a platoon advantage over the Orioles’ starter was defensible, but calling on him here—the mirror opposite of the late-inning move that led to such success in Game Three—seemed like the obvious move to me. Instead, Girardi stayed with Ibanez, who struck out swinging on a curve in the dirt.
If Girardi wouldn’t want Rodriguez over Ibanez with Patton on the mound, pinch-hit penalty and all, I wonder when he would want him. Is A-Rod’s hand still hurt? Has Girardi’s confidence in him eroded to such an extent that he wouldn’t want him at the plate even with the platoon advantage in his favor? If so, will we see him starting at all in the ALDS against the Tigers’ all-righty rotation? And what about 2013?