After a Friday that put the "wild" in wild card, the American League Division Series is set and it will involve two American League East teams, the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles.
The Yanks took care of business the last few days of the season, winning the AL East after nearly blowing a 10-game lead. The Orioles defeated the reigning AL champs, the Texas Rangers, in convincing fashion and Baltimore comes into this series playing its best baseball.
Let's take a look at the schedule for this series, as well as the lineups and starting rotations for each squad.
|Gm 1||NYY @ BAL||Sun||Oct. 7||6:00 p.m.
|Gm 2||NYY @ BAL||Mon||Oct. 8||8:00 p.m.
|Gm 3||BAL @ NYY||Wed||Oct. 10||TBD||TBS|
|Gm 4*||BAL @ NYY||Thu||Oct. 11||TBD||TBS|
|Gm 5*||BAL @ NYY||Fri||Oct. 12||TBD||TBS|
Probable Yankees Lineup
1. Derek Jeter: SS
2. Ichiro Suzuki: LF
3. Alex Rodriguez: 3B
4. Robinson Cano: 2B
5. Nick Swisher: RF
6. Mark Teixeira: 1B
7. Curtis Granderson: CF
8. Raul Ibanez: DH
9. Russell Martin: C
The Yankees have had plenty of issues hitting with runners in scoring position, as was their problem in the 2011 ALDS, amongst other things. This is a team that has been predicated on the home run the entire season, and that could end up being its downfall.
Thanks to the addition of Ichiro, the Yanks have a potent one-two punch at the top of their order that can set the table for the big boppers. But don't expect this team to play small ball with this new duo of Ichiro and Jeter. The Bombers will no doubt wait for the long ball.
Look for Eduardo Nunez to get some action in this series. Nunez has been a horror defensively, but he will be hidden in the DH role. Nunez can handle the bat well and his speed gives manager Joe Girardi the opportunity to turn over his lineup much more effectively.
Probable Orioles Lineup
1. Nate McLouth: LF
2. J.J. Hardy: SS
3. Chris Davis: RF
4. Adam Jones: CF
5. Matt Wieters: C
6. Jim Thome: DH
7. Mark Reynolds: 1B
8. Ryan Flaherty: 2B
9. Manny Machado: 3B
The Orioles don't have a ton of speed in their lineup as evidenced by finishing dead last in MLB in stolen bases. But this lineup does have a great deal of depth with five players totaling over 20 homers and 65 RBI.
None of the players mentioned hit for a very high average, so the Yanks' pitching staff would be wise to try to get them to chase bad pitches. It'll be interesting to see how this young batting order responds to October baseball, but after beating the Texas Rangers, I'd say they're off to a good start.
Probable Yankees Rotation and Closer
1. CC Sabathia
2. Andy Pettitte
3. Hiroki Kuroda
4. Phil Hughes
Closer: Rafael Soriano
The biggest missing piece to the Yanks' playoff roster is the absence of the injured Mariano Rivera. Soriano has done an incredible job this season, racking up 42 saves in all. But no matter how good Sori is, replacing Rivera's postseason dominance will be impossible.
Sabathia has battled injuries and inconsistency all season, but he is still set to start Game 1 of this series. With the Yankees, Sabathia has been up and down in his postseason career and is looking to recover from a 2011 postseason that saw him pitch to a 6.23 ERA.
Hiroki Kuroda has been a pleasant surprise this season, moving from the NL West to the AL East. Pettitte's return was unexpected this season, but as this team's clear No. 3 starter in the ALDS, it's clear the 40-year-old is still a major part of what the Bombers do.
Probable Orioles Rotation and Closer
1. Wei Yin-Chen
2. Miguel Gonzalez
3. Chris Tillman
4. Joe Saunders
Closer: Jim Johnson
Saunders no doubt earned his spot in this playoff rotation after coming through huge against the Rangers.
Johnson has done a great job in the O's pen this season, saving 51 of 54 chances. To put into proper perspective just how important Johnson has been, the Orioles' closer has saved more than half the amount of wins of the entire team.
Yin-Chen has been a surprise for the O's in his first season in the big leagues. Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman have also been major bright spots for Buck Showalter's team in 2012.
The Yankees have a major edge in the experience department in this series, and while that doesn't mean certain victory in just one game, it is a major advantage in a playoff series.
Baltimore's young pitching will have to face the pressure of the big stage, and it won't get any easier as this series moves to the Bronx.
The Yanks will have to prove they can hit with runners in scoring position, but that will be a lot easier to accomplish with some extra chances thanks to great table-setting by Jeter and Suzuki.
Yankees in Four