Who says a Buck doesn’t go that far these days?
In Baltimore, Buck Showalter continues to push all the right buttons, and now the Baltimore Orioles are heading to the American League Division Series to face the New York Yankees. Showalter’s professorial use of his roster in the AL wild-card game created matchup problems for the Texas Rangers and will send them back to Camden Yards after the historic 5-1 victory.
For as calculated and successful as his moves have been all season, Showalter raised eyebrows when he chose to start Joe Saunders.
But Saunders, who was 0-for-6 lifetime against the Rangers in Arlington, went 5.2 innings and delivered the game to the bullpen, which was lights-out. Brian Matusz, Darren O’Day and Jim Johnson went 3.1 innings to punch their ticket to the ALDS.
The Orioles are not in awe of the Yankees as this series begins in Camden Yards on Sunday. A main reason that Baltimore is in the playoffs is because they played New York tough all season. These teams split 18 games this year, and when they met in critical series during the second half of the season, they never backed down.
Postseason is certainly about matchups, and the Orioles are one of the few teams that pose a problem for the Yankees. These strengths and weaknesses of the two rosters offset each other and should make a classic series.
Baltimore is one of the few teams that can offensively compete with the Yankees.
The Bronx power company hit 245 home runs during the regular season, and that is their primary source of run production. Meanwhile, the Orioles energized their offense with 214 home runs. However, Showalter will hit and run. He allows his baserunners to run when they can to manufacture runs when they are struggling.
While New York has their definitive No. 1 starter in CC Sabathia and the postseason veteran savvy of Andy Pettite at the top of their rotation, the back end of the rotation has posed more questions for the Yankees. During the regular season, their offense was so prolific that is masked the issues in their starting rotation.
However, they lack the middle relief of the mid-1990s, and Mariano Rivera is not available to close games.
Baltimore's rotation has been reworked on the fly all season. Showalter has said all season that his top pitcher is the one who is on the mound that day.
Therefore, the veteran presence of Saunders and the consistency of Wei-Yin Chen give them the two starters in the rotation who can give the Orioles the ingredients to shrink games and get to a bullpen that has been virtually automatic all season.
Therein lies the edge the gives them more than just a puncher’s chance against the top seed in the AL.
The Orioles are confident after eliminating the Rangers, and the Yankees are rested after winning the AL East last Wednesday. New York always faces the pressure of championship-or-bust expectations, but now Baltimore is playing with house money.