If you told me the New York Yankees' rotation combined for 15 and 2/3 innings and allowed just five runs in the first two games in this ALDS against the Baltimore Orioles, I would guess the Bombers would be up 2-0 going home to Yankee Stadium.
This isn't the case, however, as the Orioles managed to win yet another one-run ballgame and the series is tied, knocking off Andy Pettitte and the Yanks 3-2 in Game 2 on Monday night.
The Yankees dropped a very winnable game, leaving 10 men on base and going 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position, which has been a problem all season long. Their biggest chances came in the first, fourth, and seventh innings, yet they came away with just two runs.
The Orioles staged a decisive two-out rally in the third, with five men reaching base via hit or walk after Pettitte got the first two men out, and scored two to take the lead on a two-run single by Chris Davis.
Overall, Pettitte was solid in his return to the postseason, going more than seven innings pitched, allowing three runs on seven hits, walking one and striking out five. He was the hard luck loser in his attempt to extend his postseason wins record.
He and CC Sabathia, who nearly finished a masterful performance on Sunday night, have combined for 15.2 of the 17 innings thrown by Yankee pitching so far this series. Set-up man David Robertson has thrown the other 1.1.
Compare that to the pitching of the Orioles in this postseason, including the one-game playoff against Texas. Between Joe Saunders, Jason Hammel, and last night's starter Wei-Yin Chen, the Orioles have only gotten 17.2 innings out of their rotation. The bullpen has pitched the other 9.1 of the 27 innings the O's have played, with closer Jim Johnson handling 2.1 of those.
This could be an advantage to the Yankees. The Yankees have yet to use their important relievers (besides Robertson) in Joba Chamberlain, who hasn't given an earned run in a month, lefties Boone Logan and Clay Rapada, and Rafael Soriano, who has been huge filling in for an injured Mariano Rivera. The Yankees could also call on rookie David Phelps to come in in case the starters get into trouble in these next few games.
Also, most fortunate to the Yankees, they're going home to the Bronx for the rest of this series. The Bombers had the best home record in baseball, as they have for most years, particularly since opening their new stadium in 2009 with their 27th world championship.
The Orioles, however, have been very successful at Yankee Stadium this season, going 6-3 and taking every series they've played the Yankees there. However, three of those games were pitched by two guys who aren't even on the Yankees' postseason roster, Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia.
The Yankees were 2-3 in the games started by their Games 3 and 4 starters, Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes. Kuroda is coming off a full week of rest, having pitched the division clincher against Boston on the final day of the year. He may have been fatigued in September, having set a career high in starts and innings pitched. Hughes gives up a ton of HRs, but actually pitches a full run better at home than on the road despite giving up more bombs there.
The Orioles counter with righty Miguel Gonzalez in Game 3, who won both of his starts against the Yankees this year, both at Yankee Stadium. He allowed just four runs in 13.2 IP and struck out 17. Gonzalez had a 3.25 ERA in 105.1 IP this season for Baltimore, but a low K rate (6.58 per nine) and high fly ball rate (42.6 percent, which would be sixth in the AL, if he qualified) calculates to a mediocre 4.38 FIP and 4.63 xFIP.
Baltimore has yet to announce a Game 4 starter, but it's likely they either go with Wild Card game winner Joe Saunders, who the Yankees beat in the AL pennant-clinching game in 2009 when he was with the Angels, or Chris Tillman, who has pitched very well in short duty time.
However, none of this matters if the Yankees cannot hit. The Bombers have left 18 total men on base in this series. Derek Jeter, Ichiro, and Mark Teixeira are currently the only players with good numbers in the first two games. The number one target for blame is Alex Rodriguez, who is 1-for-9 with five strikeouts and has left several opportunities go by himself. The Yankees cannot win if he is not performing batting third or fourth.
Even though losing Game 2 really stings, being home for three straight games is a big advantage to the Yankees. However, like they were in the last couple of weeks of the regular season to hold off the O's for the division, the Yankees are in must-win mode.