2012 ALDS: 5 Players Who Must Step Up for the Baltimore Orioles

Jamal Wilburg@JWilburgCorrespondent IOctober 8, 2012

2012 ALDS: 5 Players Who Must Step Up for the Baltimore Orioles

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    The Baltimore Orioles are being awoken from their dream season. The team has a new sense of urgency after dropping Game 1 of the ALDS to the New York Yankees 7-2 on Sunday night.

    After splitting the season series, the two teams played eight innings of baseball that made them appear to be true equals.   After entering the ninth inning tied at two runs, the Yankees played the big brother role and scored five runs to take the first game of the series.

    Although it is only one game, in a five-game series, there is a new sense of urgency for the Orioles heading into Game 2 on Monday night.

    With the new playoff format and schedule this year, the Orioles play their final home game of the series on Game 2, before traveling to New York for the last three games, if all are necessary.

    It will be necessary for the Orioles to win Game 2.

    The odds are much better for the Orioles to travel to New York needing to win two-of-three, rather than face elimination for three consecutive games.

    This team has been a resilient group the entire season. Throughout the year people were waiting for when they would fade away but they never faltered. They survived the first AL Wild Card round and now must slay the Yankees.

    First baseman Mark Reynolds echoed those thoughts when he spoke to Steve Melewski from MASN.com following Game 1.

    "We've not even supposed to be here. We're playing with house money and we're going to ride this thing out. They threw their horse tonight and he pitched a great game for them. We'll battle back. That has been our M.O. all year. We have a bunch of guys that believe we can get this done. It starts with Buck (Showalter) and we'll bounce back."

    Here are five players that need to step up in order for the Orioles’ dream season to continue past the ALDS.

5. Chris Davis

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    Chris Davis was playing lights out at the end of the regular season for the Baltimore Orioles. He was batting .351 with seven home runs and 13 RBI in the last 10 games of the season.

    Included in those 10 games was a stretch of six consecutive games where he hit a home run.

    The Orioles will need some of that power to return in order to keep pace with the bats in the New York Yankees lineup.

    So far in the postseason, he is batting .375 and scored a run. He was 0-for-1 with runners in scoring position in Game 1.

4. Matt Wieters

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    Matt Wieters isn’t looking like a two-time All-Star player after his first two postseason games.

    The Baltimore Orioles catcher hasn’t been able to get away from home plate. Defensively that may not be as big of an issue, but on offense it won’t help win any games.

    His eight at-bats this postseason have all ended with the same result: a walk back to the dugout. He has not made it on base yet. No hits, no walks, nothing.

    In the eighth inning of Game 1 against the New York Yankees, he had an RBI opportunity with J.J. Hardy on second base and one out. He was unable to either score or advance Hardy as he fouled out to first.

    Wieters was batting .249 with a .329 on-base percentage and 83 RBIs in 2012. The Orioles need him to get closer to those numbers rather than the zeroes he has been putting up in order to stay in the fight.

3. Adam Jones

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    Adam Jones is another player looking for his first hit of the postseason for the Baltimore Orioles. The two-time All-Star and 2012 Most Valuable Oriole is currently 0-for-7 this postseason.

    Jones has to find a way to contribute more on offense and help the team keep pace with the Yankees. Throughout the seasons, Jones provided very timely hitting for the Orioles.

    The Orioles were 23-8 in games he hit a home run, with 20 of his 33 home runs either tying the game or giving the O’s the lead.

    If Jones can provide some timely hitting and get into a good groove, the tide could turn for this series.

2. Wei-Yin Chen

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    Wei-Yin Chen needs to deliver on the mound in Game 2 of the ALDS for the Baltimore Orioles.

    The Orioles rookie, making his first career postseason start, will be tasked with not only getting the job done but outdoing a postseason legend, Andy Pettitte.

    In 2012, the Orioles had a 19-13 record in games Chen started and he was a model for consistency. He led the team in wins, ERA, strikeouts, innings and quality starts.

    At Camden Yards, he was 6-6 with a 4.11 ERA and nine quality starts.

    Against the New York Yankees, Chen was 1-2 with a 5.25 ERA in four starts.

    His one victory against the Yankees came in his first start in April where he only allowed two earned runs on 5.2 innings pitched. In contrast, his last start against the Yankees he gave up seven earned runs in 4.2 innings.

    Chen is going to have to put together a great performance, probably holding the Yankees to fewer than three earned runs in six innings, to pull off the victory.

1. Jim Johnson

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    Jim Johnson had a rare implosion in Game 1 against the New York Yankees.

    The Baltimore Orioles All-Star closer had only given up more than three earned runs twice in his 72 combined regular season and wild card appearances in 2012, both in July. He also hadn’t given up a home run since June.

    Like all other good things, those streaks came to an end against the Yankees.

    His forgettable night started with Russell Martin’s go-ahead home run to start the ninth inning. Four earned runs and a J.J. Hardy throwing error later, Johnson found himself on the hook for the loss giving up five runs in 0.1 innings.

    It is the primary role of the closer to deliver in high leverage situations. A role that Johnson excelled at on his way to 51 saves in 2012.

    The Orioles have to get better performances from Johnson if they plan on advancing in the postseason. With the game tied, Orioles manager Buck Showalter put his trust in his closer to deliver the game to the bottom of the inning, giving the offense a chance at an attainable walk-off opportunity.

    Showalter told Dan Connelly from the Baltimore Sun after the game that he isn’t concerned about Johnson.

    “No, that's the easiest question I'll get tonight,” Showalter said. “It's real easy to put your faith in a guy like Jim Johnson, not only as a pitcher but as a man. He's the reason why we're out there playing this game tonight, one of the big reasons. Every guy in that clubhouse knows that he's a special guy. You'd have to be real picky to find something you don't like about Jim Johnson. We like him wearing our uniform, whatever the statistical outcome may be. He's pretty special.”

    No matter how special he is, if he doesn’t bring his best the next time he takes the mound, the clock will strike midnight for this Cinderella team.

    Jamal WIlburg is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

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