A matchup of two AL East teams in the playoffs is no surprise as it is regarded as one of—if not—the most competitive divisions in baseball.
The Yankees lead the series 1-0 after their 7-2 victory at Camden Yards on Sunday night.
With the game tied 2-2 entering the ninth inning, the Yankees lineup erupted for five runs in the top of the frame, highlighted by a Russell Martin's solo home run and Robinson Cano's two-run double.
It is tempting to trust this Yankees lineup to come up with big hits in the clutch like it did Sunday night. Truth be told, the Bombers' nine-man lineup features just two batters who hit better than .300 over the course of the regular season.
Derek Jeter rediscovered his youth, batting .316 and collecting his eighth 200-plus hit season. Cano continues to be the most feared batter on the Yankees as he batted .313 in 2012.
After those two All-Stars, one must look at Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher, both sitting at an acceptable but by no means extraordinary .272 average. It gets worse with slugger Mark Teixeira at .251 and high-risk, high-reward swinger Curtis Granderson at .232.
What is especially dismal about Granderson is since the acceptance of Sabermetrics into the baseball world, the runs batted in stat has become less of an appreciated value. After all, a single with the bases loaded is no different than a single with the bases empty. It is the runners who have gotten on base that set up the chance of an RBI.
Granderson has driven in 106 runs and clobbered 43 home runs, but he strikes out more often than he gets a hit (33 percent). He barely stayed above the Mendoza line post-All-Star break, batting .212.
The resurgence of Ichiro, who hit .322 with the Yankees, is inspiring but even he could not eclipse the .300 mark on the year (.283). Without any postseason experience since his one trip in 2001 (ironically ended by the Yankees), Ichiro will be a surprise factor if he can be any at all.
While the usually reliable Jim Johnson (51 saves, 2.49 ERA) blew his appearance for the Orioles on Sunday, the Baltimore bullpen has been one of the best in the majors.
Darren O'Day, Troy Patton, Pedro Strop and Johnson all have ERAs under 2.50 and have thrown more than 55 innings.
Of those four, three of them have had even better success against the Yankees. O'Day and Johnson had sub-1.30 ERAs against the Bombers during the regular season, while Patton recorded a 2.08 ERA.
The Orioles have Wei-Yin Chen, who led the team in wins (12) and innings pitched (192.2), on the mound in Game 2. Miguel Gomez takes the hill in Game 3 and looks to improve his 2-0 record and 17 strikeouts against the Yankees this season.
New York certainly has the experience, but Baltimore has the magic. The series continues with the season on the line.
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