ALDS 2012: Orioles Should Be Pleased with Young Starting Pitching
The Baltimore Orioles only managed to split two ALDS games from Camden Yards, but they have to be encouraged by the performances of their starting pitchers, Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen. Both stayed composed during duels with potential Hall of Famers on the New York Yankees' staff.
This breakdown begins with the 30-year-old right-hander, who fought hard for a no-decision in Game 1 (5.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 5 K).
To clarify, just one of the hits he allowed went for extra-bases. Also, an intentional walk of Curtis Granderson bloated his WHIP (and proved to be a correct decision in that situation).
The Yankees rarely made solid contact off Hammel from the second inning on. However, they were very pesky after falling behind in the count. Hammel forced six swings-and-misses, his lowest total in a four-plus inning appearance since Sept. 2011.
Best of all, the lingering knee injury that limited him in the season's second half is no longer a factor. He threw 112 pitches that featured plenty of 94 mile-per-hour fastballs.
We definitely haven't seen the last of Hammel. He's in line to start Game 5 (if necessary) and a candidate to pitch out of the bullpen between now and then if the O's' relievers find themselves over-exerted.
Baltimore has him under team control for 2013, though a career-best earned run average and strikeout rate will earn the seven-year veteran a nice raise in arbitration.
Considering the strength of each team's lineup, which starting rotation has been more impressive through Game 2?
This rookie southpaw rebounded from a pair of inconsistent months and led the franchise to its first playoff win in 15 years (6.1 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO).
In four previous matchups against the Yankees, Chen had surrendered six home runs. But the opposition struggled to get the ball in the air on Monday night.
Any concerns about his strike-throwing ability are out-dated. The 27-year-old has a streak of 12 consecutive starts with two walks or fewer, which began in early August. In his MLB postseason debut, roughly 69 percent of pitches went for strikes.
Chen's Game 2 performance on six days' rest was in line with his regular-season dominance when pitching after an extended lay-off.
His contract runs through the middle of the decade with annual salaries under $5 million. It could be an excellent bargain for the O's if he emerges as the No. 2 arm in their rotation.
Next up: Miguel Gonzalez
Fellow first-year starter Miguel Gonzalez will take the mound on Wednesday when the series shifts to the Bronx (first pitch: 7:37 p.m. ET).
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