Orioles vs. Yankees: Biggest X-Factors for Each Team in Game 4

Michael PrunkaCorrespondent IOctober 11, 2012

Raul Ibanez recorded two home runs to win Game 3 for the Yankees.
Raul Ibanez recorded two home runs to win Game 3 for the Yankees.Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

The Baltimore Orioles will travel to Yankee Stadium for their crucial Game 4 matchup against the New York Yankees.

The Orioles look to win and take the series into Game 5.

The Yankees look to secure the American League Divisional Series with a second consecutive win over the O's.

The Yankees won Wednesday following a walk-off home run from Raul Ibanez in the 12th inning. Their win gives them a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.

Fatigue will likely be a huge factor working against both teams. The Orioles and Yankees will almost certainly be feeling last night's extra innings tonight—especially as the game progresses.

One of the biggest X-factors for New York will be the judgement calls made by manager Joe Girardi. Instead of having Alex Rodriguez bat, Girardi made the call to have Ibanez step up to the plate at that crucial point of the game. 

When batting, A-Rod hasn't proved himself as the clutch postseason player the Yankees need.

He has just one hit in his 12 at bats.

Girardi's call won them the game. The same call could have lost them the game just as easily, though. The late-game decisions made by New York's manager may prove to be the difference between winning the series and letting the Orioles tie it up.

Rodriguez's performance will also be a big X-factor for the Yankees.

In light of Ibanez's game-winning home run, it's easy to look at A-Rod and say he hasn't been pulling his weight.

He has, though.

A-Rod is the best option for third base the Yankees have. Fellow infielders Eric Chavez and Eduardo Núñez haven't done much. Rodriguez deserves to start the game based on his work as a third baseman alone.

It would be understandable if Girardi decided to keep Rodriguez away from the plate during crucial moments of Game 4, but to keep him off third base is ridiculous.

As for the Orioles, one of their biggest wild cards is their pitching.

Rookie pitcher Miguel Gonzalez kept the Yankees batters on their toes for seven innings. In those seven innings, he allowed but one run on five hits and struck out eight batters without walking any.

The Orioles have named veteran Joe Saunders as tonight's starting pitcher. While Gonzalez pitched well in his playoff debut, Saunders has already proved once before that he's a go-to pitcher when it's a must-win situation.

Saunders is well-rested and ready to go.

He's coming off an impressive outing in Baltimore's 5-1 Wild Card win over the Texas Rangers. The left-handed pitcher played a huge role in the victory, surrendering one run on nine hits.

Even so, Saunders should be worried about reigniting A-Rod's flame.

Against Saunders, Rodriguez has seven hits in 16 appearances at the plate and two home runs. If Rodriguez comes out tonight determined to make up for his abysmal batting performance, Saunders and the Orioles could be in trouble.

In addition to Baltimore's pitching, the rookies could prove to be game-changers for the Orioles.

In the third inning of Game 3, Ryan Flaherty scored the first run of the game when he became the first Orioles rookie to hit a home run in the postseason in team history. Manny Machado became the second Orioles rookie to do so with his home run in the fifth inning that made it 2-1.

All the pressure can't be put on the rookies, though.

The entire team needs to step up. The Yankees have scored five more runs than the Orioles in the five games of their series. The Orioles haven't even managed to score more than three runs in a game yet.

The Orioles can't continue to be content with one-run leads. If everyone can hold their own at the plate, they shouldn't have a problem tying the series.


Michael Prunka is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist and Sports Writing Intern. To stay up to date with his WWE and NHL commentary, you can like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter and follow him on Tout.