New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles: 5 Biggest Matchups for Game 5 of ALDS
The series has not disappointed so far, as both teams and managers have put on a postseason show that would make William Shakespeare blush.
There have been comebacks, blown leads and dramatic performances that have made this divisional series incredibly compelling.
With their 2-1 win over the Yankees in Game 4, the Orioles have forced a crucial Game 5 against New York in Yankee Stadium, with a trip to the American League Championship Series on the line.
Here's a look at what will determine which team advances to face the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS.
5) Buck Showalter vs. Joe Girardi
The action on the field during the ALDS has been intense, but a matchup that has been just as intense has been the managing skills between Orioles manager Buck Showalter and Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
There has been a lot of publicity of Girardi's move to pinch hit Raul Ibanez for Alex Rodriguez in Game 3. However, Showalter has been just as aggressive when using his bullpen, taking full advantage of putting 12 pitchers on his ALDS roster.
Both mangers will be incredibly aggressive in a winner-take-all game, which means that both of them will be relentlessly second-guessed for the moves they make (or don't make) in Game 5 of the ALDS.
The manager who makes the most moves that work on Friday night will likely be with the team that reaches the ALCS.
4) Jim Johnson vs. Yankees
Jim Johnson has appeared in all four games between the Yankees and Orioles in the ALDS. The results have been a mixed bag.
In Games 2 and 4, Johnson was the shutdown closer that he has been all season in disposing off the Yankees in quick order and earning the save for the underdog Orioles.
In Games 1 and 3, Johnson resembled the form that would earn him the superhero nickname of "The Human Tee."
Obviously, something will have to give if the Orioles find themselves with the lead late in Game 5.
Buck Showalter showed no wavering of faith by putting Johnson in during both Game 2 and Game 4 a game after Johnson blew a save. However, the concern still remains whether Johnson can slam the door on the Yankees if the opportunity presents itself.
If Johnson has the right form, he can eliminate the Yankees from the postseason and advance the Orioles to their first ALCS berth since 1997.
3) Alex Rodriguez vs. Orioles
UPDATE: Well, so much for that. Girardi has benched A-Rod, and he will not start in Game 5. While that doesn't rule out a pinch-hit appearance, it appears A-Rod won't be a factor in this one.
-- End of Update --
Honestly, I believe that this has been one of the most overblown storylines in all of the 2012 MLB postseason.
Alex Rodriguez, a player who will be inducted to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot and go down as one of the greatest Yankees in franchise history, has struggled this postseason to the tune of a 2-for-17 performance in the ALDS.
To put it in the kindest of terms, Rodriguez has been roasted by the Yankee faithful and even his own manager.
In the ninth inning of Game 3, Joe Girardi decided to pinch hit Raul Ibanez over Rodriguez. All Ibanez did was what Yankee fans expect A-Rod to do: put the ball in the seats...twice.
Girardi once again took A-Rod out in Game 4, this time in favor Eric Chavez in the 12th inning.
A-Rod will need to have a big Game 5 not only to get his Yankee fans back, but also to get all of his detractors off his back.
2) CC Sabathia vs. Jason Hammel
The pitching matchup is always of the utmost importance in any playoff game, let alone a decisive Game 5.
For this crucial matchup, the New York Yankees will send CC Sabathia to the mound, while the Baltimore Orioles will send Jason Hammel.
Sabathia pitched well for the Yankees in Game 1 as he gave the Bronx Bombers a solid 8.2 innings with seven strikeouts and two earned runs in a 7-2 win.
Meanwhile, Hammel didn't turn in a bad effort himself by going 5.2 innings and giving up two earned runs while striking out five.
Between Hammel and Sabathia, this is a matchup that is worthy of a Game 5. In an obvious statement, the pitcher who is able to go deep in the game and give his team the best chance to win will play a big role in who advances to the ALCS.
1) Orioles vs. "The Curse of Jeffrey Maier"
This could be all in the Orioles' (and their fans') heads, but as several commercials have stated over the past couple weeks, it's only crazy if it works.
The Orioles have found themselves in a tailspin since Derek Jeter hit a fly ball to right that should have been caught by outfielder Tony Tarasco but instead landed in the glove of an aggressive 12-year-old.
All sports fans know about curses, whether they believe them or not, and the "Curse of Jeffrey Maier" is one of the best.
A win in Game 5 of the ALDS would go a long way toward exorcising the demons that Maier brought upon the Orioles, who are in the playoffs for the first time since 1997.
Long story short: win Game 5 and get the opportunity to take out the Detroit Tigers. After that? We'll see what happens.
Game 5 between the Orioles and Yankees has to be one of the most hotly contested matchups baseball fans have seen in a while.
While the Yankees have more experience, I believe the Cinderella-story Orioles have the best chance to win this game.
The Orioles have no fear factor due to their in experience in an October series. Meanwhile, the Yankees seem to have problems dealing with the pressure that comes with pursuing a 28th World Series championship.
Normally, I would side with the team with experience. However, the Orioles have shown that they can win this series if they do not suffer another Jim Johnson meltdown.
Prediction: Baltimore Orioles 4, New York Yankees 3 (in 11 innings)