Game 1 of the ALDS was everything Orioles fans have come to expect from this team, until the 9th inning. It was a close, hard fought game with a staff ace performance from CC Sabathia, and a strong showing by Jason Hammel and the stand out Orioles bullpen, a 2-2 game into the top of the 9th didn't surprise many people. An uncharacteristically off night from stellar closer Jim Johnson ended in a 7-2 Yankees win, but that is just one game, and this team has already moved on and is thinking about game two.
This is not a team that mopes about losing a tough game, they will come out for game two ready to even this series up before heading to New York, and there is not one player in that clubhouse that doesn't believe that is exactly what will happen. Johnson has been lights-out all season, and had his worst outing of the season at a very inopportune time, however what is done is done, and Buck won't hesitate to run him out in a 1-run game in the top of the 9th tonight. That's just what great closers do, they forget about a bad inning as soon as they hit the dugout, they forget about a bad pitch as soon as they step on the rubber for the next one. Jim Johnson will be alright, and so will the rest of the Baltimore Orioles.
Andy Pettitte has dominated the Orioles throughout his career, but he has not faced them in over two years. With a career 27-6 record against them, he has more wins against them than any other team in his 16 year career. He has a lifetime record of 16-4 with a 4.11 ERA in 23 career starts at Camden Yards. Matchup to watch: Adam Jones who hits .353 lifetime against Pettitte. Oriole pitcher Wei-Yin Chen threw 24 innings against the Yankees this season, going 1-2 in four starts. Matchup to watch: the HR. Chen has given up 6 HR in 24 IP against the Yanks this season, no one player has had outstanding success against him, it's been someone new each game, so he needs to focus on not giving up the big hit at the wrong time.
A lot of Monday Morning Buck Showalters out there have been criticizing Jones for not bunting Hardy over to 2nd when he led off the 8th with a single. General rule is that you don't want to take the bat out of your best player's hand with a bunt, and not scoring in that situation is just another example of how this team gets a little too reliant on HR. Despite losing a couple mph on his pitches this season, Pettitte is still a crafty left handed veteran, and his numbers are in line with his career averages when extrapolated. For the Orioles to win tonight, they are going to have to get to Pettitte early and give Chen a little breathing room.
This series is far from over and no one is going to roll over tonight, but taking one of these games at home is key for the Orioles to win the series. With a date with Kuroda looming as the series switches back to NY, it is important to get a win here and not face elimination in every road playoff game this season, even if they are 1-0 so far in them. With the largest crowd of the season toughing out a nearly 3 hour rain delay last night at Camden Yards, the team will need more of that tonight, getting the crowd involved has been a welcome surprise as the season has gone on, as it has been a long time since this team has played for full, raucous crowds, and that atmosphere has helped to excite the young players and give them more motivation to win.
Not that they need more motivation than their own manager. Buck Showalter was jettisoned by his previous teams the year before they went on to a World Series victory the following year in both New York and Arizona. With eliminating Texas already,who advanced to the ALDS the year after firing Buck, the Buck revenge tour rolls on, facing another of his former employers. If Arizona had made the playoffs, Hollywood themselves could not have delivered a better script. It's time for the team to rally around their rock and win for Buck. It's time to #BUCKleUp.