Check out our breakdown of the AL Divisional Series between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles.
New York Yankees (95-67) vs. Baltimore Orioles (93-69)
Regular season head-to-head: The clubs split 18 meetings this season.
Series odds: Yankees -220, Orioles + 180- Bet365.com
The Yankees will send staff ace CC Sabathia to the mound for Game 1. The big lefty has struggled against Baltimore this season, going 0-2 with a 6.38 ERA in 16 innings pitched against Orioles hitters, who have a combined .312 batting average against him this year. Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes will round out the rotation. Pettitte owns a major-league record 19 postseason wins, but the Yankees will surely miss the experience of all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera (ACL). Righties David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain will be the go-to guys in the seventh and eighth innings before handing things over to Rafael Soriano, who saved 42 games and boasts a 2.26 ERA this season.
Baltimore has the most feared bullpen in the AL. Closer Jim Johnson led the majors with a team-record 51 saves, a major reason why the Orioles are 75-0 this season when leading after seven innings. Sidewinder Darren O’Day has thrived in the setup role and Brian Matusz has made a successful transition from a starter to a lefty specialist. Baltimore’s young starters (except for Joe Saunders) will get a taste of playoff pressure for the first time. It will be interesting to see how they respond.
Edge: Tie. The Yankees have the better starting pitching, but the Orioles boast a superior bullpen.
They aren’t called the Bronx Bombers for nothing. The Yankees belted out a league-best 245 home runs this season. Robinson Cano enters the series on a torrid pace. The second baseman is hitting .615 with three HRs and 14 RBIs over his last nine games. Captain Derek Jeter hit .403 in 18 games against the Orioles this season, and OF Ichiro Suzuki batted .361 in 10 contests against the O's.
Orioles 1B Mark Reynolds has feasted on Yankees pitching this season, belting seven HRs and 14 RBIs in 15 games. Catcher Matt Wieters and OF Adam Jones also have averages above .300 against New York this campaign. The O’s have received unexpected offensive contributions down the stretch from OF Nate McLouth, who joined the team in August, and 3B Manny Machado, the 20-year-old prospect recalled in July.
The New York Yankees begin their quest for a 28th World Series title on Sunday at Camden Yards. Their roster is loaded with talented veterans that are proven playoff performers.
The Orioles are back in the postseason for the first time since 1997, mostly because of their uncanny ability to win close games this year. The O's outscored the opposition only 712-705 en route to their 93-69 record.
PREDICTION: Yankees in five games.