The Baltimore Orioles regained their extra-inning swagger Thursday night with a 2-1 win over the New York Yankees, forcing Game 5 of the American League Division series Friday night at Yankee Stadium.
The winner Friday will play the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series on Saturday.
Baltimore’s J.J. Hardy doubled home Manny Machado in the top of the 13th for the Game 4 win and the Orioles now have a chance to make their first league championship series since 1997.
The Orioles bullpen pitched a sensational 7 1/3 innings and scattered four hits Thursday with reliver Pedro Strop earning the victory. Closer Jim Johnson notched his second save of the series, but his performance has seesawed throughout. This season’s AL save leader has given up an Orioles’ lead or a tie in their two postseasons losses with five earned runs.
Hoping to avoid their second straight first round exit, the Yankee bats have gone cold in the last two games. Outfielder Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez have struggled the most, hitting a combined 3-for-32 with 18 strikeouts for the series.
Lauded for pinch-hitting Raul Ibanez for Rodriguez in Game 3, Yankee manager Joe Girardi will start Eric Chavez at third base and Game 3 hero Ibanez at DH, with Rodriguez on the bench.
After a hot September, second baseman Robinson Cano has struggled at the plate as well with a 2-for-18 slump, as the Yankees left nine men on base in Game 4, and no runners were in scoring position after the eighth inning.
Shortstop Derek Jeter has been New York’s sole consistent bat this series, becoming the first Yankee to open a postseason with four straight multi-hit games since 1960.
History is on the side of the Yankees and Game 5 starter CC Sabathia. New York is 5-4 all-time in best-of-five Game 5s, and while the Orioles hit .312 against him in the regular season, Sabathia went 8 2/3 innings with two earned and seven strikeouts in his Game 1 victory.
Baltimore counters with their Game 1 starter Jason Hammel, who also gave up two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings, but Johnson’s five runs in the ninth inning smudged Hammel's otherwise solid outing and handed the Yankees their largest win of the series.
Prediction: Sabathia always wants the ball in the Yankees toughest moments, and should put on a top-notch display, but the Yankee bats have to come alive. The Orioles have only scored a combined seven runs in the series, but their lineup has come through when New York’s wilted. This should be another tight, extra-inning classic with the Yankees pulling it out.
Predicted Score: New York 7, Baltimore 4