Thoughts Going Into Game 3
The A-Rod Issue
I am just going to get this out of the way in the beginning, even though I am really sick of this subject already. No, Alex Rordriguez should not be moved down in the order. On my twitter timeline, on sports talk radio and pretty much any Yankee related internet site, A-Rod has taken heat that I thought he would never take again following the 2009 postseason, in which the man almost single handily won the Yankees a championship. I forgot how fickle most fans are. I agree that his performance in these two games have been bad and he needs to improve majorly for the Yankees to win. Nobody is denying that, but you cannot move him down at this juncture. The time to do that was a long time ago when there could have been an adjustment period for him. To do it in the heat of the playoffs is the completely the wrong time. The Yankees made their bed and now they have to lie it it. Did it work when Joe Torre moved A-Rod down? Of course not. A-Rod went 0-3 on 9 pitches in a loss that ended the Yankees season. If you move A-Rod down now, he most likely will be completely shot mentally and will continue to give you nothing. Not to mention the fact that it could ruin A-Rod’s relationship with Girardi and they both may still be here for awhile together. Also, it would be seen as a huge panic move that is not necessary. The Yankees did what they were supposed to do and that was split the two games in Baltimore. There is no reason for panic. All moving A-Rod down would do is cause a big distraction. Is it really worth making this a huge distraction when the lineup switch probably won’t make a difference anyways? Is the option of hitting Cano 3rd and Teixeira 4th really that much better that you have to create chaos? To show the fickleness of fans, if I had suggested hitting Teixeira 4th two days ago you all would have probably laughed at me, but now since Teixira is hitting .500 in the series it is OK now. Teixeira has proven so far that you really have no clue how guys will perform in these short sample sizes. Hitting A-Rod 3rd was not the reason the Yankees lost Game 2. The reason was that hitters 1-9 failed to get key hits. In fact, if A-Rod’s liner in the first inning gets by Robert Andino, the Yankees probably win Game 2 and we are not having this discussion.
The Yankees did what they had to do in splitting the games in Baltimore, however what hurts is that they had a big edge in starting pitching in both matchups. The matchups heading in Games 3 and 4 are much more unpredictable. Miguel Gonzalez has given the Yankees fits this season. He is 2-0 vs. the Yankees this season, with a 2.63 ERA and 17 strikeouts to only 10 hits. His stuff is not overly impressive and he is not a changeup pitcher, so it is surprising that the Yankees have had so much trouble with him. Hopefully he pitches like you would expect a 28 year old rookie out of the Mexican League would. One lineup change I would not be opposed to is sitting Nick Swisher, who is 0-6 with five strikeouts vs. Gonzalez, for Eric Chavez, who is 3-6 vs. Gonzalez with a HR, and put Raul Ibanez in right field. Meanwhile, Hiroki Kuroda is looking to build off his regular season success in the postseason. Kuroda looked like he was tiring down the stretch, so hopefully the extra rest did him good. Kuroda was very successful at home this season and in two starts vs. Baltimore, so hopefully those trends continue.
Home Field Advantage
Like any other team, the Yankees are a much team at home than on the road. They play to their ballpark as well as any other team in baseball by taking advantage of their short fences and smacking a ton of home runs. They hit better at home (.807 compared to a .774 OPS) and pitch better at home (3.57 compared to a 4.06 ERA). I’m sure you will hear from the TBS talking heads that the Orioles have won six of nine games at Yankees Stadium this season. What they will fail to mention is that they beat Ivan Nova three times and Freddy Garcia another, accounting for four of their six wins, which renders those results completely meaningless. If the Yankees get pitching performances like they have, and get the clutch hits, they should win. Of course the perception is that they cannot get these clutch hits, which is not completely true. It did cost them Game 2 for sure, but the perception from the regular season is still overblown a bit. Their slash line with RISP in the regular season was .256/.352/.436 compared .259/.337/.453 slash line for the whole season in every situation. As you can see there is not much difference. Also, the Yankees were 3rd in the AL in W/OBA with RISP. It certainly seems like they were much worse, probably because they had more chances than the average team. What does this all mean? Not much. What happens in the regular season has no bearing on what happens now. The Yankees have the home field advantage and should win this series, but as we have seen in the past all logic gets thrown out the window in these short series. The Yankees could get some poor starting pitching or their bats can look like they did for much of Game 2. The Orioles have been resilient all season and have the capability to stun the Yankees at home. It will be interesting.