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ALDS: Setting the Stage

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

The A’s stay alive as game four looms and the Yankees and Orioles head to the Bronx.

ALDS: Setting the Stage

The MLB Playoffs have given us plenty of excitement less than a week into the proceedings. The new wild card format proved exciting, even giving us some drama in the form of the dubious infield fly rule call in the Atlanta-St. Louis game. The play in the divisional series hasn't dropped either. The teams have been competitive and no series will end in the minimum three games after San Francisco and Oakland staved off elimination last night. Those wins set the stage for a full four games taking place today.

We will look at each game today and focus on what each team needs to do to win.  After looking at the NLDS openers (which are playing out almost like I predicted, we will take a look at the nightcaps in the ALDS.

7:37 - Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees (Series Tied 1-1)

The Orioles and Yankees have played arguably the most competitive series of the Playoffs.  Each game has featured good to great starting pitching, close scores, and plenty of tense moments.  Russell Martin's 9th inning home run off Orioles closer Jim Johnson gave New York a 3-2 lead in Game One (and promptly opened the flood gates to a 7-2 win).  The Orioles scraped three runs off Yankees starter Andy Pettitte in Game Two while keeping the shutting down the Yankees in clutch spots.  Their 3-2 win was a prototypical Orioles win, and it evened the series up heading to the Bronx.

Pitching Matchup: Hiroki Kuroda takes the mound for the Yankees and will face Miguel Gonzalez of Baltimore.  Kuroda turned into one of the better pitching free agent signings in all of baseball, going 16-11 for New York and delivering strong performances for most of the season.  He started to struggle a bit in September, but won his final two starts of the year.  Kuroda has only made three postseason starts in his career, and they have all coincidentally come in the third game of the series.  He is 2-1 in those starts.  When Kuroda is going, he works fast and attacks the zone early with that mid-90s fastball.

Miguel Gonzalez was a pleasant surprise for the Orioles over the second half of the season.  A 28-year-old rookie, Gonzalez went 9-4 in 15 starts with a 3.25 ERA.  Two of those wins came against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, though nothing can ready him for the playoff atmosphere he is about to encounter.  If Gonzalez doesn't get rattled, he has proven that he can fluster the Yankee bats.  

Lineups: Both teams have had ups and downs with the bats.  The constants for New York have been Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki at the top.  Both have been getting on base early, and I don't expect either of them to slow down.  Mark Teixeira has been solid to start, getting two hits in both games.  Robinson Cano hasn't looked as locked in as he did towards the end of the season, but he has come up with some big hits so far.

Russell Martin obviously had the big home run in Game One, but hasn't done much otherwise.  Nick Swisher has one hit and a bunch of walks.  While it seems unfair to pile on him, Alex Rodriguez has looked dreadful at the plate this series.  His hand injury must still be lingering, because he just doesn't look comfortable at the plate.  Joe Girardi really should consider moving Rodriguez out of the three spot and putting a hotter hitter like Cano there.  Until Rodriguez shows that he is a consistent threat to hit for power, he shouldn't be hitting that high in the lineup.

The Orioles haven't been hitting consistently well from top to bottom, but they have been able to come through with some big hits in big spots.  Chris Davis has continued his hot hitting and now gets to aim for that short porch in right field.  The rest of the lineup won't be held down the entire series.  The law of averages will have to play out, and one of these times guys like Adam Jones and Mark Reynolds are going to bust out and do something.

Prediction: I think the playoff atmosphere might be too much for Gonzalez this time around.  Neither starter is going to have an easy time of it, I think, but Kuroda and the Yankees will get this one done in front of their home crowd.  6-4 New York wins.

9:37 - Detroit Tigers at Oakland Athletics (Detroit Leads 2-1)

This has been a very fun series, and Oakland's win last night kept them alive.  The A's have so much youth and enthusiasm that you expect good things to happen all the time with that team.  Detroit has that swagger that comes with a team featuring the reigning Cy Young/MVP and the recent AL Triple Crown winner.  It's been an interesting battle thus far, and I expect nothing less as the series continues tonight.

Pitching Matchup: Max Scherzer gets the call for Detroit against A.J. Griffin of the A's.  Scherzer had himself a fine season when he wasn't dealing with arm fatigue, but he ended the year on a sour note (didn't get past the fifth inning in any of his final three starts).  Scherzer still has the capability to dazzle anytime he takes the mound, and last season he earned his postseason stripes against the Yankees.  Scherzer is battle-tested and should put up a good fight tonight.

Griffin is yet another Oakland rookie to start for the Athletics.  Griffin has solid stuff and tough mettle for a rookie, and pitching at home will be a big boost for the youngster. His only start against Detroit came in late September, and he got tagged for 5 runs in 4.2 innings.  Hopefully for Oakland, he gets over that rough outing and attacks the Detroit lineup.

Lineups: Miguel Cabrera has continued his solid hitting and Jhonny Peralta has had a nice series, but the rest of the Tigers have been streaky.  The biggest culprit is Prince Fielder, who is hitting a paltry .083 in the first three games.  If Fielder doesn't start hitting, the A's can start pitching around Cabrera and remove Detroit's biggest offensive threat.  Guys like Austin Jackson and Delmon Young have to provide something as well.

Yeonis Cespedes continues his incredible rookie campaign with a hot start to the postseason, and Coco Crisp has been a threat at the lead-off spot.  The one guy Oakland needs to step up is Josh Reddick, who was one of their biggest bats all season long.  He's hitting just .100 so far, as is first baseman Brandon Moss, and the A's need some pop from their 4/5 hitters in order to keep their season alive.

Prediction: While I am rooting for a game five out in Oakland, I just don't see it happening.  The bats have been too inconsistent for the A's, and Scherzer will take advantage of it.  Detroit takes the series with a 4-2 win.

Let CHARGED.fm get you tickets to see the Yankees and Orioles in the ALDS at Yankee Stadium.

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