Yankees at Orioles
Series: ALDS, Game 2, Yankees lead 1-0
Time: 8:00 p.m. EST
Starters: Andy Pettitte (5-4, 2.87 ERA) vs. Wei-Yin Chen (12-11, 4.02 ERA)
There has been a lot of griping about baseball using the 2-3 home-field format for this year’s Division Series, and for good reason. However, this structure has a long history in the major league postseason. From 1969 to 1984 the League Championship Series' were best-of-five contests with a 2-3 format, and the first three years of the Division Series, 1995 to 1997, had that set-up as well. That’s a total of 44 series using the format prior to this season. The road team won Game 1 in exactly half of those series, and on those occasions, the team that won Game 1 went on to win the series 17 out of 22 times, or 77 percent.
That’s a discouraging figure for the Orioles, but it could be worse. No major league team has ever lost the first two games at home in a 2-3 format best-of-five series and come back to win the series. The Giants are going up against that history after their Game 2 loss at home to the Reds Sunday night, and the Orioles need a win at home in Game 2 against the Yankees on Monday night to avoid facing the same predicament.
Baltimore will turn to 27-year-old Nippon Professional Baseball veteran and major league rookie Wei-Yin Chen to try to even this series. The Taiwanese lefty was the only Orioles starter to make more than 20 starts or quality for the ERA title this season, but he also wasn’t much more than a league-average innings eater. Chen works primarily with a low-90s fastball, which he compliments with a slider and changeup and the occasional curve, generates lot of fly balls and, as a result, can be beaten with the home run, a Yankee specialty. Chen allowed 1.4 home runs per nine innings this season, a bit above the league-average of 1.1 HR/9, but saw that rate spike to 2.0 HR/9 over his last 10 starts.
Chen may be a rookie, but he’s not unfamiliar to the Yankees, who have faced him four times this season, winning three of those games, connecting for six home runs (2.25 HR/9), and saddling Chen with a 5.25 ERA. Chen opposed the Yankees in consecutive starts in early September and in the last, in Baltimore, the Yankees scored seven runs with the help of three homers.
Opposite Chen will be 40-year-old Andy Pettitte, who knows a thing or two about pitching in Game 2 of a series. Pettitte, who holds postseason records for starts (42), innings (263) and wins (19), has started a Game 2 15 times in his career, going 7-3 (though his teams have gone just 9-6 overall). Most notably, Pettitte started and won Game 2 in all three rounds of the 2003 postseason. Most recently, he beat the Twins in Minnesota in Game 2 of the 2010 ALDS.
Pettitte has been impressive this year despite not pitching at all in 2011 following a short-lived retirement. In fact, his comeback has been completely unprecedented considering his age and the quality of his performance this season. No starting pitcher in his 40s has ever posted an ERA+ across 70 or more innings that was equal to or better than Pettitte’s 146 after not pitching at all the previous year. A broken ankle caused by a comebacker cost Pettite most of the second half of the season, but he has gone 2-1 with a 1.62 ERA in three starts since returning and got up to 94 pitches in his last outing of the regular season, so he should be able to crack 100 pitches Monday night. This will be his first start against the Orioles this season.
If the Orioles do manage to hold a lead after eight innings, they shouldn’t worry about their closer. The Yankees jumped all over Jim Johnson in Game 1, scoring five runs while Johnson managed to record just one out, but Johnson had two similarly ugly outings this season and, in both cases, bounced back to record a clean save his next time out. What’s more, the Yankees were so efficient in beating Johnson that he only threw 17 pitches. With a travel day on Tuesday, you can be sure he’ll be back out there if the Orioles have late lead in Game 2.
-- By Cliff Corcoran