The Yankees and Orioles have now played 20 times in 2012 between the regular season and playoffs, and the series is deadlocked at 10 wins apiece.
Neither team seems to be able to gain much of an upper hand. Yankees manager Joe Girardi has seen that continue in the American League Division Series, which now heads to New York with the teams knotted at 1-1 after Baltimore earned a 3-2 win in Monday’s Game 2.
“We get to go home and we’ve played very well at home, and we’re going to have to continue to do that if we’re going to move on,” Girardi said. “It seems like Baltimore and us have went kind of back and forth all year, and that’s what we did here.”
In the narrow Orioles victory, the difference was Wei-Yin Chen, who allowed two runs (one earned) on eight hits and a walk while striking out three over 6 1/3 innings.
The Yankees had an opportunity to get to Chen, putting a man in scoring position in three of the first four frames and also in the seventh before the left-hander was lifted. But somehow, Chen kept minimizing the damage.
“We had some (chances) and we weren’t able to capitalize,” Girardi said. “He made some pitches when he had to and obviously, it was a pretty well-pitched game on both sides and that’s why it ended up the way it did.
“I thought (Chen) pitched inside pretty effectively tonight to some of our right-handed hitters. I talked about his fastball, it seems to get on hitters quicker than what the speed indicates and that’s one of his strengths. I thought he threw some good off-speed pitches when he was behind in the count as well.”
Perhaps the most memorable play on New York’s side was its first run, where Ichiro Suzuki twice evaded catcher Matt Wieters’ tag following a perfect relay throw that arrived home well ahead of the Yankees outfielder.
Suzuki’s dance around the 6-foot-5 backstop ignited Twitter with puns about the maneuver. What did Girardi think?
“It was an incredible play,” he said. “They put together a good relay and we know (Chris) Davis has a strong arm, (Robert) Andino has a strong arm and somehow he got around Wieters. Wieters is not an easy guy to get around, I can tell you that, with the size of him. But somehow, he did it.”
That wasn’t enough for the Yankees, who now head back to New York for what could be three games to settle which team advances to the American League Championship Series.
If the season set up to this point has been any indication, the O’s and Yanks could go the full five games.
As for how one team will separate from the other, Girardi’s analysis was simple.
“It’s whoever plays the best. That’s the bottom line,” he said. “Whoever pitches the best and scores in their opportunities is really what’s going to make the difference.
“I believe these guys are going to come through. I believe they’re going to put good at-bats, they’re going to keep putting runners on and they’re going to break through. I believe in them.”