NEW YORK - So it comes down to this. Jason Hammel gets the ball this afternoon knowing the Orioles’ bullpen is running on fumes, knowing the entire team is attempting to move forward while having its backs against the proverbial wall.
Do or die, just like the wild card and Game 4 of the American League Division Series. Win and advance. Lose and go home.
“You know, it’s obviously an honor to be the one toeing the slab, but it’s been a team effort to get here,” Hammel said. “It’s been a lot of fun to watch the three months that I’ve been down, and the guys have pushed through and we’ve played toe-to-toe with everybody all the way through from the getâ€‘go. We’re very confident that we can go ahead and win one more.
“You know, like you said, it is all or nothing, but there’s no reason to pressure ourselves anymore. We’ve done this a million times this year. It seems like we’ve played these guys to a oneâ€‘run game every time out. It’s really nothing new.
“It’s going to be a test for both sides, and honestly, it’s just going to be a good ballgame.”
Hammel allowed two runs and four hits in 5 2/3 innings in Game 1.
“Just to get through that healthy, I really didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I knew that I had stayed on top of what I needed to do to be prepared and things went well. We stayed with that same program, and the training staff has done an outstanding job to get me feeling about as good as I’ve felt in the last three or four months. It’s definitely going to help out tomorrow. I’d just like to be a little bit more efficient with my pitches this time out.
“I’ve had a threeâ€‘month vacation, basically. I should be fresh and good to go for tomorrow.”
The Orioles could use a longer outing from Hammel after manager Buck Showalter called upon seven relievers in Game 4 and is using Jim Johnson and Darren O’Day on every occasion.
Hammel will oppose left-hander CC Sabathia, who went 8 2/3 innings in Game 1 and is adept at saving the bullpen. Yankee relievers don’t need to show up at the ballpark until the sixth or seventh.
“It’s time to go,” Sabathia said. “You know, this is what you play for. That’s a good team over there we’ve been battling all year, so hopefully I can go out and have a good performance and keep us in the game and give us a chance to win.
“This is a oneâ€‘game playoff and this is what we play for. We’re here in the Bronx at home, and like I said, I’ll be excited and ready to go.
“(Hammel) pitched a great game last time out. Like I said, it’s a great team over there. We’ve battled all year. I look forward to it being a good game.”
A reporter mentioned how Sabathia has made seven consecutive postseason starts without taking a loss.
“It means absolutely nothing,” Sabathia said. “Tomorrow is tomorrow. Games are in the past. You’ve always got to drop the last one and look to the next one, and that’s what I’m doing.”
If the Orioles win, they fly to Detroit for Saturday’s Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
Maybe Game 5 of the Division Series actually will end before the clock strikes midnight. Maybe nine innings will finally be enough.