All season long Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles always seemed to make the right moves at the right time in order to get wins when they needed them the most. However, in game three of the American League Division Series the tables were turned on the Orioles themselves, as pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez hit two home runs to lift the New York Yankees to a 3-2 win in extra innings.
Baltimore's starting pitching has done very well throughout the entire series to this point, and it continued on October 10 with Miguel Gonzalez. Gonzalez went seven innings and gave up only one run on five hits to go along with eight strikeouts as well in what was easily one of his best starts of the year. Unfortunately it was all for naught, though, as the bullpen (specifically Jim Johnson) gave up the game-tying home run to Ibanez in the ninth inning while Brian Matusz gave up the walk off home run in the 12th. It is hard to say whether it is fatigue or nervous jitters when it comes to Johnson all of the sudden losing his command, but if the Orioles want to have a chance to win game 4 the bullpen will have to be lights out, and I am not sure whether they can be.
It seems as though all of the most important hitters in the Orioles lineup are struggling right now, with J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, and Matt Wieters going a combined 6-50 through three games in the series, with Matt Wieters in particular going 1-17. Practically no team can win a series when three of their most valuable hitters are in a slump, and I think the key player to watch on offense in game four is Adam Jones. Jones has been a consistently solid player all year, hitting .287 with 32 home runs and 82 RBIs, and with C.C. Sabathia not on the mound (Phil Hughes instead), it should be a perfect opportunity for Jones to finally get out of his slump and give the Orioles a chance to make it to game 5.
In game 4 of the ALDS Jason Hammel will be taking the mound against Phil Hughes in what should be an interesting matchup. Hammel pitched an okay game in his previous start (game 1) going nearly six innings and giving up two runs, and now that he has some experience under his belt I think he will pitch even better. Hughes has had an up and down season with a 16-13 record and a 4.23 ERA and hasn't given up less than four runs over his past three starts dating back to the regular season, so I think the Orioles have a great chance to even up the series and force another game.
Ryan Kekoufski has been following the Baltimore Orioles since Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games streak, and still enjoys watching games at Camden Yards from time to time.
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