Justin Verlander threw a complete-game, four-hit shutout vs. the Oakland Athletics Thursday to propel the Detroit Tigers to the 2012 ALCS.
The New York Yankees hope left-hander CC Sabathia will perform similarly in Game 5 Friday against the Baltimore Orioles, assumed by many dead after Raul Ibanez's two home runs Wednesday put the Yankees on top 3-2 in Game 3.
The Orioles wouldn't mind right-hander Jason Hammel coming anywhere near what Verlander did in Oakland, but Hammel isn't the six-time All-Star and former Cy Young Award winner earning $23 million taking the mound in Friday's decisive showdown. Yes, because Sabathia, who pitched 8 2/3 innings of two-run ball in Game 1, earns what he earns and has enjoyed that much individual success, expectations for him, like the Yankees in general, are extremely high.
The Orioles, by contrast, weren't supposed to get this far, and that's why most, if not all, of the pressure in Game 5 is on the Yankees, who've not done much offensively since Game 1. They won Game 1 7-2--snapping a 2-2 tie by scoring five ninth-inning runs--but scored just six runs over the series' next 34 innings (Games 2-4).
Orioles pitchers deserve a lot of credit for keeping New York's offense in check, of course. Yankees hurlers have done their part as well. But again, the offense isn't providing much support.
And, by the way, while Alex Rodriguez (2-for-16, nine strikeouts), who will not start in Game 5, is considered the No. 1 culprit for the Yankees' offensive ineptitude, he isn't the only big-name player wearing pinstripes coming up empty in this series. Robinson Cano is 2-for-18 (.111); Curtis Granderson is 1-for-16 (.063) with nine strikeouts; and Nick Swisher is 2-for-15 (.133).
Ibanez's game-tying and walk-off homers Wednesday were supposed to be too psychologically devastating for the Orioles to recover from, yet here they are, one win away from eliminating the Yankees after taking Thursday's 13-inning marathon 2-1.
No matter the outcome in Game 5, I can't envision Buck Showalter not taking home the AL Manager of the Year Award.
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- Baltimore Orioles
- Jason Hammel
- Justin Verlander
- The Orioles
- The New York Yankees
- Raul Ibanez