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Yankees' lineup in question heading into Game 3

The SportsXchange

The team that scored more runs this season than anyone except the Texas Rangers has a problem with its offense.

And it remains to be seen what the New York Yankees do to try to fix it.

The talk heading into Game 3 of the American League Division Series between the Yankees and Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night centered on whether Alex Rodriguez would be dropped from the third spot in the sputtering New York lineup.

ESPN New York, citing sources, reported that Rodriguez will indeed bat lower, but manager Joe Girardi refused to address the issue in a conference call Tuesday.

"I think that we're going to do whatever it takes to win this three-game series," Girardi said. "Nothing that we do will be something that is just a knee-jerk reaction. We talk about different things, and whether it's a pitching change or pitching situations, the great thing about this is I have a great group of guys that's very unselfish, and they really want to win. And that's what we're going to do -- what we think is best to win."

The Yankees were plagued by an old problem -- missed opportunities on offense -- in a 3-2 loss to the Orioles on Monday night in Game 2. The Yanks were 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 men on base, including six at second and/or third base over four different innings.

Except for a five-run outburst in the ninth inning of Game 1, the Yankees have largely been frustrated through the first two games. And one of their most frustrated hitters is Rodriguez, who is 1-for-9 with five strikeouts.

Rodriguez said he feels fine at the plate. "Some of these at-bats, you've got to finish them," he said after Monday's game.

The Yankees also are handicapped by the fact that first baseman Mark Teixeira is, well, a little handicapped. He's still bothered by a sore left calf and, as a result, has been dropped to sixth in the lineup.

The Yankees' power problems have gone beyond their offense and extend all the way to their transportation. Their train from Baltimore to New York developed electrical problems Monday night, and they had to board buses in Aberdeen, Md. -- ironically, home of the Orioles' short-season affiliate -- at 3:30 a.m. EDT and didn't get to New York until 6 a.m.

One thing the Yankees have going for them is their starting pitcher. Hiroki Kuroda is 37, but he pitched more innings (219 2/3) than he ever has in his five major league seasons and will be pitching on six days' rest. Kuroda was 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA this season.

"We've seen he's been pretty good on extra rest the times he's went on his sixth day, and I know it's his seventh or eighth day here," Girardi said. "But we feel with the innings that he's logged, that this will be beneficial for him. When you look at his statistics, this is the most innings he's thrown in a long time."

Kuroda said on a conference call Tuesday, "Yes, I think definitely it'll be favorable for me to have a little bit more rest. I really haven't thought of anything about (the impact of the innings). You know, I don't really feel fatigued."

The Orioles, meanwhile, still have that just-happy-to-be-here feel combined with manager Buck Showalter's I'll-show-you mentality. In keeping with those themes, Baltimore's Game 3 starter, Miguel Gonzalez, is a 28-year-old rookie who is most well known for his work in the Mexican Winter League and began the season as a reliever. But he also is 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA at Yankee Stadium.

Gonzalez also figures to benefit from extra rest. He had a 2.52 ERA this year when he pitched on six or more days of rest compared to a 4.55 when he started on regular rest (usually four days).

"He can locate his fastball, which is going to give any pitcher a good chance to succeed," catcher Matt Wieters told mlb.com, "and he's been able to improve his offspeed (stuff) as the year has gone on. I really feel like he has four pitches that he can throw at any time and in any count."

The Orioles' offense hasn't been overly impressive in the first two games, either. They hit only .227 in the first two games and scored just five runs.

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