The New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles have been locking horns for the past month and a half, but it all finally came to an end on October 12, when the Yankees beat the Orioles 3-1 to take the decisive Game 5 of the AL Division Series. Here are 10 quick thoughts from an ecstatic Yankees fan.
* What can I say about C.C. Sabathia? After coming within one out of a complete game win in Game 1, the Yankees' ace tossed the team's first complete postseason game since Roger Clemens in 2000. I'll admit I had my doubts about C.C's consistency heading into the postseason, but 2 runs in 17+ innings fully restored my confidence in the big man.
* I never thought I'd see the day that Alex Rodriguez was benched during a decisive playoff series. But Yankee manager Joe Girardi made the right call in Game 5. With all due respect to A-Rod, he's looked lost at the plate this entire series, and righty Jason Hammel had his number big time in Game 1. And I'll even go out on a limb and say Raul Ibanez was an adequate fill-in during Game 3.
* I've got to hand it to Oriole's manager Buck Showalter. Not only is he a front-running candidate for A.L. manager of the year after taking an off-the-radar team to the postseason, but he's still one of the classiest guys in baseball.
* The Yankees' lineup includes a 43-homerun hitter, 3 current All-Stars, and probably 4 or 5 future Hall-of-Famers. But it's always the unlikeliest hero. Raul Ibanez, a .platoon player who hit .240 for the regular season, pinch hit his way into Yankee lore with the game-tying and game-winning homeruns in Game 3, before driving in the first run of tonight's Game 5.
* I had a feeling this would be a close series, but by Game 5 it really started to take on the feel of a 12 round heavyweight slugfest. After being tied for the A.L. East 10 times during the month of September, the Yanks and Birds were within 1 run of each other after 46 of the 52 innings played this series, and needed two games of 12 innings or more to break a tie.
* It's second nature for Yankee fans to go after A-Rod for a poor postseason series, but this time the blame can be spread pretty thin up and down the Yankees' lineup. Nick Swisher was hitting an abysmal .169 for his postseason career heading into the series with Baltimore, and somehow managed to lower that average over the 5 games. Robinson Cano, perhaps the hottest hitter in baseball during the last few weeks of the regular season, went 2 for 22, while Yankee slugger Curtis Granderson hit a measly.158 for the series.
* Incredibly, the Yankees' team batting average of .211 for the series was 24 points higher than the Orioles' .187. Part of that is due to some darn good pitching, but let's face it, both teams stunk royally at the plate.
* Will Derek Jeter ever show signs of slowing down? The Yankee captain hit .364 during the 2012 ALDS, despite an injured foot. That leaves him just 1 hit shy of 200 career postseason hits.
* The Yankees will face Detroit in the ALCS, which begins on October 13. At least Justin Verlander won't be available right away for the Tigers, after he picked up the Game 5 win against Oakland. Other than Verlander, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Delmon Young, and Austin Jackson...the Tigers don't scare me a bit!
* Did you notice how empty Yankee Stadium was at the start of Game 5? I know 5:00 is a rough start time, especially smack in the middle of a New York rush hour, but what a bizarre sight for a Yankees playoff game.
Sources: stats from ESPN
Joe is a lifelong fan of the New York Yankees.
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