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Where: Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland
After falling just short of overtaking the New York Yankees for the American League East title, the Baltimore Orioles get another crack at being the kings of the division as they meet their hated rivals in the AL Division Series, which begins Sunday at Camden Yards.
Baltimore, which finished two games behind New York after being tied for the division lead with three days remaining in the regular season, advanced to the best-of-five by defeating Texas in Friday’s first-ever AL Wild Card game. Joe Saunders pitched 5 2/3 solid innings en route to his first win in seven career decisions at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and Nate McLouth drove in a pair of runs in the 5-1 triumph.
Despite having home-field advantage, New York starts the ALDS on the road for two games, meaning it must earn at least a split to avoid coming home in a must-win situation. The Yankees, who posted the best record in the AL during the regular season at 95-67, split the 18-game season series with the Orioles.
But New York fared much better on the road, going 6-3 at Camden Yards as opposed to its 3-6 mark at home. The division rivals also met in the postseason in 1996, when the Yankees won the AL Championship Series in six games. The series forever will be known for Derek Jeter’s eighth-inning, game-tying homer in the opener that was touched by Yankee fan Jeffrey Maier, who was leaning over the right-field wall and obviously interfered with the play.
The Orioles must find a way to slow down Robinson Cano, who recorded multi-hit performances in each of his final nine regular-season games and completed the campaign on a 24-for-39 tear.
PITCHING MATCHUP: Yankees LH CC Sabathia (15-6, 3.38 ERA) vs. Orioles RH Jason Hammel (8-6, 3.43)
After hitting a bump in the road, Sabathia finished the season strong, going 2-0 while allowing a total of four runs in 24 innings over his final three starts.
The 32-year-old has dominated Baltimore during his career as he’s posted a 16-4 record and 3.12 ERA in 25 meetings. But he struggled against the Orioles this year, as evidenced by his 0-2 mark and 6.38 ERA in three outings. Sabathia hasn’t exactly blown away opponents in the postseason as he is 7-4 with a 4.81 ERA in 16 games, including one relief appearance.
Hammel made two starts after returning from a knee injury that sidelined him nearly two months. The 30-year-old allowed one run over five innings against New York on Sept. 6, then yielded one run in 3 2/3 frames versus Tampa Bay five days later. Hammel, who lost four straight decisions before being injured, is 1-3 with 6.20 ERA in 14 career games against the Yankees, including eight starts.
1. Orioles 1B Mark Reynolds was a one-man wrecking crew against the Yankees late in the season, hitting seven home runs and collecting 11 RBIs over the final seven meetings between the clubs.
2. During the regular season, Baltimore went 74-0 when leading after seven innings, 29-9 in one-run games and 16-2 in extra-inning affairs, winning the final 16.
3. Balls are likely to leave the park on a frequent basis in the series as New York (245) and Baltimore (214) were the top two teams in the major leagues in home runs during the regular season.