NEW YORK — Needing to win Thursday night to preserve their season for at least another day, the Orioles take the field against the New York Yankees in Game 4 of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium.
Trailing in the best-of-five series by a 2-1 marging, a Baltimore win would force a Game 5 slated for 5:07 p.m. on Friday. However, should the St. Louis Cardinals close out their series with the Washington Nationals on Thursday afternoon, the final game of the Orioles-Yankees series would be moved to 7:07 p.m. on Friday evening.
Here are tonight’s lineups as the Orioles send veteran left-hander Joe Saunders to the hill against New York righty Phil Hughes:
LF Nate McLouth
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Chris Davis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
DH Jim Thome
1B Mark Reynolds
2B Ryan Flaherty
3B Manny Machado
SP Joe Saunders (2012 regular season: 9-13, 4.07 ERA)
DH Derek Jeter
LF Ichiro Suzuki
1B Mark Teixeira
2B Robinson Cano
3B Alex Rodriguez
RF Nick Swisher
C Russell Martin
CF Curtis Granderson
SS Jayson Nix
SP Phil Hughes (2012 regular season: 16-13, 4.23 ERA)
Lost in the aftermath of the devastating loss on Wednesday night for the Orioles was Showalter’s announcement that the 31-year-old Saunders had been selected to make the Game 4 start after right-hander Chris Tillman was also being considered for the task. Saunders made one start against the Yankees this season, allowing one earned run in 5 1/3 innings in Baltimore to collect a victory on Sept. 8.
“Joe obviously [is] coming off a real good start in a pressure situation, a game that we had to win, and he’ll find himself back in that spot again,” Showalter said. “Joe is a guy that gives you a chance to win, and he’ll compete, and we feel good with him out there.”
Though Tillman’s overall numbers were better than Saunders this season, Showalter is siding with experience and also considered Saunders’ success against left-handed hitters this season. In 172 plate appearances made by lefty hitters in the regular season, Saunders held them to a .199 batting average and did not allow a home run.
This is difficult to overlook considering the power and production brought to the table by Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano and center fielder Curtis Granderson. Cano is 5-for-18 in his career against Saunders while Granderson is 4-for-16 with one home run.
Of course, the Yankees have plenty of intimidating hitters from the right side of the plate, but the leg injury to Derek Jeter — he’ll serve as the designated hitter as a result — and the struggles of third baseman Alex Rodriguez — he’s been dropped to the fifth spot in the order for Game 4 — likely aided in Showalter’s decision to match up against New York’s left-handed hitters.
In six career starts against the Yankees, Saunders is 3-1 with a 5.82 earned run average and is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA (six innings) in the Bronx. His only start in New York came at old Yankee Stadium on Aug. 11, 2006.
This will also be Saunders’ second opportunity in six days to pitch for the Orioles in a “win or go home” format as he pitched 5 2/3 strong innings against the Texas Rangers to earn the victory in the wild card play-in game last Friday.
Hughes is 6-4 with a 5.10 ERA in 17 career appearances (14 starts) against Baltimore. In four starts against the Orioles this season, the 25-year-old went 2-2 with a 4.76 ERA in 22 2/3 innings of work.
Prior to Thursday’s game, the Yankees announced that manager Joe Girardi’s father, Jerry, died on Saturday at age 81. Girardi didn’t make the news known to the public. His father had been suffering from Alzheimer’s.