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A capsule look at Yankees-Orioles playoff series

Associated Press Modified: October 6, 2012 at 10:47 am •  Published: October 6, 2012

Orioles: First playoff appearance for Baltimore since 1997. The Orioles (93-69) were in competition for AL East title until final day, then lost 4-1 at Tampa Bay to end up on road in wild-card round. ... Baltimore had 14 consecutive losing seasons and four straight last-place finishes before turning it around under Showalter, now in his second full season. This is also Dan Duquette's first season as executive vice president of baseball operations. Through shrewd trades and free-agents additions, he added much-needed depth to a thin roster. ... The Orioles went 29-9 in one-run games and have won amazing 16 straight in extra innings. ... Johnson's 51 saves were a club record, shattering Randy Myers' mark of 45 in 1997. ... Davis homered in six straight games before the streak ended in regular-season finale. His late push enabled him to overtake Jones as the team leader in HRs and RBIs. ... Machado was playing for Double-A Bowie when the Orioles purchased his contract on Aug. 9 and made him the starting 3B. Although groomed to be a shortstop, the 20-year-old rookie has handled the hot corner efficiently and showed surprising punch at the plate. ... Jones played in all 162 games. Orioles are 23-8 when he homers. ... Showalter said the Orioles have talked about wanting to advance deep enough into the postseason for RF Nick Markakis to return. Markakis, who endured lean years in Baltimore, was sidelined with a broken left thumb Sept. 8 when he was hit by a pitch from Sabathia. ... Hammel, who left his start Sept. 11 due to a sore right knee, is expected to be ready to pitch in this series.


Watch For:

— Missing Mo. This marks the Yankees' 17th playoff appearance in 18 years — but the first one during that stretch without Rivera in the bullpen. The career saves leader and postseason stalwart tore a knee ligament while shagging flies in early May. Soriano stepped in and did a fantastic job, but now the pressure on him intensifies. All it takes is one blown save in October, especially when you're replacing Mr. Automatic.

— Closing Time. If the Orioles have a lead in the late innings, they're awfully tough to beat. They were 74-0 when leading after seven innings, the best mark in the majors. Johnson hasn't blown a save opportunity since July 27 and finished the regular season with 20 saves and an ERA under 1.00 after July 30. He didn't allow an earned run until May 10 and hasn't given up a HR since June 5. His 2.49 ERA would be a whole lot better if not for two appearances in which he yielded a total of 11 runs. He allowed 10 runs in his other 69 games.

— Money Player. Swisher has been a consistent run-producer during four years in pinstripes, but also a postseason flop. Eligible for free agency after the season, the bubbly switch-hitter is under pressure to come through.

— Going Deep. These Orioles are patterned after those Earl Weaver teams of long ago. Rarely do they seek to manufacture runs with bunts and steals; rather, they rely on the three-run homer. The formula has worked. Baltimore hit 127 homers at Camden Yards, its most at home in one season.

— Sore Spot? At age 37, Rodriguez doesn't look like the same hitter who carried the Yankees to their most recent championship with a huge 2009 postseason. Of course, he's been a perennial October bust besides that. A double in the regular-season finale was A-Rod's first extra-base hit since Sept. 14. Opposing pitchers wary of Cano might choose to go after Rodriguez, and he needs to do his share.